If I told you that you could have a Heisman trophy finalist at a supreme discount, is that something you might be interested in?
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Dede Westbrook with the 110th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite being a 4th round pick, Westbrook is one of the more talented rookies entering the 2017 season. He transferred to Oklahoma from JUCO football powerhouse Blinn College. During his senior campaign as a Sooner, Westbrook hauled in 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns. In addition to being a unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection, All-American, and Big 12 Player of the Year, Westbrook was also a Heisman trophy finalist and the 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner, given to the top wide receiver in the country. Some notable recent Biletnikoff winners include Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Golden Tate, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, and Justin Blackmon. Drafted by Jacksonville in 2012, Blackmon is currently out of the league due to off-field issues. The “off-field” issues are also where some of the concerns set in for Westbrook.
Westbrook’s stock plummeted throughout the draft process, so much so that he was being labeled as undraftable. Reports surfaced that he had multiple domestic violence-related arrests. In addition to these allegations, NFL scouts expressed concern about Westbrook’s pre-draft preparation and commitment to the process. Todd McShay reported that one NFL team kicked Westbrook out of their 15-minute Scouting Combine interview. When asked to comment, the rookie stated: “At the end of the day that’s up to me, and I’ve overcome adversity many times in my life and it’s just another chance for me to overcome it.” Only time will tell. For now, let’s take a look at what prompted Jacksonville to take a chance on this talented prospect.Pro Day. Blazing speed is not Westbrook’s only strength, however; he is expected to bring a variety of tools with him to Jacksonville. Westbrook’s ability to get to top speed faster than most, explosiveness out of breaks and cuts, and ability to run the entire route tree make him an attractive prospect. He also has a knack for making defenders miss, as he forced 20 missed tackles last season. Westbrook does an excellent job of setting up his routes with double moves and head fakes, earning praise from former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson. Pro Football Focus scouts have also noted his strong hands, evidenced by just 4 drops on 84 catchable throws in 2016. His excellent body control and willingness to initiate contact demonstrate his ability to play much bigger than he is. While there is plenty of optimism for his ability, there are some aspects of his game which remain lacking.
In addition to off-field concerns, one criticism noted by scouts is Westbrook’s lack of a “my ball” mentality. This translates into an inability to win jump balls and maintain position at the catch point. This may be one area that will be exposed by NFL defenders due to Westbrook’s size. PFF scouts have also noted that his lack of experience against press coverage could limit his effectiveness early on. This, in addition to durability concerns, could be problematic in the NFL given the physical nature of today’s defensive backs. For fantasy purposes, there is also some cause for concern over the situation Westbrook is entering given Jacksonville’s new “ball control” identity.
Jaguar On The Prowl
The Jaguars’ hiring of Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin and new Head Coach Doug Marrone signified the new direction of the team, beginning with their offseason signings. Jacksonville started by adding two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Branden Albert and fullback Tommy Bohanon. They continued to go all-in on the running game in the draft, selecting power running back Leonard Fournette with their 1st round pick, using their 2nd round selection on Alabama’s offensive guard/tackle Cam Robinson, and drafting fullback Marquez Williams in the 7th round. After not rostering a fullback during the past two years, Jacksonville will head into the 2017 season with two.
Jacksonville also retains a strong contingent of receivers. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee will be atop the receiving depth chart to begin the season. The Jaguars have received plenty of production from this group since they entered the league and Westbrook will likely begin the season as the team’s fourth wide receiver. The Jaguars, who have said publicly they view Westbrook in the “Tyreek Hill role,” will likely try to get him on the field in a variety of ways, including in the slot, special packages, and the return game. While Westbrook could serve a useful role for Jacksonville this season, the same cannot be said for your fantasy team. His expected usage will not garner him sufficient touches to be an immediate fantasy impact. Westbrook does, however, present as an interesting option in dynasty formats.
Though substantial efforts were made to improve this team immediately, it could be a very different team just one year from now. Questions remain about the consistency and health of Jacksonville’s current receivers, and their quarterback situation remains unstable. Future changes at both positions are possible. Westbrook’s unique skillset and run after the catch ability makes him a useful offensive weapon for any quarterback. He can be a fantasy difference-maker in the right situation, that situation does not, however, appear to be now.
For redraft players, I would recommend staying away from Westbrook unless things change drastically with Jacksonville’s current wide receivers. In dynasty leagues, he is worth a pick; while there is known risk that comes with drafting him, the rewards could be huge. If I have an established group of receivers, I would be pretty comfortable taking a chance on Westbrook in the mid-third round of dynasty drafts. His immense talent alone is enough to give fantasy players a reasonable level of comfort.
Rankings & Other Great Reads
- Outside of Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell there is some question marks as who should be ranked as the next top fantasy RB this season. Get caught up with the 8 Top Fantasy Running Backs for 2017 outside of the big three names
- Check out Jody Smith’s 2017 Dynasty Rookie Rankings. Get a full recap of all of the top players you should target in the first round of your rookie dynasty draft and highlight some gems you should stash for later
- Stay up to date with Gridiron Experts NFL Depth Charts for 2017. We are constantly updating projected team rosters to help you narrow down which players to draft and when
- Rookie Profile articles: Learn more about WR Corey Davis from the Titans, John Ross the newest Bengal Wide Receiver or the Buc’s newest weapon O.J Howard.