It’s Chark Week for Your Dynasty Team

Josh Brickner

In April 2018, a Chark with a unique blend of size and speed arrived on the shores of Jacksonville beaches from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Chark wasn’t heard from much during the 2018 season before terrorizing secondaries in 2019. The only question left for opposing defenses in 2020 is: “will it be safe to go back in the water?”

The College Years

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Statistics from Sports Reference.

While DJ Chark had a productive collegiate career highlighted by finishing fifth in the SEC in receiving years his senior season, the Baton Rouge product entered the 2018 pre-draft process looking to improve his draft stock.

First, he dazzled in both the Senior Bowl practices and in the game (five catches, 160 yards and a touchdown) itself. Next, Chark was a star of the combine running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash to go along with a 92nd percentile finish in both the broad and vertical jump; combined with his 6’3 height and we’re looking at an athletic freak setup to shine at the next level. The Jacksonville Jaguars took notice as they selected Chark with the 29th pick of the second round in the 2018 draft.

2019: A Breakout Season

Year Targets Target Share Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Finish
2019 118 21.0% 73 1,008 8 WR18

 

Despite decent draft capital, the 2018 season was a lost one for the Jaguar rookie as he was an offensive afterthought. Chark participated in a mere 28% of the offensive snaps in his inaugural season while putting up pedestrian offensive numbers (14/174/0).

Entering 2019, many dynasty football pundits (present company included) expected Dede Westbrook to be the breakout receiver in Jacksonville. Instead, it was the LSU alum who paced the team in targets, receiving yards, and touchdown catches.

A Lack of Consistency

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While Chark’s WR18 finish in 2019 is impressive, his weekly consistency was not. He was on fire the first three weeks of the season finishing in the top 20 (WR11, WR13, WR20) in each contest. Unfortunately, the former Tiger did not find a consecutive run of success for the rest of the season.

A WR4 week five was sandwiched in between WR46 and W45 performance just as a week eight WR11 outing was bookended by two subpar games (WR37, WR57) in weeks seven and nine respectively. An elite (WR2) week 11 and solid week 14 (WR20) were the high marks of the Jaguar receiver’s back-half of the season as he didn’t finish higher than WR42 in any other game. Now to be fair, a week 14 ankle injury slowed down our hero for the last few weeks of the season. When the dust settled in 2019, Chark finished outside of the weekly top 24 receivers a majority (53%) of the time.

To truly join the ranks of the elite dynasty wide receivers, Chark will need to end the Jekyll and Hyde act. The difference between a cornerstone player like Davante Adams and a  flash in the pan (Sammy Watkins) is consistent, reliable fantasy performances from week to week.

2020: A Reason for Optimism

There are a myriad of reasons to believe Chark improves his consistency and takes another step forward in 2020. He is not only the unquestioned alpha of the Jacksonville receiving corps (as evident by his 21% target share), but one of the team’s main red zone threats as he converted five of his ten targets for scores. In fact, he was one of the best wide receivers in the league in getting the most fantasy value out of his opportunities. Per the DLF Yearly Player Data app, we see the top Jaguar wideout ranked 19th in fantasy points per opportunity (1.88) among wide receivers with at least 75 targets finishing ahead of Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and DJ Moore.

This season also presents Chark with the ability to see more opportunities. The Jaguars finished 12th in passing attempts per game in 2019, and it’s very possible those numbers go up this season. The team’s defense (once leading the franchise to the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance) has taken a drastic step backward in just two seasons as they project to have one of the worst units in the entire league. Jacksonville should trail in many games this season meaning more positive game scripts for their receivers to see an increased volume.

Dynasty detractors of Chark may look at the team’s second-round selection of dynamic receiver/running back hybrid Laviska Shenault as a negative for the team’s top receiver; yet, I couldn’t disagree more. The front office knew they needed another dynamic playmaker as a complement since Westbrook has failed in that regard. Look for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to use Shenault to keep opposing defenses on their toes and draw attention away from Chark.

Dynasty/Trade Value

Per the DLF August ADP and most recent rankings, we see a discrepancy as Chark is being selected as WR19 in August mock startups, but is ranked as the 23rd best wide receiver by our experts, behind Keenan Allen (WR20) and Julio Jones (WR22). With all due respect to my ranking colleagues at the site, I would rather roster the Jacksonville receiver on my dynasty squad over these two aging veterans… with one important caveat. If my team is a contender, then players like Jones and Allen who are much more likely to offer an immediate return on investment need to be coveted over Chark. Yet, if this is the first year of a dynasty league or your team isn’t a surefire championship contender, you want a 23-year-old receiver on the cusp of greatness.

A Contender or Not?

If you don’t take a look at all of your dynasty rosters and determine if they are built to compete for a championship this season, then you’re doing it wrong plain and simple. This self-evaluation can determine the trades you need to make for your dynasty roster. According to the DLF Trade Finder, Chark can be acquired for Tee Higgins and a 2021 fourth if you’re a favorite for the trophy or Antonio Gibson and Adam Thielen if not.

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As a contender, the top trade is exactly the type of trade I’m looking to make to acquire the third year wideout as I did just this a few months ago. While Chark isn’t quite a slam dunk to improve his weekly consistency and finish as a top 20 fantasy wide receiver, he has a better shot than a rookie receiver like Higgins in a competitive receiver room.

On a stacked superflex dynasty squad, I dealt Tee Higgins, Henry Ruggs, and Darynton Evans for Chark and Breshad Perriman. Not only does Chark offer more short-term value than any of those other three, but he’s only 23 years old with a year of proven NFL success. Also, all three of the players I shipped away have seen their dynasty value take a hit with some negative training camp news.

The second featured trade was one I made a few weeks ago in one of the new leagues I joined during the lockdown. I’ve been simultaneously trying to unload Thielen and acquire Chark in this league for the last two months. I view a player like Thielen as a great contending asset, but a ticking time bomb in terms of dynasty value. Despite likely finishing as a WR1 in the 2020 season, the 29-year-old is inching closer to that dreaded age cliff for a wideout. Gibson also represents the ultimate sell-high player as his dynasty value will tank if/when the Washington football team signs another veteran running back. If my team is rebuilding and/or this is the first season of the league, look to sell an older productive veteran receiver for Chark.

Conclusion

Another counterpoint to those opposed to acquiring the former Tiger in dynasty is the unsettled nature of the Jacksonville quarterback situation. Again, I look at the two most likely outcomes as a win-win for Chark’s dynasty value. Either Gardner Minshew takes another step forward, builds more chemistry with his favorite receiver, and becomes the franchise quarterback OR the team gets an immediate upgrade at the position with Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.

Through his healthy weeks of 1-13 before being hampered by an ankle injury, Chark was the WR9 in PPR dynasty leagues. There aren’t too many top ten receivers with a great size/speed profile available at an affordable cost. His ascension from backbencher to top 20 fantasy wideout in just one season should have you excited to see what he has in store for year three. Get him on your dynasty squad now before he is fetching Chris Godwin prices a year from now.

josh brickner