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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Jacksonville Jaguars

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Momentum is building in Jacksonville after a long stretch of ineptitude. That's thanks to a very busy offseason in which Gus Bradley's crew turned over the roster and brought in a slew of new players via free agency and the draft. It should help turn the Jaguars into a contender ... eventually.

The biggest splash was the drafting of quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the draft. The Jaguars insist they'll bring him along slowly, so his impact might not be felt until the second half of the upcoming season. But the impact of veteran rusher Toby Gerhart and rookie wideouts Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee should be felt much sooner. Jacksonville also beefed up its offensive line with the signing of guard Zane Beadles. Defensively they brought in ex-Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons along with Steelers castoff Ziggy Hood to help re-populate the defensive line. Linebacker Dekoda Watson also should help.

But not everything is coming up jaguar-spotted roses. Justin Blackmon, arguably the team's top weapon, remains suspended for a substance abuse violation. Even though he sat out the final eight games of last season, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has said he does not expect Blackmon to contribute this year. He backed up that statement by drafting a pair of receivers within his first three picks. But only one selection was made to help a slumping secondary that ranked 25th against the pass and 21st in passing touchdowns allowed last season. That suggests that the Jaguars are hoping that coaching can help turn an inexperienced secondary around.

So it's probably going to be another year full of growing pains. Worse yet, the team might finish in the basement of the AFC South this season -- last year they finished in third (thank you, Houston). That difference meant games against the Chargers and Dolphins instead of the Raiders and Bills this season. Would have helped this growing team.

Late-round flier ... Cecil Shorts

As prepared as we might be to say something strong on Toby Gerhart, our focus here is on Cecil Shorts. He's become sort of an afterthought after tanking last season despite posting a career-high 66 catches. Should he be? If the Jaguars can cultivate outside receivers then Shorts could move into the slot, or at least move all over the field. We've always fancied Shorts as a Victor Cruz clone and if the team can get him in a position to be that guy then he'll perform well, if only because he's the most reliable outlet for the quarterbacks. A calf injury continues to hamper him, but assuming he heals up and participates in training camp, he'll be worth a pick as a capable reserve and Top 50 Fantasy receiver.

Late-round flier ... Allen Robinson

If you're in a dynasty league, Allen Robinson should be on your rank list as a potential second-round choice in your rookie-only draft. If you're in a more traditional Fantasy league, Robinson should be on your late-round pick wish list. As the roster stands now in Jacksonville, Robinson will be the only receiver with size -- he's 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, the same height and nearly the same size as Houston's Andre Johnson. He doesn't have bursting speed but he's got hops (42-inch vertical) and enough muscle to box-out smaller defensive backs for end-zone jump balls and third-down seam routes. Playing in Bill O'Brien's pro-style offense at Penn State last year, Robinson caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards, setting Big Ten Conference records. He's a perfect target for an inconsistent quarterback like Chad Henne or an inexperienced passer like Blake Bortles to target. Expect him to start right away.

Dynasty-league target ... Marqise Lee

2013 Touches Leaders
727 total touches
Maurice Jones-Drew 277 (234 car., 43 rec.) 38.1%
Jordan Todman 80 (76 car., 14 rec.) 11.0%
Cecil Shorts 66 rec. 9.1%
Ace Sanders 53 (51 rec., 2 car.) 7.3%
All Others 251 34.5%

Lee is a polarizing Fantasy rookie. In 2012 he was a monster for Southern Cal, posting 1,721 yards on 118 catches (14.6 avg.) with 14 touchdowns. In 2013 he had 57 catches for 791 yards (13.8 avg.) and four touchdowns along with a left knee injury. Which Lee will show up in Jacksonville? Might depend entirely on the kind of playing time he earns in training camp. If Lee can stay healthy and show he can get what's being asked of him, he definitely has the potential to help Fantasy owners out this year. But it's probably more likely that he struggles this season and doesn't play as much as his rookie counterpart does. That's why we're not expecting Lee to be worth taking in a 2014 Fantasy draft. But if we're talking long term, it's clear Lee has major potential, making him worthy of an early-round pick in rookie-only formats.

Schedule analysis

The first five games the Jags have are against strong offenses. That's bad for the defense but it should force the offense's hand to throw the ball. That might mean competitive games or it might mean garbage time, but that's the kind of stuff that leads to good in-game experience for a team with young receivers. Matchups that might better benefit Gerhart come right after that with the Titans, Browns and Dolphins on the slate around the halfway point. Their Thursday game comes in Week 16 vs. Tennessee, a late-season tilt that should make for a huge game for Gerhart, assuming he's healthy and productive that late into the season. Two showdowns against the Texans in their last four (including at Houston in Week 17) punctuate what is otherwise a tough but not unbearable schedule for the Jaguars.

Training camp battles

Can Bortles win? We know the Jaguars' plan is to let Blake Bortles watch Chad Henne play quarterback and develop slowly. But we're not buying that Bortles will sit for the entire season. Remember, Jags coach Gus Bradley was with the Seahawks when Russell Wilson catapulted from third string to starter in one camp, and general manager David Caldwell was an executive on the Falcons when they drafted and started Matt Ryan and a scout for the Colts when they made Peyton Manning their starter right away. Maybe it's not fair to put Bortles in the same class as Wilson, Ryan and Manning, but the team has enough brains to know that if the rookie is legit they might as well start him.

Who's backing up Gerhart? The Jaguars asked for Denard Robinson to put on weight this offseason and he has. But the Jags also have Jordan Todman coming back and drafted a nice runner in Storm Johnson, who played with Bortles at Central Florida. This competition should not only bear out who's backing up Gerhart but who also can work third downs, which is a role many anticipate the Jaguars filling so that Gerhart's not on the field for every down.

Who's starting at receiver? As intriguing as the rookie wideouts are, neither one is promised anything in terms of work. Cecil Shorts is still the best receiver on the team, Ace Sanders is a good slot option and Mike Brown showed some flashes as an outside receiver last year. The Jaguars are going to use training camp to figure out who will play where.

Bold prediction

There's a lot of skepticism about Gerhart becoming a capable, productive starting running back after being a backup behind Adrian Peterson for four seasons. But the guy is a human bowling ball, knocking over defenders and running with the fierce, violent style that fans love to watch. The coaching staff has stuck behind Gerhart since signing him and envision him as their primary workhorse. Judging by the lack of other backs they brought in, Gerhart should get a great opportunity in Jacksonville. Moreover, the team finally has a back they trust at the goal line -- last year they called just 12 handoffs from inside the 5-yard line out of 35 opportunities. Gerhart will be gone before the middle of Round 5 and get over 1,200 total yards and score at least seven times.

Injury report

Cecil Shorts (calf), probable for start of training camp. ... Clay Harbor (leg), questionable for start of training camp. ... Luke Joeckel (leg), questionable for start of training camp. ... Roy Miller (shoulder), questionable for start of training camp. ... Geno Hayes (knee), probable for start of training camp. ... Mike Brewster (leg), probable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Report: Buccaneers LB Lavonte David will sit out Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, who shares the league lead in tackles with 116, won't be able to add to his total on Sunday. According to the Tampa Bay Times, David will sit out his first game of the season in Week 12 against the Bears with a hamstring injury. David was unable to practice Thursday and Friday because of the issue.

His next chance to return will come Week 13 against Cincinnati.


Report: Bucs bracing for heavy trade interest in Vincent Jackson
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:08 am ET) The Buccaneers are bracing for a myriad of trade inquiries after the season regarding veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson, according to The Tampa Tribune. About a half-dozen teams inquired about Jackson's availability leading up to the trade deadline in October and the number is expected to grow in the offseason.

The Bucs could be willing to move Jackson as Mike Evans continues to develop into a star receiver. Jackson is due to make $9.78 million in 2015.

Jackson leads the team with 94 targets. He is second in receptions (43), receiving yards (561) and receiving touchdowns (two). Evans leads the Bucs in catches (46), receiving yards (794) and touchdowns (seven).


Report: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald unlikely to play Week 12
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Fitzgerald missed practice all week due to a sprained MCL in his left knee. He is listed as questionable. John Brown is listed as Fitzgerald's backup on the team's depth chart.


Jets' Eric Decker admits 'it's hard to watch' former team
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) Jets wide receiver Eric Decker indicated this week it's difficult to watch his former team -- the Broncos -- since they continue to enjoy a successful run, according to the New York Daily News.

"Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to watch them when they’re playing," Decker said. "When they’re clicking on all cylinders, they’re a tough football team. They got the right pieces."

Decker also commented on the success of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was signed in free agency to replace Decker. Sanders has totaled 67 catches for 954 yards and seven touchdowns through 10 games.

"Emmanuel Sanders is playing well in my spot, so to speak," Decker said. "Sometimes, you know, it’s tough to see all the success. But that’s football. It’s going to go in swings. Who says we can’t be a great football team? We got to obviously do some right things to get there, but I’m happy for Peyton and Demaryius (Thomas). I respect them so much. They’re all good friends, so I like to see them do well, but sometimes it’s hard."


Report: Bucs' Sims, Martin will play Week 12 at Chicago
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Buccaneers running back Charles Sims (ankle) and running back Doug Martin (ankle) will play Sunday against the Bears, barring a setback, according to NFL.com National Insider Ian Rapoport. Both players are listed as questionable for Week 12.

Zimmer: Peterson likely to return to Vikings after reinstatement
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:27 am ET) Vikings coach Mike Zimmer believes running back Adrian Peterson will return to the team when he's reinstated by the NFL, according to ESPN. Peterson has been suspended for the rest of the season following a plea deal in his child abuse case and has been told he will not be reconsidered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the league's personal conduct policy.

"I think Adrian wants to be back here," Zimmer said. "You have to ask him. I don't know. But I know he does have an awful lot of people here who have supported him, and I don't know who he's speaking of who doesn't. All I know of Adrian is that he's always been great with me, always done what I've asked him to do, and I kind of go by what I see."

However, in an exclusive interview with USA Today on Thursday, Peterson hinted that he hasn't received support from some within the Vikings organization and playing for a different team is a possibility.

"I know who loves me. The coaches and the players, it's not going to be a problem. I've felt so much support from those guys," Peterson said. "The organization, I know there's people in the organization that support me and there's people that I know internally that has not been supporting me. Maybe it's best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else.

"I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there. But if there's word out that, hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."

Peterson will have his appeal of the suspension heard Dec. 2. If he loses the appeal, he might explore his legal options and seek damages for missing the season, according to NFL.com National Insider Ian Rapoport.


Report: Benching RG3 is 'not out of the question'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Redskins coach Jay Gruden has the authority to bench quarterback Robert Griffin III, if his play isn't good enough, according to NFL.com National Insider Ian Rapoport. A source told Rapoport that benching Griffin is "not out of the question."

The landscape has changed for RG3 and there are no more special rules for him, including his family having all-access to the team's facilities. 

However, the Redskins will try to make it easy on Griffin during Sunday's game against the 49ers. The game plan is for Griffin to make quick throws to the team's playmakers. They want to give Griffin easy reads, so he can get rid of the football quickly. They have tinkered with the game plan all week, according to Rapoport.

Team sources said Gruden received support from upper management on his critical assessment of Griffin's play.

"He's auditioned long enough," Gruden told NFL Network recently. "Clock's ticking. He's gotta play. We'll see. ... We want Robert to excel, we really do. But the last two games, it hasn't been very good, anywhere. We gotta play better around him. And the biggest thing for us as play-callers, and for him, we just have to come together and jell with plays he's comfortable with. That takes time. But we don't have a lot of time."


Report: Vikings RB Ben Tate will be active and have role Week 12
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:00 am ET) Vikings running back Ben Tate will be active and have a role on offense Sunday against the Packers, a source told NFL Network. Tate joined the Vikings just four days ago after being claimed off waivers from the Browns.

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Report: Dolphins RB Lamar Miller will play at Denver
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(9:53 am ET) Dolphins running back Lamar Miller will play Sunday at Denver despite knee and shoulder injuries, a source told The Miami Herald.

Miller practiced in full Wednesday before being a limited participant Thursday and Friday. He is listed as questionable.


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(9:46 am ET) A ruling on running back Ray Rice's reinstatement is expected early this week, according to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. Rice is serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Rice's appeal of an indefinite suspension has been under review for 10 days. The judge's ruling is expected before Thanksgiving, with it possibly happening Monday.

Even if Rice is reinstated, he has been advised teams might shy away from him in the current climate. A return in 2015, however, could still be a possibility.


 
 
 
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