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There's Value in Jacksonville

06/01/2019Chris Cichon

Less than a year and a half removed from nearly upsetting the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team on the rise again. After a disappointing 5-11 finish in 2018, the team moved on from Blake Bortles and signed Super Bowl champion Nick Foles to a four year/$88 million contract. Philadelphia’s decision to not franchise tag Foles while crowning Carson Wentz as the franchise quarterback is a win for the Jaguars and the pass catchers in this offense, as Foles is clearly an upgrade over Bortles.

Foles is reunited with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was his QB coach during the 2017 Super Bowl run. DeFilippo is getting a chance to bounce back after he was fired from his duties as Minnesota Vikings' OC late in the season. Going back to 2017, if we look at a small sample size excluding a meaningless Week 17 game in which Foles played a quarter, here’s how the five games went for the tandem (two regular season, two playoff games and Super Bowl).

-30+ pass attempts in all five games.

-Top 10 fantasy QB cumulative Weeks 15-16

-In three out of the five games, Foles threw for three or more touchdown passes.

-Completion percentage >63% in 4-of-5 games.

Doug Pederson was the playcaller for the Eagles so we don’t need to regard these numbers as gospel. However in a larger sample, even though he was fired before the season ended, DeFilippo was obviously a huge part in the Vikings attempting 606 passes in 2018, good for sixth-most in the NFL. That kind of passing volume is certainly possible for Foles which begs the question: Is he better than QB29 (Best Ball ADP in the month of May)?

Who would you rather have? QB28 Marcus Mariota who might lose his job to Ryan Tannehill if the Titans offense falters/Mariota gets hurt? QB26 Andy Dalton? No thanks. Foles won't be drafted as a fantasy football starter, but in 2-QB leagues, 16-team leagues or in Best Ball formats he is certainly viable and undervalued.

Who is Foles going to throw to?

The Jags No. 1 WR is presumably Dede Westbrook who was the WR43 in the month of May in Fanball BB10s. Westbrook played the third-most snaps in the slot last season in the NFL and he found success despite lackluster play at QB:

Golden Tate (WR41), Larry Fitzgerald (WR39), and Courtland Sutton (WR37) are three guys with higher ADPs than Westbrook in the month of May. I would personally take my chances on Westbrook over these three.

Are the other WRs in this Jaguars' offense worthy of fantasy consideration? The organization thought highly enough of Marqise Lee (WR80) to reward him with a four year/$38 million contract last March, but the USC grad never saw the field in 2018 as he needed season-ending surgery in the preseason. ESPN’s Mike Clay projects Lee will catch 50+ passes and see 90+ targets which would certainly make him fantasy viable.

Outside of that? Keelan Cole and DJ Chark may provide individual one-off productive weeks where numbers are inflated by a big play but both are Best Ball dart throws. Rookie tight end Josh Oliver is impressing during OTAs but still has a ways to go and newly acquired TE Geoff Swaim caught fewer passes (35) than games played in (37) during his four-year tenure in Dallas. Ben Koyack and James O’Shaughnessy are fantasy non-factors as well. This spells a concentrated aerial attacking centered around Westbrook and Lee.

But When We’re Talking Fantasy, We’re Talking Fournette

If you’re talking about the Jaguars when it comes to fantasy football, the conversation is probably not going to be centered around the passing game, despite some of the aforementioned statistics. It’s going to be about running back Leonard Fournette, who no doubt disappointed fantasy owners in 2018. Like most players in the NFL, production comes down to staying healthy and on the field, and Fournette has struggled to do so. Due to injuries and suspension, Fournette has played in just 21 of 32 regular season games over the past two seasons, and he even admitted he needs to makes some lifestyle changes after an offseason arrest.

Assuming health and limited legal trouble, is Fournette someone to pay up for in fantasy? He finished the month of May as RB13 in FFPC while Nick Chubb was RB12. What’s the difference between these two SEC RBs? Competition. Chubb could be spelled in passing situations by Duke Johnson and Kareem Hunt could factor into the run game once he is reinstated from suspension. Fournette is not going to lose touches to Alfred Blue or Thomas Rawls, and T.J. Yeldon is in Buffalo.

While there are some red flags when it comes to production, this article is about value and even in the passing game Fournette can deliver. There was only one game out of eight last season that Fournette failed to catch multiple passes and DeFillipo has already set high expectations. Drafting Fournette is not without risk, but the payoff and touchdown upside is too great to allow him to slip too deep in drafts.

33-1 Super Bowl Odds?

Is there value in the betting futures aspect when it comes to this Jaguars team? The defense still features an outstanding secondary headlined by cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and the rest of the unit should still be feared. At +3300 on Bovada, that gives Jacksonville the same odds as the Ravens, Falcons and Texans to reach the pinnacle of the league.

The Jaguars have a quarterback who has already led a team to the Super Bowl along with a top-five defense. The team may be an afterthought early this summer but as the dog days continue and more drafts are held, keep an eye on guys like Fournette/Foles and the WRs and if their respective ADPs hold, get some exposure.

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