Let’s call it like it was— the Blake Bortles experiment in Jacksonville was a disaster. A 24-49 career record and less than 60% completion rate left fantasy owners desiring more from their Jaguars receivers. Other than one stellar 2015 season in which Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns finished as WR6 and WR18, respectively, no other Jacksonville receiver finished inside the top-24 in PPR scoring in Bortles’ career.
Since Robinson’s breakout 2015 season, we have seen flashes of fantasy relevance from three different wide receivers all with buried ADPs due to their poor offensive situation: Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee, and Dede Westbrook.
As you can see, all three players are going at extremely low price tags outside of the top 100 in startup ADP. The Jacksonville wideout situation has been so murky over the past five years that fantasy owners have been better off avoiding this team completely than to put on a blindfold and throw a random dart at these players. Until now.
While all three players have provided flashes at being the dominant wide receiver on this roster, the player I believe most strongly in to separate themselves from their teammates and have a breakout season is Dede Westbrook. As a new writer at DLF, I will never post an article that does not have a sound, statistical backing to any of my “takes.” So, without further ado, let’s dig deep and see exactly why Westbrook is a major off-season value and bound to break out in 2019.
THE OBVIOUS: BETTER QB SITUATION
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Owner Shahid Khan finally had enough with Bortles’ meddling performances to the point where he cut him just 13 months after extending him on a three-year, $54 million deal. Bortles’ departure opened the door for the Jaguars to be aggressive in free agency and bring in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to manage the offense through 2023.
Even at $22 million per year, this was a great signing by Jacksonville. Their defensive core is still together, and now that they have someone who can take care of the ball on offense, they can be one of the most improved teams in 2019. After reviewing key quarterback metrics, all signs point to a much-improved offense in Jacksonville:
Foles is statistically superior to Bortles in every way, which alone would prove all three Jaguars receivers to be priced at a current bargain. In order to see Westbrook as the clear-cut breakout candidate, however, we need to dig deeper and see exactly where Foles excelled in 2018.
NICK FOLES: DECENT DOWNFIELD PASSER, ELITE SHORT ACCURACY
In order to know where Foles’ skills are transferrable in a new landing spot, a historical study of his prior season is a great place to start. As Carson Wentz recovered from his ACL injury in September and was subsequently shut down for the season in December, Foles was able to showcase his elite short accuracy over five games, giving us a substantial amount of reliable data.
In nearly 200 attempts, Foles directed 84.73% of his passes in “short” directions, which is a target less than 15 yards downfield. Foles ranked 39th out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks in average depth of target, per NFL Next Gen Stats. His overwhelming majority of short passes does not scream elite fantasy potential for any wide receiver, but what’s important to note is his remarkable efficiency on these short passes. Even with short passes being more likely to be completed than deep passes, he ranked second best in accuracy over expected completion percentage. For perspective, Blake Bortles ranked 35th of 39 qualifying quarterbacks in average depth of throw, but still was 38th of 39 quarterbacks in accuracy over expected completion percentage, which is remarkably bad no matter which way you look at it.
Foles’ elite short accuracy coupled with his ability to extend drives brings a massive fantasy bump to this group of receivers, but the question remains: who has the skillset to capitalize on this area of the field?
DEDE WESTBROOK: TOP 20 DYNASTY WR
When the Jaguars announced the signing of Foles, I can only imagine the party Westbrook (and his agent) must have thrown. Below is a list of all Jaguars receivers that had at least a 15% market share of each passing direction with Bortles under center. The best statistic of each type is highlighted to make this more digestible:
Westbrook was far and away the best receiver on the Jaguars in 2018. When comparing each player’s receiving stats to Bortles’ average, baseline numbers, only one player excelled in all three of completion percentage and yards per attempt while having greater than a five percent market share – you guessed it, it’s Dede Westbrook.
I don’t mean to make these stats look incredibly impressive, because they really aren’t on their own. The takeaway behind this is that Westbrook was able to do the most with the absolute least in the league. And even more importantly is where he wins. When looking at Foles’ success chart vs. the most efficient Jaguar player in each pass direction, the puzzle puts itself together: Westbrook is not only the one to own, but he is ready to take off:
In each of Foles’ four successful regions, Westbrook was undoubtedly either the most effective player or the second best in 2018. With TJ Yeldon a free agent and Austin Seferian-Jenkins now on the Patriots, however, Westbrook instantly jumps to the top of that Short Right passing direction as well.
It is safe to assume a pass-catching running back like Benny Cunningham or a tight end taken in the draft helps assume some of the missing targets here, but either way Westbrook is in an ideal position to match up exactly where Foles is among the best in the NFL. Westbrook’s receiving ability has been suppressed with Bortles to start his career, but he is a former Biletnikoff winner at Oklahoma with sure hands and has already shown the ability to win in the middle of the field.
CLUTCH FACTOR. EDGE: WESTBROOK
Dede Westbrook career stats at Oklahoma, via sports-reference.com.
The final study I performed on this group of Jacksonville wide receivers quantifies the level of trust the Jaguars coaching staff had on each wide receiver when it mattered most. After breaking down every pass play in the 2018 season and separating them by down and distance, Westbrook (once again) separated himself by a large margin over his teammates.
An analysis of each team’s target leader on third and fourth down shows that not only did the coaching staff have the most trust in Westbrook no matter the distance, but he performed extremely well on the most crucial plays of their drives last season:
Westbrook’s passer rating when targeted on these downs from shorter and longer distances are both higher than Bortles’ career QB Rating of 80.6, further validating his role in the offense as well as his ability to perform in crunch time. His 45.83% first down conversion rate (11/24 on the season) is among tops in the entire league, yet his ADP is currently outside the top 120.
WHAT ABOUT MARQISE LEE? WILL HIS RETURN IMPACT WESTBROOK?
In a word, no. Per Josh Hermsmeyer and airyards.com, Westbrook had the lowest aDOT of all relevant Jaguars receivers, further validating his short-yardage role in this new-look offense:
Marqise Lee became a hot waiver add when he burst onto the scene in 2017 by averaging 12.1 PPR points from weeks two through 14. However, Lee’s aDOT in 2017 was 11.7, which would be first on the team next season given Donte Moncrief’s departure to Pittsburgh. While Lee can still exceed in this role, it appears unlikely given Foles’ disposition to keep the ball safe, and his deep inefficiency on top of that.
CONCLUSION: HOW TO VALUE DEDE
No matter how you dig into the data, all signs point to a monster season from Dede Westbrook in 2019. Despite the major signing of Nick Foles and departure of Bortles, Westbrook’s ADP has miraculously dropped throughout the off-season, from 102 to a current ADP of 120.2. In my opinion, Westbrook is the biggest off-season value by a wide margin.
Before even checking to see what Westbrook’s current price is, I determined I would spend all the way up to the 2.01 pick in this year’s rookie draft. When reviewing DLF’s Recent Trade Finder, the results were honestly shocking:
Each of the teams receiving Westbrook in these trades got him at an incredibly underpriced rate. Our new Dynasty Trade Analyzer values Westbrook right around this year’s 2.06, which is well below my buying range that goes all the way up to 2.01.
The time to capitalize on his value is now, as he is signed through 2020 at least and Foles will be under center through 2022. While I would fully expect Jacksonville to sign a pass-catching running back or one of the many talented tight ends in this class, Foles and Westbrook’s dominance in short yardage situations leaves Westbrook’s stock destined to skyrocket in 2019. Capitalize on this buying window before it’s too late.