Summer Sleeper: Jacksonville Jaguars


sleeperseriesWith less than a month before all training camps have opened around the NFL, we begin our annual series focusing on a few sleepers from all 32 teams in the NFL.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about here in the Premium Content section. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

We’ll never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” that includes such names as Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory or Danny Amendola. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, there’s more value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and either or re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league or consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this Summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Feel free to add your own comments about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own!

The Jacksonville owner, Shahid Kahn (the “mustache”) is giving little time for mistakes on his football team.   He gave offensive minded Head Coach Mike Mularkey exactly one season to turn the Jaguars around.  That didn’t turn out very well when the team finished an abysmal 2-14.  It did not matter that Maurice Jones-Drew (“MJD”) was lost for most of the season or that the former cartel before Mularkey invested in first round bust quarterback Blaine Gabbert.  Out with the old, and in with the new as defensive-minded Gus Bradley got hired as head coach to bring defense and ball control back to Jacksonville.  Bradley was the architect who made the Seattle Seahawks a defensive juggernaut and will be forced to contain the likes of Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots twice a year.

The time has passed for MJD to account for 75% of his team’s offensive output due to the wear and tear on his less than youthful body.  Last season in MJD’s absence, the Jags found some relief with the passing game behind journeyman quarterback Chad Henne along with two wide receivers in 2012 first round pick, the troubled Justin Blackmon, and small school, often concussed Cecil Shorts.   Unfortunately, much of the offensive success was due to the team falling behind and playing catch up.  The Jaguars were quite active in the off-season adding weapons on offense and defense.  I will focus on two of those here in fourth round pick offensive weapon extraordinaire, Ace Sanders, and journeyman running back Justin Forsett.  While I understand neither of these players are exactly household names, this article isn’t for the ten team league owners with 18 roster spots, it’s more for the deep leagues that hold 53+ players and have 14+ teams.

Ace Sanders, WR JAX

ace_sandersIf you like RC Cola over Coke or Pepsi, Sanders might be the better offensive weapon choice for you over the Rams’ first round pick, Tavon Austin.  He will certainly cost you a lot less in a rookie draft – depending on the league scoring, Sanders might not even get drafted as he gets selected as the 22nd rookie wide receiver according to‘s average draft position.  Physically, Sanders is not close to Austin as he only benched 225 pounds seven times and ran a pedestrian 4.58 40 yard dash.  He stands a small framed 5’ 7″, weighing 178 pounds.  There was one aspect that Sanders was outstanding, and that was in the 60 yard shuttle (11.29 seconds).  That side-to-side burst his time demonstrates is very evident as soon as you put on his game film.

The rookie specialist makes cuts at top speed with every step having purpose: either gaining yardage or eluding tacklers.  There are just a few players who use their upper and lower body to fake out defenders simultaneously like he does.  Sanders has soft hands, concentrates on securing the ball and moves to avoid contact in a singular motion.  The majority of his highlight reel is due to his mastery of the open spaces where he uses his outstanding field vision and agility to set up defenders.  His skill set is best suited for him being more of a returner than a receiver.

Many of you are reading and thinking, “Wow, if Sanders is so incredible, why did he last into the fourth round?”  He is as muscular as he can be with zero room to get any bigger or stronger.  Sanders is a major liability in any play that he does not touch the ball as he does not have the strength or size to block – this also limits his usage to lining up in the slot as he cannot get off the line of scrimmage with a defender lined up across from him.  When it comes to contested passes, Sanders tends to get pushed around and rarely comes up with the ball.  The other concerning piece is that the rookie wide receiver struggles at contorting his body to poorly thrown passes, so he needs a highly effective passer.  That is highly unlikely for this year as Gabbert and Henne each struggle with accuracy.

I love the quick twitch athlete that Sanders is, but I am skeptical on how he will be used.  This is why I see him as a WR6/7 at best in 2013 unless you’re in a league that scores return yardage.  Jacksonville could also use wide receiver Jordan Shipley and running back Denard “Shoelaces” Robinson in the return games, though. As Sanders excelled as a returner in college, the job should be his.  Shipley has not distinguished himself as an offensive weapon while Robinson needs to focus on learning the running back position including pass blocking before anything else is put on his plate.

Justin Forsett, RB JAX

Forsett has hung around the NFL for the last six seasons threw thick and thin.  All would consider his second year in Seattle as being the most productive when he accounted for almost a thousand yards combined with five touchdowns and 41 receptions.  He was considered too small and not athletic enough to get over 160 touches in a single season.  While it seemed like Forsett was at the end of his NFL career before training camp last season, he found a way to latch on in Houston beating out the former dynasty darling Jonathan Grimes for a final roster spot.  Due to injuries to second string running back Ben Tate, Forsett received a small workload for the Texans with 66 touches for 413 yards and a touchdown.  Considering he has never received a big workload, Forsett will be fresh for whatever Jacksonville needs of him.

This season he could be the prime backup to MJD.  Forsett can catch the ball out of the backfield, be a decent pass blocker and be a good change of pace runner.  I like the way he gets small in the hole and he’s also a patient runner.  Remember in 2011, Jags backup Rashad Jennings had almost 700 combined yards on 110 touches with four touchdowns when he shared carries with MJD.  Of course, Jennings was a much bigger back at 6′ 1″ 228 pounds versus the 5′ 8″ 194 pound Forsett.  MJD cannot hold up over 275+ touches anymore as he will be looking to stay healthy this season to play a few more years – this makes Forsett a good late round handcuff.  According to average draft position, he gets drafted as the 69th best running back.  With his limited touches, there is no reason to believe that Forsett couldn’t be a productive backup for the next 2-3 years. If you have the extra roster spots, you could do much worse to invest in Sanders and Forsett.

If you have any fantasy questions that you need answered quickly, please follow me on twitter @AndrewMiley.