Marqise Lee Is the Jacksonville Jaguars' Receiver You Want in Fantasy Football
As a replacement, the Jaguars added Donte Moncrief in free agency and D.J. Chark in the draft, giving them a stable of receivers that's as unpredictable as it is intriguing. Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Marqise Lee are the incumbents, with Chark and Moncrief joining the cast.
Without a clear alpha receiver, this is a tough situation to figure out for fantasy owners, but it's one we need to monitor. None of these guys are going early in drafts, so no matter which Jags wideout dart throw you like, it won't cost you much. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Lee has the highest standard-league average draft position (ADP) at 11.12.
There's a lot of talent in the mix, so getting some exposure to this situation isn't a bad idea, but which wideout should you target?
Let's start with Blake Bortles. The Jags' signal caller takes a lot of flack, but when it comes to fantasy, he's been just fine. Bortles himself has finished as a top-13 fantasy quarterback in each of the last three seasons, and he has been more than serviceable for his receivers. He quarterbacked Robinson to his career-best 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015, and aside from his rookie campaign, Bortles has never finished below 15th in passing yards, throwing at least 3,687 each season.
Even in a run-first offense with Leonard Fournette last year, Bortles still attempted the 11th-most passes. If Bortles continues his adequate play in 2018, at least one of the Jacksonville receivers will have meaningful fantasy value.
The Jaguars also added offensive lineman Andrew Norwell in free agency. This will only improve a good offensive line that featured Brandon Linder, Jeremy Parnell, who didn't allow a sack last year, and second-year pro Cam Robinson.
All in all, Bortles isn't an elite quarterback, but he's not someone who should keep us away from investing in a Jags receiver.
Among the four wide receivers in Jacksonville, Moncrief actually performed the best in 2017, per our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP uses historical down-and-distance data to determine what is expected of a player on a per-play basis. (You can read more about NEP in our glossary).
Looking at Reception NEP per target, only Westbrook finished below the league-average clip of 0.65. Moncrief came in above the rest at 0.78, but he also had the smallest sample size due to injury.
|Player||Receptions||Targets||Reception NEP per Target|
None of these guys are surefire stars, to be sure, but there is intrigue with each of them.
In 2017, Marqise Lee led the pack in receptions (56), targets (96), and Reception NEP per target (0.71) despite missing two games. Lee had a sneaky-good four-game run in the middle of the season last year, averaging 5.75 catches, 71.25 yards and totaling 2 touchdowns in four games from October 15th to November 12th.
And Bortles showed an affinity for Lee the year prior when Lee actually outperformed Robinson with a Reception NEP per Target of 0.68 to 0.58. Lee finished with 63 receptions to Robinson's 73 and 851 yards to Robinson's 883.
While per-target efficiency and advanced metrics are important, opportunity is the crucial thing here. Lee has seen 105 and 96 targets from Bortles in the last two seasons, and he's the only current Jags receiver who has a big-target season with Bortles on his resume, which noses him in front of the pack.
Often, seeing how a team allocated its resources can give a glimpse of how a team plans to use its personnel in the future.
Per Spotrac, the Jaguars chose to resign Lee for $36 million dollars over four years this last offseason, when they let Robinson walk in free agency. With Westbrook and Cole on their rookie deals, the Jags had ample cap space to bring in Moncrief on a one-year $9.6 million deal.
Compared to Moncrief, Lee will average $8.5 million per year. However, Moncrief's deal represents something of a single-year tryout, while Lee has some long term security. Lee's contract bears this out with $16.5 million of his $36 million being guaranteed.
Because his deal is fully guaranteed, Moncrief will surely see opportunity this season -- or at least be given every chance to earn a big role -- but Lee appears to be the team's number-one receiver right now, and Jacksonville liked him enough to give him a pretty nice contract.
The Young Guns
It would be an error to disregard Westbrook, Cole and Chark.
Even though Jacksonville had signed Moncrief and retained Lee, the Jags chose to invest the 61st overall pick in Chark, so they obviously like him. Running a 4.34 at the NFL scouting combine, Chark excelled in the vertical game at LSU. While Chark may not have a big role in 2018, it may not bode well for Westbrook's or Cole's long-term prospects, since both of those players bring similar-type skillset to the table.
With that said, Cole and Westbrook showed positive signs as rookies in 2017. Per AirYards, Westbrook and Cole ranked first and second, respectively, on the Jaguars in average depth of target with 12.3 and 12.0. Westbrook was a fourth-rounder, and Cole was undrafted free agent, but they both proved to be a nice fit alongside Lee, who had the lowest depth of target at 11.7 yards.
While we ideally want receivers who draw big-play targets, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for Lee. Since his chain-moving skills are unlike the talents of his depth chart brethren, his role is secure, and Lee can make up for the short target depth by seeing good volume.
Based on past production, long-term contract situation, and his safe role within the Jaguars' offense, Marqise Lee appears to be the Jacksonville wideout most likely to produce in 2018.
You could argue that one of the other receivers would have a bigger ceiling if they locked down a clear-cut role as the Jags' best outside wideout -- and you'd probably be right -- but it seems unlikely that Westbrook, Cole, Moncrief or Chark will breakaway from that pack. The more likely scenario is that those guys cannibalize each other, which would cap the upside for all of them.
At an ADP of 11.12, Lee provides solid value in the back half of drafts as a player who should be a reliable WR3/flex type in 2018.