QB David Garrard
Garrard has been a model of consistency as a fantasy quarterback, posting point-per-game averages of 18.5, 17.8, 18.1, and 20.5 over the past four years. In 2010, he posted career highs in completion percentage (64.5 percent), touchdown passes (23), and rushing touchdowns (5). The problem is that he’s a solid yet unspectacular quarterback who has a nasty habit of throwing interceptions at key moments. And it doesn’t help that the team’s depth chart at wide receiver is looking a little thin with the departure of Mike Sims-Walker, who, although not very good in 2010, was still the team’s top threat at the position. The use of a first-round pick on Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert made it clear that Jacksonville does not envision Garrard as someone who can take them into a deep playoff run. So the issue is whether you think the Jaguars will remain in playoff contention, which would keep Gabbert planted on the bench. Don’t bank on it. That means you can’t bank on Garrard as your fantasy backup.
QB Blaine Gabbert
Recognizing David Garrard’s limitations, the Jaguars used their first-round pick to select Gabbert. The book on Gabbert coming out of college was that he is an athletic quarterback with a solid arm who struggled when under pressure and when forced to throw out of the pocket. Look for him to sit for most of the 2011 season, with a small number of starts possible near season’s end if the Jaguars are out of playoff contention. He’s not recommended for redraft leagues, but he’s a good option in dynasty formats.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Despite dealing with a lingering knee injury last season and watching Rashad Jennings develop into a legitimate backup, MJD remained productive, gaining 1,323 yards on the ground to go along with 317 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns. It’s hard to complain about 14.7 fantasy points per game, but that represented a drop-off from his first full season as a starter in 2009 when he averaged 17.0 points per game. The drop-off was the result of both his missing two games with injuries and Jennings’ occasional short-yardage work. The issue for MJD in 2011 will be his recovery from offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He apparently was cleared to begin running in mid-June, but he has stated that he has been running since early April. The mixed signals are a bit of a red flag. If healthy, he’s a lock to finish in the top ten at running back, so monitor his injury status and adjust accordingly.
RB Rashad Jennings
After barely seeing the field as a rookie, Jennings earned a decent amount of playing time in 2010 while subbing in for Maurice Jones-Drew. His touches doubled from 55 to 110 and he made the most of them, averaging 7.1 fantasy points per game on 459 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and 223 receiving yards. Better yet, with MJD coming off a knee injury, the Jaguars are concerned about his workload and have indicated that they plan to increase Jennings’ touches even more in 2011. If that happens, Jennings could be a decent flex option in 12- and 14-team leagues that use that position. One thing is for certain: Jennings is a must-have handcuff for MJD owners given his production and MJD’s knee issues. It was also nice to see that Jennings can be productive in the starting lineup in his two starts in Weeks 16 and 17, where he posted 140 rushing yards, 63 receiving yards, and a touchdown.
WR Mike Thomas
With Jacksonville’s decision not to retain Mike Sims-Walker, Thomas becomes their de facto, No. 1 wide receiver. That isn’t to say that he’s a typical No. 1 receiver, but he is Jacksonville’s top option. Thomas has been productive during his first two years in the league, improving on his rookie stats of 48 receptions for 453 yards and a touchdown to 66 catches for 820 yards and four scores in 2010. Entering his third year, his career trajectory seems to indicate that a breakout season is coming. And it is possible, but it’s not likely. Thomas is on the smallish side at 5’8” and 198 pounds, and while he is shifty, he doesn’t have tremendous deep speed, he isn’t a great option in the red zone, and he has averaged a modest 11.2 yards per reception over his career. With more targets, Thomas should produce more, but he doesn’t have the talent to consistently beat double coverage, so he could be inconsistent. Consider him a WR3 and move him up a few notches in PPR leagues. Be excited but not too excited.
WR Jason Hill
How sad is the Jaguars’ situation at wide receiver? It’s so sad that Hill is projected to open the season as a starter based on his 2010 year-end production in which he caught 10 passes for 233 yards over the final four games. Prior to that, Hill had a total of 42 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns since entering the league in 2007. I guess averaging 166 receiving yards a season gets you a spot in Jacksonville’s starting lineup. I know it doesn’t get you a spot in my fantasy team’s starting lineup. In fact, it won’t even come close to getting you a roster spot.
WR Jarett Dillard
The Jaguars liked Dillard coming out of Rice and used a fifth-round pick on him in the 2009 draft. He struggled as a rookie, catching just six passes for 106 yards before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. He then missed all of 2010 with a stress fracture in one of his toes. Remarkably, he has a chance to produce in Jacksonville in 2011 because the Jaguars’ wide receiver depth chart is the worst in the league. Monitor him in training camp. There’s an outside chance he earns a starting job—and possibly a spot on your fantasy roster as a late-round draft pick (as in last-round draft pick).
WR Tiquan Underwood
He’s done virtually nothing in two years, failing to catch a pass in his rookie season and then making a mere eight receptions last year. If he were on any other team, I could stop writing now because he wouldn’t even have a shot at making the roster. But he’s a Jaguar, and their top two receivers are Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, so I need to add some more commentary on him. Is that enough? Can I stop now? Maybe he wins a starting spot over Hill. If he does, maybe he’s worth the last pick in your draft. Done.
TE Marcedes Lewis
There were a number of tight ends who put up surprisingly solid production in 2010, from the pair of rookies in New England (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), to Jacob Tamme replacing Dallas Clark with the Colts, to Ben Watson having a career season in his first year with Cleveland. However, the biggest surprise was Lewis, who came out of nowhere to finish as the third-ranked fantasy tight end in his fifth season in the league. Entering 2010, he had career highs of 41 receptions, 589 yards, and two touchdowns (that’s right, two!). He blew those numbers away by catching 58 passes for 710 yards and ten touchdowns. Can he do it again in 2011? With Mike Sims-Walker out of the picture and the current starters at wide receiver being Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, Lewis will get plenty of targets. However, banking on another ten touchdowns is unrealistic. While he should remain a top-ten fantasy tight end, another top-three finish isn’t in the cards.