Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars
We are back with our target practice series and will tackle a team with a myriad of questions going into the 2021 season – the Jacksonville Jaguars. Very little is old this season in Northern Florida, and the people are excited about it. With a brand-new head coach in Urban Meyer and rookie QB Trevor Lawrence leading the offense, both NFL and fantasy fans alike are waiting with breathe that is bated to see if the Jaguars can dig them out of the bottom of the division and work on laying the groundwork for improving and moving forward. In our Target Practice series, we will first address what targets have been vacated from the team. Then we will dive into the anticipated target share going into 2021, highlighting possible ceilings and floors.
The Jags had 256 targets vacated in the 2020 off-season, the 3rd most in the league. According to PFF, it is also interesting to note that 44% of end zone targets were vacated in this total. WR Keelan Cole left the highest amount of targets, 87 total with 5.4 averaged a game, when he left Jacksonville to sign with the New York Jets. Chris Conley leaves behind 63 targets with his departure to Houston, and Chris Thompson vacated 23 targets when he left the team. A few other targets were lost when TE Eric Saubert, WR Dede Westbrook, RB Craig Reynolds, and FB Bruce Miller departed. If few of these names sound familiar to you, just remember how bad Jacksonville was last year. With a record of 1-15 and a 30th ranked offense, very few people were probably tuned in to Keelan Cole being the WR with the 2nd most targets on the Jaguars. I know I was not. The Jaguars did add some names to their roster, signing RB Carlos Hyde, WR Marvin Jones Jr., WR Phillip Dorsett, and WR Jamal Agnew. So many questions are up in the air going into this season with a rookie QB. How much and to whom will Lawrence sling the ball?
D.J. Chark Jr.
Floor: 55 / Ceiling: 110
DJ Chark was the Jaguars’ highest targeted player in 2020, targeted 93 times for 706 yards and five touchdowns. Chark seemed to tease us all with his outstanding 2019 season, only to pull the rug out from under us in 2020. He has not been the most consistent in targets in his career – he had 32 his rookie year, then followed up with 118 targets in 2019 and 93 targets in 2020. This is where the QB comes in to play. Chark has been catching passes from Blake Bortles, Gardner Minshew, and Mike Glennon throughout his career, and Trevor Lawrence is a different animal indeed. In his three years at Clemson, Lawrence averaged 380 passing attempts, while his completion percentage rose each year, culminating at just over 69%. Assuming that Lawrence will continue on this level – which is not a sure thing at all, making the jump from college to the pros – Chark could be looking at least at a target total comparable to last season. However, a regression could also be in the cards. As Kyle mentioned, Chark had a 33.7% deep ball rate in 2020 coming from Gardner Minshew, who loved to chuck the ball downfield to take advantage of Chark’s speed. Even though his efficiency went down as the attempts went up, we cannot guarantee that Urban Meyer will even run an offense where he allows his rookie QB to throw an abundance of bombs. Chark’s floor could regress to a sunken living room level in 2021.
Laviska Shenault Jr.
Floor: 75 / Ceiling: 125
Sophomore WR Laviska Shenault commanded 79 targets last season, the 3rd most on the Jags roster. He averaged 5.6 targets a game, translating to 600 yards. Shenault is on many people’s sneaky draft list, a potential WR1 going on average two rounds later than DJ Chark. He had a great rookie season, with three solid showings within the last five weeks. I am not very high on Chark this year, and I fully believe that Shenault can and will snag that WR1 label. He is poised to take a big step forward in 2021, and this starts with his target share.
Marvin Jones Jr.
Floor: 70/ Ceiling: 105
One of the new faces in Jacksonville is Marvin Jones Jr. An older, yet dependable floor WR; he leaves Detroit where he had 115 targets (a career-high) that translated to almost 1000 yards. Jones had a consistent target run in Detroit, with 90 targets or more in five out of the last six seasons. How might this change? Jones leaves behind Matthew Stafford, for whom he was a security blanket, and now will catch passes from Trevor Lawrence. It seems that the Jags are viewing him as their WR2, but the waters could get muddied when you throw Laviska Shenault into the mix. I think Jones’ targets could decrease from what he was used to seeing in Detroit, simply because Lawrence is a more mobile QB who might not pass as much as Stafford did. If Jones hits his target ceiling, though, it will be because he becomes Lawrence’s “safe target,” coupled with the fact that the Jags will probably have a season full of chasing points and playing from behind.
Floor: 20 / Ceiling: 35
James Robinson was a steal last season, drafted around pick 140 in full PPR, ended as RB7, and won countless people championships. Due to injury, Robinson had 60 targets in the 14 games played, converting them to 344 yards. He had one of the best seasons we have ever seen for an undrafted rookie. This season is pointing towards not being quite so grand. With Travis Etienne drafted and Carlos Hyde added to the team, I conclude that last year will probably be a glorious outlier year for Mr. Robinson. Currently sitting at RB34 in our UDK consensus rankings, I foresee a much quieter year. His ceiling depends on how much juice he has left from last season and whether or not he stays the go-to pass-catching RB on the team.
Floor: 35 / Ceiling: 75
Rookie Travis Etienne is the main Jags wildcard. The hype train has been boarding all off-season as soon as Etienne went 25th in the NFL draft, reuniting him with his college QB Trevor Lawrence. Etienne was an efficient pass-catching back in college, averaging 25 receptions a year. He clocked almost half of those in his senior year. Etienne and Robinson are great pass-catching RBs, so we might have one week that ends up being an Etienne week, and the next might be a Robinson week. My floor prediction for Etienne is based mainly on the fact that he is a rookie and is sharing the backfield with Robinson. In 2020, the three highest pass-catching targeted rookie RBs were Robinson with 60, Deandre Swift with 57, and CEH with 54. No matter the number, fans are anxious to see what Etienne can do in the NFL.
Floor: 10 / Ceiling: 25
Elder statesman Carlos Hyde shows up in Jacksonville, fresh off a year in Seattle, where he finished RB57. He was targeted 20 times, catching 16 passes in 2020. Hyde has never commanded a massive target share, averaging 30 targets a season, with a high in San Francisco in 2017 with 88. Looking at his career targets, 2017 is the outlier, and I believe that Hyde will not be a massive target hog while in Jacksonville. Be on the lookout for one or two targets a game, but nothing awe-inspiring unless another RB goes down with an injury.
The new mix of players in Jacksonville, combined with a much-touted rookie QB, and an incredible college coach making the leap to the pros, give all the ingredients for an exciting year for the Jaguars. Hopefully, Lawrence proves successful, and the team ends up with a myriad of fantasy targets and points. I am excited to watch it play out.