To recap last week real quick, it wasn’t pretty. Leonard Fournette didn’t play so that’s a wash but I expected a much better game from Blake Bortles. There were zero viable fantasy starters in last week’s game.
Now I’m going to be honest with y’all, there is not a lot to love this week for fantasy purposes either. The over/under is only 38.5 points and the Jaguars are favored by 7.5 points, if that tells you anything. To be honest, I’d probably take the under in this game, as well.
The only player I want to start is Leonard Fournette. He’s had two weeks to rest his hamstring and gets a favorable matchup against the New York Jets. The Jets have allowed the RB12 and the RB3 over the past two weeks so Fournette is in a really good spot this week. He should easily see 20 plus touches, and before his injury, head coach Doug Marrone was saying they wanted to get him more involved on third downs and in the passing game so Fournette could become one of the leagues few bell-cows. Monitor his playing status, but as long as he plays, lock him in as an RB1.
There is absolutely nobody else that I want to play in this game. This doesn’t scream “good matchup” for Bortles and after last week, I’m not playing him. That of course applies to his pass catchers, so I won’t be playing them unless I absolutely had to, and in that case I’d only play Keelan Cole.
On the Jets side, it’ll be even rougher. Sam Darnold will face his toughest test yet against the Jaguars defense. There is no world where Darnold is startable and neither are any of the wide receivers. Isaiah Crowell is going to fall back to earth as he’s already living off only touchdown production.
Bilal Powell could see some success in the passing game as the Jags have been fairly susceptible to pass-catching backs but I’m still not confident enough to start him. It was a rough fantasy week for everyone involved in the Jaguars game last week, and this week could be much of the same except for Leonard Fournette.
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.
2019 Jaguars Free Agency: How each signing affects fantasy football
Last Wednesday, quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Super Bowl MVP is a much-needed upgrade at quarterback for a team that hopes to get back into the NFL playoffs. I’m here to tell you how this signing can help you get back into your fantasy football playoffs. Here’s my rundown of what to expect from Foles from a fantasy perspective this year, and what other players are impacted by his addition to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In the passing game…
Foles has not been a historically impressive fantasy quarterback. Foles’ best fantasy season was in 2013, when he finished as QB9 despite only playing 13 games. He hasn’t played in more than 11 games or finished as a top-28 fantasy quarterback in any other season of his seven-year career.
Last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Foles played five regular season games, and averaged 15.00 fantasy points per game… which was tied for 24thin the league with Eli Manning. Foles’ career average for fantasy points per game is 13.04. For comparison, Blake Bortles’ career average is 15.88.
Another red flag is the supporting cast that Foles will have in Jacksonville as opposed to the one he had in Philadelphia. The Eagles offense included three Pro-Bowl skill position players (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Darren Sproles), while the Jaguars offense currently boasts zero. Foles also targeted tight ends at a high rate in Philadelphia, which was easy to do with weapons like Ertz, Trey Burton, and Dallas Goedert. Jacksonville’s current top tight end is ex-Cowboy Geoff Swaim, who only has 35 receptions in his first four seasons (last season alone, Ertz had 116 receptions). Additionally, the Eagles ranked 17thin pass protection last season and gave up 40 sacks, while the Jaguars were 27thin pass protection and gave up 53 sacks (Football Outsiders). Jacksonville’s offensive line had a serious injury bug, but it is important that they perform better in 2019: as Zach Goodall pointed out in Tuesday’s podcast, Foles completed 70.1% of his passes when facing no pressure and 52.1% of passes while under pressure over the past two seasons.
While I think that signing Foles makes sense for Jacksonville and that he’ll play well, that doesn’t necessarily equate to reliable fantasy production. He’s the perfect example of a “better real-life than fantasy” player. Based on his past fantasy performances and his new environment in Jacksonville, I don’t plan on drafting Nick Foles in any of my fantasy leagues. He should best be viewed as a safe streaming option/cheap DFS play when he has favorable matchups.
Last season Dede Westbrook led all Jacksonville receivers in just about every major statistical category: Targets, catches, yards, touchdowns, red zone production, and fantasy points. He is the best receiver on the current roster, and he does the most damage within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, which is where Foles 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). Additionally, 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 less drops when he lined up to the right (rotowire.com).
Foles loved targeting his primary slot receiver Nelson Agholor last season when de facto top receiver Alshon Jeffery was out of the lineup due to injury. In weeks 1-2 (when Jeffery was not playing and Foles was), Agholor ranked 8thin receptions and 9thin targets in the NFL. In weeks 15-17 (when Jeffery and Foles were playing), 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 clearly indicate that Foles relied heavily on his slot receiver when he didn’t have a true #1 wide receiver, which seems to be the case for the Jaguars heading into the 2019 season.
Another point worth addressing is slot receiver Adam Thielen’s success under John DeFilippo in Minnesota last season, as DeFilippo was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings last year and is now the Jaguars coordinator. Thielen tied Calvin Johnson for the most consecutive 100-yard receiving games in NFL history (8) and finished the season with 113 catches for 1373 yards and nine touchdowns as fantasy’s WR7.
According to rotowire.com, Thielen ran 60% of his routes from the slot. For comparison, Nelson Agholor ran from the slot 58% of his routes. Jarvis Landry, perhaps the league’s best-known slot receiver, ran from the slot 74% of his routes. Dede Westbrook ran from the slot 84% of his routes. 84 percent!
Based on previous years, slot receivers and tight ends tend to excel the most under DeFilippo and Foles. The Jaguars don’t have a reliable tight end on the current roster, which leads us to the only plausible conclusion: Dede Westbrook is about to feast in 2019. It’s too early to tell which round would be reasonable to reach for Dede, but he will definitely be a top target for me in fantasy drafts as a breakout-candidate receiver to stash on the bench.
Second-year receiver D.J. Chark may stand to gain the most among Jaguars receivers not named Dede from the signing of Nick Foles. Chark had a disappointing rookie year, as he played only 11 games and 14 receptions for 174 yards. Hopefully he’ll have a successful sophomore campaign, and there’s reason to think so: Chark averaged 20.5 yards per reception in his college career at LSU. According to Sports Info Solutions, Foles had the 8th highest passer rating (106.3) on throws that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season.
Foles will certainly give receivers a better chance on deep throws than Blake Bortles did, so hopefully we’ll see a better year out of Chark as a result of better quarterback play and a full offseason to work out and prepare for the 2019 season. Chark is a fantasy player that I’ll be keeping in mind during heavy bye weeks or as a cheap DFS consideration, especially when the Jaguars are playing against defenses with weaknesses in deep pass coverage.
Other Jacksonville Receivers
I think that Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole have the least to gain from Jacksonville’s signing of Nick Foles. Lee suffered a massive knee injury during a preseason game which prevented him from playing a snap in 2018. In 2017, Lee led the team in targets and catches as Bortles’ go-to target. It seemed like 90% of his routes were crossing routes, yet he had 12 drops, and his 12.5% drop rate was worst in the league (playerprofiler.com). Lee was Jacksonville’s main slot receiver in 2017, but I expect him to cede slot snaps to Westbrook and play more outside in 2019.
On the other hand, who knows what’s going on with Keelan Cole. He broke out midseason in 2017 as an undrafted free agent and ended up leading the team in yards and yards per reception despite only starting six games. In 2018, he started 11 games, but had less targets, receptions, yards, yards per reception, and touchdowns than the year before, and struggled with route running. Cole can also be viewed as an outside deep threat, but I think that Jaguars have more faith in Chark, their 2018 second round pick, to be Foles’ first choice as a deep perimeter weapon.
Former Kansas City wide receiver Chris Conley signed with Jacksonville on Saturday. In his four NFL seasons, Conley is averaging 26 receptions, 310 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns per year. Coincidentally, his best season was in 2016, when Foles played in two games after starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion. In those two games, Conley averaged 4.5 targets for 3 catches and 43.5 yards. Conley did mention that Foles signing with the Jaguars “sealed the deal” in his decision to also join the team. Conley brings playmaking abilities and elite athleticism to Jacksonville, but he likely won’t have a large enough impact or role on the team to be considered in any fantasy format.
As mentioned previously, offenses under DeFilippo and Foles have tended to benefit slot receivers and tight ends the most. Westbrook will likely be the main slot receiver and top wide receiver. Jacksonville will certainly add another pass-catching tight end by the end of the offseason. That leaves Lee, Cole, and Conley fighting for scraps on an offense that will probably have a run-first approach, so I have no interest in drafting them to my fantasy team.
Whoever Starts at Tight End
The Jaguars made a much-needed move by signing tight end Geoff Swaim on Friday morning. Current Jacksonville tight ends combined for zero – none, nada – catches last season before Swaim joined the team.
While Swaim did play well last year on the Cowboys, the Jaguars will likely need to add another pass-catching tight end before the start of the season. Jacksonville’s current receiving corps is young and unproven – there’s room for hope, but expectations aren’t super high for this group. Even Dede Westbrook, who I expect to have a breakout 2019 season, hasn’t yet proved himself to be a fully reliable starting NFL receiver. Whether the Jaguars sign another tight end in free agency or draft one next month, whoever ends up starting week one will likely be in line for a lot of work, based on past seasons from Foles and DeFilippo.
Last season, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz ranked first among team receivers in targets, catches, yards, touchdowns, and catch percentage when Foles started, including in the playoffs. Ertz ranked first in receptions, yards, and catch percentage with Foles the previous year. This was on a team that had several reliable receiving options.
An example of a team that did not have several reliable receiving options is the 2015 Cleveland Browns. Their top wideouts were Travis Benjamin and Brain Hartline, and their tight end Gary Barnidge had 80 receptions in his first seven seasons prior to 2015. That season, Barnidge broke out as a first-team All-Pro, as he finished top-five among all tight ends in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. And who was Cleveland’s offensive coordinator that year? John DeFilippo.
The 2019 Jaguars may be similar to the 2015 Browns in that they have sufficient yet underwhelming wide receivers, and possibly as a result, a great tight end. We don’t know who the Jaguars tight end will be just yet, but whoever it is will likely have an incredible opportunity to be the center of the passing offense and finish as a top fantasy tight end.
And how about the run game?
I don’t expect the signing of Foles to have a large effect on Leonard Fournette. Last season under John DeFilippo, the Vikings had the sixth most pass attempts in the league. DeFilippo was fired before the season ended because his pass-heavy offense didn’t align with head coach Mike Zimmer’s philosophy of a team focused on defense and rushing.
DeFilippo is arriving in an organization which has a similar mindset, so despite his past play-calling tendencies, I’m expecting him to concede to executive VP of operations Tom Coughlin so he doesn’t get fired midseason two seasons in a row. In other words, I don’t the arrival of DeFilippo or Foles in Jacksonville will significantly impact the Jaguars offensive game plan, which is to focus on running the rock. Other questions like Fournette’s future with the team after a dramatic 2018 season and whether or not he can stay healthy for 16 games are more significant. If those questions do get answered, and a 100% healthy Fournette starts for the Jaguars week one, then I expect him to be a fringe-RB1 with a huge workload.
Fournette started in 13 games as a rookie in 2017 and finished with the third most touches per game and the sixth most fantasy points per game among all running backs. Hopefully that’s the kind of season we’ll see from him in 2019.
Similar to the tight end position, Jacksonville will probably be looking to add depth at running back this offseason. if we’re assuming that Fournette will be the team’s workhorse, then whoever is positioned as the team’s second-string or pass-catching running back probably won’t see enough looks to have a fantasy impact. Fournette has started in 21 career regular season games. When he started, his primary backup – whether it was Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, or Carlos Hyde – averaged only 6.5 carries for 24.4 yards and 0.1 touchdowns per game. Of course, Fournette staying heatthy/being the focal point on offense is a very large “if.” But as of now, that’s what the Jaguars’ plan looks like, and barring injury or some other event, Jacksonville’s second-string running back won’t be of much value in fantasy outside of being a handcuff.
Thanks for reading my first article! I’ll be posting more in-depth reviews of each fantasy-relevant Jaguars player throughout the summer, so stay tuned. A lot can change until week 1, including remaining waves of free agency and the NFL Draft in late April, but this is what you should expect from Nick Foles and his impact on other players for the time being.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via pro-football-reference.com.
REPORT: Jaguars release free safety Tashaun Gipson
The Jacksonville Jaguars have released free safety Tashaun Gipson, per report.
Source says the Jaguars are releasing safety Tashaun Gipson.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 8, 2019
Gipson spent three years with the Jaguars after signing a five year, $36 million contract during the 2016 offseason. In that time span, Gipson recorded six interceptions and defended 16 passes, starting 48 straight games. His release clears $7.45 million off of the Jaguars’ 2019 cap table.
Jarrod Wilson will likely be penciled in as the team’s starting free safety after he signed a three year, $9 million contract extension in January. He’s spent three years with the Jaguars as a special teamer and spot-starter at safety after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
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