Monday, May 28, 2012

32 in 32: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have a significant opportunity this season. They have a completely unobstructed path to the playoffs, and the could be one of the bigger surprises of the season. Sure, you might say that the Texans or Titans have a better chance of making the playoffs, but the Texans are going to need to find a new identity on defense and the Titans are still locked in a quarterbacking battle. Also, amazingly, this division has three of the best running backs in the league, with Donald Brown not being too terribly far behind. The Jaguars should be able to go 8-8 if MJD can stay healthy all season. This defense is way underrated, and if the offense can be more consistent then they should win plenty of games.

The easiest pick off of this team is Maurice Jones-Drew, AKA Pocket Hercules. Now I am extremely nervous about this guy coming into next season. He carried the ball 343 times last season and recorded 43 more receptions. He fell just 20 yards short of 2,000 total rushing/receiving yards this season, meaning he took a serious beating. In the history of the NFL, almost every player who has had more than 330 touches in a season has sustained a serious reduction in production the following season. I hope that MJD can stay healthy throughout the season, but I am wary of drafting him in fantasy next season. Fortunately for me, Chris Johnson will typically be available for me to take over Jones-Drew in fantasy drafts. This guy helped me win a fantasy league last season, but I think he could get battered this season. I don't know if he will miss games, but he might be slowed down. If he is, Deji Karim will get an opportunity, but this guy is really really bad compared to MJD. If you don't believe me, look at his per-carry average from last season. Don't draft Karim.

I really think Blaine Gabbert was given an unfair shake last season. Much like Colt McCoy, when you look at his numbers and consider the players he had to work with, you can see that he has real potential. Now I am far far removed from suggesting that you draft Gabbert in any fantasy draft at any position, but if you are in a dynasty or keeper league, you might look at grabbing him in the 14th or 15th round. His potential really is tied to the level of his receivers, since he did only throw 11 interceptions last season. That points less to a guy with bad decision-making and more towards a guy who was always running for his life because the receivers couldn't create separation. Let's look at this receiving corps.

Last season, no single receiver on the team caught 50 or more balls. Laurent Robinson will probably start out the season as the number one receiver on the depth chart, after receiving a large contract in free agency. Robinson finally broke out in his 5th season in the league, but I really doubt that he is going to make a huge impact in Jacksonville. My guess for him is 60 catches, 800 yards, and maybe 3 to 5 touchdowns. I am not confident about players who have one good season after multiple mediocre to crappy seasons. I cannot think of a single example where the player pops over to another team and continues to have great success. Justin Blackmon (I secretly wonder whether he is a kin of Will Blackmon who was a DB for the Packers and then moved around the league) should be the better long term player, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him mirror or exceed the production of Robinson this season. Players like Mike Thomas or Chastin West could see numbers approaching 30 catches and 400 yards, but this puts them squarely off the fantasy radar. Marcedes Lewis, on the other hand, could be a borderline worth-owning tight end. If you like to carry two tight ends, Lewis could be a nice flex player depending on the role he carves out for himself this season. He has been as good as decent in the past, but has never really excelled as a pass catcher. He had his best season, with 10 touchdown receptions and 700 yards, the season before last. If he can duplicate that production he will be worth owning.

This Jaguars defense is solid. I would consider them as a candidate to finish in the top 10 this season. I also think that Josh Scobee could have a great season. He hit over 92% of his kicks and has the gravitas to boot 59-yard game winning field goals. If this team can make it into field goal range more often, he could see improved numbers. I would like to see this guy in the top 5 of kickers, but I don't know if he will have enough extra points to make that list.

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