2018 Team Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

Joe Hanretty breaks down the Jacksonville Jaguars and dissects which players to keep an eye on throughout this upcoming season.

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

If you’re a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, you must be absolutely brimming with confidence entering this season. If 2017 was any indication of things to come for all three phases, this upcoming season has to be very promising. Blake Bortles finally seemed to find himself and performed about as well as you could hope. Leonard Fournette was an immediate hit, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in his rookie campaign. Despite not having both of the “Allens” (Robinson and Hurns) for most of the year, the receiving corps really stepped up to help ‘balance the attack’ – even if it seemed like they ran the ball every play. And that Defense! This is a squad that you read about…like right now. They ball-hawk with the best of them, they defend the run and have been ranked in the top 3 overall by most, if not all, pundits.

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Wherein the outlook for this team remains optimistic, it could be slim-pickings on the fantasy front. In the offseason, they lost both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns to the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Right now, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN the top targets for Bortles will be as follows: Marquise Lee, former Colt Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and rookie DJ Chark will round out the group. Taking the place of the long-time Jag, Mercedes Lewis is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, whom I am very confident in. Having Leonard Fournette back and healthy is obviously the key to making this whole thing tick. He’ll be running behind an offensive line that ranks 15th according to Pro Football Focus, mainly because their left tackle, Cam Robinson, was rated as a 37 which is not good by any standards. Hopefully, Doug Marrone and the rest of the staff can have him improve and keep Bortles upright.

Just as I did in my previous article – a team preview on the Oakland Raiders – let’s run down the players you should draft or keep a close eye on during the season to bolster your depth chart. Disclaimer: This offense is a true, run-first team and that grinds down the clock which limits opportunities for pass-catchers.

(QB2) Blake Bortles

I for one, have always criticized Bortles for either taking advantage of “garbage time” or having one of the ugliest throwing motions I have ever seen. Last season may have converted my opinion completely. Doug Marrone was the best thing to happen to him. He is clearly more relaxed in the pocket with better footwork and has far more “touch” on his throws. It’s not the tightest spiral all the time, but hitting a 60% of his targets tells me he’s improving. Having an effective running back helped him immensely, sure, but he simply got things done when he was had to. He finished the season with a career low in interceptions (13). Bortles may not have had spectacular scoring numbers, but having a defense like the one they do, taking care of the ball and converting enough 3rd downs can win a lot of ball games. The reason I have him as a good QB2 option in fantasy is that I foresee him throwing more – now that he has an even better grasp on the offense and is more comfortable with the receiving corps around him.  Speaking of which…

(WR3) Marqise Lee

I hesitate to put Lee or any of these receivers as a WR2 in any type of scoring format. They’ll obviously be a little higher in PPR based on my belief that Bortles will throw more this year than last. For now, this group remains a good crop of players that will provide depth on your roster. Marqise Lee in particular can be very valuable. As long as he remains healthy, which has held him back since he got drafted, I think he can surpass his yardage and touchdown totals. Slotted in as the #1 option, he’s actually one of the shortest receivers on the team.

Marqise Lee 6’0″
Donte Moncrief 6’2″
Keelan Cole 6’1″
D.J. Chark (R) 6’4″
Dede Westbrook 6’0″
Jaydon Mickens 5’11”

He’s better suited in the slot, where he can use his quickness to beat cornerbacks laterally. While he does have potential to be PPR starter, it’s more of a “wait and see” for the first week. I’d watch how he is used and how many targets he gets. Averaging four catches per game isn’t exactly something to bank heavily on.

(WR3) Donte Moncrief

The four-year veteran will enter his first season with the Jaguars, joining the division rival of his former squad, the Indianapolis Colts. The 6’2″ wideout broke out in 2015 as he amassed over 700 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, he’s been marred by extremely bad luck with injuries. In 2016 he only played in nine games, but still managed to find paydirt seven times. The Colts decided to let him walk and signed…Ryan Grant? Anyway, while this may wind up being a huge mistake by Indy, I think Blake Bortles will benefit from having a slightly bigger target to throw to than Lee now that Allen Robinson is gone. Moncrief has been touted for his athleticism and I, for one, am a believer. Just look here and here. He can run any route under the sun, has speed and good hands (61% on 105 targets in 2015). As for his fantasy value, I would probably treat him similarly to Lee and the rest of the group, for that matter. Look for match-ups against teams that defend the run well.

(RB1) Leonard Fournette

I know in most fantasy columns, running backs are usually analyzed right after quarterbacks, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Fournette is a potential first-round pick in most drafts due to volume and past success, albeit one year of statistics. Fournette just about averaged 4 YPC and finished with just under 1,350 total yards, but this was in just 13 games due to injury. If he can play in all 16 games and with defenses now having to concentrate on all the play action from Bortles, I don’t see why he cannot easily surpass his totals by a wide margin.

(TE2) Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Needing an impact tight end, Jacksonville went out and signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a 2-year deal. “ASJ” should have a pretty important role in this offense, seeing as the Jaguars desperately needed a bigger down-the-middle threat. According to Next Gen Stats, the Jaguars targeted the middle plenty in 2017, but mostly utilizing the slot positions. Seferian-Jenkins should be able help open up more passing lanes on the outside as well as on deeper routes down the middle for the wide receiver position. Yes, he’ll be asked to block plenty with Leonard Fournette set to rush about 20 times per game, but being THE biggest target on the team can’t hurt his chances for targets. The one glaring issue trying to pin down what type of production he’ll provide is that he’s never played a full season since he was drafted in 2014. From what I saw last year, he has pretty good speed, athletic enough to run most routes sharply and very good hands. I would probably try to get a tight end who has had more sustained success, obviously, but I would also consider Seferian-Jenkins very seriously.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have established themselves as a powerhouse in their conference and will probably contend for the AFC title, once again. For the hometown fans, this is great! For fantasy owners, this team success does not always correlate. Outside of Leonard Fournette and maybe Marquise Lee, the Jaguars’ skill position players will most likely be waiver wire pickups post-draft or injury-insurance later on in the season. Rule #2: Stay vigilant and very much woke on Tuesday mornings; that waiver wire isn’t waiting for anyone.

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