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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Dede Westbrook Preview
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.
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.
2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Nick Foles Preview
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.
2019 NFL Draft: Impact on Jaguars Fantasy Football
The Jaguars added seven new players in the 2019 NFL Draft, four of which are offensive players. The team addressed its two largest offensive needs with right tackle Jawaan Taylor and a pass-catching tight end in Josh Oliver. The team also added depth at running back with Ryquell Armstead, and quarterback by selecting Gardner Minshew in round six. Here’s a look at who’s fantasy football stock went up or down as a result of Jacksonville’s haul.
Third-year running back Leonard Fournette was already a fantasy bounce-back candidate, but now he will likely face even higher expectations. The Jaguars traded up in the second round to select right tackle Jawaan Taylor from the University of Florida. Taylor was one of Jacksonville’s considerations for the seventh overall pick, but due to late reports of injury concerns, he slid down the board and the Jaguars were still able to select him. There are some concerns about Taylor’s pass protection, but he is one of the best run blocking linemen in the draft. He ranked third in Pro Football Focus’s run blocking grade and first in power concept run blocking grade among all offensive tackle prospects.
Assuming Taylor’s injury isn’t major — which the Jaguars front office doesn’t think is a problem — he should have an immediate impact on Jacksonville’s run-first offense and Leonard Fournette’s fantasy potential.
It’s worth noting the Jaguars did select a running back – Ryquell Armstead in the fifth round out of Temple – but Fournette will still see a large workload without much concern over stolen carries. If Fournette misses game time due to injury or any other reason, Armstead would likely compete for carries with recently signed veteran Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham, but none of them are fantasy-relevant at this point so long as Fournette plays.
Third-round selection Josh Oliver out of San Jose State has an immediate opportunity to be Nick Foles’ top target in John DeFilippo’s tight-end friendly offense. According to The Athletic, the Spartans had play calls named FTS (Feed The Stud) in order to get Oliver the ball. 38 of his 56 receptions (67.9 percent) last season resulted in a first down or touchdown, which ranked second in the FBS.
Per Pro Football Focus, his 16 contested catches ranked first in the FBS. At the NFL Combine, he ranked second in bench press reps and third in 40-yard-dash time among tight ends. Oliver clearly has some impressive statistics, and now he has the opportunity to play with Foles/under DeFilippo: Zach Ertz finished among the top of the league among tight ends in just about every statistical category in the past two seasons with Foles; Gary Barnidge didn’t surpass 15 receptions in seven seasons until DeFilippo became his offensive coordinator in 2015, and then Barnidge suddenly became an All-Pro tight end.
It should be noted that tight ends typically do not put up big numbers in their first year- 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. Had Oliver been drafted by just about any other team, he’d likely be a fantasy afterthought. However, he landed in an ideal situation – a system that benefits tight ends, doesn’t have much receiving talent and is in win-now mode – and has a real change to evolve from an unknown rookie to a household name. Oliver will likely be a popular streaming option with the potential to be a week-to-week fantasy starter if he is able to develop solid chemistry with Foles and successfully create separation against NFL defenders like he did in college.
Not drafting a receiver may hurt in terms of Foles’ options and Jacksonville’s overall offensive outlook, but we can push those thoughts away and focus on the fact that Westbrook now has the green light to become Jacksonville’s primary receiver and a legitimate fantasy breakout candidate. Westbrook will likely be the main slot receiver, a position that has had much success under Foles and DeFilippo’s past offenses. In weeks 1-2 last season (when Alshon Jeffery did not play and Foles did play), Eagles slot receiver Nelson Agholor ranked 8th in receptions and 9th in targets in the NFL. In weeks 15-17 (when both Jeffery and Foles played), Agholor ranked 52ndin receptions and 59thin targets.
Agholor had a 29% team target share in weeks 1-2 and a 13% target share in weeks 15-17. It is definitely a small sample size to work with, but the statistics indicate that Foles relied heavily on his slot receiver when he didn’t have a true #1 wide receiver. In Jacksonville, Westbrook will serve as Foles’ reliable slot receiver like Agholor once did, and the Jaguars don’t have a receiver as talented as Jeffery to compete for targets with Westbrook. Additionally, Vikings slot receiver Adam Thielen had a historic season last year under John DeFilippo and finished as fantasy’s WR7. Westbrook shouldn’t be seriously expected to replicate Thielen’s numbers, but he certainly should be expected to have a breakout season with the quarterbacking of Foles, the coaching of DeFilippo, and the lack of other Jaguars receiving talent.
Marquise Lee/D.J. Chark/Keelan Cole/Chris Conley
Like Westbrook, the rest of Jacksonville’s receivers can be considered winners as a result of the draft since the Jaguars elected not to draft a pass-catcher. However, that is the only thing that is positive for this group at this point, at least from a fantasy perspective. Each of them is dealing with some sort of inconsistency, whether its injury history, route running, lack of production, or general inefficiency. It will likely be unknown what to truly expect from this group until training camp and the preseason games, but for now, none of these receivers should be expected to produce adequate fantasy numbers.
The only real loser of the draft is newly signed quarterback Nick Foles. It is well-known that the Jaguars needed to add playmakers this offseason to help out Foles, who had the luxury of throwing to multiple Pro-Bowl players during his time in Philadelphia. Jacksonville has added several offensive players since signing Foles, but they are mostly just depth acquisitions. Josh Oliver is the only new skill-position player who has a chance to contribute immediately, and while he should be productive in John DeFilippo’s offense, he’s nothing compared to Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, the All-Pro tight ends Foles previously targeted.
Philadelphia’s top receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Zach Ertz, and running back Wendell Smallwood from last season have played a combined 220 career games. Jacksonville’s top receiver Dede Westbrook, tight end Josh Oliver, and running back Leonard Fournette, for this coming season have played a combined 44 career games. Foles was an average-at-best fantasy quarterback last season with the Eagles. Now that he’s in Jacksonville, with Fournette expected to be the focus of the offense and a massive downgrade in receiving weapons, Foles will likely be a below-average fantasy quarterback.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via pro-football-reference.com.
Jacksonville Jaguars2 weeks ago
Chemistry between Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew, Brandon Linder has evolved
Jacksonville Jaguars1 week ago
Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans
Interview2 weeks ago
Jaguars’ receiver Dede Westbrook exudes toughness week-in and week-out
Jacksonville Jaguars1 week ago
Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now
Jacksonville Jaguars2 weeks ago
Without Ramsey, Jaguars have big task in slowing down DeAndre Hopkins
Jacksonville Jaguars1 week ago
Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain
Jacksonville Jaguars2 weeks ago
The London Factor: Jaguars prepare for voyage overseas
Jacksonville Jaguars2 weeks ago
Jaguars cornerback Josh Robinson abruptly retires this morning