INSIDE THE NUMBERS
After amassing 700 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns on 58 receptions in 2010, Marcedes Lewis turned out to be a huge fantasy bust a year ago. Not only did he catch 19 less balls for 460 yards, the Jaguars tight end failed to find the end zone in 2011. Part of the problem can be pinned on the Jaguars’ woes at quarterback, but Lewis simply was not a factor with just two games over 50 yards receiving. The arrival of Mike Mularkey and a new system should help, but more consistency at QB will be the deciding factor on his fantasy value.
The Vikings and Colts in their first five games should help make for some decent early numbers, but three tough defenses like the Texans, Bengals, and Bears also before the bye will test the team’s offensive line. Their non-conference matchups against the NFC North teams, arguably football’s best division top to bottom, aren’t going to provide much relief. The good news for the fantasy playoffs is all three of their games are in the state of Florida, so there will be no wintery elements to deal with.
Maurice Jones-Drew led all NFL rushers in both yards (1,606) and carries (343) a year ago on his way to finishing as top five fantasy running back. Despite the workload, Jones-Drew has proven to be extremely durable. Through his seven-year career he’s managed to play in at least 14 games each season. The team’s improved weapons in the passing game should help keep defenses a bit more honest and allow MJD the ability to once again be productive. Assuming his holdout doesn’t drag on too long, Jones-Drew should continue to be viewed as a first-round RB.
Despite being the Jaguars’ leading receiver a year ago, Mike Thomas finds himself buried on the team’s depth chart and a total off-season remake of their wide receiver corps. At best he’ll be the team’s third receiver and after only garnering 44 receptions for 415 yards and just one touchdown as the team’s No. 1 receiving option, he won’t bring much value to the table. Barring injury, owners should avoid Thomas altogether entering 2012.
There’s never been a question surrounding the talent of rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon. His fantasy potential hit a minor hurdle when he landed in Jacksonville with 5th overall pick in April’s draft. It wasn’t a good sign when he was arrested for a second DUI in June. However, that coupled with his brief holdout and the Jaguars’ weak passing attack has his ADP at 96.03 as the 34th overall receiver going off the board. It comes with risk, but a mid-round stab at the talented rookie could pay big dividends.
Desperately seeking to breathe some life into their anemic passing game, the Jaguars signed free agents Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans this offseason. Robinson parlayed a career in Dallas into a 5-year, $32 million deal and will be counted on to produce. He caught 54 balls for 854 yards and 11 touchdowns for Dallas a year ago. At 31, Evans is coming off back-to-back injury riddled seasons and has appears to have lost a step. A reunion with Mularkey, the coach that drafted him will help, but it may not be enough. Robinson is a WR4 at best in deeper formats and owners should take a wait-and-see approach with Evans.
Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has started training camp as the team’s starter, but veteran Chad Henne was brought in to give the team an option if the young passer’s development staggers. Gabbert’s rookie campaign was awful as he completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards and 12 TD’s, but he was picked off 11 times and fumbled a league-high 14. The team is holding out hope that Gabbert was another bust, but don’t hold your breath. Henne will be starting at some point and his presence will upgrade the value of everyone in the passing game.
While Rashad Jennings is a natural handcuff for MJD owners, he could provide nice depth for any fantasy team. Even if Jones-Drew is doing his thing, the team is expected to reduce his workload which will lead to more opportunities for Jennings to do some damage. In PPR leagues his value is slightly higher. Look for him to be a RB4 in deeper leagues and a RB5 option in any format. If Jones-Drew is out of the mix he could become a potential weekly starting option.
Fantasy Football, NFL