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Into the Breach – To Buy Allen Hurns or Marqise Lee?

After a single reception for 17 yards in the season opener on Sunday, Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson suffered an ACL injury that brings his 2017 season to a premature end.

The 29th WR off the board in fantasy drafts according to ESPN, the former Penn State player leaves a substantial void in the Jaguars passing attack. In his stead, two fourth-year players, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, will try to pick up the slack. But which of these two is more likely to succeed?

Lee has played in 40 games since 2014, while Hurns has 43 under his belt. Lee has seen 210 targets, which he has converted into 115 catches for 1,464 yards and five touchdowns. Hurns has been more successful, with 153 catches on 282 targets. He has 2,227 yards and 19 scores, 10 of which came in a “breakout” 2015 campaign.

This earned him a $40.05 million contract prior to the 2016 season, a deal that gives him a cap charge of $7 million in 2017. That’s good for 4.2 percent of the Jaguars total salary cap.

However, far from kicking on in 2016, Hurns’ play fell off dramatically. He caught just 46 percent of his targets, finishing with 35 catches from 76 looks for 477 yards and three touchdowns. He missed five games due to injury.

Lee, on the other hand, was arguably the Jaguars best receiver. That’s right, better even than Robinson. Lee played all 16 games for the first time, and in these games, he caught 60 percent of his 105 targets. His season stat line was 63 receptions for 851 yards, and he also scored three times. Robinson, by comparison, had just 32 more yards than Lee from 46 more targets.

Lee played marginally more snaps than Hurns on Sunday against the Texans, appearing on 83 percent of the Jaguars plays. Hurns managed 80 percent. They both saw four targets, but while Hurns reeled in three of them for 42 yards, Lee was unable bring in any of his looks.

Over the course of their careers, Hurns has enjoyed the more fruitful connection with Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

bortles

However, if we use the same AYA app and look at just 2016, we see a different story.

bortles 2016

There is evidence that Lee has stepped up more in games when Robinson has been missing in the past.

hurns wo aroblee wo arob

When Hurns has played without Robinson, his opportunities have stayed constant but his efficiency has dropped dramatically. Lee, on the other hand, sees more targets and grabs one more ball and eight more yards per game, for almost two more PPR points. Entering the last year of his rookie deal, he should be even more motivated to ensure this trend continues.

Both players can be acquired quite easily, with Lee only rostered in 20.1 percent of ESPN leagues and Hurns 1.3 percent. I’d go for Lee if pushed, personally, but the presence of Bortles and the offensive mindset of the Jaguars on Sunday1 is something of a concern. The Jaguars, and head coach Doug Marone in particular, were quite emphatic in their desire to be a ground based offense in 2017, and there is a worry that any pass-catchers on this team are mere fringe options.

However, as I discovered back in 1994 when I tried to cut my own hair, some fringe is more notable than others. The Jaguars are unlikely to find themselves in the type of position that they can afford to throw 20 times every week this season, and when negative game script strikes, Lee is the best bet to be the guy. But I wouldn’t blow my entire FAAB budget on him.

  1. They attempted 21 passes while running the ball 39 times.  (back)
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