If the NFL were like a fantasy football league, the Jaguars would be equivalent to your brother-in-law that plays in your league every season, even though he hardly watches football and he has never finished higher than 11th.
Possibly the most talented player on the team, Justin Blackmon, is suspended indefinitely for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Brilliant.
There’s really not a lot to talk about for the Jaguars' fantasy prospects this year, outside of running back Tony Gerhart and wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
The Jaguars are bad on offense; they're bad on defense, and they seem to always be in flux at the quarterback position, ever since Mark Brunell moved on back in 2003.
For the third time in four years (and fourth time in 12 years, they spent their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. They took Blake Bortles out of Central Florida (just down the road from Jacksonville in Orlando) with the third overall draft pick, and followed him up with two of the best college wide receivers in the game last season, USC’s Marqise Lee and Penn State’s Allen Robinson.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see more than a handful of Jaguars players end up in fantasy starting lineups this year, they are finally set up for offensive success in the coming years. Dynasty owners should absolutely pay attention here, as both Lee and Robinson have potential to become fantasy contributors as early as next year.
Shorts has been the team’s best player over the past couple seasons, but a sports hernia ended his season early last year, and now, in training camp, he suffered a pretty serious hamstring injury. After a quiet rookie season and a breakout sophomore effort, Cecil came up “short” in 2013, and fantasy owners are a little leery of taking him this year because of it.
The good thing to note is that Shorts is playing in a contract season, and while Jacksonville would like to keep him in a Jaguars uniform, he’ll have to perform – and stay healthy – to get a better deal than his rookie contract. With two early-round draft picks waiting in the wings at wide receiver, Shorts has lots of incentive to pull it together and get on the field.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way (see Hakeem Nicks, 2013).
We like Henne to start the season, with Bortles likely taking over at some point midseason – even if they claim that’s not going to happen. Shorts’ chances of being a good fantasy wideout are actually better with Henne under center, as the two have had a good rapport over the past couple years. Bortles, meanwhile, should have a good rapport with his fellow rookies, which also includes tailback Storm Johnson, who also played with Bortles at UCF.
When healthy, Shorts is worth using as a WR2/3 in most formats, even with the Jaguars as bad as they are. The problem is, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is why he’s available in the 10th round of most drafts.
Most overvalued player
Toby Gerhart, RB – As much as we like Gerhart to be a useful fantasy player this season, it’s tough to justify a late third-round/early fourth-round pick on him, which his ADP suggests is happening. Just behind him, Ryan Mathews, Bishop Sankey, Frank Gore and Shane Vereen are being taken, but to be fair, none of them are slam dunks in 2014 either. The fourth round looks like an RB wasteland of misfits.
If Gerhart, who will be getting the bulk of carries in Jacksonville, falls to the fifth round, it’s much more palatable. With the Jaguars expected to fall behind early and often, they’ll have to go away from the passing game. This was the second-worst rushing offense in the NFL last season, averaging fewer than 80 yards per game.
Most undervalued player
Marqise Lee, WR – The rookie receiver really isn’t getting many looks in most fantasy drafts, as the reasoning is relatively sound that this offense has some growing up to do. Owners in deeper-rostered leagues should definitely look toward Lee in the late rounds, for several reasons.
1. Everything is opening up for Lee to become a heavily used wide receiver right out of the gate (Robinson, too, for that matter.) Blackmon is suspended, Shorts has a long injury history (concussions, hamstring, groin), and Ace Sanders picked up a four-game substance-abuse suspension to start the season, too.
2. Lee was a certain first rounder after his junior season at USC, but he returned for his senior year, looking to be the first wideout taken in the draft. But, unfortunately, quarterback Matt Barkley got drafted in 2013 by Philadelphia, and the Trojans had a disappointing year – as did Lee. The Jaguars drafted a first-round talent in the second round.
3. Since we still fully expect this team to lose a lot of games, especially with a defense that ranked 28th in points allowed last season and 29th the season before that. The Jaguars will be throwing a lot in 2014, and Lee has already proven in camp that he can be moved around a lot and used in different spots/situations.
QB: Chad Henne, Blake Bortles
RB: Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson
WR: Cecil Shorts, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Ace Sanders
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Clay Harbor
K: Josh Scobee
Robinson is as intriguing as Lee, but not as fast. He is a big kid, standing at 6-foot-4, so if/when they get into scoring position, he could be a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver.
Lewis has always had a nose for the end zone, but there are just too many tight ends in better situations than the UCLA product.
The Jaguars defense is consistent, if anything else. It was equally inadequate against the run as it was against the pass last season. While the unit should be better in 2014 (it’ll be tough to be much worse), it still has a long way to go before it can be considered fantasy worthy. The Jaguars reinforced their front line with players like Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. If you’re in a league that drafts two defenses, this one is only worth a look if you have 14 teams in your league. With all of that said, the Jaguars could be building on something, and might even end up as a bye-week option at some point this season. It will face the Titans and Texans twice this year, along with the Browns in Week 7.