As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When the team selected Gabbert with the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, he was hyped as the quarterback of the future. When the team released starter David Garrard a week before the season began, Gabbert was destined to be thrown into the fire. By week three, he was the team’s starter and led the team to a 4-10 record the remainder of the season.
Gabbert was overdrafted as the Jaguars were desperate for a young quarterback they could count on for years to come. Now, one year later, Jags fans have witnessed one of the worst quarterback performances in NFL history and new backup Chad Henne is expected to push Gabbert for the starting role.
It is easy to pile on Gabbert for the poor play he showed last year. Let’s try to find some reasons to explain that, and determine if he can turn it around.
First, like all rookies last season, Gabbert had almost no training camp to learn the team’s offense or become familiar with his new teammates. Second, his top offensive pass catchers were Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis – both players were coming off a successful 2010 season, but both greatly disappointed. Finally, Gabbert was one of the youngest players in the league and has still not yet turned 23 years old.
Now, Gabbert enters training camp as the starter and the above questions have answers. Gabbert will, of course, have the full training camp to work as he matures as a quarterback. The team signed deep threat Laurent Robinson and drafted rookie Justin Blackmon to add some playmakers to the offense. These things will likely not turn Gabbert into a top quarterback in the NFL, or even a guy you feel comfortable starting for your fantasy team, but it is certainly possible that Gabbert shows some improvement this year. After all, he can’t get much worse.
We focused on Henne in our Jacksonville Jaguars sleeper article.
Although he has managed to hang around as a reserve quarterback for several years, most of those as his brother Carson’s backup, Palmer has never flashed outstanding ability or any fantasy value.
This time last year, all fantasy owners were concerned about was Jones-Drew’s supposed bone-on-bone condition and as a result, his dynasty stock was plummeting. All he did to ease those concerns was lead the NFL in rushing with over 1,600 yards while playing in all 16 games.
Now, fantasy owners are concerned with his high number of carries and again, his fantasy stock is lower than it should be. There’s also the matter of his contract dispute with the team. There have been rumors of an extended holdout, though there are conflicting reports from everyone from ESPN’s John Clayton to Jones-Drew’s former teammate in Fred Taylor.
While the contract dispute may be cause for concern, it does seem strange that so many suddenly seem bothered by the potential that Jones-Drew is wearing down. In his six seasons in the NFL, Jones-Drew has missed a total of three games and has finished as a RB1 (top 12) every year – that is as consistent as it gets. MJD did have a career high 343 carries in 2011, but there is no reason to believe he does not have another season or two as a top running back in the league.
Jennings enjoyed a promising first two seasons as a backup to Jones-Drew and was slated for an even bigger role in 2011 before suffering a knee injury that cost him the entire 2011 season. Despite that injury, the expectations and his fantasy value have never been higher than they are this offseason. Jennings is fully healed and handling first team snaps as Jones-Drew is skipping offseason workouts. As a result, owners have been scurrying to cheaply acquire Jennings to serve as the all important handcuff to Jones-Drew. One interesting note for those that think of Jennings as the heir apparent behind MJD is that the two running backs are nearly the same age, separated only by a few months. While Jennings will likely get more touches this year than ever before, he is not the future in Jacksonville.
Hopes were high in Atlanta following the impressive rookie season Robinson posted in 2007. What followed were injuries and disappointing play as Robinson moved on to the St. Louis Rams and their crowded wide receiver depth chart. He only lasted two seasons there before being cut in the preseason. After being quickly signed and released by the San Diego Chargers, Robinson landed with the Dallas Cowboys – this would prove to be a career defining moment for Robinson.
Robinson flourished as a deep threat and injury replacement for wide receiver Miles Austin. Robinson led the team in touchdowns with eleven, easily a career high for the veteran wideout.
Although Robinson expressed interest in returning to Dallas, the Jaguars were desperate for wide receiving playmakers and signed Robinson to a five year deal. He will likely be the top target for quarterback Blaine Gabbert and has already embraced his role as the leader for the wide receiver unit.
The concern for Robinson, as it has been most of his career, is his ability to stay healthy. If he can stay on the field, he will remain a fantasy relevant wide receiver, although it is doubtful he can match the double digit scores from the previous season.
Blackmon is certainly a tough player to judge. Many draft experts think he is overrated and does not have the skill set necessary to become a top wide receiver in the league. That is not even taking into consideration the off the field concerns that have been brought to the forefront as of late, thanks to Blackmon’s arrest on a charge of driving under the influence. While Blackmon is unlikely to be suspended for the offense, it does affect his dynasty stock as well as his contract with the team, which has yet to be signed.
The good news is Blackmon has looked good in offseason workouts and has a clear path to not only playing time, but likely a starting role in the Jaguars offense. Although Robinson is penciled in as the WR1 entering training camp, Blackmon is the most talented receiver on the team and will see plenty of targets throughout his rookie season.
Thomas had a superb 2010 season and was being counted on to be the team’s top wide receiver again in 2011. Instead, his receptions dropped by a third and his yardage was nearly cut in half from 2010. His fantasy value took a huge hit and now he is barely worthy of a roster spot in dynasty leagues. This offense has not proven it can support four or five options in the passing game and Thomas will have to battle several others for snaps and targets.
Evans was once a fantasy star and top wide receiving option for the Buffalo Bills, but his first season away from Buffalo resulted in a measly four catches for 74 yards on the season, while battling injuries throughout. On a team full of inconsistent and injury plagued wide receivers, Evans fits right in. Like the others, if he can remain healthy, he has a chance to earn playing time and contribute as the Jags try and turn things around.
Shorts was a trendy sleeper pick last season, but a hamstring injury troubled him all season. The teams added three wide receivers that will all likely play ahead of Shorts and he is off the dynasty radar for now.
Lewis exploded in 2010, collecting career highs in catches (58), yards (700) and touchdowns (ten) and was being viewed as a starting fantasy tight end. Instead, the passing game suffered and Lewis’ stats predictably returned to normal. The biggest shock for fantasy owners and the Jaguars themselves was the fact that Lewis failed to score a single touchdown in 2011. Look for Lewis to maintain that status as a mediocre tight end, both in fantasy and reality.
A breakout season from Miller has been expected the past two years and while his 2010 campaign was respectable, Miller only played in four games in 2011 after injuring his shoulder. Slated to be Lewis’ backup, this particular Zach Miller has no fantasy value in any format.
We’ll continue our team-by-team breakdowns with the Kansas City Chiefs up next.