Early 2016 Projections: The Jacksonville Jaguars, or Why Blake Bortles is a Better Value Than Andrew Luck
free agency

Now that the NFL draft is over and the high-impact free agents have found their homes, we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the Jacksonville Jaguars, including why I’d rather draft Blake Bortles than Andrew Luck.

First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:

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For average scoring margin, I went with the league-wide 25th percentile mark, which is actually an improvement from their 2015 season. For pass tendency (how often they passed relative to expectations) and pace tendency (how many total plays they executed relative to expectations) I went with the means of their 2014 and 2015 numbers, the entirety of Blake Bortles’ career. It may be the case that Bortles’ rookie season isn’t as representative as the 2015 season, but I wanted a bigger sample than just a single season.

Quarterback

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For sack rate, I went with the league-wide 75th percentile mark which is also more-or-less Bortles’ 2015 sack rate. For interception rate, I went with the league-wide median, which is also very close to the mean of his 2014 and 2015 interception rates. For his percentage of team rushes and yards per carry I just went with the means of his 2014 and 2015 numbers.

This projection is very strong, slightly outperforming my projection for Andrew Luck. That being said, I would still prefer Luck as he could easily outperform his projection if Donte Moncrief or Phillip Dorsett breakout. I also have more confidence in my Luck projection because it was based off of a much larger sample size. But per the Best Ball ADP App, Bortles is currently being drafted as the QB9, approximately 40 picks later than Luck. Not only is he a good value there, but I would say that he is pretty clearly a better value than Luck.

Wide Receivers

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Allen Robinson is a very interesting player to project. On one hand, he was so efficient last year that you almost have to expect him to regress for the worse. On the other hand, you would normally expect a player of his age and experience to still be improving.1 So I tried to strike a balance. For catch rate, I just went with his 2015 rate. For percentage of team targets, I bumped him up to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a WR1. I also set his yards per target and touchdown rate to the 75th percentile marks, though those actually represented a decline from his 2015 performance. To put it simply, he ends up getting projected for higher volume but lower efficiency. It works out to 18.4 PPR fantasy points per game, which makes him well worth a first round pick.

I gave Allen Hurns’ his 2015 catch rate. I set his other stats to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a WR2, which again was an increase in volume but a decrease in efficiency. I’m a believer in Hurns (as are the Jaguars, at least according to their pocket book) and Charles Kleinheksel can explain why he’s buying Hurns. This projection works out to 13.3 PPG, which would have made Hurns the WR30 on a per game basis last season. He is currently being drafted as the WR33, so you’re getting a small discount. But one thing I like about Hurns is that he’s good enough that I think he could really benefit if Allen Robinson were to get hurt and miss time. So there is upside here.

I don’t know if Rashad Greene or Marqise Lee will be the team’s WR3, or maybe even someone else entirely.2 I just set all the inputs to the median for a WR3.

Tight Ends

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For Julius Thomas’ target percentage and TD rate I went with his 2015 numbers. For his catch rate and yards per target I went with the 25th percentile mark league-wide for a TE1, which represented modest improvements over his 2015 performance. I didn’t want to use his Denver years because it’s hard to separate his performance then from Peyton Manning. This projection works out to a high-end TE2 season. Thomas is currently being drafted as the TE11. I think that’s fair. His efficiency may have been hampered by injuries last season, and not only has he historically shown a predilection for scoring TDs, but the Jags may be super pass-heavy and efficient in the red zone in 2016. There’s definite upside.

I just went with league-wide medians for the TE2.

Running Backs

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Given the draft capital spent on T.J. Yeldon and the capital capital spent on Chris Ivory, I think it’s pretty apparent the Jacksonville backfield will be a committee. I am inclined to agree with Shawn Siegele’s assessment that Ivory is the back to own. 14TeamMocker feels differently.

For all of Ivory’s inputs, including percentage of team rushes and carries, yards per carry and per target, catch rate, and TD rate, I went with a mean of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. Ivory spent those two years in committees with Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell, respectively.

I set Yeldon’s percentage of the team rushes to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a RB2. I set his yards per carry and yards per target to their 2015 levels. I set his TD rate to the median for a RB2. I set his target percentage and catch rate to their 2015 levels, which was incidentally near the 75th percentile mark for a RB2. I expect him to be the primary receiving back.

Because Ivory and Yeldon will dominate the touches I set the inputs for the RB3 low across the board.

The main takeaway here is that this is not a very hospitable situation for RBs in general. It’s a team that figures to skew pass-heavy, has a potent red zone passing offense, and is shaping up to be a committee. Even if I’m wrong about Ivory outperforming Yeldon outright, he may still be the better value as the cheaper back. This is generally a situation I would recommend staying away from.

  1. Which doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect ARob to improve, as he was certainly not the average 22 year old sophomore.  (back)
  2. It was Bryan Walters last season.  (back)
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