For the third consecutive season, Jacksonville lost double digit games, finishing 2013 with a 4-12 record. It was their sixth consecutive losing season and three of their four wins came in division with the other versus Cleveland. Appearing to be on the right track after setting a foundation in their first year under Gus Bradley, the Jaguars are looking to take the next step in 2014.
2014 Jaguars Schedule
|4||@||San Diego Chargers|
|13||New York Giants|
As usual, take any preseason schedule analysis with a grain of salt, but Jacksonville starts on the road for four of their opening six and faces three playoff teams from a year ago. The overall look ahead isn’t damning to fantasy prospects for their skill plays as they draw the always generous NFC East to go along with the comfortable surroundings of the AFC South.
Of course, they’ll need to actually generate some offense for owners to squeeze fantasy nectar from. Since 2011, the Jaguars rank dead last in the NFL in total yards and points scored, something that Jedd Fisch didn’t necessarily improve on in his first year calling plays. Here’s where Jacksonville ranked in terms of creating scoring opportunities as an offense in 2013.
|Points Per Game||15.4||32|
|Average Scoring Margin||-12.6||32|
|Points Per Play||0.242||32|
|Yards Per Point||19.0||31|
|Points Per Drive||1.18||32|
This offense was bad and Jacksonville was frequently placed in poor game script, so their play calling splits are skewed. Fisch and the Jags never had much of an opportunity to establish the running game and it showed.
|Situation||Plays||Pass %||Run %|
New Big Dog
With longtime franchise back Maurice Jones-Drew moving on in free agency, Jacksonville went out and signed Toby Gerhart to take on an anticipated heavy workload. Gerhart is more than fresh, starting only six games so far in his first four seasons covered by the shadow of Adrian Peterson. The 27-year old back has eclipsed 100 carries only once so far in his career and totaled only 353 touches, which are less touches than both LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte had just last season.
His 49 total touches a year ago are hardly enough to start going in on how efficient that he was with them, but he has made the most out of the opportunities that have come his way. Here’s his game log when he reached double digit carries while in Minnesota.
[table id=191 /]
Definitely a small sample, but the Jags coupled his effectiveness in small doses with the glowing athletic resume that Gerhart exited Stanford with in their evaluation that he could carry this offense. He also has shown his versatility, notching 77 receptions, which is an average of 1.3 per game in spot duty.
The only issue with Gerhart and his small sample is how that translates over to his new role and environment. Pat Thorman highlights that Gerhart not only benefitted from a superior offensive line to the one that he’ll be running behind this season while in Minnesota, but he also ran against favorable fronts frequently.
In Jacksonville a year ago, 62 percent of Jones-Drew’s rushing attempts came when trailing, so the Jags can potentially cap his weekly ceiling if they aren’t markedly improved this season. On average, backs run for 20 fewer yards and receive three fewer touches per game in losses. While he can still deliver a return of your draft investment, expectations are that he will remain with a RB2 ceiling since volume backs really benefit from a good passing game to create touchdown production. His current price point is appropriate for those expectations and could provide solid value if he makes it into the fifth round of your drafts despite any cold water thrown on his overall situation.
Cecil Shorts is still the lead receiver for this offense and is coming off of a season in which he failed to deliver on expected promise for fantasy circles. That was more of our own fault; however than Shorts’ fault since it was a situation and player largely miscalculated and an example of extrapolation gone wrong.
In 2012, Shorts didn’t play regular snaps until the seventh week of the season and produced an unsustainable amount of touchdowns from splash plays. Five of his seven scores that season came from 39 or more yards out and once those plays normalized, his touchdown total plummeted last season. He’s not much of a red zone threat, converting only six of 29 targets in that area for scores so his 2013 touchdown production seems more in line with reasonable expectations.
Being the sole option in a passing game that was constantly playing catchup really aided Shorts as 57 percent of his targets came while trailing by 10 or more points and 30 percent of those came under the same circumstances in the fourth quarter. At 27 years old this season, he’s also starting to stack soft tissue injuries on top of each other. Since 2011, he’s missed time with hamstring, groin and calf injuries and has already been dealing with hamstring issues this summer.
As negative of a report that all of that is, that information is completely baked into his ADP and then some. As a lead receiver in his offense, Shorts still has usable volume as it relates to being selected neat the 12th round of drafts. The massive upside isn’t there for him as much as some other receiver targets in that portion of the draft, so he’s going to have a niche market. There’s a solid amount of red on his ledger, but that’s very little capital to put into a player that could run into WR3 production given his volume and schedule.
With Justin Blackmon out of football indefinitely, Jacksonville spent two second round selections on Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson this spring. Lee has been involved early playing in Blackmon’s old role and offers the versatility to play inside and out, giving him an early leg up on being involved in this offense from day one. He had a college career with mountainous peaks and low valleys, but there’s a glimmer that he may be this season’s Keenan Allen. Shawn Siegele points out that he’s a far better athlete than given credit for and is the top rookie receiver in this season. Lee is a solid selection late in PPR leagues as it stands today with Shorts nursing his injury.
Robinson fits the physical profile of a receiver that could potentially be dominant, but didn’t always play big in college. At Penn State, he converted only six of 32 red zone targets for scores, relying on his uncanny after the catch ability to create huge plays. Robinson is behind the eight ball early on as he’s also been dealing with a hamstring issue; more severe than the one Shorts is dealing with. He has yet to appear in a preseason game and has critical reps during the duration of camp. At best, he’s a waiver wire dial up in season if and when he gains traction.
His injury, as well as the four game suspension handed out to Ace Sanders has opened the door for undrafted rookie free agent Allen Hurns to make some noise this summer. Hurns played under Fisch at the University of Miami while he was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and already has six receptions for 117 yards this preseason while playing with the first and second unit. At 6 foot 3, Hurns has the size to play and his college resume from 2013 isn’t as bad stacked up against the other rookie receivers. Here’s his production as well as Lee and Robinson’s using the College Career Graphs App available at RotoViz.
While Robinson has a long term advantage due to pedigree and initial draft investment within the organization, Hurns is a player that could potentially keep him down as a rookie if he continues to perform with the opportunities presented to him.
For those mining for a tight end sleeper, Marcedes Lewis seems to be plenty involved in the offensive game plans so far this offseason. That is a breath of fresh air considering he was rarely used last season at all no matter what the game situation was. He should be a red zone factor considering the roster of receivers he has to compete with in that area of the field, but Lewis has been disappointing in the red zone converting only 18 of 79 red zone targets (22.7 percent) in his career for scores, which is really subpar for a tight end. Even with more involvement, the position is just too deep to count on Lewis as anything more than a streaming option to start the season.
Chad Henne, True JAG
Jaguars brass has remained adamant that Chad Henne will open the season as the teams starter at minimum despite selecting Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in this past draft. Henne posted the fifth lowest total in adjusted yards per aimed attempt (AY/AA) and the sixth worst mark in fantasy points per aimed throw (FPAT) in 2013. Not one of his starts was above average in fantasy last season and 70 percent were unusable, a mark only above Eli Manning.
Quarterback performance is really aided by offensive leverage and the Jaguars just didn’t support that as a team as Henne threw 246 passes down ten or more points (59 more than anyone else) and 184 of those came in the second halves of games. As a team that is unlikely to be making a playoff run even if improved, it’s going to be hard pressed for the organization to put Henne on the field for the duration of the season.
Bortles is a really intriguing prospect because he has the requisite size and passing ability that is desired to play the position and he is a really underrated athlete. One of his comparables is a poor man’s Andrew Luck and Jon Moore points out that he’s in rarified air in terms of rushing and passing prowess coming out of college. Given the excitement in the fantasy community over Johnny Manziel’s fantasy potential, in a vacuum of equal starts and surrounding talent, Bortles may be the better fantasy option now and long term. He just needs to start. For projections sake, I’m anticipating that Bortles starts by week seven (ironically against the Browns) as Jacksonville will play three out of four games at home before their week 11 bye.
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Lee – former elite college producer at a young age who could potentially see inflated volume if Shorts remains wishy-washy into the season.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Shorts – there are a fair amount of red flags surrounding his health, production and potential loss of volume altogether.
Best Waiver Wire Option: Bortles – when he gets a chance to start, becomes a waiver wire streamer given his mix of athleticism and passing ability.
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