2022 Jacksonville Jaguars – Fantasy Football Deep Dive
The fewer people who remember the Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville, the better. After a very tumultuous season with Meyer as the head coach in 2021, the Jaguars have brought in veteran NFL head coach Doug Pederson to now take the reins of the team in 2022.
Pederson is well-known for being Brett Favre’s backup with the Packers during his playing days. He later transitioned to coaching and was an offensive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles (a team he played for during his playing career) and then became an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. He then was able to parlay that into a head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. He can now get a free drink in any bar in Philadelphia because he led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory in franchise history in just his second season with the team. He was able to take Philadelphia to two straight playoff appearances after that but was then fired during the 2021 offseason.
After taking the season off, Pederson is now back in the NFL and will hopefully be able to turn around this downtrodden franchise, which has not made the playoffs since the 2017 season. His expertise on offense should help bring the most out of the bevy of players they brought in during the offseason and mainstays already on the roster.
This could be an offense to look for some good fantasy production as well. Let’s take a look at the new-look Jaguars led by Pederson and see how this can help your fantasy football roster in this upcoming season.
Pederson employs a version of the West Coast system in his offense and values winning the time of possession battle against his opponents. This means that he’s going to be methodical with his play-calling and will focus on running the ball more. The Jaguars were ranked second-worst in terms of time of possession on offense. During Pederson’s time in Philadelphia as the head coach, his offense finished top-five in time of possession four times in five seasons (this includes finishing first during their Super Bowl run in 2017).
As mentioned earlier, winning the time of possession battle means being able to run the ball. Expect this offense to feature more running plays to alleviate the pressure off second-year quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. It also helps to have a backfield that features James Robinson, Travis Etienne, and Ryquell Armstead as Pederson and the coaching staff will be able to get creative in the run game. In eight seasons in the NFL as an offensive coordinator and head coach, Pederson’s teams have finished top-11 in rushing yards seven times.
So very similar to Lovie Smith’s approach, Pederson likes to use an old-school approach of running the ball and playing good defense. Considering the last time the Jaguars made the playoffs, this is the exact formula they used to get themselves to the AFC Championship game. Pederson is hoping to bring those days back to Duval County and this type of formula can very well put them back on that winning path.
Who Stands to Benefit?
Trevor Lawrence, QB
Something that Pederson is familiar with is playing quarterback at the NFL level. Pederson was also tasked with grooming a young quarterback during his time head coaching the Eagles. That young quarterback was Carson Wentz and he was well on his way to a possible MVP season in just his second year in the NFL, if it weren’t for a torn ACL in Week 14.
What we can expect Pederson to do is something similar to what he did with former quarterbacks he worked with like Alex Smith, Wentz, and Nick Foles. Pederson focused on the West Coast aspect and asked his quarterback to build up confidence during games with short quick passes. This eventually allowed his quarterbacks to hit the deep ball every so often and just overall adjust on the fly based on what the defense was doing.
With Lawrence, he has a good football mind and if he can just build his confidence like this, he can easily find more success in his second year in the NFL. Lawrence is heralded as the future of the franchise for the Jaguars and you have to almost throw out his rookie season because of the environment he was in under Meyer. Bring in a guy like Pederson and expect Lawrence to get back on track to becoming a potential NFL star quarterback.
As far as fantasy football is concerned, you still don’t want to draft Lawrence in any league. He has the potential to become a great fantasy option maybe in 2023, but it really depends on how badly Meyer affected his development in the NFL. Pederson can work his magic for sure and the optimism is certainly high for Lawrence, but he only holds streaming appeal until we see more from him during the season. Lawrence is a great addition to your watch list after your fantasy draft is over.
Travis Etienne, RB
It’s hard to imagine what we would’ve seen from Etienne last season. Yes, the injury kept him off the field, but with the dark cloud that was Urban Meyer’s rule in Jacksonville, who knows if we would have seen the real Etienne. Coming into 2022, the big thing most people want to see is if he can put his Lisfranc injury behind him and have a great NFL career.
Etienne was a dynamic player at Clemson University and was able to showcase his skills as a great dual-threat running back. Pederson has always employed a running-back-by-committee approach to get more life out of his running backs. This also allowed the offense to feature different players to be featured for different plays and game situations.
In a recent interview during Jaguars OTA’s (Organized Team Activities), Etienne had this to say about his role in the offense, “Honestly the game is a game of productivity. If you can produce, the team is always going to have a need for you. It’s just trying to be the best player I can be so I can be on the field at all times.” So this just means that Jacksonville expects to use Etienne wherever he can create a mismatch for the opposing defense.
How does this all relate to fantasy? Well the more he sees the field, the more it brings value to his fantasy point projections. He’s a great runner, but he’ll see more value as being a pass-catcher out of the backfield and also in the slot.
Expect fantasy managers to target Etienne as early as Round 3 and maybe as late as Round 6. His ceiling will have him being taken early, but the change in scheme leads to him being taken potentially in the middle of a draft. All that said, grab him for your roster as an RB2 or FLEX player because he can become the highest-scoring fantasy player in this Jaguars offense.
Zay Jones, WR
Jones is currently the fourth-highest paid wide receiver on the Jaguars behind the likes of Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, and Jamal Agnew. That’s right! He’s behind Agnew who has a career total of one receiving touchdown and 491 receiving yards. Well, salary does not always dictate how good a player is and in this case, Zay Jones can possibly be the most productive receiver in this offense.
Looking at what Zay Jones brings to this offense, it’s the fact that he’s a very sure-handed receiver. After being an afterthought in the Raiders offense for the majority of the season, his usage in the final six games of the season (all starts) leads to good potential upside for fantasy managers.
He had a catch rate of over 70% and totaled 310 receiving yards. This was brought up earlier but if you look at the projected game plan for Lawrence’s development, expect this offense to rely on the short passing game to build confidence early in games. This is where Zay can make his hay and become a PPR monster in fantasy leagues. Also, he can be a red-zone threat as he’s scored seven of his eleven career touchdowns within 25 yards of the end zone.
So he’s probably going to go undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues. This is completely fine, but keep an eye on him because his production will obviously dictate how fast he’ll be scooped off the waiver wire. So he’s not going to be the WR1 or WR2 of your roster, but his dependable production gives him FLEX appeal and WR3 potential. Either way, Zay Jones will get his chance to showcase his skills in a rebuilt wide receiver group and shrewd fantasy managers can take advantage of his dormant talent.
Potential Break-Out Player
Dan Arnold, TE
Arnold is very similar to Zay Jones as far as his career is concerned. He has lots of raw skills and was just never given a window of opportunity to refine and show them off in the league. Closest he came was his time in Arizona where he totaled 438 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. The Cardinals moved on and acquired Zach Ertz, but Arnold moved on as well and has now found a home in Jacksonville.
Even with the signing of Evan Engram in the offseason, Arnold has the better potential to be a go-to option for Lawrence in the offense. Pederson loves to use two tight ends in his offense and Arnold and Engram can become the Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in the Jaguars offense. Arnold shows more speed and athleticism to get open more in this system, compared to a slowly declining Engram. The hope for Jacksonville fans is both can be productive pieces in this new offense, but Arnold will flash more ability during training camp and will secure the starting tight end role.
With the praises being sung about Arnold, this doesn’t mean he should be absolutely drafted in your fantasy league. Yes, the optimism and the opportunity are there, but the twin tight end usage by Pederson could be a real problem for Arnold’s fantasy outlook.
Arnold should be a priority addition after a couple of weeks of the season to see if he really separates himself from Engram as the “lead” tight end. We saw Ertz’s stock drop a bit when Goedert saw more targets in the offense and it could be the same thing here. Still, the potential in this offense is intriguing and Arnold could be a fantasy player that people will be talking about all season long as to why they didn’t think to add them to their respective rosters. Gain the upper hand and have him on your radar from Week 1.
Travis Etienne will finish with over 1,200 scrimmage yards and 10+ scrimmage touchdowns
Surprising to see this proclamation here? Makes sense seeing as how Pederson loves to work a running back-by-committee approach in his offense and that would make this idea a rather ridiculous one. Here are a couple of things that can support this prediction though.
Let’s look at the production Jamaal Charles had in three seasons with Pederson as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs:
|Year||Games||Games Started||Touches||Yards/Touch||Scrimmage Yards||Total Touchdowns|
You can see that Charles was the lead dog in this backfield and had back-to-back seasons with over 1,300 scrimmage yards and double-digit total touchdowns. This coupled with the fact that James Robinson is recovering from a torn Achilles injury he suffered in Week 16 of the 2021 season. Pederson has said he’s optimistic that Robinson will be on track to participate in training camp, but that’s being generous. Best guess is that he’ll miss the start of the season, which is exactly the head start that Etienne can leverage to grab the lion’s share of the touches in this offense. With those touches, Etienne could easily make this prediction ring sound and true and possibly be a steal of your fantasy draft as well.