After watching Avengers: Endgame, I couldn’t stop thinking about the multiverse. Then, my mind drifted to the Projection Machine, which acts as a fantasy football time machine. Every little tweak in the timeline of fantasy football can have a wide range of repercussions that echo across the league. So, in this series, I’ll dial up that Projection Machine to examine players who could experience big swings in fantasy value if certain things break the right way.
Doug Marrone’s Tenure
Head coach Doug Marrone has been at the helm in Jacksonville since the end of the 2016 campaign. And, it’s been a wild ride for Marrone and co. over the past two years. He started off as an interim coach and went 1-1. Then, in 2017 he led the Jaguars to a 10-win season that ended in a 4-point loss in the AFC Championship. Last year, Jacksonville took a step backward, managing just five regular season wins.
It’s exciting to tinker with the Projection Machine when there is so much uncertainty surrounding a particular team. This year, Jacksonville is installing a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo and a new starting quarterback in Nick Foles. On top of that, Marqise Lee is unlikely to be ready for the opener, which further increases the variability of the Jaguars’ possible season outcomes.
What Will Probably Happen…
DeFilippo’s 2018 Vikings team distributed 51% of its passing targets to its top two wide receivers: Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. If Lee only misses a game or two, he and Dede Westbrook may serve as DeFilippo’s new high-target share receiving duo a la Diggs and Thielen last season.
Let’s assume similar pass/run split to last season, which is Dave Caban’s default 2019 Jacksonville projection in the Projection Machine.
Westbrook and Lee only account for 39% of their team’s targets in this projection,1 and the Jaguars’ default projected pass-rate may be somewhat conservative.
Vegas has Jacksonville projected for 8 wins this season. Since 2013, teams with a preseason Vegas win total of 7.5 to 8.5 have had a median pass rate of 57.4% and have gone as high as 65%.
Westbrook is currently being drafted as WR39, around 9.02 in FFPC drafts. Given this conservative projection, he’s already being under-drafted by about seven spots. His 174 projected PPR points would’ve been good for WR32 last season. And I’m not the only one who thinks Westbrook represents a value in drafts right now.
What Could Happen…
Westbrook as a WR3 isn’t what we are here for. DeFilippo’s 2018 Vikings offense passed at a 63% clip. So, let’s see what happens if we bump Jacksonville’s pass/run split up to 60%/40%.
As you can see, a 60% pass-rate produces a pass attempts projection that is still below DeFilippo’s 2018 total and the Jaguars’ 2016 total. Without adjusting Westbrook’s efficiency or target share, this new projection puts him just a shade under 200 PPR points.2
There are two potential scenarios where these numbers could be even better. First, the Jaguars could be bad in 2019, and we could see Blake Bortles-level garbage time production. The other possibility is that Marrone, DiFilippo, and Foles combine to produce a reasonably high-powered offense. Jacksonville’s offensive upside with a new coordinator and quarterback may afford Westbrook a small bump in target share, catch percentage, and yards per reception. Stir in a bit of touchdown luck, and you have the recipe for Westbrook’s potential breakout season.
If Westbrook produces at these levels, he would be one of the most valuable fantasy picks of the year. This ceiling projection puts him at 230 PPR points which would have ranked 14th among wide receivers last season.