For the first time in recent years, there is some uncertainty surrounding the Jaguars wide receiver group entering the 2018 season. Marqise Lee’s injury history and inconsistent level of play has made it difficult to place a verdict on his value. 2018 second round pick D.J. Chark and free agent -signee Donte Moncrief will be playing their first season with the Jaguars, while Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook have only one season of playing time under their belt. Rashad Greene and UDFA Allen Lazard will likely battle for a roster spot.
Projected wide receiver depth chart
*Note: Italics = starter, Underline = Acquired in 2018 FA/draft*
WR: Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, Rashad Greene
The depth chart begins with Marqise Lee, who the Jaguars recently re-signed to a 4-year, $34 million dollar contract.
When healthy and capable of reducing mishaps, Lee is decent possession receiver. He is able to consistently get open on underneath routes, and is evasive enough to add some yards after the catch. While Lee most likely will never be a top-tier WR1, his presence as an easy checkdown option for quarterback Blake Bortles is relied upon.
Unfortunately for Lee, his size isn’t conducive to being a high-volume possession receiver. He is frequently listed on the Jaguars injury report for ankle and hamstring issues. Additionally, his poor hands have led to blown opportunities and unnecessary turnovers. Lee will have to stay healthy and improve his catching to warrant his sizable contract.
Keelan Cole, joining the Jags as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky Wesleyan, ended 2017 leading as the Jaguars’ leading receiver with 748 yards . His ability to get over the top of cornerbacks and create separation made him a dangerous deep threat. Hopefully, Cole will build on this heading into his sophomore season and add more routes to his arsenal.
Donte Moncrief landed a contract with the Jaguars worth $9.6 million for one year, well more than his production justifies. The ex-Indianapolis Colt has had issues with durability and production during his four seasons in the league. However, Moncrief still has intriguing potential. Moncrief has all the physical and athletic traits needed to be a WR1, standing at 6-2, 221 lbs, and possessing 4.4 second 40 yard dash speed. He was also utilized incorrectly in Indianapolis as a possession receiver in a West Coast offense, when he would be more likely to succeed in a vertical passing scheme. If Moncrief is used to stretch the field rather than as a possession receiver, he could improve during his time in Jacksonville.
D.J. Chark, rookie out of LSU, is another receiver that can win by stretching the field vertically and will benefit from the Jaguars running game. Chark has ridiculous physical attributes, including an eye-popping 4.34s 40-yard dash. I don’t expect big numbers from Chark for a couple of years, but I am expecting to see improvement on his fundamentals. Look for Chark to expand his route tree and improve his general technique in his first NFL season, specifcally in his route breaks and creating separation with more than just his speed.
After returning from injury halfway through the 2017 season, Dede Westbrook had big games against the Seattle Seahawks (5 receptions-81 yards-1 TD) and Indianapolis Colts (6-78-0), before ending the season quietly. Westbrook does a lot of things correctly, and showed the ability to be a star wide receiver during his prolific college career at Oklahoma. With a full season, and a higher volume of targets, I believe Dede has the chance to see a serious uptick in production. He could regain a starting role early on.
Finally, Rashad Greene has a small chance at hanging onto the Jaguars 6th wide receiver spot. Although he has only posted 125 receiving yards in 17 career games, his special teams value may give him a chance to stay with the team over Allen Lazard. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett praised Greene in recent interviews, saying he has looked “bigger, stronger, [and] more confident” in OTAs.
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