DJ Chark’s Fantasy Football Ceiling Is Higher Than We Think
Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark was one of the breakout fantasy stars of the 2019 season. Following a disappointing rookie year, the former second-round pick burst onto the scene with 146 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and never looked back. Chark finished the year ranked No. 17 among receivers in PPR scoring.
Since the Jaguars return nearly their entire receiving corps, as well as quarterback Gardner Minshew, we can probably expect similar usage for Chark. So did his 2019 breakout campaign set his ceiling, or could he reach another level in 2020?
With an ADP as the 22nd receiver off the board, according to BestBall10s.com, the fantasy community as a whole appears to be playing it safe with Chark. But let's dive into some numbers to see if this is the appropriate range to target him in drafts.
Deep Ball Value
The table below shows the Jaguars' target share in games where Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley were all active. While the overall target share numbers are similar between Chark and Westbrook, Chark gained value from his increased usage on throws downfield.
|WR||Tgt Share Overall||Tgt Share
at 15+ Yds
According to Sports Info Solutions, Chark scored 85.5 fantasy points on targets 15 or more yards downfield (5.7 per game). This increased downfield usage allowed Chark to emerge as one of the most efficient fantasy receivers, averaging 1.91 fantasy points per target, which ranked 18th out of 53 receivers who saw at least 75 targets. Westbrook ranked 45th.
With Chark, Conley, and Westbrook all returning in 2020, a similar breakdown of targets should be expected. So for Chark to see improved numbers, he may need to rely on improved production from Minshew.
Can Minshew Improve?
Coming from Mike Leach's air raid offense at Washington State, Minshew didn't get to showcase his downfield passing skills often during his final year in college. According to Sports Info Solutions, only 14.7 percent of Minshew's pass attempts traveled at least 15 yards downfield, which ranked 110th out of 111 qualified quarterbacks.
Here's a breakdown of Minshew's downfield passing during his career:
|Year/Team||% of Att |
at 15+ Yds
|On-Target Rate |
at 15+ Yds
|2018 Washington State||14.7%||61.9%|
|2016-17 East Carolina||20.2%||52.0%|
Possibly in an effort to recreate his success at Washington State, Jacksonville limited Minshew's downfield passing. With just 16.3 percent of his attempts traveling15 yards, Minshew's downfield rate ranked 27th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks.
As you may have noticed in the table above, however, Minshew's on-target rate on the deep ball improved from his days at East Carolina. Based on this production, it's reasonable to hope Jacksonville will open up the offense and give Minshew an opportunity to challenge defenses downfield -- which, of course, would benefit Chark.
What is Chark's Ceiling?
With almost the entire offense returning, a significant jump in workload is probably unrealistic. However, a slight change in the Jaguars offense -- which we already established is plausible based on Minshew's numbers -- could create more valuable targets for Chark, even if his overall target share remains relatively steady.
If Jacksonville threw downfield at a league-average rate (19 percent) and Chark saw his downfield target share (37.6 percent) remain steady, it would have created eight more downfield targets for him last season. That may not sound like a lot, but based on Chark's points per downfield target rate, it would have increased his fantasy output by 19.5 points.
So based on these numbers, if Jacksonville's downfield tendencies rise to a league-average level, we could see Chark's fantasy impact increase by at least one point per game.
Among receivers who played at least 12 games last year, Chark ranked 19th in points per game. Simply by adding one point per game to his average, he would have climbed all the way to eighth, jumping well-established fantasy stars such as Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay, and Keenan Allen.
So how should you approach Chark in your fantasy drafts based on this knowledge?
Minshew is entering his second year in the league with the same receiving corps, which likely means the coaching staff will put more on his plate. It made sense to mimic aspects of his Washington State offense to ease him into the league, but now he should be expected to show some growth as a downfield passer.
As an added bonus, new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has a history of running a more aggressive passing attack. During his final year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, the Bengals threw 15 or more yards downfield on 22 percent of their throws, the seventh-highest rate in the league.
With Chark operating as Minshew's primary deep threat, this sets his ceiling substantially higher than the Jaguars' other receivers. And, as we already established, even a small increase in their deep ball rate could make Chark a top-10 receiver.
As we mentioned at the top, Chark has been the 22nd receiver off the board in best ball drafts over the last month, with an overall ADP of 84. Based on the fact Chark outplayed that ADP last year, despite working with a rookie quarterback in an extremely conservative offense, you should feel confident snagging him in that range. And if you're buying into Minshew and a more aggressive Jaguars offense, don't be shy about gambling a little earlier on a receiver with top-10 upside.