Jaguars Year in Review
2014 Pass Attempts Rank: 16th (557)
2014 Rush Attempts Rank: 28th (360)
2014 Total Offensive Plays Rank: 27th (988)
2014 Yards Per Play Rank: 31st (4.7)
Check out the team-by-team fantasy preview schedule.
Projected Starting Lineup
Passing Game Outlook
Sporting revamped mechanics to go along with ideal athleticism and size, I don't think it's hyperbole to say Blake Bortles looked like a young John Elway during the 2014 preseason, completing 63% of his passes with a 10.2 YPA and no turnovers across 55 drop backs. Bortles' mechanics broke down in the real games, however, and he became skittish in the pocket while delivering the football like an off-balance baseball pitcher rather than a quarterback. Bortles continues to offer big-time tools, and spent this offseason working with passing guru Tom House and improving his conditioning. Will the changes take hold when the bullets go live, or will they regress like they did last year? Bortles is a mystery at this point, and it's hard to be overly bullish about him based on the available data. The Jags did what they could to bolster Bortles' supporting cast, dumping money into TE Julius Thomas and RT Jermey Parnell before using top-70 draft picks on new feature back T.J. Yeldon and powerful G/C A.J. Cann. There will be an increased emphasis on the running game after OC Jedd Fisch was fired for putting too much on his rookie quarterback's plate.
Allen Robinson's first-year pace line in eight starts was 86-946-4, which would've been tremendous production for a rookie who didn't turn 21 until late August and missed the entire offseason and much of training camp with a hamstring injury. Robinson suffered a broken foot in Week 10 and went on I.R. A Demaryius Thomas-level talent with better ball skills, Robinson stands 6-foot-3, 220 and ran 4.47 with an incredible 42-inch vertical at his Pro Day. Still not 22, Robinson is a prime breakout candidate even amid concerns with his quarterback play. He has a chance to be a target monster in an offense where Robinson will be fed the ball on bubble screens in addition to downfield routes. Big, highly athletic, and ticketed for a voluminous role, Robinson could blow the cover off his sixth-round ADP. By all accounts, Robinson looked every bit a future star at OTA and minicamp practices.
While Allen Robinson is locked in at X receiver, Marqise Lee will compete with Allen Hurns for the starting Z role. Lee is coming off an injury-plagued rookie year following an injury-plagued final season at USC. He proceeded to miss much of this offseason with a knee injury. Lee did flash down the stretch last year, topping 50 yards in four of the Jags' final six games. Although Lee was a ballyhooed prospect early in his college career, he has struggled with durability and efficiency in each of the last two seasons. He posted a concerning 12.3% drop rate as a college junior and dropped 7-of-69 targets as a rookie. Not particularly big (5'11 3/4, 192) or fast (4.52), it's fair to wonder about Lee's long-term ceiling. Post-minicamp reports suggested Lee will open training camp behind Robinson and Hurns on the depth chart.
Allen Hurns was not a compelling prospect coming out of Miami (FL) in 2014. He ran 4.55 at the Combine with a 31-inch vertical at 6-foot-1, 198, then went undrafted. Hurns capitalized on Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee's rookie-year injuries to lead the Jags in receiving yards (677) and touchdowns (6), however, even if Hurns' big games were sporadic and not bankable from a weekly standpoint. Hurns lost a supporter in Jedd Fisch -- Hurns' college offensive coordinator -- when the Jaguars replaced him with new OC Greg Olson, formerly of the Raiders. Still, Hurns remains in the hunt for a starting job after Lee endured an injury-ruined offseason. As Hurns can play all three receiver positions, he is likely assured a meaningful role in Jacksonville's passing game. The extent of Hurns' usage won't be determined until he battles Lee in camp, and could be decided on a game-by-game basis during the season.
Julius Thomas was easily the biggest fantasy "loser" of this year's free agency period, going from a Broncos offense that ranked first and second in the NFL in scoring in 2013 and 2014, to a Jags team that finished 32nd and 32nd in those seasons. While Thomas may prove a useful real-life pickup for Jacksonville, the bottom could fall out on his fantasy production. "Orange Julius" has scored 271.7 fantasy points over the last two years. 144 of those points (53%) came from touchdowns delivered by Peyton Manning. Now in an offense that rarely scores, Julius would do well to catch six TD passes in his debut season with the Jags after hitting pay dirt 24 times over his previous 27 games. Look for Thomas to end up in the "touchdown-dependent" low-end TE1 category. And if he only scores three to five times -- a definite possibility on this team -- don't be surprised if Thomas falls out of the top-12 fantasy tight ends altogether.
Running Game Outlook
The biggest concern I have with T.J. Yeldon is not his talent. He has a legitimate every-down back skill set with exceptionally quick feet, pro-ready blocking and receiving ability, and a consistent propensity for maximizing runs. I'm concerned about Yeldon's offense, which last year ranked dead last in points and last in the AFC in time of possession. Yeldon is a "singles and doubles" runner rather than a home-run hitter, and will need volume to pay off as a fantasy starter. He needs the Jags' offense to move the chains and stay on the field. Yeldon's touchdown ceiling is capped on a team that will struggle to score points. Jacksonville's Vegas Win Total of 5.5 is tied with Tennessee and Oakland for the lowest in football. I think the Jaguars have promising pieces on the offensive line, and am confident they'll stay more committed to the running game under new OC Greg Olson. But I worry Yeldon will average something like 3.9-4.2 yards per carry as a rookie, won't bust big plays, and will rarely find the end zone. It's difficult for running backs to score a lot of fantasy points in bad offenses.
Taking a big step in his running back development, college quarterback Denard Robinson became a legitimate fantasy asset during a four-game stretch last season, piling up a 72-389-4 rushing line and averaging 5.40 yards per carry from Weeks 7-10. He averaged 3.06 YPC on the rest of this seasonal carries before wearing down physically, however, ultimately landing on I.R. with a torn ligament in his foot. He also struggles in pass protection and isn't a natural pass catcher. Robinson offers big-play ability, but best projects as a change-of-pace back, a notion with which Jaguars brass almost certainly agrees considering its top-40 investment into T.J. Yeldon. Barring an injury to Yeldon, look for Robinson to handle something like 5-9 touches a game as a lightly used change-up runner. He does have some handcuff appeal.
Vegas Win Total
The Jaguars were a hyped team entering last season. I boarded that train and was very optimistic that they could beat their 5.5-game Vegas Win Total, especially after watching Blake Bortles in the preseason. The Jags fell well short, winning three games before losing No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler to a torn ACL at rookie camp. My recent history of forecasting the Jaguars is not good, and therefore I'm hesitant to make a confident prediction on their 2015 season. They do play in a weak division, but I looked at their schedule and didn't think it was particularly easy from top to bottom. I think this team will improve this season, but not to the extent that it wins more than five or six games. I probably wouldn't place much of a wager on the Jaguars' win total. If forced to choose, I'd take the under with a lot of caution.