What does the new OC, Jay Gruden, bring to the Jaguars?
The Jaguars have had only one winning season (2017) in twelve seasons. This offseason they signed Jay Gruden as Offensive Coordinator to try to remedy their offensive woes. Unfortunately, Jay Gruden isn’t bringing a resume of winning seasons with him either. In five and a half seasons as the Skins head coach, Jay Gruden only had one winning season at it was only a 9 – 7 season. But, what he does bring is three seasons of above-average offensive production in both points scored and yardage. The bigger question is whether or not these seasons were Gruden or his young OC (perhaps you’ve heard of him, Sean McVay) creating the offensive production.
What can we expect from Jay Gruden’s offense?
Over the past four years, Gruden has posted a run/pass ratio just shy of 60:40 with wide receivers taking about 60% of the targets. The running backs in Gruden’s system have been gaining a lot of targets over Gruden’s last three years going from an average around 15% of the teams’ targets to over 20% each of the past three years. The tight end position has been huge for Gruden, except for 2019, Jay Gruden has put 23-26% of the team’s targets to the tight end position. In 2019, Jermey Sprinkle lead the tight end group in Washington and is a probable reason why the tight end targets dipped to 15%.
Fantasy Positional Impact
Jay Gruden has had great success with Kirk Cousins. In Cousins’ last three years with Gruden, Cousins finished no worse than QB8 on the year with two top-6 finishes. Gruden inherits Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville. Minshew is raw but he is exciting! He was able to maintain a completion percentage over 60% through 14 games accumulating over 3000 yards and 33 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions, plus he tossed in an additional 344 yards on the ground. The mustached QB finished as the QB20 last year and I could see him pushing for a top-12 QB finish but would be more confident with him as a streaming option in one-quarterback leagues or as my second QB in a Superflex league.
Leonard Fournette is a commonly underrated fantasy running back despite two top-10 RB finishes in the past three years. There is definitely some concern that Fournette is going to lose some volume in the passing game. He had over 100 targets and the Jags signed Chris Thompson. Thompson is a pass-catching specialist that Gruden has used effectively during his tenure in Maryland. The third RB on the roster is sophomore Ryquell Armstead. Although Armstead never demanded consistent work behind Fournette he did show some flashes running the ball and decent chops in the receiving game.
Fournette is a steal if he drops to the third or fourth round. Thompson and Armstead are super late dart throws or handcuffs and potential waiver wire claims.
DJ Chark has been a twitter darling so far this offseason but I am going to pump the brakes here. It is not because I don’t like Chark or his talent. It is because his 17th WR finish last year was the best finish a wideout has had under Head Coach Doug Marrone. Furthermore, Gruden hasn’t produced a top-20 WR since AJ Green when Gruden was an OC in Cincy. DeDe Westbrook has an interesting set of outcomes for 2020. Westbrook has back to back 100+ targets and 66 reception seasons. Gruden did have one season with two WRs in the top30 (2016: Pierre Garcon – 24th and Jamison Crowder – 26th). To add one more variable to the equation, the Jags spent a second-round pick on the swiss army knife Laviska Shenault. Shenault could fit into a slot role or even tight end were he played some snaps at Colorado (more about Tight Ends next).
Chark is by far the safest option in this WR room but there is some area for concern. Westbrook and Shenault are depth pieces that many people in redraft leagues will acquire from the waiver wire.
Here is where things get really interesting because Gruden has had talented tight ends, Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, for five of the past six years in Washington. Two of theses seasons produced top-10 TE numbers and all but one were top-16. Doug Marrone, as Head Coach of the Jaguars, hasn’t produced a top-24 TE season over the past four years. Gruden has only had one season in his time in Washington with less than 23% of targets to the TE position whereas Marrone’s highest percentage of targets to the tight end position was 20.1% in 2016 (last year it was an abysmal 13.9%). Which coaches’ tendency continues will make one of these tight ends valuable or all of them worthless for fantasy football.
Tyler Eifert is positioned as the lead TE for 2020 despite James O’Shaughnessy being the lead TE for the past two years. Eifert could end up as a high-end TE2 but his health and age raise serious concerns. Josh Oliver is an interesting Dynasty stash and could very easily end up a waiver wire gem if Gruden returns to tossing 20+% of the teams’ targets to TE. And just for fun, there has been some talk about Shenault playing TE as he did in college. Although I like Josh Oliver in dynasty, I am most likely avoiding the Jags TE room at all costs. Eifert does hold a little value in redraft leagues as a high-risk/decent-reward prospect.
Overall, I think the Jags will improve on offense in 2020 but minimally at best. Minshew is a decent grab as a backup or QB2. Fournette should be a low-end RB1. Chark will hopefully maintain his WR2 status but I could see him not reaching his WR17th finish again in 2020. I do believe a TE from the Jags emerges to be a decent streaming option however I’d prefer to roll the dice elsewhere.
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