The Jacksonville Jaguars were a mess last season, but their mess came from a good problem to have. Big offseason acquisition Nick Foles broke his collarbone on an admittedly very sweet touchdown pass to D.J. Chark (around 15 seconds in), and sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew threw him a sweet deep ball of his own. Then, the Jaguars went back-and-forth between the two once Foles’ collarbone healed, causing massive consistency and performance issues across the board in the passing game. Now, Foles is a Chicago Bear, and Minshew Mania has definitively taken over for Foles as the QB1 of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Who are their sleeper, breakout and bust candidates for 2020 fantasy football?
Sleeper – Gardner Minshew II, Quarterback (QB25, 169 overall)
I won’t split hairs here: in the games that Gardner Minshew played last year, he was a top-twelve quarterback. While that technically means he isn’t a sleeper this year, his ADP doesn’t reflect this fact. The Jaguars were supposed to have Nick Foles at quarterback, and Minshew, a third-day pick (round six) was an interloper. We didn’t want to believe it, and the Jags didn’t want to believe it. That’s why when Minshew had the slightest bit of trouble, the Jacksonville Jaguars turned back to Nick Foles.
Now, Foles is a Chicago Bears and Gardner Minshew has the offensive reins. Let’s do the easy thing and sort out where he would have been if he didn’t get jacked around and started and finished all the games last season. In the games where Minshew didn’t have to contend with Nick Foles’ counterinsurgency, he averaged 35 pass attempts and 21 completions for 237 passing yards. He also kicked in 27.5 rushing yards per contest. He played on a 24 passing touchdown, five-interception pace.
Over a whole season, this comes out to 3,800 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, five picks, and 440 rushing yards. In a four-point passing touchdown league, that’s a 286.56 point pace. Last year’s QB9, Matt Ryan, scored 279.3 points. Minshew is a slam dunk in a 2QB league and a priority backup in a one quarterback league.
Breakout – D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver (WR25, 55 overall)
It didn’t really matter who was under center for the Jacksonville Jaguars for D.J. Chark in 2019. He was a top-twenty wide receiver both with and without Gardner Minshew last season and suffered most from the back-and-forth between Foles and Minshew. This year, he should have a full season of Gardner Minshew throwing him the football. He arguably broke out last year, but his WR25 rank feels like a hedge against an additional breakout not happening rather than embracing his upward trajectory.
Chark was HPPR’s #17 wide receiver last season, but he’s going eight picks later than that this year with the only runway ahead of him to enter the top-fifteen discussion. Chark was boom-or-bust en route to that production last season, nothing at least seven massive PPR games (his worst in this group was 9 catches for 75 yards and no touchdowns). He also busted hard, with eight single-digit PPR weeks (the best being 4/44 in week four). Hopefully, without the push-and-pull of a Minshew-Foles QB battle, Chark starts to churn out some consistency. His speed, ball tracking, and radius make the deep balls more fact than fluke going forward, and he should take a step forward, vaulting him into the backend WR1 discussion in 2021 fantasy football leagues.
The Jaguars added multi-talented wide receiver Laviska Shenault with the #42 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. This should only help Chark, as the WR corps behind him was mostly a mess last season. Shenault is a Deebo Samuel Swiss Army knife type, and should not take away from D.J. Chark’s targets. Instead, it gives the opposing defense something to think about that isn’t Chris Conley.
Bust – Leonard Fournette, Running Back (RB19, 40 overall)
I initially fought Leonard Fournette’s draft price in fantasy football drafts this year, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. First and foremost, he’s going to score a lot more touchdowns this year. Fournette was one of the unluckiest running backs of all time last year. Running backs score a touchdown about every 32 touches. Fournette scored a touchdown about every 114 touches last year, and the second-worst of the last decade was Chris Johnson’s one touchdown every 80 touches. So, touchdowns are coming.
There are still real questions with Fournette, however. The first is his durability. Through three seasons, Fournette is yet to notch sixteen games, and last year was the first time he didn’t miss multiple games. The last time he topped 260 rushes in a season was 2017. In 2018, he missed half the year. That’s not a one-to-one correlation, but it is something to think about in your drafts this year. The other major question is the addition of Chris Thompson. While I don’t see Thompson being a problem all season long (he has his own injury problems to deal with), he will play long enough to siphon away 40-60 targets from Fournette’s 100 targets from last year. That would be enough to offset the vast majority of his touchdown regression for 2020. There are problems for Fournette, and his downside is real.
Still, there isn’t a real bust on this team, Fournette included, but he has the biggest downside risk given the factors above.