2022 Jacksonville Jaguars Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Jacksonville Jaguars came into 2021 with shining new toys at quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and running back (Travis Etienne), but they were led by a head coach (Urban Meyer) who struggled to handle adversity, losing, and professional football players. Lawrence played well below his college resume, and Etienne suffered a season-ending foot injury before playing in one regular-season game. On the positive side, Jacksonville picked a pair of first-round draft pick this year to help their rebuild process. Their offensive stars will rise and have growth this year. I expect Etienne to develop into a stud and edge at running back in 2022. In the offseason, the Jaguars gave Lawrence more passing weapons (Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram), pointing to a much better passing attack. Best of all, they have a new fearless leader with a head coach (Doug Pederson).
Game score and a losing record led to the Jaguars running the ball 38.7% of the time despite gaining 4.5 yards per carry. They averaged only 23.1 rushes per game. Their passing success wasn't helped by 22 turnovers by their quarterback. Jacksonville must improve its passing accuracy (59.6) and create more significant distance plays passing the ball in 2020.
The one area that stands out for Trevor Lawrence to improve on is his usage and accuracy with his running backs. He completed only 62.8% of his passes to his backs with a low overall output (59/419/1 on 94 targets). The best quarterbacks tend to pad their completion rate with the backs a la Tom Brady in 2021 (110/698/6 on 138 targets – 79.7%). The additional value of passing the ball to the running back position is extending drives and avoiding many zero and negative plays. Running the ball (312/1,412/11) wasn't an issue for Jacksonville's backs last season, and those stats will only be helped with a healthy Travis Etienne on the field.
The Jaguars' wide receivers finished in a tight range for catches (222, 228, and 217) and targets (374, 360, and 356) over the past three seasons. Last year Trevor Lawrence struggled to deliver passing touchdowns (8) while gaining only 11.0 yards per catch.
Trevor Lawrence helped the Jaguars set three-year highs in catches (74), receiving yards (774), yards per catch (10.5), and targets. His most significant area of struggle came throwing touchdowns (2), something Jacksonville had issues with over the past three seasons (3, 1, and 2 tight end scores).
Doug Pederson returns to the head coaching ranks after sitting out 2021. Over five seasons with the Eagles, he went 42-37-1 with three postseason appearances and a Super Bowl title in 2017. Pederson has 12 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
The Jaguars named Press Taylor their offensive coordinator. He also spent eight seasons with Philadelphia before moving to senior offensive assistant in 2021 with the Colts. In 2017, Taylor worked as the assistant quarterback coach for the Super Bowl winning Eagles.
Jacksonville fell to last in the NFL in points scored (253 – 53 lower than 2020). In addition, they ranked 27th in yards gained. The Jaguars have been a disaster offensively over the past four seasons.
Mike Caldwell makes the jump from inside linebackers coach for three seasons with Tampa Bay. He is a former player with 14 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Over the previous two years, the Jaguars have been outscored by 390 points (11.8 per game). They finished 20th in yards allowed, with offenses scoring 457 points (28th).
The Jaguars added three receivers (WR Christian Kirk, WR Zay Jones, and TE Evan Engram) via free agency in the offseason. They took a flier on G Brandon Scherff to upgrade their offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, Jacksonville signed CB Darious Williams, LB Foyesade Oluokun, DT Folorunso Fatukasi, and ED Arden Key for a combined $69 million of combined money. Their top losses were WR D.J. Chark, G Andrew Norwell, and G A.J. Cann.
Jacksonville forced on their defense with five of their seven picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The first two choices (DE Travon Walker and LB Devin Lloyd) came in the first round. The final three pieces were LB Chad Muma (3.6), CB Gregory Junior (6.19), and CB Montaric Brown (7.1).
The Jaguars ranked 22nd in rushing yards (1,755) with 13 touchdowns. They gained 4.5 yards per carry but 30th in rushing attempts (392). Jacksonville allowed 32 sacks while finishing 24th in passing yards (3,674) with a league-low in passing touchdowns (12) and 17 interceptions.
The two tackles on the Jaguars ranked below-par in run blocking while playing better in pass protection. Incoming rookie C Luke Fortner should move into the starting lineup. He brings leadership with quickness off the snap, pointing to more success earlier in his career in run blocking. When adding in G Brandon Scherff, Jacksonville has the offensive line to push above the league average if their young core improves.
The Jaguars climbed to 23rd in rushing yards allowed (2,127), with opponents scoring 22 touchdowns (68 over the past three seasons). They allowed 212 runs of 20 yards or more. Ball carriers gained 4.3 yards per carry while averaging 29.0 attempts due to game score.
Jacksonville jumped to 17th in passing yards (3,875). They allowed 24 passing touchdowns while intercepting seven passes. The Jaguars ranked 27th in sacks (32), with quarterbacks gaining 7.6 yards per pass attempt.
Their defensive line won't produce too many sacks, but the Jaguars tried to solidify their defense up front against the run. LB Josh Allen has 20.5 sacks over his first 32 games while setting a career-high in tackles (71). Jacksonville added two young elite players (Devin Lloyd and Travon Walker) to their linebacker corps along with Foye Oluokun (192 tackles and two sacks). The Jaguars' secondary looks to be a work in progress that would be helped by a shorter passing window. Overall, this defense should improve as the season moves on while offering occasional matchup value.
QB Trevor Lawrence, JAX - Sleeper (undervalued)
The rookie hype/buzz for Lawrence ended after Week 1 (332/3). He threw seven interceptions over his first three starts, plus two lost fumbles. Over his final 16 games, Lawrence passed for over 300 yards in one other game (319/1) while averaging only 199 passing yards with nine touchdowns over his other 15 contests. He finished the year ranked 22nd in quarterback scoring (257.65) in four-point passing touchdown leagues, with 17.6% of his scoring coming via the run game (73/334/2). The Jaguars' offensive line allowed 32 sacks.
Lawrence had a sensational three-year career at Clemson. He went 34-2, with his two losses coming in the national championship playoffs. Lawrence won the MVP and national championship in his freshman season in 2018.
He finished his college career with 10,098 passing yards with 90 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His completion rate came in at 66.6% while improving each year (69.2 in 2020). Over his last two seasons, Lawrence scored 17 rushing touchdowns while gaining 766 yards on 171 carries. His value as a runner peaked in 2019 (103/563/9 – 5.5 yards per rush).
Fantasy outlook: In one easy season in the NFL, Lawrence went from potential stud to a player with a lot to prove. He has a serviceable tight end plus upside in receiving at running back. However, his trip to greatness falls on the play and development of his wide receiver corps. With minimal improvement in accuracy, Lawrence should deliver 4,500 combined yards (3,975 in 2020) with a push to the league average in touchdowns. In the early draft season in the Fantasy Football World Championship, he ranks 19th at the quarterback position. However, when adding up all of his components, Lawrence has enough of a supporting cast to be a top 12 fantasy quarterback in 2022.
RB Travis Etienne, JAX - Sleeper (undervalued)
After dominating in the run game for Clemson in 2018 (204/1,658/24) and 2019 (207/1,614/19) while averaging almost eight yards per carry, Etienne had a more challenging time finding open space at the second level of the defense in 2020 (168/914/14 – 5.4 yards per rush). He compensated for this shortfall by upping his value in the passing game (48/588/2). Over the last two years, he proved to be more than worthy as a pass-catcher (85/1,020/6).
In college, Etienne played in a high-scoring offense that allowed him to make big plays up the middle or outside. His vision and feel for play development helped him find the needed space to beat weaker defenses for long touchdowns. Etienne offered a drop step in the open field that led to catching some defenders flat-footed, creating the space to finish runs on the outside with touchdowns. Defenders had a tough time bringing him down with arm and half body tackles. When turning up field, his speed is almost deceiving, letting Etienne blow by tacklers who take poor angles.
His next step in his development will be proving his worth in pass protection and showing the ability to make the proper reads on blitzes. Last year Etienne had a four-game stretch with a fumble (three lost), but he only had four fumbles over his previous three seasons in college. His speed projects to be close to 4.40 in the forty-yard dash.
Fantasy Outlook: I expect Etienne to move into the number one position at running back for Jacksonville. The Jaguars will give him at least 15 touches per game, leading to 1,350 combined yards with five to seven touchdowns and a run at 50 catches. In late May, fantasy drafters in the FFWC have him priced as the 24th running back with an ADP of 55 as they wait for him to get confirmation as the lead running for Jacksonville. Etienne is a player I'll fight for in 2022.
RB James Robinson, NYJ - Gamble (high risk)
The whole Robinson experience was bizarre last year. He has a fantastic rookie season (1,414 combined yards with 10 touchdowns and 49 catches), and the injury to Travis Etienne cleared the path for another high-volume ride in 2021.
After struggling over his first two games (16/72 with six catches for 46 yards) with only 22 combined touches, Robinson played well over his next four games (458 combined yards with five touchdowns and 11 catches) while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately, after a bye week, a heel issue knocked him out of a game early and led to him missing the following week.
Over his next seven games, Robinson wasn't the same player (76/285/3 – 3.8 yards per rush with 13 catches for 89 yards). A torn Achilles ended his season in Week 16.
Fantasy outlook: An NFL player's timetable for a full recovery from a torn Achilles tends to be nine to 12 months. There is a chance that Robinson will be ready for Week 1, but he will most likely trail Travis Etienne in reps and game shape. His ADP (126) in the FFWC ranks him as the 41st running back in late May. At the very least, Robinson should be a targeted handcuff for his teammate with an expected 10 to 12 touch opportunity. His fantasy value will rise and fall based on his summer updates in his recovery time.
Other Options: Ryquell Armstead, Snoop Conner, Mekhi Sargent
WR Christian Kirk, JAX - Quality Backup
Jacksonville paid Kirk a ton of money ($84 million for four seasons), when considering he has never been a top 24 wideout in any of his four years in the NFL. Last year he set a career-high in catches (77) and receiving yards (982) while averaging only 6.1 targets per game. His catch rate (74.8) was well above his first three seasons (62.4%).
Over the first 13 games, Kirk scored 15.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in five matchups (5/70/2, 7/104, 5/75/1, 4/50/1, and 6/91), but the Cardinals only looked his way 70 times (5.4 per game). His opportunity was much higher over his final five contests (12, 9, 9, 3, and 11 targets), leading to 30 catches for 315 yards and one score.
He has 37 catches of 20 yards or more in his career, with 10 of those plays gaining a minimum of 40 yards. Kirk scored 17 touchdowns over 56 games.
Fantasy outlook: I don't see Kirk repeating his catch rate in 2021 after Trevor Lawrence struggled with his accuracy in his rookie season. In addition, Kirk would be hard-pressed to push his targets much higher based on the Jaguars' overall receiving depth. My assumptions are supported by the opinions of high-stakes drafters (ADP – 112 as the 46th wideout) in the FFWC in the early draft season. With four catches a week (68), Kirk should gain about 800 yards with a max of five touchdowns.
WR Zay Jones, JAX - Deep-league Only
Jones parleyed a 47/546/1 season to a cool $24 million for three seasons. He came into the NFL in 2017 after getting selected in the second round by the Bills. After a progression year in 2018 (56/652/7), Jones barely has an opportunity over the next two seasons (27/216 and 14/154/1) with Buffalo and Las Vegas. To his credit, He worked hard to gain reps and playing time, which showed over his final five games (6/67, 6/50, 8/120, 5/27, and 5/61/1 on 43 targets) last season.
Fantasy outlook: Jones was a high-volume catch receiver in his college career highlighted by two seasons (98/1,099/5 and 158/1,746/8). Jacksonville likes what he brings to the table, meaning he will have plenty of chances to build on his late 2021 success. No one will fight for Jones based on his ADP (258) in the FFWC, but keep an open mind if his targets are high enough to produce a top-70 wide receiver this year.
Other Options: Laquon Treadwell, Jamal Agnew, Marvin Hall