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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Jacksonville Jaguars

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Jaguars had major holes on defense last season. They allowed 121.6 rush yards per game and a whopping 19 rushing touchdowns. Their pass defense was worse, yielding 28 scores through the air and 250.2 yards per game. Their own passing game, ranked 27th, was hobbled by a declining performance by their primary wideout.

So with all of these issues staring the franchise in the face, how did they spend their top two draft picks in April? By pairing them and trading up in the draft to select a quarterback.

Mizzou's Blaine Gabbert was picked 10th overall, turning up the speculation that incumbent starter David Garrard's days in Jacksonville are numbered. Gabbert, who has a Garrard-like game (for better and for worse), is expected to spend the first part of the season watching from the sidelines. If Jacksonville falls out of playoff contention, Gabbert will get his shot since he is the future there. If Garrard can somehow lead this team to a shot at the postseason, though, he'll keep Gabbert on clipboard duty.

How the rest of the team will perform given that Jacksonville failed to add an impact player at a need position in the draft is a completely different quandary. They added a receiver in Cecil Shorts and the defense picked up a talented youngster in safety Chris Prosinski, but otherwise the unit is coming back the way it left the field last season. Given the numbers it produced, that can't be good.

Late-round flier ... Marcedes Lewis, TE

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
David Garrard
Running Backs
Maurice Jones-Drew
Rashad Jennings
Deji Karim
Wide Receivers
Mike Thomas
Mike Sims-Walker
Jason Hill
Tight Ends
Marcedes Lewis
Kickers/Defense
Josh Scobee
Jaguars DST

Anyone who tells you that Lewis will falter this season has no idea what they're talking about. Last year Lewis finished 10th among tight ends in targets yet still managed to tie for the lead in touchdowns with 10. He scored every 5.8 receptions. He finished fourth among tight ends in Fantasy points. And he's on a team that did absolutely nothing to improve its passing game. How in the world can anyone say Lewis won't be involved or not given a shot to be productive. Best of all, he's in a contract year (again) and will play for the big bucks. And, no one's drafting him before Round 10. He's a terrific value choice for owners who pass on the elite tight ends.

Sleeper ... Rashad Jennings, RB

Maurice Jones-Drew's knee surgery and subsequent rehab has been pretty well documented. The Fantasy stalwart should be just fine for the start of the season, but concerns about how much work he takes on along with how defenses handle him should scare Fantasy owners. Remember, Jacksonville did nothing to improve its receiving corps, so defenses can stack the box against MJD and expect to keep him in check. That will mean more contact and a greater chance of knocking him around. One good way to protect Jones-Drew is to give Jennings a bump in work, something Jacksonville has to consider after he plowed for 459 yards on just 84 carries (5.5 average) with four scores and 223 yards on 26 catches (8.6 avg.). He's got potential, and with a lack of offensive firepower, the Jaguars are going to find ways to use him. Jennings is an absolute must-draft for those owners who land Jones-Drew.

Bust ... David Garrard, QB

It's never a good idea to trust a quarterback on a leash, even as a backup. Garrard isn't promised the starting job but should sweat out the competition from Blaine Gabbert -- but nothing else is promised. Last year saw him deliver 23 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns, which were great, but he didn't deliver many wins for Jacksonville, and that's what matters here. If Garrard and the Jags struggle, he'll hit the bench regardless of how he's playing so that Gabbert can get his feet wet. Furthermore, with so many other quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterbacks out there, there isn't a need to select Garrard on Draft Day. The upside isn't there anymore and the playing time will be next to go. It also doesn't help that he's coming off of finger surgery on his right hand.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
TEN @NYJ @CAR NO CIN @PIT BAL @HOU bye @IND @CLE HOU SD TB @ATL @TEN IND

The Jaguars have the Jets in New York in Week 2, back-to-back games against the Steelers and Ravens in Weeks 6 and 7 and a short-week game at Atlanta in Week 15. Other than that, it's not all that bad for Jacksonville as they have some opponents they can hang with (including their divisional rivals) and a three-game homestand. If you don't end up with Maurice Jones-Drew on your Fantasy team and he struggles early on this season, try to buy low on him before his first matchup at Houston in Week 8, because he should tear it up thereafter based on his schedule.

Training camp topics

2010 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Maurice Jones-Drew 334
Rashad Jennings 110
Mike Thomas 78
Marcedes Lewis 58

That quarterback battle will be the talk of town, even if it's not much of a battle. But the more serious topic is who the quarterbacks will throw to. Lewis is a good target, and the running backs will get their share, but with Mike Sims-Walker headed out of town, who's left to catch passes? Mike Thomas is a given, and he might do well by default, and Jason Hill has some promise, but really someone needs to step up. We'll see who does the best in camp.

And expect Jones-Drew to miss some days in camp as the team rests him. That's a given considering that he's coming off of knee surgery and is sure to be leaned on again in 2011. If he goes down, Jacksonville's offense is in trouble -- but you probably figured that already.

The defense is already in trouble. Last year's addition of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu didn't help much in their run defense and the pass defense is thin. Expect Jacksonville to be aggressive in the free-agent market, namely in players who get released. It's the most cost-efficient way to improve the unit.

Injury update

Maurice Jones-Drew (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... David Garrard (finger; probable for the start of training camp) ... Aaron Kampman (knee; questionable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Sammy Watkins risky in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) The Bills haven't had a bonafide No. 1 receiver since the days of Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but rookie Sammy Watkins has the talent to be their best wide receiver since the franchise's Super Bowl era. Sure, Eric Moulds, Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson were fine, but with the right quarterback, Watkins can be special.

Unfortunately, Watkins will be catching passes from second-year signal caller EJ Manuel. The team seems to have little confidence in Manuel being the answer at quarterback just one year after drafting him in the first round last year. Kyle Orton was pulled out of retirement and handed a pricy one-year deal, and one can easily picture the scenario where he's starting games for the team in November and December.

Will Manuel respond to the job-security threat with elevated play? His best shot is to feed his star rookie early and often. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has made a career off shutting down No. 1 receivers, but he's not the same player at 33 as he was at 25. While he was a plus in coverage as recently as 2012, Tillman struggled on the field between injuries last year. If Watkins had a top-16 quarterback delivering the ball, I'd like him for a big game in Week 1. As it is, Fantasy owners would be best holding off on starting Watkins until the quarterback situation plays itself out for better or for worse.


Fred Jackson may have trouble finding running room in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson will face a Bears team in Week 1 that did a terrible job at defending the run last season. However, his Week 1 success may not be as pre-ordained as that of running mate, C.J. Spiller.

Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.

Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.

It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.


C.J. Spiller could ride big plays to productive Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller has feasted on big plays ever since emerging as a Fantasy weapon. In 2012, he was third in the league in breakaway percentage, a statistic tracked by Pro Football Focus that determines how much of a player's rushing yardage total is accrued on plays of at least 15 yards. Spiller topped the league in the category last season. Clearly, if he can find a seam, he has the ability to wrea havoc on a defense.

Spiller will be squaring off with the Bears on Sunday. Last season, the Bears turned in by far the worst run defense performance in the league. They surrendered 2,583 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per rush, both marks placing them last in the league. They overhauled the defensive line in the offseason as a result, drafting two rotational defensive tackles and signing three defensive ends.

But if those players can't keep Spiller bottled up at the line all game, he's a threat to break a long touchdown or two. While the Bears run defense was obviously porous as a unit, the back seven was particularly offensive, ranking last in Football Outsiders' second-level yardage and open-field yardage statistics. The Bears didn't do much to upgrade those two levels of the defense either, meaning plenty of broken tackles and long gains are there for the taking if Spiller can find a little daylight. He's a trustworthy RB2 in Week 1 and a must-use in any Flex conversations.


EJ Manuel will look to conquer road woes Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel endured what could at best be described as an uneven rookie season last year. Going 4-6 as a starter, Manuel particularly struggled on the road, where he turned in poor performances against the Jets, Browns, Steelers and Buccaneers before turning in a quality performance against the Jaguars in Week 14, his last game of the season.

Manuel opens this season on the road as well, heading to Soldier Field to take on the Bears Sunday. He'll be facing a new-look Chicago defensive line, rebuilt after the Bears defense struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Whether that pass rush can be effective could be the key to Manuel's success; the quarterback averaged 6.9 yards per attempt when under no pressure last season, but just 5.0 yards per attempt when faced with pressure.

Is there a good reason to start Manuel in Week 1? Not really. Every Fantasy team should be looking at a healthy roster heading into the beginning of the season, and there are anywhere from 14 to 20 QBs worth using over Manuel no matter the matchup. But a good performance in an unfavorable environment against a potentially improved pass rush would go a long way towards making the second-year player Fantasy relevant in 2014.


Patriots claim Don Jones off waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Patriots have been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins and waived offensive lineman Chris Barker in a corresponding move.

The Patriots will likely be looking for some extra insight on their Week 1 opponent after bringing the former Dolphin into the fold. The move leaves the Patriots with six safeties on the roster.


Jets release Ellis Lankster, re-sign A.J. Edds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Jets released cornerback Ellis Lankster and re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Edds Monday.

Report: Chris Conte to start if medically cleared
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Bears safety Chris Conte will be the team's starting free safety in Sunday's season opener against the Bills, provided he's medically cleared to play, ESPN reports.

Conte has been locked in a position battle with rookie Brock Vereen, and despite suffering a concussion during the team's third preseason game, he's done enough to be named the starter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vereen overtake Conte in the starting lineup, with the latter grading out as a below-average starter, according to ProFootballFocus.com, who particularly struggles in run support.


Report: Raiders going with Derek Carr over Matt Schaub
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Raiders players have been told the team will start rookie Derek Carr over veteran Matt Schaub at quarterback, reports Fox Sports. Carr threw three touchdown passes in last Thursday's preseason finale while Schaub has battled elbow problems.

Oakland opens the season Sunday at the Jets.


Emmanuel Sanders a strong flex option Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Assuming Wes Welker returns from his concussion and plays Week 1, teammate Emmanuel Sanders still will be a strong flex option. Colts-Broncos is a guaranteed shootout -- the over/under is a whopping 55, highest on the board -- and Peyton Manning can support three productive Fantasy receivers with ease.

Plus, Manning has taken a liking to Sanders. When Sanders debuted in the third preseason game, the duo hooked up for 67- and 29-yard touchdowns in the first half.

"You just throw it as far as you can, and it's hard to outthrow that guy," Manning told the team's website.

Sanders finished with five catches for 128 yards on eight first-half targets, doing most of that before Welker got concussed. Sanders was not 100 percent for that game; he had just come back from a quad injury.

Now Sanders, who started building chemistry with Manning at informal Duke University workouts, "looks ready for the big stage," the website said.

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders said. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

Manning is going to help Sanders reach a level he has not hit before, starting Sunday night.

Redskins complete practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Redskins filled out their 10-man practice squad by signing safety Akeem Davis and linebacker Chaz Sutton, reports the Washington Post.

 
 
 
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