Jacksonville has to be excited about the future, as they accomplished a feat that takes many franchises (see: Cleveland Browns) decades to achieve by securing what appears to be their franchise quarterback of the future. While Blake Bortles hasn’t seen the same national media attention as his 2014 draft peers, he has demonstrated enough potential in a growing offense to be considered among the QB1 tiers going forward. In only his sophomore campaign, Bortles broke four franchise passing records for passing attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns, AND led the NFL in completions of over 20 yards or more.
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This season Bortles finished as a Top 5 scoring QB in most fantasy leagues. That’s a jump of 20 spots from his rookie season, and there is still plenty of room for growth – not only in Bortles, but the offense as a whole. Quick takeaways from his progression are that he maintained his passing percentage in both seasons (which needs to improve as he has been in the bottom rung of starting quarterbacks in this territory both seasons) and dramatically improved his TD to INT ratio from Year one to two. Looking back at his interceptions thrown this year, there is room for improvement. Much of the turnovers for the Jaguars this season were due to Bortles forcing the ball into heavy coverage, misreading the defense, or just trying to do too much when a thrown away ball or sack would have been much more beneficial to the team. Chemistry with his receivers, a better mental game at the line of scrimmage, and overall better decision making will improve Bortles’ play and the Jaguars viability going forward. While some point to the interceptions as cause for concern, consider this – through their first two seasons, Blake Bortles has less interceptions than Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning. On the flip side, Bortles has the seventh-most touchdowns for quarterbacks in their first two years of action in the history of the NFL.
A smart, athletic quarterback surrounded with young, all-star talent can only point in one direction. Jacksonville hit the money when they drafted Bortles, and those in fantasy that drafted him will reap the rewards as well. Bortles worked under two different offensive systems in his first two years, and many feel (including Bortles) that an uptick in performance is likely and expected in his second year under the same system.
Henne spent the entire 2015 season on clipboard duty. While he is a better backup than many teams have the luxury of having, as long as Bortles stays healthy, he will be roaming the sideline. A free agent, Henne may not be back in his current role next season.
There’s no question that Yeldon has the skills to command a heavy role in the Jacksonville offense. Unfortunately his rookie season was cut short with an MCL injury, but all signs point to Yeldon being a full go for training camp. Averaging 4.1 YPC in his rookie debut, while not over the top, Yeldon didn’t cause concern for his potential. In his 182 carries Yeldon didn’t turn the ball over once, and in 620 offensive snaps, Yeldon demonstrated an above average ability in pass protection. Surpassing 1,000 total yards, Yeldon did much with an offensive line that struggled to consistently open holes for the run game, and a team that often abandoned the run due to game flow. Drafted by many as the second running back off the board in 2015, Yeldon has the skill and ability to succeed, and the more I look at the Jacksonville offense entering its second year under Olson, the more things smell a little better than they have in the past.
The grossly talented player from the University of Michigan made the change to RB shortly after being drafted by the Jaguars, and his upside after the change was concerning for most. After a late season boom when he was thrust into action in 2014, Robinson left very much to be desired when Jacksonville needed him this season. After an MCL injury to T.J. Yeldon in week 14, Robinson was the heir to the throne in Jacksonville, and lit things up considerably in week 14 with 75 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries. However, he followed that performance up with an abysmal 41 yards on 14 carries against a struggling Atlanta defense in week 15. After that, Robinson did not see significant action for the remainder of the season.
I’ll admit, I was a little more than excited to see Toby Gerhart get a shot as a starting tailback in the NFL in 2014. Unfortunately, the injury bug delayed his rise to fame and forgettable running only solidified his place on a chair in the corner. While the coaching staff last season seemed interested in seeing what they had in an overpaid running back, it was quickly established by the entire civilized world that Gerhart was not a primary back and had the Jaguars running to the 2015 draft with a plethora of cards pre-scribbled with the names of any and all draftable running backs.
Entering the offseason as an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, Gray has been somewhat of an enigma in the NFL (and fantasy). While he has flashed serviceable potential from time-to-time, his release by the Patriots and recurring release and signing throughout the league certainly sends a message. Not a lock to continue with the Jags in 2016, I (for some unexplained reason) am left wanting to see more of Gray’s action in a more comfortable role in the future. That being said, the chances of this are slim to none.
Would you believe that two Jacksonville wide receivers led the league as the most potent WR duo in terms of yards per reception and were both in the Top 10 in touchdowns scored (only surpassed by the Jets duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker). They both also crossed the century mark for yardage along their way.
As the tall, athletic, deep-threat in the Jacksonville offense, Allen Robinson proved the hype was well deserved in 2015. He led the league in touchdowns (14), finished 6th in receiving yardage, and 2nd in yards per reception for players with at least 50 receptions. In his first year in the Greg Olson offense, Robinson made his money on deep balls where he was able to use his frame and catch radius to outperform defenders. While he did excel and have a quite marvelous season, his catch percentage reflects his usage and likely acclimation to a new offense and developing chemistry with a young quarterback. That’s not a knock on Robinson, but a reassuring nod that he may have untapped potential going forward. Heading into 2016, Robinson is developing under the second year in the same offense, and working with one of the hottest young quarterbacks in the league.
The other Allen battled through multiple injuries throughout the season, including a hampering sports hernia injury that he had surgically corrected after the season. Described as a tough competitor, the young undrafted receiver did what few in his position have done on his way to 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. The yang to Robinson’s yin, Hurns boasted a much better catch percentage that Robinson while only finishing six spots later in YPC on the season. While a smidge smaller than Robinson, Hurns is a burner with glorious hands and great field vision. There is no reason the two Allens can’t continue or even improve their production heading into 2016.
The forgotten 2nd-round superstar from USC has struggled mightily to stay healthy since entering the NFL. The shifty speedster, now projected as a healthy start for 2016 may be the straw that broke the opposing defenses back going forward. With guaranteed studs in the X and Y receiver positions, Lee would be the slot receiving option with huge (or “U-juh” if you’re Al Michaels) upside going forward. While unhealthy and uninvolved the majority of his first two seasons, Lee has the history and skill to make an impact in what I feel is a glowing and growing Jacksonville offense.
The Florida State product made a splash in week one for the Jaguars, reeling in 7 receptions and a touchdown against Carolina. However, he only managed 28 yards and cooled off considerably after that. Missing most of the season with a thumb injury, Greene will struggle to find a decent market share of the offense working behind Robinson and Hurns.
The rest of the WRs
Only Bryan Walters was modestly involved in the Jags O, but was not fantasy relevant and is a free agent heading into 2016.
A big ticket free agent heading into 2015, the Jaguars didn’t spare any expense getting Thomas to head to the southeast. Third in targets and receptions on the season, Thomas didn’t blow up with his change in environment. Change is remarkably difficult for the tight end position, and Thomas stuck to that theme in Jacksonville. While he did manage to finish just outside of TE1 numbers as the 15th-highest scoring TE, he accomplished this feat in only 12 games played due to missing the first four weeks to a finger injury and subsequent surgery. Thomas’ receptions and yardage was nearly identical in Jacksonville to his last season in Denver, but the increase in targets puts his catch percentage at an all-time low for Thomas. With another year under the same offense and a healthy start, I would expect that to gravitate towards his mean as chemistry builds within the Jacksonville offense.
Used almost exclusively as blocking tight ends, neither of these players saw a significant enough amount of targets to be viable in fantasy. Even with Julius Thomas out the first four weeks, their output was trivial. Even in an offense that sent the third most receptions to its primary tight end, Lewis and Harbor were not utilized and are both free agents heading in 2016. Word out of Jacksonville is that the team would like to continue its relationship with Lewis, but Harbor will likely set sail on the open market.