As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: Shad Khan’s Cats.
Brad – DEDE WESTBROOK. Matching a talented receiver with an inaccurate quarterback is akin to ruining a delectable taco by drowning it in ketchup (Yes, people really do this. I’m looking at you, Paul Richardson). Unfortunately, that’s the case with Westbrook.
After missing 10 games rehabbing from muscle core surgery, the former Heisman finalist tallied suitable FLEX numbers in deep PPR leagues. He found the end zone only once, but managed 27 receptions for 339 yards over the last seven weeks of the regular season. Extrapolate his per game catch and yardage averages over 16 contests and it computes to 62-775, a nearly identical output as Philly’s Nelson Agholor. His production was pretty remarkable when considering his WR91 rank in catchable target percentage. If only Blake Bortles suddenly morphed into Tom Brady …
Assuming Westbrook again attracts around 22 percent of the target share, he’ll be an occasionally employable WR3 in challenging formats. Jacksonville’s conservative offense and the overall situation greatly hinders his upside.
Liz – Despite cutting Allen Hurns and losing Allen Robinson in free agency, the Jags’ receiving corps remains crowded. Right now, however, it seems as though Marquise Lee and Colts’ cast-off Donte Moncrief will handle the outside while Keelan Cole mans the slot. In 2017, Cole spent 23 percent of his snaps in the slot (Allen Hurns was there 35 percent of the time).
He also broke out in a big way, producing a 23-475-3 stat line in the team’s final five regular season games. Showing excellent chemistry with Bortles, the rookie out of KY Wesleyan posted top-twenty fantasy numbers from Weeks 13-16, making him a fake football hero. Building on that momentum in OTAs, Cole continued to look crisp and build rapport with Bortles.
Dede Westbrook may have been ahead of Cole last summer, but Jacksonville’s fourth round pick from a year ago looks to have been leapfrogged by his undrafted teammate. All the wishcasting in the internet can’t change that… for now.
OVER or UNDER final RB rank for Leonard Fournette 8.5?
Liz – OVER. Last summer Doug Marrone made his offensive intentions crystal clear, decrying a run-first scheme and saying that he’d prefer Blake Bortles throw the ball “zero” times. He wasn’t lying. Fournette averaged nearly 21 carries per game… even after tweaking his ankle in mid-October.
That formula was successful enough, but it’s not sustainable. Fournette’s efficiency waned over the second half of the regular season, as he averaged just over 3.0 YPC from Weeks 10 – 17. Furthermore, as much as Marrone wants to run, he won’t always have a lead, which means the Jags will have to pass eventually… and they have receivers for that.
Fournette proved to be a decent aerial weapon (averaging 2.8 catches per game), but with dual-threats like David Johnson, Zeke Elliot, Alvin Kama, and Dalvin Cook ascending, it’s hard to rank the power rusher inside the top-eight players at the position. He’s my RB10 in .5 PPR, which is the new Yahoo scoring default.
Brad – OVER. Last season featured the lowest number of 13-plus point average scorers at the position this century (in .5 PPR). A spike in timeshares connected to the usual turnover, injuries and ulterior impacts carved a great schism between workhorses and rushers involved in tough-to-predict splits, which created the current draft landscape and influenced the common RB-early, RB-heavy draft philosophy. The influx of three-down rookie talent should bolster the position, but Clydesdales like Fournette will and should be coveted.
This boils down to taste. Hyped by scouts and fantasy owners alike, Fournette delivered on his promise totaling the seventh-best per game output among RBs. On 66.7 percent of the opportunity share (23.4 touches per game), he contributed soundly in the pass game, totaled the 10th-most evaded tackles and ranked No. 7 in yards created. His 2.47 yards after contact per attempt (RB32) and three missed games raised concern. Blame the nagging ankle injury and eight-man fronts – he saw stacked boxes 48.7 percent of the time – but keep in mind Jacksonville finished No. 8 in run-blocking efficiency according to Pro Football Focus. Bottom line, his cranked volume masked flaws.
There is no justification needed to acquire the Jag at his 11.9 ADP. For my blood, however, he’s my RB10, slotting behind Saquon Barkley (RB5), Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon and Dalvin Cook (RB9).
Is it SMART or STUPID to acquire the Jacksonville D/ST in the early double-digit rounds?
Brad – STUPID. This isn’t a disparaging response. The Jags defense is the stingiest D in the league and in formats where D/ST units are weighted heavily worth reaching for. It features the most unyielding secondary, an array of aggressive tacklers and a line that charted 55 sacks last year. Defensive touchdowns are fluky and difficult to predict, but Jacksonville led the league with seven scores. Opportunistic, cohesive and unrelenting, it could replicate 2017’s success. First-round DT pick, Taven Bryan, only fortifies an already strong group.
However, in standard formats I’m an advocate for streaming defenses. When someone snaps tendons for the Jags in Round 11, I’ll gladly scoop up the best RB, WR or, if playing the patience game, QB on the board. With byes the exception, every week some team has to match up against meek competition like the Bills, Jets or Dolphins (Congrats on your division title, New England). Maximizing matchups is wise. Chances are Jacksonville won’t duplicate last year’s effort. The Chicago Bears, in 2011 and 2012, are the only franchise this century to don the fantasy D/ST crown in consecutive years.
At the Jags’ 125.6 ADP, players like Patrick Mahomes, Gio Bernard, Ty Montgomery, Kelvin Benjamin and George Kittle are wiser selections.
Liz – STUPID (though I doubt Jared Quay would agree). The Jags defense was the most dominant in the league last year. From a fantasy perspective, the unit averaged just over 10 FF points per game. That’s impressive. But the Baltimore Ravens, fantasy’s second-most productive DST, managed 9 points per game. The next three teams (DET, LAR, PHI) all topped 8 FF points per contest. Two points per game isn’t enough for me to reach and miss out on a potential breakout candidate like Mike Williams or Kenny Golladay.