Few players have had a more tumultuous, unlikely path to a big contract than Nick Foles. After a season backing up Michael Vick, Foles broke out with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, throwing 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He disappointed in 2014 however, throwing only 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight starts. The following year, he was shipped off to the Rams for Sam Bradford, where he floundered under Jeff Fisher. He then spent a year backing up Alex Smith with the Chiefs before returning to the Eagles in 2017 to back up Carson Wentz, seemingly entrenched as a career understudy.
That year, filling in for the injured Wentz, Foles took the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory, winning the game’s MVP award. Wentz was injured again last season, allowing Foles to win another playoff game before losing in the divisional round to the Saints. These last two seasons earned the 30-year-old a four-year, $88-million contract with the Jaguars. It’s likely the most circuitous path to “potential franchise quarterback” we’ve seen in NFL history.
It seems strange to consider Foles a fantasy question mark after eight seasons in the league, but that’s exactly what he is in 2019. The Jaguars are coming off a disappointing season and are in the midst of a complete upheaval. Gone are Blake Bortles and Nathaniel Hackett, the quarterback and coordinator combination that failed to move the ball consistently, and in step Foles and John DeFilippo.
I’ll be honest, I started this article with the intention of recommending fantasy owners stay completely away from Foles. He’s ranked 24th in John Paulsen’s never-too-early quarterback rankings and he’s a new-old player in a new system without a clear-cut top receiver on the roster. That isn’t usually a recipe for success.
However, after evaluating several factors, I walked away with a new appreciation for Foles’ game, his team and his potential as a fantasy contributor. While not elite by any means, Foles may be an excellent option for those who mine the later rounds for quarterback value and should definitely be on the radar as a streamer in good matchups.
The Coaching Staff
The aforementioned DeFilippo joins the staff of Doug Marrone, who’s in his third year as the head coach in Jacksonville. Here’s a look at how their passing offenses have fared throughout their careers:
Doug Marrone and John DeFilippo Coaching History
As with all stats, a little context is important. Marrone saw significant success with the Saints, but he was under Sean Payton during then, so he wasn’t a significant play-caller at the time. On the other hand, it’s hard to hold his time with the Bills and DeFilippo’s time with the Browns against them, as the quarterback talent there wasn’t nearly as good as what Foles potentially brings to the table, with all due respect to Kyle Orton, Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel.
When DeFilippo did get some talent to work with last season with the Vikings, he delivered. Minnesota didn’t have the win-loss record everyone hoped for, but they were sixth in pass attempts and 27th in rushing attempts. Kirk Cousins, much maligned for going 8-7-1 in his first year with the team, finished 10th in yards and ninth in touchdowns. Granted, DeFilippo was fired after Week 14, but that doesn’t change the makeup of the offense over the course of the season. Plus, DeFilippo was the quarterbacks' coach in Philadelphia in 2017, so Foles is already familiar with him.
This coaching staff doesn’t have a long history of consistently prolific fantasy numbers, but Marrone and DeFilippo are offensive-minded, and Foles is far better than Bortles and the trio mentioned above.
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The Supporting Cast
The Jaguars have a pretty good team. No, really. They made the AFC Championship game two seasons ago behind a dominant defense, despite having Bortles at quarterback. Last year, the team was decimated by injury and everyone wondered why it struggled. The defense took a natural step back, and the team lost its best receiver, Marqise Lee, before the season even began. Star running back Leonard Fournette also missed considerable time due to injury and looked like he was playing catch-up during his limited action. They also never found a solution at tight end after Austin Seferian-Jenkins was lost for the season in October.
Lee should be back after a year of rehab, and Fournette should be better as well. The Jaguars drafted a pure pass-catcher at the tight end position in Josh Oliver out of San Jose State in the third round, and selected running back Ryquell Armstead to pair with free agent acquisition Alfred Blue as insurance against another injury-plagued year from Fournette. If Lee can stay healthy and Dede Westbrook can continue his development, the addition of Oliver and a solid run game should be enough to support Foles.
Here’s the biggest difference over the past two seasons. Cam Robinson was a revelation as a rookie in 2017, making an easy transition to the NFL and starting 15 games at left tackle. Last year? Torn ACL in Week 2. As the season progressed, the Jaguars saw four of their five starting offensive linemen land on injured reserve, including high-priced free agent guard Andrew Norwell. They can’t possibly have such bad luck this season in the injury department.
The Jaguars gave themselves some contingency plans in the offseason. They brought in Cedric Ogbuehi to compete on the outside and they drafted Jawaan Taylor out of Florida. Taylor could win the right tackle job, kick in to guard, or be a swing tackle for them in the event of injury. He slid to the second round, but many expected him to go in the first, and he has the talent to be a starter right out of the gate. If Robinson can come back healthy, they should offer far better protection for Foles than they did for Bortles a year ago.
The Bottom Line
Situation aside, Foles is a good player. He has a career completion percentage of 61.6% and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of better than 2-to-1. He’s always had the ability to read a defense and run through progressions. He’s had some struggles in the past over his various stops, but he has a strong opportunity to put together an efficient season for the Jaguars.
Foles isn’t going to win your league for you if you draft him in the first 10 rounds. However, looking at the available options where he’s ranked, he could very easily be a nice backup or spot-starter for owners who like to wait on quarterback. He’s assured of his starting job and surprisingly competent set of weapons. Foles is better than you think, and with his job security and decent supporting cast, he’s worth targeting late, particularly in superflex leagues or leagues where two quarterbacks are commonly rostered.