Jacksonville Jaguars Buying Guide

With fantasy draft day fast approaching, Pat Fitzmaurice is taking a team-by-team look at every key player’s fantasy value relative to his current ADP (average draft position). We continue in the AFC South with the rather thin Jacksonville Jaguars…

When Jacksonville selected LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in this year’s draft, many of the Jaguars fans assembled for the team draft party at EverBank Field reacted as if they were in the throes of Beatlemania, shrieking their approval in much the same way thousands of teenage girls did when the Fab Four took the stage at Shea Stadium in August 1965. Whether Fournette is worthy of such adulation will be a subject of much debate in the weeks to come.

The numbers Fournette compiled during his time in Baton Rouge have been deemed by some as less than breathtaking. Yet he played in the nation’s best conference, the SEC, operating in a Stone Age offense that attempted fewer than 300 passes in each of his three seasons and invited opponents to stack the box with eight or more defenders. I’m an unabashed Fournette advocate, though I worry that his TD ceiling is high single digits due to the Jaguars’ indifferent run blocking – they ranked 27th in that category last year, according to Football Outsiders – and the limitations of the Jacksonville passing game (not to mention the likelihood that the Tom Coughlin/Doug Marrone blueprint was drawn up with a goal of winning games 17-10). Perhaps even more concerning is the foot problem that has kept Fournette on the shelf for all but one preseason game.

Fournette’s ADP is RB11. There are 10 to 11 running backs (including Fournette) likely to be used as beasts of burden this season. I suppose it’s fair to put Fournette at the bottom of that pile since he’s the only one without an NFL track record. If Fournette stays healthy he’ll have a great chance to produce more fantasy points than at least a few other members of that group. But that’s the rub: Fournette was plagued by issues with the same foot during his final season at LSU, so a recurrence is alarming. If you’re in a lot of leagues, it’s probably a good idea to get at least some exposure to Fournette, but he’s become a risky asset.

The Jaguars are manacled to Chris Ivory for another season due to an ill-advised contract so large that not even Joey Chestnut could eat it. Third-year RB T.J. Yeldon quietly had 50 receptions last season and would seem to be a better candidate for backup duty than a one-dimensional plodder like Ivory. Also in the mix is Corey Grant, who ran 18 times for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last season in Week 17. None of these guys are currently draftable in average-sized leagues.

If Fournette inspires something close to Beatlemania among Jags fans, it’s safe to say that there are no longer any traces of Bortlemania. In a pre-draft Facebook poll of Jaguars fans, 40% wanted the team to draft a running back with pick No. 4, but 35% wanted a quarterback, even though this year’s QB crop was of dubious quality.

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Blake Bortles had fantasy finishes of QB4 in 2015 and QB9 in 2016, due mostly to a volume of garbage pickup that would put your friendly municipal trash collector to shame. Over the last two years, Bortles has thrown for 1,551 yards and six touchdowns in the first quarters of games, 2,722 yards and 24 touchdowns in the fourth quarters. Those fourth-quarter numbers might prompt comparisons to Joe Montana were it not for the fact that the Jaguars have gone 8-24 over the past two seasons and have found themselves well behind in many of those final periods. It’s also worth noting that Bortles ranked sixth in passing attempts in 2015, third in 2016. Now, Bortles might have played his way out of a job. As of this writing, it was unclear whether Bortles or Chad Henne would get the nod as the Week 1 starter. The best move for fantasy owners is to pass on both.

Fantasy analyst Russell Clay (@RussellJClay) noted on Twitter a few weeks ago that in 2015, Allen Robinson became only the fourth player since the merger to amass 1,400 or more receiving yards and 14 or more touchdown catches in a single season while averaging 17.0 yards per catch or better. The other three players were Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson. Despite getting the exact same number of targets (151) that he had in that sublime sophomore season, Robinson had 73 catches for 883 yards and six touchdowns last year. And those numbers were propped up by a late surge: 14 catches for 229 yards in Weeks 16-17.

There are myriad statistics to illustrate A-Rob’s calamitous nosedive in efficiency. The “why” of Robinson’s collapse is more significant. In a piece for Pro Football Focus, Aaron Resnick (@aaronmresnick) pointed out that in 2015, Robinson caught 24 of 45 targets for 704 yards on go routes. In 2016, Robinson caught just nine of 42 targets for 186 yards on go routes. That 518-yard difference accounts for the entirety of A-Rob’s year-to-year yardage drop-off – plus an extra yard to spare. With the anticipated decrease in the Jags’ passing volume, it’s hard to see A-Rob catching 24 balls on go routes again, though his catch rate on those routes might improve if a stronger running game helps sell play-action. Robinson’s ADP has plumeted in recent weeks, falling all the way to WR23. That’s a pretty good price for a young receiver destined to settle into a sea lane somewhere between the trade winds of 2015 and the horse latitudes of 2016.

MORE FANTASY: Indianapolis Colts Buying Guide

Stunted by injuries in his first two NFL seasons, Marqise Lee had 63 catches for 851 yards and finished WR42 in both standard and PPR formats despite reaching the end zone only twice. A second-round draft pick in 2014, Lee wsn’t among the top 70 wide receivers in Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP listings even before he sustained a high-ankle sprain in training camp. I think he has promising late-round value as the No. 2 receiver on a team that won’t use its tight ends in the passing game very much. Lee has surged past Allen Hurns, who posted a 64-1,031-10 stat line in 2015 but slipped to 35-477-3 last year, catching fewer than half of his targets and missing the last five games of the season with a hamstring injury. Hurns has an ADP of WR67. A Hurns bounceback isn’t out of the question, but nor is attrition, especially if slightly built rookie fourth-rounder Dede Westbrook, a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, cuts into Hurns’ snaps from the slot.

When the vacuous Capt. Stillman first laid eyes on Sgt. Hulka’s platoon of misfits in “Stripes,” he declared it a “fine group of men.” The captain would have difficulty ginning up such praise for Jacksonville’s ragtag collection of tight ends, which includes Marcedes Lewis, Mychal Rivera and Ben Koyack. This group has no discernible fantasy value. To borrow a line from Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg, the Jacksonville tight ends are waitin’ to be forgotten.

Blake Bortles QB29 Shun
Leonard Fournette RB11 RB13 Approach with caution
Allen Robinson RB23 RB16 Buy at deep discount
Marqise Lee WR59 Invest
Allen Hurns WR68 WR75 Politely decline