Jacksonville, the new home of Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles and perceived offensive coordinator flop John Defilippo, A.K.A. ‘Coach Flip’ (also with a ring from Super Bowl LII). The Jaguars are only two years removed from being one game away from Super Bowl LI and still possess many of the pieces that got them there. Many believe that the one piece holding them back from greatness has been replaced. Is Foles for Bortles an upgrade? What can we expect from the running game? What can we expect for fantasy?
When we think of “studs” for fantasy, we are looking at those players we can reliably hang our hat on weekly. These guys are going to give us consistent week-winning production. If we can agree on that definition, then there are only a few possibilities.
It may be challenging for some to see Westbrook’s potential to be a stud, but we have to remember that Bortles and Kessler were throwing him the ball; not the best of passers obviously. Foles should be an upgrade for Dede, and if last season was any indication, he was the most consistently available target last season leading the team with 101 targets. He also led the team in receiving touchdowns with 5 of them, but with Foles and Flip added to the equation he should see a bump in TDs purely due to the likely increase of scoring opportunities. The other receivers there should be more productive with Foles’ presence, thus providing Westbrook with more open looks.
After you finish vomiting, take a seat, breathe, and let’s think through this one. Fournette had an abysmal season last year only netting 624 scrimmage yards; hardly acceptable for a ‘stud’. We must consider the context here.
There were numerous injuries along the offensive line (three different starting linemen went on IR by week 10 or earlier) which contributed to their 27th ranking in Football Outsiders Adjusted Games Lost metric. Terrible QB play doesn’t force the defense to respect the pass either, and now there is a sub-optimal line trying to run-block against stacked boxes.
Assuming the Foles and ‘Flip’ additions along with offensive line returning to health make the pass game respectable, there is still the outstanding issue of Flip’s run-game coordination. His stint with the Vikings didn’t provide fantasy owners of Cook and Murray much confidence that his offense could produce on the ground. However, Defilippo is a smart coach who can learn from his experiences, especially those successful experiences from the Eagles’ Super Bowl run two years ago. With a presumably dominant defense returning to health, he is likely to leverage the running game more to control the pace of the game.
Now considering all of that context, we can now turn our eyes to Fournette. We can look to 2017 to get an idea of what Fournette could truly offer owners in fantasy. During that season, still with a terrible QB mind you, he was able to put up over 1000 yards (1342 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs) in 13 games. This shows a glimpse of his upside, but there are the concerns of injury history and behavior issues resulting in suspension.
That suspension last season resulted in a loss of contract guarantees which now means he has to earn every dollar in his contract. This should mean that he has every motivation on the planet to stay healthy and stay away from on-field conflicts, both of which should keep him on the field to exceed his career high in scrimmage yards. There are no obvious threats to supplant him which should allow him to play without looking over his shoulder. All of the above concerns should give buyers a nice ‘buy-low’ window.
Being that the two projected studs above are somewhat dependent on the success of Nick Foles, how can Foles not be a stud?
Foles is one of the lowest cost QBs in Superflex right now, but his low value shouldn’t deceive you from an opportunity here. Many owners just can’t shake the streaky nature of Nick Foles past. He had that 27-2 TD-Interception ratio back in the Chip Lelly days (so fun for me as an Eagles fan). Unfortunately, that season was followed by that terrible stint with Jeff Fisher and what Gurley called a “high school offense”. After that Foles doubters were locked in that he would never amount to anything.
But then he carried the Eagles through the post season to their first franchise Super Bowl victory with a performance that rivals some of the best we have ever seen in the championship contest, out-dueling the GOAT, Tom Brady. What we learned through that series of games (or should have) is that Foles has the mental toughness needed to be great. Now that he has proven he won’t shrink on the greatest stage in football what can we expect from him in fantasy?
He couldn’t have landed in a better situation: a good defense, a running back with upper echelon potential, his QB coach from the Super Bowl LII now as his OC, and no one behind him to cause concern for starting competition. Foles has every reason to succeed, and we have plenty of reasons to believe that he can. He’s a QB2 at worst in Superflex but he certainly has back-end QB1 upside in his new Jacksonville home.
Former 2014 2nd round pick Marqise Lee will be returning from an ACL injury that removed him the 2018 season entirely. His draft stock may have people still believing in him, thinking that he could come in and take the role of the primary receiver. This would be a trap! All would be best advised to be late to this party. Most players returning from an ACL in recent years have had some other follow-on injuries which will certainly introduce some risk into his attempted return.
We could look at the fact that Lee was on the rise as the leading receiver in 2017, but in that season (the first without Allen Robinson) he actually had less total production. Westbrook, Chark, and new addition Chris Conley are going to have an earlier opportunity to build that very necessary chemistry with Foles during OTAs and training camp. Lee, once healthy, should settle in as the second or third receiver in Jacksonville, but he is likely going to be a roster clogger from dynasty purposes.
This may not count as a true ‘breakout’ being that he has flashed on the scene already, but Keelan Cole is probably best known for the disappearing act he pulled last season. How does one start more games yet become less productive? We could look at the same circumstances that affected Fournette last season: o-line injuries, bad QB play, etc. Cole holds some responsibility in his lower production dropping 10% of his targets. It would be hard to trust any receiver proving to be that unreliable.
Early OTA reports indicate that Cole is flashing once again as a deep threat. Of course this is only OTAs, but if he is clicking with Foles already against good defensive personnel that exists in Jacksonville then there is some promise there that he could bounce back to some decent level of production or even give us a proper breakout season.
Chris Conley is the ultimate stash. He hasn’t done anything significant to this point, but his athletic profile is still promising. Being the 99th percentile in broad jump and vertical jump, 92nd percentile in arm length with a 4.35 40-yard dash make him seem perfect for some of those deep throws that Nick Foles seems to enjoy. Being that Conley worked with Foles in Kansas City, it is possible their additional experience since then has built on top of some chemistry they may have developed before. OTA news (take it with a grain of salt) indicates Foles has already been hitting him deep.
The Jaguars seem like a risky proposition when considering any of their fantasy relevant players. Foles, the linchpin of this whole dynamic, hasn’t had the most predictable production. As the phrase goes, the team will go as Foles goes. Westbrook, Fournette, Cole, and Conley’s production will all be dependent on Foles production. He has shown the potential to make them all relevant and he is reunited with an offensive coordinator who was involved in his Super Bowl success. Foles is surely an upgrade over Bortles, the offensive line should be healthy so that they can maximize the opportunities including the extra ones afforded to them by a healthy defense.Follow @FFB_vern Tweets by FFB_Vern
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