Jacksonville is a team in transition heading into 2020. The past year saw them trade former starting CBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, as well as DE Calais Campbell and last season’s presumed starting QB Nick Foles. DE Yannick Ngakoue and RB Leonard Fournette have reportedly been on the trade block, but as I’m writing this article, they are still members of the Jaguars. The other significant transaction of note was the firing of Offensive Coordinator John DeFelippo and the subsequent hiring of his replacement Jay Gruden.
With the loss of key defensive starters, a new OC, and a sophomore 6th round QB Gardner Minshew leading the offense, the expectations for the Jaguars in 2020 are understandably low. Currently, Vegas has the Jaguars at an expected win total of 4.5. But what can we expect from them from a fantasy standpoint? Are there some good buys/ startup picks that can be potential diamonds in the rough that is the 2020 Jaguars?
The only QB worth thinking about for fantasy (now that Foles is gone), Gardner Minshew was the surprise of the 2019 season for the Jags. As a rookie 6th round pick, he came in for an injured Nick Foles and posted a passing line of 3271 Yds, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, and a QBR of 91.2 in just 12 starts and 14 game appearances. He also added 344 yards on the ground. Those numbers were good enough to place 18th in fantasy PPG (standard QB scoring) with 16.4. These numbers were exceptional for a rookie, but in dynasty leagues, you also have to look at his long-term outlook, and this is where there is some cause for concern. With the lack of draft capital invested in him, combined with a low win projection for the Jaguars, the biggest concern for Minshew’s future is the possibility the Jaguars can’t resist drafting a QB (such as Trevor Lawrence) in 2021.
The good news is that those concerns are baked into his price, as his ADP is around QB 28 in single QB formats and QB 20 in 2QB/Superflex formats. At those prices, the upside that he showed last year is worth the cost, in my opinion. I recommend targeting him in startup drafts and trades if you are looking to compete in 2020. He’s a hold for me where I own him, and I could be looking for a midseason sell window if he’s compiling fantasy production, but the Jaguars have a losing record. I expect passing volume and efficiency from Minshew this season, and that should make him a very optimal QB2 in 2 QB/SF formats and a high upside backup, or part of a QB tandem/rotation in your 1 QB formats.
Fournette is coming off a season where he got all the volume but had an almost impossibly low TD rate at 3 TDs on 265 carries (1.13%) and 0 receiving TDs on 76 receptions. That’s 3 total TDs on 341 touches for 1674 yards. So the good news is that even if the offensive line doesn’t improve, we can probably still expect positive regression in the TD department. The bad news is that along with the new scheme, Jay Gruden has also brought in his old 3rd down RB, Chris Thompson.
A healthy Chris Thompson is likely to eat into the 100 targets that Fournette received last year. Fournette is still a safe bet for high-end RB2 numbers in 2020, but is a UFA after the season and may have to compete against potential free agent RBs like Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones for FA landing spots. Treat him as a running back with one year of starting level production (and an unclear future after that) in startups and trade negotiations. I don’t expect his value to drop as sharply as Marlon Mack’s or Damien Williams’ just did, but Fournette will likely find himself in an RBBC next year. There are more efficient RBs hitting the market than him, and not enough landing spots for all of them. Thompson may be worth a flier in PPR leagues if you need RB depth, but age and injury concerns make him a volatile asset to hold.
Due to the trade rumors surrounding Leonard Fournette, some have felt compelled to reach for Ryquell Armstead in startups. I’m not doing it because I don’t know how Jay Gruden feels about him, and the Jags brought in 3 rookie UDFAs (Tavien Feaster, James Robinson, and Nathan Cottrell) to compete for backup duties. If you insist on betting on one, Armstead is still my choice.
DJ Chark had a massive breakout season in 2019. He finished the season with a receiving stat line of 73 RECs, 1008 yds, 8 TDs on 118 targets. He had more success with Minshew than Foles, and now Gruden is talking about moving him around the formation and into the slot more, which could mean more favorable coverage and more valuable targets. I like Chark as a solid WR2 for 2020, and that makes him a solid buy right now at his current ADP of WR 20 (according to FantasyData.com.)
Westbrook and Shenault
Dede Westbrook was surpassed on the depth chart by Chark and is now facing the possibility of Chark eating into his slot snaps (his best role) in 2020. Because of his slot role, I also expect him to have the most to lose after the selection of Laviska Shenault. Shenault is an intriguing rookie that is cheap in startup ADP (WR51) relative to his rare combination of size and physical talent. Injuries have plagued him and are a concern at the next level, as is his lack of a defined role (he has been more of a gadget player and deep threat than a complete WR), but he can play WR or RB and will be explosive with the ball in his hands. It’s best to hedge expectations for 2020 and be patient with him because his skill set could use refinement to succeed at the next level (but he certainly has the physical tools).
The Best of the Rest
The other incumbents are Chris Conley and Keelan Cole. Cole may have some competition for the final roster from 5th round pick Collin Johnson and UDFAs Josh Hammond and Marvelle Ross. Conley is the safest bet and is worth a flier. He could become the second option in the passing game under the new system if Gruden favors him to Westbrook on the outside, and he can hold off Laviska Shenault for a while. Conley had 91 targets last year, and if Chark starts moving into the slot, then Conley should be locked into an outside role with his 4.35 speed. Conley has not been very efficient with his targets thus far in his career, but at his price, he is worth taking a shot on if you want cheap production for 2020.
James O’Shaughnessy was having a good season before tearing his ACL in week 5. In his four and a half games, he had 14 catches for 153 yards and 2 TDs. O’Shaughnessy is 28, doesn’t have an intriguing athletic profile, and is now competing with free-agent acquisition Tyler Eifert and 2019 third rounder Josh Oliver.
Eifert finally played 16 games for the first time in his career in 2019. He finished with an underwhelming stat line of 42 Recs, 436 yds and 3 TDs on 63 targets. He is the favorite to win the job as the starting TE and is a cheap TE2 option with the caveat that he’s 29 and has been very injury prone. Tyler Davis was also drafted in the 6th round and figures to compete with Oliver to be the 3rd TE on the roster. Davis is a project TE that might be worth a stash on a taxi squad if you have the room (especially in TE premium), but you shouldn’t need to pay for him as he’s going undrafted in rookie drafts. There are likely better options available.
Schobert and Jack
LB Joe Schobert is the shiny new addition to the Jacksonville defense (he signed as a UFA) and should help them improve a run defense that struggled down the stretch last year. He finished his fourth season in Cleveland with an impressive 133 combined tackles as well as 4 INTs, 2 FF, and 2 sacks. He’s a lock for another high tackle total as Jacksonville is likely to see negative game scripts with their projected win total. Myles Jack is another intriguing LB. He hasn’t quite lived up to the draft billing so far, but he has paced for over 100 tackles a year over the last two seasons and may benefit from negative game scripts and rushing volume in the same way that Schobert could.
DE Yannick Ngakoue is a bit of a risk after he demanded a trade and had a public feud with a Jaguars executive on Twitter. As of today, he still hasn’t signed his franchise tender and has indicated that he won’t sign it. Avoid him if you’re in a win-now situation, but you might be able to get him at a value if you aren’t. Sophomore DE Josh Allen is a breakout candidate. He totaled 10.5 sacks and 44 combined tackles as a rookie while being 3rd in the defensive end rotation at 646 snaps. His playing time should increase as a sophomore even if Yannick is back, but would likely rise by over 20% if Yannick is traded or refuses to play. Yannick’s departure could also open the door for first-round pick DE K’lavon Chaisson to win a valuable spot in the defensive end rotation, which comes with the opportunity for a higher than expected sack and tackle total.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, SS Ronnie Harrison is also a candidate to benefit from opposing teams rushing the ball. He’s likely be brought down in the box a fair amount to help stop the run. He’ll have a good chance to beat the 71 combined tackles and 2 sacks that he had in 2019.
The 2020 Jaguars may not be a team that you should bet on winning a lot of games, but there is plenty of value available for your fantasy team. Minshew is a good buy, Chark comes with a high price tag but is still a solid buy as their WR1 going forward. Shenault is a relatively cheap ticket for a lottery that could have a monster payout. Fournette likely has at least one more year with extremely high rushing volume, and one of the TEs will provide some very cheap production (probably Eifert if healthy). Then the real value on this team might come in your IDP formats where game scripts are likely going to lead to a lot of rushing volume against and some high tackle totals for the linebackers and defensive linemen. They seem to be flying under the radar a bit because the defense as a whole is on the decline, but that could make the tackle share more consolidated amongst the few defensive playmakers that they have.
You can find me on Twitter @JamieHfantasy if you have any comments, questions or feedback.
Hopefully 2020 ends better than it started, with health, happiness and NFL football!
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