Is There a Jaguars Receiver Worth Owning in Fantasy Football?

All eyes will be on Cecil Shorts and two second-round rookies, but another Jaguars receiver might be able to deliver the goods in 2014.

When life hands you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade. Apparently it's up to you to get the cups and ice and sugar, but what else are you going to do with a crate full of lemons? Maybe spruce up your ice water with a lemon wedge or bake some lemon bars?

What do I care? They're your lemons. Do what you want with them.

The point is that they're free, and free things are usually good things. And speaking of free lemons, there are some growing right now that might be pluckable come fantasy draft day. In Jacksonville, there's a whole bunch of receivers that aren't quite ripe yet, and no one seems eager to buy. So, for the low cost of nothing, you might be able to snatch up one or two of them and hope that they ripen into viable fantasy options.

There's one lemon that's pretty ripe already, and its name is Cecil Shorts. It's a funny name for a lemon, but he's the only one with much of an asking price. (He's being drafted 92nd overall and as the 40th receiver since June 1st.)

Other than that, NFL Draft second-rounders Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are sitting with Mike Brown and Ace Sanders in the crate. (Hopefully Justin Blackmon stays away and doesn't spoil the bunch for now.)

Speaking of spoiling lemons...

There's Something Rotten in the State of Florida

The reason these receivers aren't quite ripe yet is, first and fairly, their age. Of the aforementioned sextet, only Shorts is older than 25. The more troubling reason, though, is the quarterback climate. Whether Chad Henne leads the depth chart or Blake Bortles swaps out his clipboard for a helmet, things don't look very promising for the Jaguar quarterbacks according to our cheat sheet.

Jaguars PassersCompletionsAttemptsYardsTouchdownsInterceptions
Chad Henne209.56366.142,267.8011.3011.49
Blake Bortles118.21192.301,318.887.024.22
Ricky Stanzi20.5233.39228.971.210.73

If the Jaguars get the projected combined production, they would rank 16th in passing yardage (mainly because of the elevated passing attempts) and 23rd in passing touchdowns. They'd also throw the eighth-most interceptions in the league.

That's pretty wishful thinking, though, compared to how the Jaguars finished the season last year in our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, which quantify the impact of a player or team in terms of real, actual points on the football field. The Jaguars were bad last year.

Adjusted Passing NEPRankAdjusted Passing NEP per PlayRankPass/Run RatioRank
League Avg.33.64-0.06-1.40-

That' bad. Their Passing NEP (-82.75) was the 411th-worst total out of the 446 recorded seasons for a team since 2000. And not for nothing, expecting elite receiver production from a group like this is pretty bananas. (Get it? Because fruit.) But there's a very slim chance the Jaguars passing attack is as bad in 2014 as it was in 2013. And don't forget that most of these lemons are available for free, which is why they're noteworthy.

Meeting the Bushel

It's not really surprising that nobody is reaching out to draft these Jaguar receivers, but that's not a problem for you. It's good. They're your free lemons. Just like with the quarterbacks, understandably, our projections for the receivers aren't very enticing, but that's why nobody wants them.

If you look at our rankings, aside from Shorts, it's hard to get excited about any of these guys, and even Shorts is projected to suffer from the touchdown scarcity in Jacksonville (projected for just a little over three). But, clearly, he's slated to be the lead lemon again. His 123 targets were 24th among receivers last year, and his 66 receptions were 29th. His NEP marks, though, don't benefit from the high volume compared to the rest of the 89 receivers who had at least 50 targets last year.

PlayerRec. NEP (Rank)Target NEP (Rank)Rec. NEP per Target (Rank)Catch Rate (Rank)
Shorts62.43 (41)-1.86 (75)0.51 (74)53.66% (67)
Brown32.58 (80)6.88 (68)0.58 (67)57.14% (55)
Sanders28.86 (87)-10.75 (85)0.33 (87)58.62% (47)

With volume on his side, Shorts was largely underwhelming in this offense, and his catch rate is cause for concern heading forward. He commandeers targets without producing many points, evidenced by a low Reception NEP per target number. Oddly, the player with the worst marks might be the best draft day value of the group.

Lemon Ace

A more enigmatic name (and almost as cool as Cecil Shorts) is Ace Sanders. Being ranked 44th in something isn't necessarily something that inspires confidence, but when we're talking about a third receiver for the lowly 2013 Jaguars, it's a start. Sanders ranked 44th among receivers in targets, finishing 2013 with 87 of them. He converted 51 of those targets into receptions, good for 43rd.

Like I said, it's a start, but as noted previously, his Reception NEP marks were near the bottom of the list. That shouldn't be surprising since Sanders finished the year with just 484 receiving yards and a lone touchdown.

However, Sanders' season was a season of spurts. Sanders, in four games from Week 5 to Week 10, had just a pair of receptions for 20 yards. In four games. But Blackmon, Brown, and Shorts stole the show in that span. Afterward? Sanders was good - not great - but he did have two eight-reception games in his final seven games. Brown never had more than five in a game.

SandersReceptionsYardsTargetsTouchdownsFantasy Points
Weeks 1-43.5040.506.750.003.50
Weeks 5-100.505.000.750.000.25
Weeks 11-175.0043.147.570.145.43

No, you don't want 5.43 fantasy points per week from a wide receiver, but Sanders' final pace over his last 7 games would have resulted in 80 receptions and 121 targets over 16 full games. All of those games came with Henne under center. For an undrafted fantasy receiver, that's not too bad. Free lemons.

New to the Bunch

One of the reasons the situation is so bewildering and tough to read is the addition of Lee and Robinson, two heavy investments in the NFL Draft. But second-round receivers aren't always instant offense.

You might be thinking that our projections for these receivers are far too low, but they aren't unreasonable. Young receivers don't have the greatest track records. Of the 16 receivers selected in the second round over the past five years, just four posted at least 40 catches in their rookie years. Only six received over 50 targets, and only four posted Reception NEP scores over 50.00 (which would have placed them inside the top 50 this year).

The average Reception NEP for the group is just 36.94, which would have been 71st among receivers with at least 50 targets, and they just would have beat the target threshold for the subset, averaging 56.75 targets. In addition, both Lee and Robinson are dealing with injuries already in the preseason. They might be the duo of the future for the Jags, but anticipating worthwhile production immediately is a mite unwarranted.

The Squeeze

Shorts should be able to post 70 receptions this year, which gives him some merit as a PPR wide receiver, but expecting a boost in touchdowns is the only way he'll really outproduce (get it? produce?) his draft day cost. Brown had just three noteworthy games last year, and expecting to guess correctly when those games might come will be a tricky situation each and every Sunday.

Lee and Robinson are fantastic dynasty league options, but redraft owners likely won't benefit from drafting either one.

Sanders, who likely will remain undrafted, provides, to me, the best value of all the Jaguar receivers. He may not surpass 36 receptions like our cheat sheet suggests, but if he can find a way to rekindle his closing pace from last year, he could double that number and be a viable option every now and again. All for the price of nothing. Just keep players like Sanders in mind before you draft a defense before the final two rounds of your draft just because nobody else looks appealing.