2020 Jaguars fantasy team preview: At what point does Leonard Fournette go from fade to value?

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Is Leonard Fournette a complete fade this draft season, or when are you willing to take a chance on him?

Dalton: Fournette was no doubt unlucky in the TD department last year, but he also graded 52nd out of 57 running backs by PFF and ranked 46th in Juke Rate. Fournette has poor hands, was also PFF’s lowest graded blocker, won’t see nearly the same number of targets with Chris Thompson signed, finished #90(!) in fantasy points per opportunity, ranked 30th among RBs in yards per route run and has an extensive injury history; other than that I love him.

The Jags declined his fifth-year option, and Fournette would have certainly been traded by now if Jacksonville was only able to find a sucker taker. There isn’t a round late enough for me to waste a roster spot on Lenny, whom I’ll be fading in 2020.

Matt: Associating your fantasy running backs with bad offenses is generally not a good idea. Jacksonville should be one of the worst next year. Despite bad touchdown luck in 2019, we should be skeptical Leonard Fournette is a positive regression candidate. He looks more likely to lose opportunities than anything else. The team showed their general ambivalence to his contributions when they tried to trade him heading into the NFL draft. While he made some leaps in the passing game in terms of raw numbers, throwing him the ball was a net negative for the Jaguars because he doesn’t offer much post-reception nor does he run more than dump off routes. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden already brought in one of his long-time veterans in Chris Thompson, possibly to usurp that role.

There’s a price for everyone. At some point, Fournette will become a bargain. But that area is probably around Round 4 or 5 and I bet there will always be a wide receiver I prefer.

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Liz: Yeah, no. As much as I’d like to shake my fists at Fournette’s lack of explosiveness and/or efficiency (3.9 true yards per carry, RB40), the running back landscape is not lush enough to consider him a fade. Fournette may not have the goods - and the Jags may be done with him - but he also projects to receive an enviable volume of touches. 

Last year, the LSU product managed an opportunity share of 90.1 percent (RB2), averaging over 17 carries and 5 catches per contest. The addition of Chris Thompson figures to eat into Fournette’s work on passing downs, but forgive me for not being shook by a 30-year-old space back who’s completed a full-16 game season once over his seven-year career. And, yes, I suppose Ryquell Armstead could see a few series if Fournette gets hurt (which he’s known to do). But come on. 

Are you really going to draft Sony Michel, Damien Williams, or even Cam Akers ahead of Fournette? No, you’re not. Because there are too many question marks surrounding the pecking orders in those backfields. And while there is uncertainty about Fournette’s skill set, he will be, for one more year, the Jags’ RB1. 

According to current APD data, Fournette is being drafted in the third round. That’s too high for me. But at the end of the fourth? Around the same time as guys like Mark Ingram and David Montgomery are coming off the board? Well, then I’d bite.

What's D.J. Chark's floor/ceiling in catches/yards/TDs on this offensively challenged team?

Matt: D.J. Chark feels destined to be overlooked. Just as he was last year when he came from almost out of nowhere to draw 118 targets and clear 1,000 yards. Chark was not many drafters’ favorite sleeper wide receiver on Jacksonville’s roster and still became their best pass-catcher since they let Allen Robinson walk. When you look over their 2020 depth chart, there is almost no reason to think he can’t produce a similar season. Marqise Lee was released and rookie Laviska Shenault will quicker push Chris Conley or Dede Westbrook to the bench than compete with Chark. A legit talent who wins intermediate and deep, Chark can push for 120 targets on a bad team yet again this year and finish between WR15 to 20. He likely has a 1,100-yard ceiling but no worse than a 900-yard floor and should score between six to eight touchdowns. All similar to 2019.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Dalton: Chark was a revelation last season, as he began the year as a deep sleeper with impressive workout metrics and finished it as Jacksonville’s clear No. 1 wide receiver. Having Gardner Minshew as his QB is a problem, but that could be countered by being the only game in town on a team that projects to be playing almost exclusively from behind and in pass mode. New OC Jay Gruden will be bringing a West Coast system that Chark played in during his first three years in college, and he has the talent to take advantage of heavy targets (he somehow produced a top-20 WR Rating last season despite having one of the worst QB situations in the league). Given the offense’s limitations with Minshew throwing to him, I have Chark ranked as my WR20, but there’s certainly upside for more.

Liz: Chark was unlocked to the tune of a 73-1,008-8 stat line and top-20 fantasy finish in 2019. His breakout aligned with Gardner Minshew’s presence under center, which is good news since Minshew is officially the team’s starter in 2020. Additionally, Jacksonville did little to beef up the team’s receiving corps, adding only Colorado product Laviska Shenault in the second round and Longhorn Collin Johnson in the fifth. Given the obvious chemistry between Minshew and Chark, and noting the abbreviated offseason, I’m anticipating similar numbers for the blazing wideout in 2020. FF: 75-80 catches for 980-1,080 yards and 7-9 TDs

Jacksonville Jaguars projected 2020 lineup
Jacksonville Jaguars projected 2020 lineup

Outside of Fournette and Chark, do you see a sleeper to monitor?

Liz: I’m intrigued by Shenault. He’s a versatile player who has the size to play outside (6-foot-1 and 227 pounds) and the savvy to win in the slot. He’s also ultra-physical and crushes after the catch, as evidenced by the fact that he forced the most tackles among college WRs since 2018. I don’t see him being draftable, but the fact that Doug Marrone is already talking up his high-end utility gives me hope that he’ll be used effectively and immediately in Jacksonville. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him rack up some fire YAC as the year progresses, potentially winning DFS enthusiasts some cash and closing out his rookie effort with an impressive final month.

Matt: Outside of chasing splash weeks for DFS when they have good matchups, we should all know by now not to chase Chris Conley or Dede Westbrook in season-long. In fact, I think Shenault could slide right into a similar role to the one Westbrook has held for years and provide an upgraded, suped-up version. Shenault has excellent hands in contested situations and plays like a bully after the catch. Think of the way the Panthers used D.J. Moore as a rookie while he got some seasoning as a route-runner. Shenault could offer something similar.

Dalton: Ryquell Armstead. Since I’m fading Fournette, I’m interested in Jacksonville’s backup RBs, and the depth chart isn’t overly inspiring (apologies to the Ozigbros) outside of Armstead, who recorded a 40-time and Speed Score both in the 91st percentile or above. A former three-time all-conference track star, Armstead had more receiving TDs in one start than Fournette had across 100 targets all season. The best way to sell Fournette is to buy Armstead, who’s an obvious sleeper.

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: Tyler Eifert scores seven touchdowns. How much of a donkey do you have to be to chase Tyler Eifert’s upside at this point in our collective existence? Well, if you’re going to do it, all you’d need is to have him play on a likely pass-heavy team due to game script, find a gig on the worst tight end depth chart in the league and remind yourself he played 16 games just last year.

OVER/UNDER on 5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: Minshew wasn’t quite Tom Brady level-bad last season, but he was right there with him at the bottom of the NFL. All signs point to Jacksonville being one of the favorites for the top pick of next year’s draft (Trevor Lawrence vs. Justin Fields is closer than you think). With arguably the worst roster in the league (the Jaguars went from No. 1 in defense DVOA in 2017 to No. 29 last year), I’m betting the UNDER even with the heavy juice (-164).

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

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