|By Shawn Childs, Monday, August 28, 2023|
Doug Pederson returns for his second season as the Jaguars' head coach after going 9-8 in 2022. Over five seasons with the Eagles, he went 42-37-1 with three postseason appearances and a Super Bowl title in 2017. Pederson has 13 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
The Jaguars named Press Taylor their offensive coordinator in 2021. 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 jumped to 10th in points scored (404 – 151 more than in 2021). In addition, they ranked 10th in yards gained. The Jaguars finished with one of the worst offenses over the previous four seasons.
Mike Caldwell handled the jump from inside linebackers coach for three seasons with Tampa Bay to Jacksonville's defensive coordinator last year. He is a former player with 15 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
From 2020 to 2021, the Jaguars were outscored by 390 points (11.8 per game). Last year, their defense allowed 107 fewer points, lifting them to 12th in points allowed (350) but only 24th in yards allowed. Jacksonville outscored their opponents by 9.1 points in 2022, a swing of almost 20 points from their previous two seasons.
The Jaguars only had four players (T Jawaan Taylor, DE Arden Key, DE Dawuane Smoot, and WR Marvin Jones) from their 2022 roster. Taylor looks to be their most significant loss after signing for $60 million in guaranteed money with Kansas City. Jacksonville added D'Ernest Johnson for running back depth.
Like the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars had a lengthy list of players (13) added in the 2023 NFL Draft. With the 27th overall pick, Jacksonville invested in T Anton Harrison. His foundation in vision and technique rank well, but he does have some shortcomings vs. speed rushers on the outside, and Harrison comes to the NFL with questionable power and hands.
Jacksonville shifted to their offense with their next two selections – TE Brenton Strange (2nd) and RB Tank Bigsby (3rd). Strange comes with a blocking skill set with underlying upside in the passing game despite a limited resume. At the very least, he'll help spring backs into the second level of the defense while offering the speed and route running to challenge the long field. Bigsby gives the Jaguars' offense a second back to threaten defenses with his vision, quickness, and power on early downs. He projects well in short-yardage and at the goal line while offering the gas to win in close quarters when daylight opens. Fumbles were an issue in 2022.
The next four picks went to upgrade their defense – LB Ventrell Miller, DE Tyler Lacy, LB Yasir Abdullah, and S Antonio Johnson.
Miller relies on timing and aggressiveness to create wins in run support, but he does lack change of direction quickness and top-end speed to be an edge in pass coverage. His next step is balancing patience and improved vision in run support.
Lacy has plenty of strength with a high foundation in his pass-rushing moves. He gets off the ball quickly, but his motor doesn't run on a high test when facing every down battles with a strong offensive line. His next step is finishing with power and holding his ground when losing the early leverage battle.
Abdullah is the second linebacker added by the Jaguars in this year's draft, where they choose speed and quickness over size and power. He brings an attacking style with the vision to be in the right place when the ball carrier arrives. His strength plays up while having the quickness to get the quarterback when asked to rush. However, Abdullah can't recover in run pursuit if a big body locks him up close to the line of scrimmage.
Johnson checks the box as a big safety (6'2" and 200 lbs.) with speed, but his play strength isn't where it needs to be entering the NFL. He wants to attack the run and play physically, areas that should improve as Johnson gets stronger. His rhythm when trying to match wideouts in pass routes and over the longer field invites some easy catches and touchdowns.
Jacksonville had six selections in the sixth (WR Parker Washington, CB Christian Braswell, and S Erick Hallett) and seventh (T Cooper Hodges, DT Raymond Vohasek, and LB Derek Parish) rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Thanks to his competitiveness and fight, Washington looks like a playable option at wide receiver for the Jaguars. Unfortunately, he doesn't gain an edge with quickness or top-end speed, limiting his ceiling vs. man coverage. Washington will be one time and be in the right place, but his wins come from too many tight battles for the ball.
Braswell may be the perfect type of cornerback to match wide receivers Josh Downs and Nathaniel Dell in this year's draft by the Colts and Texans. Braswell plays with quickness and a sense of urgency while having the vision to attack the ball. His lack of size (5'10" and 180 lbs.) does put him at risk vs. physical wide receivers. In addition, he does want to attack wideouts over the short areas of the field, leaving him vulnerable to down moves.
Hallett brings a playmaking skill set to Jacksonville despite having shortcomings in run support and winning in deep coverage. He wants to get his hands on the ball, helped by his quickness and vision. The Jaguars should give him chances to defend receivers in the slot.
Hodges isn't quite there yet in his technique, inviting struggles vs. better defensive players in the NFL. His range looks limited but not his work ethic. He gets off the ball well in run blocking while showing risk vs. speed pass protection.
Vohasek is all about being a bully in the pass rush. He wants to get off the ball with a purpose and an understanding of his job. If punched back with power and strength, his toolbox doesn't have enough moves to create other wins. Vohasek only played five games for North Carolina in 2022.
Parish works hard to get stronger, but his frame and build (6'1" and 240 lbs.) can only handle so much bulk. He looks the part of a winning run defender with the desire to make plays on the quarterback. His fighting style works better in head-to-head battles than in team-oriented playmaking ability.
The Jaguars climbed to 14th in rushing yards (2,116) with 16 touchdowns. They gained 4.7 yards per carry while averaging 26.4 rushing attempts. Jacksonville allowed 28 sacks, with a jump to 12th in passing yards (4,148) while tossing 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Their receivers only had three completions of 40 yards or more, tied for last in the NFL.
LT Cam Robinson missed five games late in 2022 due to a right knee injury. He will open up this year on the suspended list due to taking performance-enhancing drugs. His absence requires incoming rookie Anton Harrison to battle Walker Little for the early season job. In his two seasons with the Jaguars, after getting drafted in the second round, Little has earned only part-time snaps with no edge in his play in any area.
LG Ben Bartch showed growth in his third season with Jacksonville in pass protection after Week 1, but his season lasted only five games due to a knee injury. As a result, the Jaguars expect him to be limited entering training camp.
C Luke Fortner allowed too much pressure up the middle in his rookie season after getting drafted in the third round in the 2022 NFL Draft. His run blocking also finished well below the best center in the league.
RG Brandon Scherff failed to match his elite success in run and pass blocking in his first season with Jacksonville. His resume over seven years with Washington showed a much more talented player in all areas.
The right tackle position will most likely be the fallout of the loser from the left tackle battle.
The sum of this offensive line can't match the best teams in the NFL in talent while also having questionable depth on the roster to cover injuries. On the positive side, Jacksonville did minimize the damage in sacks last year, most likely helped by Trevor Lawrence getting the ball out quickly. In addition, the Jaguars do have some playmakers at the running back position. I see a below-average offensive line that would be helped by Cam Robinson being on the field.
The Jaguars ran the ball much better last season, helped by an entire season of games for Travis Etienne and an active running quarterback (Trevor Lawrence – 62/291/5). Jacksonville's runners finished with 448 attempts, compared to 379 in 2021. Despite five fewer passes thrown than in 2021 (601), the Jaguars gained 512 yards in the air.
QB Trevor Lawrence - Solid/Safe Pick
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, 90 passing touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. His completion rate (66.6) improved 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).
Lawrence's rookie hype/buzz 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.
Last season, Lawrence played at the level that Jacksonville envisioned when drafting him in 2021. He gained 4,404 combined yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His one lacking area was his yards per pass attempt (7.0). Lawrence gained more than 300 yards in six games, with his best play coming in Week 14 (386/4) and Week 15 (339/4). However, defenses held him to one passing touchdown or fewer in 11 of his 19 games (including the postseason).
Fantasy Outlook: Lawrence finished last season 7th in fantasy scoring (354.05) in four-point passing touchdown formats. He posted between 20.00 and 30.00 fantasy points in nine starts while adding two impact showings (37.10 and 32.00) over 19 games. Lawrence ranks eighth at quarterback in the early draft season in the high-stakes market. His next step should be 4,800 combined yards with 30 passing touchdowns, thanks to Calvin Ridley being added to the wide receiver mix. He also should chip in with repeated success on the ground.
Other Options: C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RB Travis Etienne - Solid/Safe Pick
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 his final two years in college, he proved more than worthy as a pass-catcher (85/1,020/6).
Etienne played in a high-scoring offense in college, allowing 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. In 2020, Etienne had a four-game stretch with a fumble (three lost), but he only had four fumbles over his previous three seasons in college (five in 2022 with the Jaguars with three lost). His speed projects to be close to 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.
After sitting out his rookie season with a foot injury, Etienne gained 1,441 combined yards on 255 touches with five touchdowns and 35 catches. He gained 5.1 yards per rush and 9.0 yards per catch, thanks to 11 plays gaining 20 yards or more. In addition, Etienne passed the 40-yard mark on four occasions.
The Jaguars limited his chances over the first five weeks due to James Robinson out snapping him 175 to 159. Over this stretch, Robinson scored five times, while Etienne didn't reach paydirt until his seventh game. He gained more than 100 yards from Week 7 to Week 9 (14/114/1, 24/156/1, and 28/109/2), but Etienne only had six combined catches for 51 yards over this span. After an early exit in Week 12 (2/3 on five snaps), Jacksonville gave him only 16.75 touches per game over his final eight starts (including the postseason), leading to 712 combined yards with two touchdowns and 17 catches.
Fantasy Outlook: Etienne ended the season ranked 17th in running back scoring (208.10) in PPR leagues, but he failed to be a difference-maker late in the year. In 2023, Etienne comes off the board as the 13th running back while needing to answer two questions about his ceiling. First, will Jacksonville give him more passing chances? And second, will the Jaguars give him more carries inside the 10-yard line (24 in 2022)? Also, incoming rookie RB Tank Bigsby could develop into a thorn at the goal line and steal some of Etienne's chances in the run game. My early thought is 1,600 combined yards with about seven scores and 45 catches, making him a borderline top-12 back in PPR formats.
RB Tank Bigsby - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over his 35 games at Auburn, Bigsby rushed for 2,903 yards on 540 carries with 25 touchdowns. He added 62 catches for 448 yards on 89 targets. His best production came in 2021 (223/1,099/10 and 21 catches for 184 yards).
Fantasy Outlook: Bigsby has the talent to seize the Jaguars' backup running back job, with a chance to get eight to 10 touches. Between James Robinson and JaMycal Hasty, they gained 703 yards with seven touchdowns and 32 catches. Bigsby ranks 50th at running back in the high-stakes market in late May, giving him handcuff value. I expect him to secure between eight and 10 touches per game.
RB D'Ernest Johnson - Not Draft Worthy
When given starting snap in 2021, Johnson was up to the task, leading to three strong games (168 combined yards with one score and two catches, 157 combined yards with seven catches, and 133 combined yards with one touchdown and one catch). Over his other 14 games, the Browns only gave him 47 touches with 213 yards, one touchdown, and nine catches. Johnson gained 5.2 yards per carry over his four seasons with Cleveland (141/738/3) with 31 catches for 229 yards. In 2022, the Browns gave him a minimal opportunity (24 combined yards with three catches on seven touches over 15 games).
Fantasy Outlook: Johnson has enough experience to compete for the RB2 role on the Jaguars.
Other Options: JaMycal Hasty, Snoop Conner, Qadree Ollison
WR Calvin Ridley - Sleeper (undervalued)
In his third year in the NFL in 2020, Ridley turned into a beast WR1, leading to 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine scores on 143 targets. Unfortunately, he missed Week 9 with a foot injury that lingered over the final two months of the year. Ridley didn't have surgery until early June.
Over the first five weeks, Ridley turned in four impact games (9/130/2, 7/109/2, 5/110, and 8/136), but the Packers shut him out in Week 4 on five targets. After a steady midseason (25/312/3 on 36 targets), he caught fire again from Week 13 to Week 16 (5/108, 8/124/1, 10/163/1, and 5/130).
In 2021, Ridley suited up for five games (31/281/2 on 52 targets) before leaving the team for personal reasons. During his break, after a trade to Jacksonville, he bet on NFL games, leading to a suspension for the 2022 season.
Fantasy Outlook: Ridley has the talent and resume to help a rising Jaguars' offense, but he isn't a slam dunk. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, Ridley ranks 26th at wide receiver. His ability to stretch the field (15.3 yards per catch in 2020) and score (28 touchdowns in 49 games) command plenty of look this year. I expect him to lead Jacksonville in all receiving categories while on a path to catching 80 passes for 1,200 yards and a run at 10 scores.
WR Christian Kirk - Solid/Safe Pick
In 2021, Kirk 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.
Jacksonville rewarded him with $84 million for four seasons despite never being a top-24 wideout in any year. Kirk repaid their investment by setting new tops in catches (84), receiving yards (1,108), touchdowns (8), and targets (133). He gained more than 100 yards in two games (6/117, 9/105/2, and 6/104) while also scoring more than 20.00 fantasy points in five other matchups (6/78/2, 8/76/1, 6/99/1, 8/78/1, and 7/70/1). His success led to him ranking 12th in wide receiver scoring (243.40) in PPR formats.
Fantasy Outlook: I didn't expect Kirk to reach his lofty results last year. Adding Calvin Ridley to the wide receiver mix will certainly hurt Kirk in 2023. His success last year puts him a dead heat with Ridley in ADP in the early draft season as a backend WR2. On the positive side, WR2 coverage should help his catch rate. Let's go with 75 catches for 975 yards and about six scores.
WR Zay Jones - Bye Week Fill-in
Jones parleyed a 47/546/1 season to a cool $24 million for three seasons with the Jaguars in 2022. He came into the NFL in 2017 after being selected by the Bills in the second round. After a progression year in 2018 (56/652/7), Jones barely had an opportunity with Buffalo and Las Vegas over the next two seasons (27/216 and 14/154/1). 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) in 2021.
Last season, Jones set career-highs in catches (82), receiving yards (823), and targets (121). His best value came in five matchups (10/85/1, 11/145, 8/77/1, 6/093, and 8/74/1), leading to him finishing 26th in wide receiver scoring (198.40) in PPR formats.
Fantasy Outlook: Jones will do most of his damage close to the line of the scrimmage while dropping to the Jaguars' WR3 in 2023. His success and chemistry with Trevor Lawrence will keep him active, but regression suggests 65 catches for 700 yards with low value in scoring. He projects as a WR5 in PPR leagues in late May.
WR Parker Washington - Not Draft Worthy
Over three seasons, Washington caught 146 of his 219 targets for 1,920 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best year came in 2021 (64/820/4) over 13 games.
Fantasy Outlook: Washington will compete for the WR4 for Jacksonville this season. His ceiling isn't high enough to be a fantasy flier in 2023.
Other Options: Jamal Agnew, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TE Evan Engram - Solid/Safe Pick
It's not often in the NFL when a receiver has his best output in his rookie season. Engram caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns on 115 targets in 2017, and all stat categories remained career-bests until he arrived in Jacksonville (73/766/4 on 98 targets).
He missed 13 combined games in 2018 (45/577/3) and 2019 (44/467/3), foreshadowing a possible higher ceiling with a healthy year. The Giants gave him 109 targets in 2020, leading to TE2 type season (63/654/1). In 2021, Engram finished as a fantasy bust (46/408/3). After missing two games, he scored fewer than 10.00 fantasy points in PPR leagues in 10 of his 17 starts.
His season started with below-par stats over his four games (4/28, 7/46, 1/9, and 1/16), pointing to another disappointing year. Engram made a push over his next four starts (19/231/1 on 29 targets). After another three dull showings (1/8, 3/14, and 1/4), he helped fantasy teams over his following four games (5/30/1, 11/162/2, 8/62, and 7/133).
Fantasy Outlook: Engram earned his improved role last season and should remain active again in 2023. He finished fifth in tight end scoring (176.90) in PPR formats. In May, Engram ranks eighth at tight end in the high-stakes market. His floor should be 65 catches for 750 yards and about five scores.
TE Brenton Strange - Dynasty Only
Over his last three seasons at Penn State, Strange caught 69 passes for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns over 31 games. He'll compete for the backup tight end role in 2023.
Other Options: Luke Farrell, Gerric Prince, Leonard Taylor
PK Brandon McManus - Bye Week Fill-in
Despite falling short in field goals made over the past four years (29, 28, 26, and 28), McManus has been a beast from 50 yards or more (27-for-44). He has seven missed extra points over his last 114 chances. McManus missed three field goals inside 39 yards in 2022, leading to a regression in his field rate (77.8). The Jaguars scored 43 touchdowns last season with 35 field goal chances.
Fantasy Outlook: McManus brings a big leg with top-tier upside to the Jaguars' scoring ability. He needs to clean up his short misses to achieve a higher outcome. McManus ranks as a borderline top-12 kicker in the early fantasy draft season.
Jacksonville - Not Draft Worthy
The Jaguars jumped to 12th in rushing yards allowed (1,951), with opponents scoring 14 touchdowns (68 from 2019 to 2021). Ball carriers gained 4.5 yards per carry while averaging 27.6 attempts.
Jacksonville fell to 28th in passing yards (4,055). They allowed 25 passing touchdowns while intercepting 14 passes. The Jaguars ranked 26th in sacks (35).
LB Josh Allen continues to be the Jaguars' best defensive player. He excels against the run with tons of pressure on the quarterback. LB Devin Lloyd recorded 115 tackles and three interceptions in his rookie season after getting drafted 27th overall in 2022. Offenses did target him in the passing game, leading to many missed tackles and weakness in coverage. LB Foye Oluokun delivered 376 tackles over the past two years with four sacks. LB Travon Walker upgraded the Jaguars' pass rush in his rookie season after getting drafted first overall last year. His run defense fell short of expectations.
CB Tyson Campbell developed into a top coverage player in his second season with Jacksonville, leading to short yards per catch and some damage in scoring. He has 143 tackles, 25 defended passes, and five interceptions over two years. Their other cornerback position looks to have below-par options. S Rayshawn Jenkins set a career-high in tackles (116) last year with three sacks and 12 defended passes. He did miss too many tackles with poor ratings in coverage. S Andre Cisco finished with neutral success in his first year with starting snaps.
Their defensive line lacks edge players, limiting their pass rush and success slowing down the run.
Without more sacks and turnovers, the Jaguars' defense has questionable value in the fantasy market. They rank seventh in early drafts, falling in line with the final defensive standing in fantasy points in 2022.