Marcedes Trends

Jacob Feldman

In dynasty leagues we have a fascination with youth. It makes perfect sense. After all, as a general rule, young players will be in the league longer than old players. The other big reason we like them is young players will often improve and gain quite a bit of value over the years. For that reason, one of the offenses everyone is keeping an eye on is the Jacksonville Jaguars. With one of, if not the youngest group of offensive weapons, there are a lot of things to watch with the Jags. Some of the items are pretty much set in stone. Blake Bortles will be the quarterback. Allen Robinson will lead the receiver group with Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene rounding out the crew, currently in that order. TJ Yeldon is going to get the first shot at lead running back duties with Denard Robinson behind him. Every one of those players is in their first two years in the league other than Denard Robinson, who is the veteran in his third year.

In all of that, there is one position I didn’t mention. That is tight end, of course. Julius Thomas was the high priced free agent acquisition and clearly the veteran of the group as he enters his fifth year in the league at the ripe old age of 27. He was having a great off-season as he transitioned to his new team and away from the Peyton Manning-led offense in Denver. In fact, local media outlets were reporting he was the “best player on the team” during OTAs and early in training camp.

Unfortunately for him, the Jaguars and his fantasy owners, things have hit a bit of a bump in the road. During the very first preseason game, Thomas broke his hand. It is unclear exactly what the damage was, but the initial reports were fairly positive. The expectation was to have him sit out the rest of the preseason and to be ready to go when the regular season opened. The only change would have been putting a little bit of padding on the injured hand. All seemed to be going well until recently when news broke about an issue with the hand. It is unclear if it is a part of the original injury which was missed, something they expected to heal on its own but didn’t or a setback during rehab. Regardless of the cause, it seems Thomas is set to undergo surgery to repair one of the tendons in his hand. While he is expected to make a full recovery, the young Jags will be without him for the first 4-6 weeks of the season.

How will this impact the rest of the team?

Blake Bortles, QB

The potential face of the franchise is still developing into what he could become. One of the things every quarterback needs is a few weapons around him. Losing Thomas takes away one of his top two targets for a pretty decent part of the season. It is going to be a blow to his production, but I still expect Bortles to improve upon his numbers from last season, which might not be saying much. He is still likely to be a low end QB2 though, because he does have quite a bit of growing to do.

Allen Robinson, WR

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Losing Thomas for the first part of the season is a bit of a mixed bag for Robinson. On one hand, he is going to see a few extra targets each week as he picks up a fair amount of the targets which would have gone to Thomas. Bortles will probably try to force the ball to his best receiver a little bit too often though and it won’t take long for the defenses to figure that out. This, of course, brings us to the bad side of Thomas going down. Defenses will have no one else to be seriously concerned about in the passing game. None of the other receivers or tight ends are skilled enough to prevent defenses from double teaming Robinson. As a whole, I think it is actually a slight downgrade for Robinson’s production. He’s going to get the ball forced to him but he’s going to get a lot more attention from defenses. Robinson’s time to shine will come once Thomas returns and the defenses are forced to loosen up a little bit.

Allen Hurns, WR

The first few weeks of the season will give Hurns a chance to shine. He’ll be given the opportunity to step up as the second target for his young quarterback. The question is if he can take advantage of the situation. During the last six weeks of last season (during the time Allen Robinson was injured), Hurns played second fiddle to then top receiver Cecil Shorts. Over those six weeks, Hurns managed only 21 receptions for 202 yards and just one touchdown. He only had a pair of games over 40 yards and none of them over 70 yards. He isn’t the most gifted receiver in the league by any stretch of the imagination, thus I don’t think he’ll be able to take advantage of the situation. He’ll be inconsistent, but I don’t think he’ll see any kind of bump in production.

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Marqise Lee, WR

There was some discussion among fans of Lee that the injury to Thomas would make the Jags reconsider their base two tight end set – that doesn’t seem to be the case according to various media outlets. The oft-injured Lee seems to be a distant third on the wide receiver depth chart which leaves him off the field in most situations. If he wants to see some time on the field, he needs to get healthy and beat out Hurns for the number two spot at the position.

Marcedes Lewis, TE

One of the longest tenured Jaguars now that Josh Scobee has been traded, Lewis has been a fixture for some time now. However, a mix of injuries and age have caused a fairly steady decline since his career year in 2010 where he managed 58 receptions for 700 yards and ten touchdowns. Now 31 years old, Lewis was set to be the inline blocker from the tight end position to help keep his young quarterback off the turf. Even with Thomas’ injury, I don’t think Lewis’s role changes much. He has definitely lost a step athletically and isn’t the threat he once was half a decade ago. In fact, he averaged just over two catches and 25 yards per game last season. He’s still going to be used as a blocker more often than not and his production doesn’t have him on the fantasy radar.

Clay Harbor, TE

The only real beneficiary of Thomas’ injury is Clay Harbor. He’ll be the one to slot right into Thomas’s former role and have a chance to pick up some of the targets which would have gone to the former Bronco. The problem is Harbor doesn’t have the talent Thomas has and everyone knows it. This is Clay’s sixth season in the league (his third with the Jaguars) and he’s never lived up to the hype. I think we are looking at 2-5 catches for fewer than 50 yards while Thomas is out. There is always a chance he could get some looks in the red zone, but how often do we really expect the Jaguars to be in the red zone?

Running Backs

Losing one of your top weapons in the passing game is seldom good news for the running game, especially when you only have two real weapons. Defenses should be able to double Robinson and stack the box at the same time against the two tight end set. It is going to be very tough sledding for the rushing game over the early part of the season, especially against the better than average defenses of the Panthers, Dolphins and Patriots over the first three weeks.

Overall, the loss of Thomas is a big blow for the entire offense. With no other real weapons to replace him in the passing game, it is going to be very difficult for the team to take the steps forward we were expecting from them. Over the first few weeks of the season, this could be one of the worst offenses in the league once again. If you’ve invested heavily in any of the young Jags, you’re going to need to be especially patient. If you have a lot of faith in one of them, week four might be the perfect time to send those trade offers. My condolence to Jacksonville fans in advance, assuming Jacksonville fans actually exist!


jacob feldman