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2019 Senior Bowl: Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Fits

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 10, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Deebo Samuel (1) gets the crowd pumped up during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So, the Senior Bowl just ended and now it’s time to dissect it. Sadly, I wasn’t there to watch the week of practices. Luckily, Twitter is a great (and awful) thing, and it’s easy to follow along with the practices and catch clips of player drills.

Now though, I’m just focusing on a few players that the Jaguars have shown interest in and how their fit with the Jaguars would affect them from a fantasy perspective. These won’t be scouting reports, as much as they’ll just be analysis on how the player landing with the Jaguars will affect that player’s fantasy stock. These articles will have a dynasty fantasy football focus to them, as these players are rookies.

I want to preface with this… We don’t know who will be leading the Jaguars at QB next season and that puts a damper on the offense and makes it hard to project out any player on that side of the ball. Pair that with the fact that the Jaguars will likely be a run-first offense again, and that lessens any volume that the passing game would get.

The offensive philosophy could change with the addition of new OC John DeFilippo, who is known to favor the passing game over the running game. Replacing QB Blake Bortles could also allow the team to open things up as well but with Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone at the helm, I’ll believe the offensive change when I see it.

South Carolina WR, Deebo Samuel, 5’11” 216lbs

The most important player in my eyes, from a fantasy perspective last week, was South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel.

I was ecstatic when I found out the Jaguars were interested in Samuel. This team needs a WR that can consistently separate. Samuel does a lot really well. I almost see him as a little bigger, but a little slower, Keke Coutee. I don’t mean that as a bad thing either, as I was relatively high on Keke Coutee and thought he had good footwork, nuance, and could separate well. Deebo Samuel showed elite separation during the Senior Bowl with great footwork and an excellent release.

He was consistently turning DBs around and he definitely understands leverage. The biggest thing I’m looking for in a WR is their ability to separate and create an open window for a QB to throw into. Samuel showcased that ability in spades this weekend.

Samuel also displayed good yards after the catch (YAC) ability at the Senior Bowl and in college, which carries weight to me in the Jaguars system because they run a heavy amount of crossing routes where having the ability to gain YAC is extremely beneficial. Dede Westbrook showed this last year.

Deebo Samuel has said he’s met with teams and discussed his ability to play all three WR positions and I do believe he could. He’s shown that he doesn’t struggle to get off press coverage and he ran a full route tree at South Carolina. I do think he’d best out of the slot though. The issue with that is the Jaguars have multiple WRs that can or should run out of the slot, so Samuel may be forced to play X or Y if drafted by the Jaguars.

A big knock on Deebo Samuel will be his production profile. He never posted 900 yards or more in a season and he maxed out at 62 catches in a season. A lot of this can be attributed to absurdly poor QB play and playing with another good WR prospect in Bryan Edwards. Samuel has also only played in 10+ games twice in his career, his sophomore year and senior year, after breaking his leg his junior year.

Deebo Samuel compared himself to Golden Tate and I can understand that. Samuel is great after the catch, like Tate, and is also a great separator. Similar to Tate, I don’t expect Samuel to put up absurd numbers at the Combine. Tate didn’t test too well at all, save for his 40 yard dash time. Samuel should test better than Tate overall, with maybe a slightly slower 40 time.

Speaking strictly for fantasy, I wouldn’t expect a ton of production in Year 1, as the offense will likely be new and the team will have a new QB. But, in Year 2 or 3, you could see a breakout. He would’ve built rapport with the new QB and if operating out of the slot, he could turn into a PPR machine like his own comp, Golden Tate.

He also showed an ability to be a redzone threat, as he scored 11 touchdowns his senior year. The Jaguars have lacked a consistent redzone threat after missing Allen Robinson the past two seasons. Samuel pairs a stocky frame, good play strength, and great separation to win in the redzone which is obviously good for fantasy. Some great PPR WRs aren’t always good TD scorers but this could be a different case with Samuel who could pair high reception/low yardage totals with consistent TD production as well.

From a dynasty fantasy football perspective, let’s compare Samuel to Coutee, who I’ve said I see in a similar light. Coutee was a 4th round NFL draft pick, while I expect Samuel to be a Day 2 pick and likely a 2nd rounder. In dynasty rookie drafts, Coutee often went at the 3rd/4th round turn. I expect Samuel to go in the 2nd round of dynasty rookie drafts.

He should be drafted higher in the NFL Draft than Coutee and will likely carry more offseason hype than Coutee. Although I do see them as similar players, I think Samuel provides quite a bit more upside than Coutee. Coutee landed on a team with the best WR in the game, DeAndre Hopkins. If Samuel landed on the Jaguars, the only established WR he’d be competing with is Dede Westbrook and they provide different skillsets. I’d be thrilled to land Samuel in the 2nd round of my rookie draft.

Ohio State WR, Terry McLaurin, 6’0″ 205lbs

Another Senior Bowl standout last week was Terry McLaurin. For me at least, this was the first I heard of him. He burst onto the scene though and made a name for himself in practices.

The Jaguars meeting with McLaurin is not surprising to me. He’s blazing fast, which the Jaguars have shown to prioritize, and he played with QB Dwayne Haskins and the Jaguars will want to have different perspectives on the QB.

As far as the speed factor is concerned, the two WRs that the Jaguars have drafted the last two years were both speedsters. Dede Westbrook ran a 4.34 at his pro day and D.J. Chark ran a 4.34 at the NFL combine. Coincidentally, McLaurin has said he plans to run a 4.35 or faster. Speed is very much a game changer in the NFL and if you have three WRs on the same team that can all blow past DBs, that makes the defense’s job that much harder.

McLaurin is much more than a speed guy though. He’s a more complete WR than a guy that only excels at blowing by DBs. He showed quick feet, a consistently clean release, a great route tree, and a good ability to manipulate DBs. Seeing traits like this from a WR with blazing speed is encouraging because it means there are multiple ways he can win and separate.

In addition to using a clean release and good footwork to turn around the DB on this rep, he also shows a great ability to track the ball and get both feet in bounds in the end zone.

There are areas where McLaurin struggles though, and the biggest one I noticed was ball skills and contested catch ability. He tends to allow the ball to come into his body and doesn’t extend his arms to reach out and pluck the ball. He has the necessary vertical ability to leap up and catch the ball but will still let himself body catch it. We saw this issue with D.J. Chark in college as well.

McLaurin makes the contested catch in this rep among 3 different DBs, which is impressive but we still see the same issue where he allows the ball to come into his chest rather than fully extending and plucking the ball out of the air.

Similar to Samuel, McLaurin lacks an outstanding production profile. His senior year this last year, he posted his best year in college statistically. He had an absurd 20 yards per reception and put up 11 touchdowns. His lack of production could be explained by Ohio State’s deep WR room, or by Ohio State’s run first offense under past QBs. McLaurin has managed to stay healthy throughout his college career, playing 12 or more games the last three seasons of his college career. A lackluster production profile such as his, will certainly affect his draft stock, especially since there aren’t injuries to blame.

For fantasy, similar to Samuel, I wouldn’t expect fantasy relevant production from McLaurin in Year 1. There is another potential scenario though, where the Jaguars draft Dwayne Haskins and pair him with McLaurin. Then, Haskins and McLaurin may carry over their rapport from college and we could some relevant fantasy games from McLaurin in Year 1.

McLaurin already has close to pro-ready route running and the ability to fill multiple different roles in an offense. I think his role would be operating out of the slot but not as a PPR machine, like Samuel. McLaurin will likely still be a mid-level to deep threat at the next level but his route running and speed will allow to get open easier than some one-trick deep threats. McLaurin may be a little boom/bust for fantasy but that’s the nature of low reception/high yardage players.

I don’t see a specific player when I watch McLaurin so I’m not going to pick a random player to compare rookie draft ADP with. I think he’ll either be drafted somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round of the NFL Draft which isn’t great for his NFL and fantasy projection but it’s not a death sentence.

I don’t think he’ll blow up the combine, with the exception of the speed drills, so he won’t garner too much hype from that. He’ll likely fall into the 3rd round of dynasty rookie drafts if drafted by the Jaguars and most picks in that range are lottery tickets anyways. He does carry upside with him based on his blazing speed and adept route running but with my projection of his draft stock, you’re still taking a gamble. He would be walking into a pretty unestablished WR room in Jacksonville though, which is good for his chances.

North Dakota State, RB, Bruce Anderson, 5’11” 209lbs

This’ll be a short and sweet blurb but I’d be interested if the Jaguars looked at a guy like Anderson in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. He didn’t see a heavy workload at North Dakota State but he made the most of his opportunities. He’s a great pass catcher and a solid runner as well. In contrast to a lot of great pass catching backs that are smaller in stature, Anderson is built pretty well. He showed good route running ability out of the backfield in practices last week and showed in college the ability to dust LBs.

His pass protection isn’t good which may hurt him as a primary pass catching back but he makes up for it in his ability to get open and work in open space.

He wouldn’t be relevant for fantasy unless the Jaguars move on from Leonard Fournette but in that case, the Jaguars are most likely drafting a RB higher than where Anderson deserves to go. Nonetheless, he’s someone I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Leonard Fournette Preview

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Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Fournette has had a very up-and-down career since he was drafted fourth overall by Jacksonville in 2017. He has been a workhorse when on the field – ranking 3rd in rushing attempts per game and 8th in fantasy points per game among running backs the last two years – but staying on the field has proved to be difficult for Fournette. This year, with a new quarterback in Nick Foles and offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo, Fournette must have a productive season in order to remain a vital piece of the Jaguar’s future. There are many factors that will end up shaping Fournette’s fantasy football potential in 2019.

EVIDENCE FOR

Huge Workload

Since he was drafted in 2017, Fournette ranks top ten in each of the following categories on a per-game basis among all running backs: rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touches, total yards, total touchdowns, and fantasy points. Last season, Fournette had a 55.1% positional team market share of expected fantasy points and a 25.1% total team market share of expected fantasy points (per PFF). Those numbers ranked 14th and 7th in the league, respectively, despite Fournette only playing eight games.

In other words, Fournette is a workhorse running back. DeFilippo said this offseason, “he’s going to be a major reason where our offense goes and I’m not going to sugarcoat that. Leonard Fournette needs to be a big part of this offense.” It is fair to doubt Fournette’s ability to stay on the field, but when he is on the field, he is one of the league’s premier bell-cow running backs.

Foles/DeFilippo Impact

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Fournette faced a loaded box (eight-plus defenders near the line of scrimmage) on 35.34% of carries last season, which was the third-highest rate in the league. In 2017, he ran into a loaded box on 48.51% of carries. The Jaguars also ran directly behind center at the second-highest rate (54%) last season (Sharp Football Stats), despite their starting center Brandon Linder going on injured reserve halfway through the season. On the other hand, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook faced a loaded box on 18.05% of carries, and 30% of Vikings runs were directly behind center last season when DeFilippo was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. Former Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s play-calling was uncreative and often unsuccessful- DeFilippo’s play calling should be able to benefit Fournette more.

Per Sharp Football Stats, Fournette averaged 3.5 yards-per-carry and a 41% success rate when running from shotgun last season; Dalvin Cook averaged 7.2 yards-per-carry and a 54% success rate when running from shotgun under DeFilippo last season. We can only hope that the efficiency differences are a result of the coaches rather than the players. DeFilippo will likely run more plays from shotgun this season with Foles as his quarterback, as Philadelphia ranked third in percentage of snaps out of shotgun formation (83%) last season when Foles played. Fournette must improve as a runner from the shotgun formation in order for the Jaguars offense to succeed in 2019.

Hopefully, we will see Fournette receive more targets out of the backfield this season. He averages 8.4 yards per reception with a 78% catch rate in his career, but he has really only been utilized on screen plays. Foles said earlier this offseason he likes throwing to running backs, and Dalvin Cook averaged 4.6 targets per game last season under DeFilippo. Fournette may be in line for the best receiving year of his career, especially considering the weakness of the Jaguars receiving corps.

In summary, Fournette was not utilized very well the past two years under Nathaniel Hackett. Fournette’s role in the offense was basically to sprint towards the center where a loaded box was often waiting for him and maybe catch a few screen passes. As a result, his efficiency numbers are very underwhelming for a former fourth-overall draft pick. Fournette’s efficiency should be expected to improve with the arrival of a creative play-caller in DeFilippo and a competent quarterback in Foles. It remains to be seen if Fournette is capable of adapting to and succeeding in the Jaguars new offense, but if he can, Fournette may surprise a lot of people in 2019.

Improved Offensive Line

In 2017, the Jaguars ranked 13th in run blocking (per Football Outsiders) after ranking in the bottom half of the league the previous five years. That rank dropped back down to 21st in 2018 after four of Jacksonville’s five starting linemen finished the season on injured reserve. This offseason, the Jaguars drafted right tackle Jawaan Taylor – who ranked third in PFF’s run-blocking grade and first in power concept run-blocking grade among all offensive tackle prospects – and added blocking tight end Geoff Swaim in free agency. Assuming the offensive line doesn’t catch another disastrous injury bug, Fournette should have a solid unit to run behind in 2019.

Positive Game Script

Jacksonville’s defense has ranked top ten in defensive efficiency, points allowed, plays per drive, and time-of-possession per drive each of the past two years (per Football Outsiders), meaning the opposing offense doesn’t stay on the field for very long. Jacksonville’s offense didn’t take advantage of the defense’s elite play last season, but hopefully, they will this season with an improved quarterback and coordinator as well as an easier schedule of opposing defenses (based on defensive efficiencies by Sharp Football Stats). Fournette would certainly benefit from positive game scripts – while he is a capable receiver, it is not necessarily his strength – and he will have more rushing opportunities playing ahead rather than playing from behind.

EVIDENCE AGAINST

Less Red Zone Production

Fournette has scored 33% of his fantasy points in the red zone since entering the league, per fantasy data. While DeFilippo’s play-calling will likely help Fournette’s efficiency, it may hurt his production near the end zone:

-Last season, Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook had a combined 24 red zone carries and 6 goal line carries in 13 games under DeFilippo. Over a 16-game season, that would have ranked 18th and 24th, respectively. Leonard Fournette had 22 red zone carries and 10 goal line carries in eight games. Over a 16-game season, that would have ranked 8th and 1st, respectively.

-Minnesota ran on 37% of red-zone plays last season under DeFilippo. Jacksonville ran on 55% of red-zone plays since Fournette was drafted in 2017 (Sharp Football Stats).

-In the same respective time spans, the Vikings ran on 37% of goal-line attempts while the Jaguars ran on 67% of goal-line attempts (Sharp Football Stats).

Clearly, DeFilippo’s Vikings threw much more than Fournette’s Jaguars in the red zone. DeFilippo may have called so many red-zone passing plays because his receivers were great and his offensive line was not. Compared to Minnesota, Jacksonville has a weaker receiving core and a stronger offensive line group, which could affect DeFilippo’s future play calling.

Regardless of how DeFilippo runs the offense, Fournette has gotten a simply absurd workload in the red zone in his career thus far (he has ranked top-3 in fantasy points per game within the 5-yard line each of the past two years, per fantasy data). It certainly would not be surprising to see Fournette receive less work than he’s accustomed too in the red zone, whether it’s a result of DeFilippo’s play-calling or simply a regression to the mean.

Injury Concerns

In the last three years, going back to his final season at LSU, Fournette has missed 30% of games due to injury. He missed three additional games with the Jaguars as a result of a violation of team rules, a one-game NFL suspension, and a healthy scratch. Last season, Fournette was on the injury report for 10 out of 17 weeks and missed a total of eight games. He had the 13th most fantasy points per game but finished as fantasy’s RB37 since he only played half the season. Fournette’s injury history is a huge red flag since fantasy owners likely don’t want to have to find a substitute for one of their top players every three or four games. It also doesn’t help that there isn’t a clear-cut handcuff in Jacksonville if Fournette does indeed miss time. Whereas Alvin Kamara owners could plug-and-play Latavius Murray if Kamara ever misses time, there would likely be a committee for the Jaguars between rookie Ryquell Armstead and veterans Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham with Fournette out.

FINAL VERDICT

There are many factors that will determine Fournette’s potential production this season, making him one of the biggest high-risk high-reward players in fantasy. Fournette will receive a large workload behind a solid offensive line in a much-improved offense, but he must prove that he can stay on the field and play well in a new offensive system.

If everything goes right, Fournette has the talent and opportunity to be a top-five fantasy running back. If everything goes wrong, Fournette will be on the sidelines more than the backfield and on fantasy benches more than starting lineups. That being said, the positives outweigh the negatives in Fournette’s situation. Opportunity is king in fantasy football and injuries are nearly impossible to predict. Fournette is currently being drafted in the third round of drafts. Every player in that area has some sort of risk attached to his name, but few will have the same opportunity for touches that Fournette has. I would comfortably draft Fournette in the third round, preferably as my second running back, but I wouldn’t blame fantasy owners for going in another direction.

Note: All fantasy numbers are in standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference.

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2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Dede Westbrook Preview

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Dec 6, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) celebrates after a first down during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last season Dede Westbrook led all Jaguars receivers in every major statistical category (targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points). He finished top-12 in the same categories among all receivers from the slot. Westbrook finished as fantasy’s WR31 after finishing as WR91 his rookie year. The third-year slot receiver has a chance to become a breakout player with the arrival of quarterback Nick Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in Jacksonville.

Foles vs. Bortles

First and foremost, Nick Foles is a better quarterback than Blake Bortles. While that may seem obvious, it’s worth addressing since it relates directly to Westbrook’s production. Here are a few statistics from last season to show how much of an upgrade Foles is for Westbrook:

-Among qualifying quarterbacks, Foles completed 5.7% more passes than expected, which ranked second. Bortles completed 6.9% fewer passes than expected, which ranked second-to-last. Foles had a 96.0 passer rating (16th best) and Bortles had a 79.8 passer rating (35th best) (Next Gen Stats).

-88% of Agholor’s slot targets from Foles last season were catchable. 81% of Westbrook’s slot targets last season were catchable (Sports Info Solutions).

-Foles ranked second among qualifying quarterbacks in on-target percentage when targeting slot wide receivers (84.5%). Bortles ranked ninth (81.0%) in the same category (Sports Info Solutions).

-Foles ranked top-15 in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, and passer rating when targeting slot wide receivers. Bortles ranked outside the top-30 in each of those four categories (Sports Info Solutions).

Fit with Foles

Clearly, Foles is not only an upgrade over Bortles, but he was also very successful when targeting slot receivers last season. In addition, Foles was very accurate on short passes, which is just where Westbrook thrives:

-According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Foles had a 101.5 passer rating when throwing between 0-10 yards (the league average was 89.2). Westbrook’s average target distance in 2018 was 8.7 yards (PlayerProfiler.com).

-Furthermore, Foles had a 122.7 passer rating when throwing to the right side of the field between 0-10 yards (Next Gen Stats). Westbrook lined up on the left side of the field slightly more often than the right side, yet he had more receptions, yards, yards after catch, touchdowns, and fewer drops when he lined up to the right (RotoWire).

-Foles has a career passer rating of 102.3 when targeting slot receivers, which is higher than his career marks targeting any other position (outside receiver 90.9; running back 98.7; tight end 95.1) (Pro Football Focus).

Nelson Agholor 2.0

Foles and Westbrook seem to match up very well based on the previous numbers. Comparing Westbrook to Eagles slot receiver Nelson Agholor may give us some good context for what to expect out of Westbrook this season. Here are some similarities between the two receivers from last season via PlayerProfiler.com:

-Westbrook had 66 catches for 717 yards and 5 touchdowns. Agholor had 64 catches for 736 yards and 4 touchdowns.

-Westbrook had a 65.3% catch rate. Agholor had a 66.0% catch rate.

-Westbrook had 388 air yards. Agholor had 396 air yards.

-Westbrook averaged 10.8 fantasy points per game. Agholor averaged 10.3 fantasy points per game.

-Westbrook averaged 1.72 fantasy points per target. Agholor averaged 1.71 fantasy points per target.

The list goes on, but the point is that Westbrook and Agholor were essentially the same players last season: reliable slot receivers. These stats are over the course of last season, but it may be more valuable for us to look at Agholor’s production only in weeks 1-2, which is the only period in which Foles played and Alshon Jeffery did not. This may give us a better understanding of Foles’ connection with slot receivers without a true #1 wide receiver on the team, which looks to be the case for the 2019 Jaguars.

-In weeks 1-2 (when Foles was playing and Jeffery was not), Agholor ranked 8th in receptions and 9th in targets in the NFL. Carson Wentz started weeks 3-14. In weeks 15-17 (when Foles and Jeffery were both playing), Agholor ranked 52nd in receptions and 59th in targets. Agholor had a 29% team target share in weeks 1-2 and a 13% target share in weeks 15-17.

Foles heavily relied on Agholor without Jeffery in the game. In fact, Agholor received the second-most targets (behind tight end Zach Ertz) from Foles the past two seasons in Philadelphia. And slot receiver Tavon Austin received the most targets from Foles in 2015 in St. Louis. Foles has been targeting slot receivers at a high rate his whole career, but especially when there isn’t superb receiving talent on the perimeter. Now that he’s in Jacksonville without a go-to weapon lined up outside (don’t kid yourself Jags fans. Chris Conley is not Alshon Jeffery), Foles will be relying on constant production from Westbrook out of the slot.

DeFilippo’s Impact

It is difficult to forecast what the Jaguars offense will look like this season with the different offensive philosophies that DeFilippo (pass-first) and Doug Marrone/Tom Coughlin (run-first) prefer. Regardless of the way Jacksonville’s offense eventually operates, it is hard to ignore Minnesota Vikings slot receiver Adam Thielen’s historic season under DeFilippo last season.

Thielen tied Calvin Johnson for the most consecutive 100-yard receiving games in NFL history (8). He finished the season with 113 catches for 1373 yards and nine touchdowns as fantasy’s WR7. Thielen ran the majority of his routes from the slot, which probably had some contribution to his amazing season (according to FantasyPros, slot targets are worth 11.5% more than perimeter targets in half-PPR format). According to RotoWire, Thielen ran 60% of his routes from the slot last season. For comparison, Nelson Agholor ran from the slot 58% of his routes. Premier slot man Jarvis Landry ran from the slot 74% of his routes. Dede Westbrook ran from the slot 84 percent of his routes! If that type of slot usage continues in 2019, Westbrook should be able to take advantage of it with the help of his new quarterback and offensive coordinator.

Target Volume vs Target Share

Based on the statistics analyzed thus far, Westbrook should expect to see a lot of targets from Foles. But while his target share percentage could be high, his actual target volume may end up being underwhelming. The past two seasons, Jacksonville has relied on elite defense and a run-first offense, which resulted in fewer targets for its receivers:

-Jacksonville’s defense ranked top-five in yards allowed and points allowed the past two seasons.

-Jacksonville ranked 1st in run rate in 2017 and 15th in run rate in 2018. When tied or winning, Jacksonville ranked 3rd in run rate in 2017 and 9th in run rate in 2018 (Sharp Football Stats).

-Jacksonville ranked 21st in team pass attempts in 2017 and 19th in team pass attempts in 2018.

-Jacksonville’s leading receiver has averaged 98.5 targets and 102.7 fantasy points the past two seasons. For comparison, the leading receiver for each team in the league averaged 113 targets and 141.1 fantasy points last season.

The Jaguars simply do not give its receivers a lot of opportunities. As mentioned earlier, it remains to be seen what the offense will look like under DeFilippo/Marrone/Coughlin. Even if DeFilippo is given the green light to pass as much as he wants, the greatness of Jacksonville’s defense and the presence of former fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette may put a cap on how often Foles throws the ball, and consequentially, how often Westbrook catches the ball.

Another factor that will also impact Westbrook’s targets is the competition that he faces from other Jaguars pass-catchers. Last season, Jaguars pass-catchers who are on the current roster and not named Dede Westbrook (Marquise Lee, D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, Terrelle Pryor, Geoff Swaim, and Josh Oliver) combined for 126 receptions for 1493 yards. Michael Thomas had 125 receptions for 1405 yards alone! (To be fair, Lee was out with an ACL tear and Oliver was in college. But still.)

The Jaguars receiving corps is frankly one of the weakest groups in the league. Westbrook is the only receiver who’s proved himself to be a reliable playmaker. Even if other players breakout this season for Jacksonville, Westbrook is still in a position to easily pace the team in targets and production. Westbrook’s standing as the team’s leading wideout should be enough to draw substantial targets regardless of if Jacksonville continues to rely on the run.

Westbrook Overall Outlook

Westbrook may not end up getting the same workload that typical #1 receivers get, but there are many more things to like about Westbrook’s situation than to dislike. By the end of week 17 last season, Westbrook proved himself as Jacksonville’s best wide receiver. He provided many highlight-reel plays to an offense that didn’t produce very many, and he’s only played in the NFL for two years. Now, as we quickly approach training camp, Westbrook’s potential has only increased.

The Jaguars are missing the third-most targets in the NFL from last season’s team, and none of the team’s offseason acquisitions (or even the current receivers) are a serious threat towards Westbrook’s target share. Foles and DeFilippo should immediately improve Jacksonville’s offensive production, and beyond that, slot receivers have thrived under each of them in the past. Westbrook is currently being drafted in the 10th round as WR43 (per Fantasy Football Calculator). Considering he was WR31 last season, he’d be a steal in the 10th round. From a true football perspective, Foles and Westbrook may be a match made in heaven. From a fantasy football perspective, landing Westbrook onto your fantasy team would be a match made in heaven.

Note: All fantasy numbers are in the standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference.

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2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Nick Foles Preview

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Jan 6, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws a pass against the Chicago Bears in the first half a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. Foles is a much-needed upgrade behind center and may be the best signal-caller the franchise has had in the past decade. Jaguars fans have high expectations for how he’ll do on his new team. Here’s what you should expect how he’ll do on your fantasy team.

Poor Fantasy History

Throughout the entirety of Foles’ career, his fantasy football production has been underwhelming. Foles has only finished as a top-25 fantasy quarterback once in his seven years in the league.

Part of the reason Foles never produced solid fantasy numbers due to the fact he has never played a full 16-game season — the most games he’s played is 13 back in 2013 when he was fantasy’s QB9. Foles played more than eight games just one other season. To remove the effect of the number of games played, we can look at fantasy points per game (PPG), but those statistics are also disappointing:

-Foles averaged 20.46 PPG in 2013, his best fantasy season. His second-best fantasy season was last year when he scored 15.00 fantasy PPG, which was tied for 24th  — with Eli Manning. His career mark is 13.04 fantasy PPG.

-For comparison, Blake Bortles’ best fantasy season was in 2015, when he finished with 20.25 fantasy PPG. In 2018, he scored 13.31 fantasy PPG, which was 28th. His career mark is 15.88 fantasy PPG.

Bortles has been a viable fantasy option partly because of garbage-time opportunities in his first couple years and increased rushing production in the last couple years, but it’s still a tough look for Foles to have worse career fantasy numbers than Bortles by over two points. Long story short, Foles has frankly been a bad fantasy quarterback throughout his career save for one good season.

Fewer Passing Attempts

 Another warning sign for Foles is a likely decrease in passing attempts after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons.

-In five regular-season starts last season, Foles had 39.0 attempts per game and averaged 15.04 fantasy points per game.

-In 12 regular-season starts last season, Bortles had 33.0 attempts per game and averaged 13.32 fantasy points per game.

-Foles and Bortles each averaged 0.35 fantasy points per dropback, per Player Profiler.

Foles finished with more fantasy points per game than Bortles, which was partly due to Foles simply throwing the ball more often. Foles’ higher passing rate can essentially be boiled down to two factors: team defense and rushing rate. Jacksonville’s 8thranked defense last season allowed the Jaguars the freedom to run more often and Philadelphia’s 18thranked defense sometimes forced the Eagles to pass more often (weighted defensive efficiency rankings via Football Outsiders). Additionally, Jacksonville (49%) ran at a higher rate than Philadelphia (43%) in game-script positive situations (rushing rates via Sharp Football Stats). To summarize, due to differences in defensive production and offensive play calling, the Eagles pass a lot more than the Jaguars.

Despite the new additions of Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Jaguars will likely continue to rely on running and defense. As a result of transitioning from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Foles will almost certainly throw fewer passes, and therefore is unlikely to produce numbers like he did last season- which already weren’t exceptional.

Fewer Red Zone Opportunities

Foles also isn’t likely to have as many opportunities to score in the red zone as he did with the Eagles, which is another fantasy red flag.

-In the past two seasons, 36.1% of Foles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, while 32.5% of Bortles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, per fantasy data.

-In the past two seasons, the Eagles passed on 53% of red-zone plays, while the Jaguars passed on 47% of red-zone plays. The Eagles passed on 57% of red-zone plays in games Foles started, and the Jaguars passed on 42% of red-zone plays in games Leonard Fournette started.

-In the past two seasons, the Eagles averaged 3.4 red zone attempts per game, while the Jaguars averaged 2.6 red zone attempts per game, per Team Rankings.

Based on the 2017-18 seasons, Foles may not reach the red zone as much nor pass in the red zone as much as he was accustomed to in Philadelphia.

Offensive Talent Downgrade

One of the more talked about storylines regarding Foles’ signing with the Jaguars is his prior supporting cast in Philadelphia compared to his current one in Jacksonville. Foles must transition from a receiving core of Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor to Dede Westbrook, Marquise Lee, and rookie tight end Josh Oliver. The difference in each group’s production is obvious:

-Ertz, Jeffery, Agholor, and Golden Tate (who played for Philadelphia in the second half of last season) all surpassed 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. They have four combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.

-Westbrook was the only Jacksonville receiver to surpass 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. In fact, he is the only player on the current roster who caught over 40 passes last season. The Jaguars receivers have zero combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.

The argument that Westbrook is as good as Agholor is feasible, but Agholor was Philadelphia’s third receiving option at best last season, and Jacksonville has no weapons who can come close to the skillset or production of Ertz and Jeffery. Additionally, Foles targeted Ertz a lot and he generated impressive numbers – which creates a lot of buzz for the imminent Foles-Oliver connection – but Ertz’s success was likely due more to his own talent than Foles’ supposed rapport with tight ends:

Per Sports Info Solutions, Foles targeted tight ends at the highest rate in the league (35%) last season. However, he posted a worse completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and quarterback rating when throwing to a tight end than the wide receiver or running back last season.  Foles also ranked 42ndamong all quarterbacks (min. 10 attempts) in passer rating when targeting tight ends. Ertz finished top-three in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and total fantasy points among tight ends last season. However, he ranked only 20thin fantasy points per target and 18thin yards per target among tight ends (per Player Profiler), which suggests that his massive target volume was a big benefactor towards his production. That large target volume combined with Ertz’s individual talent masked Foles’ below-average efficiency when targeting tight ends.

Now Foles is in Jacksonville, and his top tight end has yet to play an NFL snap. 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver has a lot of potential to succeed in John DeFilippo’s tight end-friendly offense, but it is unreasonable to expect him to approach Ertz’s skill level or production in his first season. It should also be noted that rookie tight ends historically don’t have a large impact– in the past 15 years, only two rookie tight ends have surpassed 600 receiving yards, and only two have finished as a top-five fantasy tight end. Consequently, Foles may have even worse ratings when targeting tight ends this year. Foles’ supposed strength of throwing to tight ends could be revealed to simply be a result of having an All-Pro tight end to throw to ten times a game in Philadelphia. Overall, Foles is leaving a group of proven/productive receivers and joining a group of young/inconsistent receivers.

One last personnel issue to consider is the strength of Foles’ offensive lines. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 17thin pass protection last season and gave up 40 sacks. The Jaguars ranked 27thin pass protection and gave up 53 sacks. Jacksonville’s linemen couldn’t stay healthy as it seemed like backups of backups were starting late in the season. If rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor makes an impact and the starters stay healthy this season there shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is worth mentioning that Foles’ new offensive line is just one more variable that could hypothetically make 2019 harder on him and hinge his fantasy potential.

Foles Overall Outlook

Foles ranks 12thin career winning percentage (per Football Database) but 34thin career fantasy points per game among all active quarterbacks (minimum 10 starts). Foles can win games without having to put up lucrative passing numbers, which is exactly what the Jaguars are expecting of him. Based on his past fantasy performances and his new environment in Jacksonville, Foles doesn’t have much of a fantasy ceiling and should not be drafted in single quarterback leagues. He has value as a streaming option/cheap DFS play when he has favorable matchups against weak pass defenses, but for the most part, it’d be wise to look elsewhere when finding a fantasy quarterback.

Note: All fantasy numbers are in standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference

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