Fantasy Football Focus: Jacksonville Jaguars
Head Coach Jack Del Rio shook the team up last year by cutting their starting quarterback at the time, Byron Leftwich. Back-up David Garrard then led the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. It turns out that Del Rio knew what he was talking about.
Now he has made the questionable decision to draft two defensive ends with his team's first two draft picks in the 2008 draft. Will this gamble work out as well as his last? Only time will tell.
That aside, the Jaguars have given birth to some interesting fantasy football options at various positions. Let's take a closer look at what those are.
Garrard is far from an exciting or high profile quarterback. He consistently threw for roughly 200 yards and one or two touchdowns in each game that he started. Exciting he isn't, but consistent he is, and if you read my article on the Colts you know how valuable I think consistency is.
He is a mobile quarterback that fits the Jaguars' low-risk offensive scheme that is very accurate and rarely throws an interception (three interceptions in 12 games last year). Now that he has an actual deep threat in receiver Jerry Porter, he will be able to throw the ball deeper and improve on his performance from last year. He isn't the "cool" pick, but he is a safe pick and definitely ranks amongst the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks.
Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew
These two are probably most effective one-two running attack in the NFL. They are a perfect example of running back by committee approach, creating a deadly running attack. The Jaguars are a run first team and that helps make sure that both of their running backs will be held in high regard this fantasy season.
Taylor is still the lead back and will get the majority of the carries unless his age finally catches up to him. But with Jones-Drew taking most of the short yardage carries, Taylor can stay fresher and fool father time that much longer. He has run for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two years and should continue that streak this year.
His lack of goal line looks (and therefore touchdowns) limits his fantasy value however. He is still a solid No.3 fantasy running back, and should have at least one more good year in him.
Jones-Drew on the other hand probably won't reach 1,000 yards rushing, but he will beat his veteran counterpart in touchdowns yet again this year. He is one of the NFL's best short yardage runners and gets plenty of chances to prove it. He sees the majority of his carries in the red-zone or as a third down back.
Don't let his size discourage you. He plays like a runner twice his size, often carrying would-be tacklers an extra couple of yards at least. He will more than likely start seeing his role in the running game increasing and that only adds to his fantasy value. He is a solid No.2 fantasy running back and could become a top-ten fantasy running back if Taylor goes down or has his role reduced.
Jerry Porter/Reggie Williams/Marcedes Lewis
Porter could represent the first true every down receiving option that Jacksonville has had since Jimmy Smith retired in 2005. Yes, Williams did catch 10 touchdowns last year, but he only caught 38 passes, and was used mainly in the red-zone only. Both Porter and Williams are similar players and may take red-zone looks away from each other, but they will also make defenses focus on more than one receiver.
Porter is also Garrard's much needed deep threat, but he doesn't always create separation and can get lazy in his route running. Another issue is his hamstring injury that required surgery and will hold him out of the entire pre-season. These concerns are what hold him back from becoming more than a No.4 or No.5 fantasy receiver this season.
Williams will not be repeating his 10 touchdown performance this year, but he will still be the No.2 passing option in Jacksonville and could be the No.1 option if Porter takes some extra time to return to the field from his injury.
That isn't to say that Williams doesn't have issues of his own. He needs arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee, which will keep him out for the next two to three weeks. He still holds fantasy value very similar to Porter's, but should probably be ranked a little higher.
Lewis is a huge target for Garrard (6'6") and has some of the softest hands on the team. He is yet another red-zone target, but his real value comes from the fact that the middle of the field should be wide open with Williams and Porter getting attention on the outside.
In a low-risk offense like Jacksonville's that is just the kind of check down option that quarterbacks love. He shouldn't be drafted, but he could prove to be a solid waiver wire pick-up in weeks 4 or 13 (vs. Houston), or in week 8 against Cleveland.
Don't let his quad injury from last year scare you away, he by all appearances has recovered fully and is ready to take his place a possible No.1 fantasy kicker. Let's look at something here. He kicks for a team with a low-risk offense, which means they will take the safe route more often, which means (you guessed it) more field goals. The offense is also on the rise, which only pushes his rising fantasy value even higher.
Jacksonville's excellent coverage defensive backs allow them to blitz often and effectively, which will lead to plenty of sacks. Amongst those defensive backs are former pro-bowl cornerback Rashean Mathis who is excellent in man-to-man, cornerback Brian Williams, and safety Reggie Nelson. All three are great in coverage and the pass rush will only make their jobs easier.
With the arrival of rookie defensive ends Harvey and Groves, Paul Spicer will have capable pass rushing partners to create a deadly defensive end rotation. The Achilles heel of the defensive line is their inability to shut down the run. The departure of DT Marcus Stroud only makes that more true.
Their linebackers are average outside of MLB Mike Peterson, and his age and past injuries may be finally setting in. He is still a capable linebacker, but won't perform as well as he once did. The outside linebackers are nothing special, but should be sent on enough blitzes to keep opposing quarterbacks worrying.
Their return game consists of basically one player: Maurice Jones-Drew. He is an explosive returner, but may see a more reduced role in the return game as his role in the running game increases. His likely replacement would be Dennis Northcutt, who is decent but nothing special.
The Jaguars could be a No.1 fantasy unit in deeper leagues, but will most likely just miss the cut in a 10 team league.
Top Five Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Players
1. Maurice Jones-Drew
2. Fred Taylor
3. David Garrard
4. Reggie Williams
5. Jerry Porter
Bye Week: 7
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