Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dede Westbrook
- The Jaguars' offense will look much different with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm in 2019.
- Ian Hartitz analyzes how that affects Dede Westbrook's fantasy outlook for the season.
We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.
Nick Foles and the Jaguars are looking to regain their status as one of the AFC’s top contenders. The partnership will ultimately be judged by how many wins they can rack up in January and February, but that doesn’t mean some of the team’s sneaky-talented receivers won’t benefit along the way.
The Jaguars might not be the sexiest offense to target in fantasy football this season. Still, the general disinterest in their passing offense could lead to some value if we can properly identify who will emerge with the most target share.
What follows is a breakdown on what to expect from the Jaguars’ new-look passing attack as well as who carries the most fantasy football value.
Nick Foles is an upgrade over Blake Bortles
Foles has had an up-and-down career, but things have been mostly positive as long as his coach wasn’t Jeff Fisher.
Foles has posted a 63% completion rate and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt with a 61-to-23 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 43 career games without Fisher roaming the sideline.
With Fisher? A 56% completion rate, an average of 6.1 yards per attempt and a 7-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio in 11 games. Sheesh.
Of course, he’s saved his best football for January and February. Foles is 4-2 in six career playoff games and has posted a sterling 68% completion rate and 11-to-5 TD-INT ratio. His average of 7.78 yards per attempt in the playoffs is the sixth-highest mark among 30 signal callers with at least five postseason starts over the past 20 years.
The best thing about Foles is easily his tear-drop deep ball, which often exits the television screen before lightly falling into his receiver’s hands downfield.
Also helping matters is an expected improvement in offensive line performance. The last two years have told different stories …
- 2018: 21st in adjusted line yards per rush, 27th in adjusted sack rate
- 2017: 13th in adjusted line yards per rush, 5th in adjusted sack rate
… and a big reason why comes down to injuries. The Jaguars’ offensive line was pretty much a walking graveyard in 2018.
- Left tackle Cam Robinson missed 13 games with a knee injury
- Backup left tackle Josh Wells missed nine games due to a groin injury and later a concussion
- Third-string left tackle Josh Walker missed seven games with an ankle injury
- Left guard Andrew Norwell missed five games with an ankle injury
- Center Brandon Linder missed seven games with a knee injury
- Right guard A.J. Cann missed one game with a triceps injury and also played through a hamstring injury
- Right tackle Jermey Parnell missed three games with a knee injury
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been replaced with John DeFilippo, who has a history of success with Foles dating back to his time as the Eagles quarterback coach.
The only question is just how much we should expect any single receiver to be featured in 2019.
Foles has historically spread the ball around
The Vikings ranked fourth in pass-play rate (64.4%) in 2018 and fired DeFilippo after Week 14 in part because of his distaste for running the ball. The Jaguars have ranked 18th (58.6%) and 32nd (50.5%) in pass-play rate since drafting Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 pick of the 2017 draft.
Foles started and completed 12 games for the Eagles over the past two seasons (including playoffs). He certainly seemed to focus on getting the team’s slot receivers involved in addition to the Eagles’ featured tight end.
- Zach Ertz: 9.2 targets per game with Foles
- Nelson Agholor: 6.7
- Alshon Jeffery: 6.5
- Torrey Smith: 5.6
- Golden Tate: 5.4
- Darren Sproles: 4.5
- Dallas Goedert: 3
- Corey Clement: 2.9
- Wendell Smallwood: 2.5
- Jay Ajayi: 2
This focus on inside receivers is consistent with DeFilippo’s play-calling in Minnesota: Only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones had more targets than Adam Thielen in Weeks 1-14 last season.
A look at the Jaguars receiving room helps us paint a positive picture for who might be the focal points of this new-look offense.
Dede Westbrook and Leonard Fournette could thrive in 2019
The Jaguars have an oddly deep group of receivers for a team without a locked-in No. 1 option. Their respective contracts and past usage can help us identify the potential frontrunners for featured roles.
- Marquise Lee: The Jaguars’ highest-paid receiver suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2018 preseason. Lee led the Jaguars in targets (96) and receptions (56) in 2017. His average target depth of 11.3 yards in 2017 was a higher mark than any of the Jaguars’ incumbent receivers managed last season. Unfortunately, head coach Doug Marrone has already confirmed that he doesn’t expect Lee to be available to start training camp. An improvement in healthy could help him start on the outside and work as one of the offense’s top-three weapons.
- Dede Westbrook: The Jaguars’ starting slot receiver posted team-high marks in targets (101), receptions (66), yards (717) and touchdowns (5) in 2018. Westbrook has a chance to be Foles’ new-look Nelson Agholor — an explosive underneath option with the potential to create big plays via yards after the catch. Westbrook also chipped in 98 rushing yards and a punt return touchdown last season, demonstrating an elite level of ability with the ball in his hands.
- DJ Chark: The Jaguars’ 2018 second-round pick caught only 14-of-32 targets for 174 yards as a rookie, but his 4.34-second 40-yard dash should mesh well with Foles’ deep-ball ability. Chark’s average of 21.9 yards per reception during his final year at LSU ranks in the 96th-percentile among all wide receivers.
- Keelan Cole: Cole was starting to get phased out of the offense in the second half of the season in favor of Chark before the rookie missed five games due to a strained quad. The former undrafted free agent has the least support from the front office in terms of draft stock and salary, but benefits from the change under center. The absence of Lee to start the season would be a major boost to Cole’s chances at earning a prominent role.
- Leonard Fournette: Fournette faces little competition for touches after T.J. Yeldon signed with the Bills and Corey Grant remains a free agent. Fournette has always been a bit of a limited receiving back on anything other than screens or check downs, but it’ll be tough to warrant taking him off the field in favor of veterans Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham and Thomas Rawls. Fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead never caught even 15 passes during a single season during his four years at Temple.
The team boasts four tight ends who could be involved: former-Cowboys tight end Geoff Swaim, third-round pick Josh Oliver along with incumbent contributors James O’Shaughnessy and Ben Koyack.
Pretty much all of the Jaguars receivers are dirt cheap when it comes to average draft position at the moment. Westbrook (WR45) deservingly boasts the highest ADP of the group, but don’t underestimate the possibility of another receiver winding up with an enhanced target share in what figures to be an improved passing game.
Lee is my pick to be that guy with health, so look for Fournette and/or Cole to pick up the slack if he ultimately misses time.