2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,191 (27th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 25 (31st)
Offensive Plays: 1,028 (29th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 636 (13th)
Rush Attempts: 392 (30th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 118 (12th)
Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars' most meaningful contributions to the 2021 NFL season came off the football field rather than on it. Former head coach Urban Meyer may have been the only one unaware his team regularly fueled the social media content machines that provided us weekly laughs at the Jaguars' expense. Whether it was Meyer's attempt to reunite all his favorite college players for one last run, the hiring (and then immediate firing) of an assistant coach once dismissed by another program amid accusations of racism, or #LosersGate, Meyer and the Jaguars delivered more content-worthy hijinks in a season than most coaches have in a career. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Meyer accomplished all of this despite being fired after a Week 13 loss to the Rams, robbing us of more than a month's worth of additional content.
The 2022 season should feature a much better version of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team went out and signed Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson in the offseason after he spent 2021 watching from his home. During his five-year stint in Philadelphia, Pederson went 42-37-1 including a 4-2 playoff record. During his team's Super Bowl run in 2017, Pederson's Eagles went 13-3 while ranking third in points per game (28.6) and fourth in points allowed per game (18.4). At that time, Carson Wentz was playing at an MVP-caliber level, throwing for 3,296-33-7 in 13 games before a torn ACL ended his season. Undeterred by the loss of his star quarterback, Pederson and the Eagles would go 2-1 in the final three weeks of the season, with journeyman Nick Foles throwing for 971-6-1 on the way to a Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Pederson's run with Philadelphia would tailspin shortly after that. Back-to-back 9-7 seasons in 2018 and 2019 served as the prelude to a 4-11-1 season in 2020 that ultimately led to his dismissal at the end of the season. During his tenure with the Eagles, Pederson turned every casual fan into an RPO expert -- something that he may look to implement with the Jaguars this season. With a talented backfield and an athletic quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, Pederson could have the parts in place needed to improve an offense whose promise was snuffed out in 2021.
Rookie quarterbacks struggle. It's a tale as old as time. Rookie quarterbacks with a rookie head coach can only amplify those struggles. However, despite the lack of NFL experience between Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer, nobody could have expected the disastrous season Lawrence had in 2021. This of course can be pinned largely on a broken coaching staff, but a year-two leap for Lawrence is imperative in 2022.
Offensively, the Jaguars ranked 28th in EPA per play last season (-0.081) and were 27th in EPA per drop back (-0.063). When it comes to overall quarterback efficiency, you truly couldn't have gotten much worse than Lawrence in 2021.
Once viewed as a generational quarterback prospect, Lawrence finished his rookie campaign with a line of 3641-12-17 while completing 59.6% of his passes. His expected completion percentage of 66.6% ranked 19th in the league while his completion percentage over expected of -4.9 ranked 31st of 32 quarterbacks.
Lawrence saw three of his touchdown passes come in a Week 1 loss to the Texans and managed just three touchdown passes in his team's final five games after Meyer's firing. Admittedly, nothing seems great about Lawrence's rookie season -- it was bad. But an improved coaching staff led by Pederson, whose 54.3% early-down pass rate (sixth) during his time with the Eagles, and a better roster should allow him to tap into the potential scouts and analysts bought into ahead of last season.
Assuming Lawrence makes a leap as a passer in his second season he could turn into a sneaky value for fantasy drafters. Taking a look at first-round quarterback production since 2012, we can see the leap that these high-profile passers make from year one to year two (min. 300 passing attempts).
On average, these first-round signal-callers totaled 263.7 points per season as rookies only to see that number jump to 311 points in their second season. For Lawrence to sniff top-12 QB territory in 2022, he'll need to hover around 20 fantasy points per game (360 points) -- a number that is lofty but could be obtainable after he ranked ninth in expected fantasy points last season (333.4). His rushing upside (73-334-2) only adds to his overall floor.
Lawrence is currently being drafted as a middling QB2 this offseason. The Late Round QB crew would love to make him their QB1 in hopes of a highly-productive second season boosting their team's ceiling -- although it'd be wise to hedge any selection of Lawrence with another quarterback as a precaution.
At wide receiver, the Jaguars completely upset the market when they splurged on the position by giving Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract in free agency. Set to earn top-dollar over the next several seasons, Kirk will be expected to play a key role in turning around Jacksonville's offensive woes. The former Cardinal should be locked into the starting slot role, where he saw 76.4% of his snaps last season -- a career-high. Kirk posted career-highs in both receptions (77) and receiving yards (962) with the Cardinals last season while also scoring five touchdowns. Perhaps being overlooked by the fantasy community, Kirk is being drafted as a low-end WR4. Knowing the value that slot receivers can add to a fantasy roster, Kirk will bring some meaningful games to fantasy managers this season. The question will be whether or not his floor offers anything of substance.
Marvin Jones is set to return for his second season with the Jaguars after going for 73-832-4 on 120 targets. Jones' 120 targets ranked 25th in the league but ranked outside the top-50 in target rate, seeing a target on just 18% of his routes run. Still capable of winning one-on-one, Jones ranked 18th in contested catch rate at 53.3%, hauling in 16-of-30 contested targets on the year. Entering his age-32 season, Jones is certainly on the wrong side of the age curve at this point in his career. Likely to serve as Jacksonville's deep threat, his upside, as is the case with most Jaguars' position players, will be dependent on the team's ability to successfully orchestrate drives. A near risk-free bet at his current ADP, Jones could still offer some weekly upside but may be a matchup-dependent start on a week-to-week basis unless he and the team prove otherwise.
The Jaguars also signed free agent journeyman wide receiver Zay Jones, who saw his best season since 2018 when he went for 47-546-1 with the Raiders. A former second-round draft pick, Jones has offered little upside as a receiver and may have to battle in training camp for significant snaps. For now, third-year player Laviska Shenault (63-619-0) remains on the roster despite trade rumors, and the team also returns former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell (33-434-1) who has struggled to hold roster spots in his own right. We also can't completely rule out Jamal Agnew, who briefly shocked the fantasy world in 2021 when he averaged 10.8 points per game over a six-week stretch before a hip injury ended his season. Of these options, the only player with any legitimate upside is likely Shenault -- who the fantasy community has been unable to quit since the Jaguars made him a second-round pick in 2020. Praised for his physical style of play and ability to make defenders miss dating back to his college days at Colorado, Shenault hasn't quite strung together the season most have hoped for at this point. He's worth a flier late in drafts but may be the odd man out if he doesn't have a strong camp.
Embattled tight end Evan Engram enters the 2022 offseason as the presumed starter after the Jaguars signed him to a one-year, $9 million contract during free agency. As a rookie, Engram burst onto the scene in 2017 when he caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns on 115 targets. An explosive tight end with 4.42 speed, Engram has the tools to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. A myriad of injuries derailed his 2018 and 2019 seasons, but Engram has appeared in 31 of a possible 33 games over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, unreliable hands and a broken Giants offense resulted in down years for the fifth-year vet, with 2021 featuring career-low numbers (46-408-3) almost across the board. New offensive coordinator Press Taylor is hopeful he can exploit mismatches with Engram this season, but he will first need to prove he's a player still deserving of targets. Veteran tight end Dan Arnold (28-324-0) has also shown flashes when given opportunities to produce and could shorten the leash on Engram if he struggles. Engram is nothing more than a mid-TE2 at this point in his career, although a resurgence may still be possible for the soon-to-be 28-year-old vet.
Make no mistake about it, every player would love to suit up Sundays and play for his team. Although 2021 first-rounder Travis Etienne willingly admitted this offseason that last year was the perfect one to miss, after a Lisfranc injury suffered in the team's second preseason game ended his season.
Now reportedly healthy ahead of this season, Etienne will look to show the promise that made him the 25th-overall pick of last year's draft. Looking once again at the RotoViz Prospect Box Score Scout, we can see that Etienne's comps are that of some highly-touted players.
During his days at Clemson, Etienne was the truest of dual threats. In four seasons he rushed for an impressive 4,952 yards and 70 scores while also hauling in 102 receptions for 1,155 yards and another 10 scores. Per PFF.com, Etienne forced a missed tackle on 34.8% of his career touches, an impressively high mark for any player. His ability to make defenders miss and reliable hands as a pass-catcher will make him a nightmare for opposing defenses and a potential stud for fantasy purposes. The benefit of playing alongside former college teammate Trevor Lawrence should only add to the likelihood that he quickly turns into a reliable option in Jacksonville's passing attack. Etienne has the makings of a potential top-12 fantasy back despite playing in an offense on the mend. The good news is we don't have to pay top-12 capital at the running back position to acquire him in drafts, as he's currently going around the RB20 in PPR leagues.
If there's any proof bad offenses don't have to hold down running back fantasy production, look no further than James Robinson. After entering the NFL as a UDFA in 2020, Robinson kicked former 2017 first-rounder Leonard Fournette out of town and turned into one of the league's pure bell cow backs. As a rookie, Robinson rushed for 240-1070-7 while also catching 49 passes for 344 yards and another three scores on an offense that ranked 32nd in points per game (14.9) and 27th in total yards (5,191). Fantasy managers benefitted from the fact Robinson simply never came off the field as a rookie -- his 70% snap share ranked fifth among all running backs while his 79% rushing opportunity share tied for first with Carolina's Christian McCaffrey.
Once again the Jaguars' best back in 2021, Robinson's numbers dipped as he was inexplicably replaced at times for the corpse of Carlos Hyde, or whatever other random flavor Urban Meyer decided he wanted to try in a given week. Robinson rushed for 164-767-8 (4.7 YPC) and still proved serviceable as a receiver (31-222-0). A torn Achilles suffered in Week 16 brought his season to a close and leaves much of his 2022 outlook in question. Robinson is expected to be cleared for a return at some point during training camp, but the effects of Achilles injuries can often linger even after a player is considered "recovered." Currently going as a low-end RB4 in drafts, it's safe to say that the pessimism around Robinson's ability to contribute this season is baked into his ADP. Of course, even once healthy, he still stands to lose significant work to Etienne when both are active.
An interesting handcuff in this backfield may be rookie fifth-rounder Snoop Conner. The Jaguars traded up in the draft to select Conner, who is known for his bruising style of play, especially near the goal line. During his time at Ole Miss, Conner rushed for 304-1580-26 with his best season coming in 2021. Conner never rushed for 1,000 yards and was often a part of a timeshare, but with Etienne and Robinson coming off injuries, there's a chance he finds his way into meaningful touches as a rookie. He can be kept off draft boards for now, but he's a name worth remembering throughout the season should either incumbent miss time.
PointsBet Over/Under: 6.5
For a team that won just three games in 2021, the folks over at PointsBet have the Jaguars nearly doubling their wins in 2022. It's an optimistic outlook for a team that has literally held the No. 1 overall pick in each of the last two drafts. Jacksonville used this year's top pick to bolster its defensive front with the selection of Georgia EDGE Travon Walker and later added Utah LB Devin Lloyd with the 27th overall pick. All but two of Jacksonville's seven draft picks went to the defensive side of the ball, which could help a team that ranked 28th in points allowed per game (26.9) and 20th in yards allowed (6,002) last season. Assuming an upward trend on both sides of the ball, Jacksonville stands to improve on last year's efforts regardless. According to Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars draw the 12th-easiest schedule this year, aided by two matchups against the Texans and the Jets, Lions, and Giants also making an appearance. They still have to face the AFC West gauntlet and draw tough matchups against the Ravens, Cowboys and Eagles. I'm willing to bank on the Jaguars as an improved team, but they're likely still a year away from flirting with seven or more wins.