Let’s never forget how close we were to experiencing a Super Bowl matchup involving Blake Bortles in a starring role. Jacksonville actually held a 20-10 lead over New England in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game last January. If that score would have held, it might have upended much of what you think you know about the importance of quarterbacks in today’s NFL.
The Jaguars ultimately did not hold off the Patriots, as everyone knows, so we were spared the weirdness of seeing Bortles on football’s biggest stage. Jacksonville is very clearly a team that wins on the strength of its league-best defense and relentless ground game, not because of its golden armed quarterback. Over Bortles’ four NFL seasons, he’s thrown 90 touchdown passes and turned the ball over 79 times (64 INTs). His career completion percentage is 59.1 and his passer rating is 80.8. He is, objectively, an ordinary quarterback by NFL standards. Even when Bortles was allegedly good, back in 2015, he was sneaky-bad. Understandably, his team was linked to various free agent QBs in the offseason.
Bortles was given a three-year, $54 million deal in the offseason, however, so Jacksonville is committed to him, at least for another season or two. This team has found a way to limit his impact on winning and losing; he’s not going to put the ball in the air 600-plus times. The Jaguars ran the ball exactly as often as they threw it last season (527 times), and that balanced approach brought them within a few minutes of Super Bowl LII. Expect more of the same in 2018.
Jacksonville’s receiving corps failed to produce a top-40 fantasy wideout in standard formats last season and no player on the team reached 100 targets. Don’t look to this crew for your WR3s. Marqise Lee led the Jaguars in receptions, catching 56 balls for 702 yards and three spikes. (Yawn.) He’s fine — roster-worthy, but certainly not an ideal starter. Donte Moncrief signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville in the offseason, and he’s the favorite to start opposite Lee. (Deeper yawn.) Second-year receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook each had their moments last year — Westbrook was a preseason legend — and rookie second-rounder D.J. Chark is an interesting developmental prospect. Chark is a size/speed combo receiver who crushed the combine (4.34 speed, 40-inch vertical).
Realistically, no one mentioned in the previous paragraph is likely to serve as an every-week starter on a league-winning fantasy roster. The Jags’ receiving depth chart can help fantasy owners navigate the bye weeks, but don’t expect a breakout star. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if newly acquired tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins were to lead this team in receiving TDs in 2018. ASJ has reportedly clicked with Bortles. Given the depth at the tight end position, however, Seferian-Jenkins certainly isn’t a must-draft option. He’s just another flier.
Leonard Fournette is exactly who we thought he was
OK, now we’ve arrived at the fun stuff. Jacksonville led the NFL in rushing last season, averaging 141.4 yards per game and 4.3 per carry. Fournette was a hammer, running for 1040 yards and nine scores over 13 games. He received at least 15 touches in every game he played (and 20 touches in 10 of 13), so the team’s commitment to him remained consistent. Fournette is the offensive centerpiece for the Jaguars, a foundational back. He’s an old school power runner in an old school ground game. It’s important to note that he also delivered 36 receptions for 302 yards on 48 targets, so he’s not a guy we need to seriously downgrade in PPR.
Fournette has reportedly shed a few pounds, hoping to play this season at the weight he maintained at LSU:
“I feel like I play my best at what I played at in college — 223, 224 [pounds],” Fournette said after practice. “I put in my best at that weight and why not [get back there]? I don’t want to be average, I want to be above average. I want to be the greatest one to play this game.”
If we get a healthy season from Fournette, he can challenge for the rushing title. His talent is well established and there’s no questioning Jacksonville’s desire to run the ball. Fournette is fully approved at his late first-round ADP.
T.J. Yeldon ran well last season as Fournette’s understudy/change-of-pace, averaging 5.2 YPC. If you’re the handcuffing type, feel free to snag him.
Jacksonville’s defense was a buzzsaw
We don’t typically focus on team defenses in this (largely meaningless) fantasy index, but this group deserves unusual attention. Jacksonville’s D was phenomenal. Entering last season, we knew it had a chance to be great, but, well … wow. Six defensive players from this team made the Pro Bowl, which is of course absurd. The Jaguars ranked at or near the top of the league in everything that matters to fantasy owners: yards against (286.1), scoring (16.8), sacks (55), interceptions (21), fumbles (12) and defensive TDs (7).
Naturally, Jacksonville is the consensus No. 1 D/ST for 2018. The Vikes, Rams and Eagles look great, but the Jaguars are vicious. Telvin Smith, Calais Campbell, Barry Church and Myles Jack are the top IDPs here; Jalen Ramsey is as good as it gets at DB. Draft this D with total confidence.
2017 Offensive Stats & Ranks
Points per game – 26.1 (fifth in NFL)
Pass YPG – 224.6 (17)
Rush YPG – 141.4 (1)
Yards per play – 5.4 (13)
Plays per game – 66.8 (4)