The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by John Mamula
Would you believe me if I told you that you could get value by drafting last season's Top 4 quarterback? Blake Bortles current average draft position is the eight quarterback off the board even though he finished last season as the 4th ranked fantasy quarterback. There is no denying that Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers are in a quarterback class of their own. But there are question marks with all of the quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady) in the next tier.
Many are calling for regression from Bortles this season. That will not be the case as he is entering his third season with a solid core of offensive talent around him. Allen Robinson is on the verge of becoming a superstar in the league. Allen Hurns has steadily increased his receptions, yardage, and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Both of these WRs are entering their third season, when many WRs take their game to the next level. Bortles will have a healthy Julius Thomas and Chris Ivory will help to round out the offense. Bortles has plenty of room to improve on last season's 31st ranked 58.6% completion rate.
But wait, the Jaguars defense will be better this season and Bortles won't have to play from behind and will thus regress, right? Every season there are defenses that project to be strong on paper but often that does not transition over to the field. The Jaguars have allowed over 412 points (25.7 PPG) in each of the past four seasons. Even with improvement, the Jaguars will still be a below average NFL defense.
The Jaguars will play the NFC North and AFC West this season. Two divisions that will provide plenty of offensive matchups. In a recent FFPC mock draft that I participated in, Bortles was the 9th quarterback selected in the 10th round! If you plan on holding off drafting a quarterback this season, Bortles has the talent and surrounding cast to provide another Top 5 quarterback ranking.
Low Side by Stephen Holloway
Blake Bortles improved tremendously regarding fantasy performance from his rookie season when he ranked as QB24 in 14 games to QB4 in his second season. He was probably a key contributor to those fantasy owners that drafted him late. Where he should be ranked this season is primarily based on whether he can at least come close to last year's production. There are several considerations that cast doubt that he can. Since he is currently being drafted as QB8, these considerations should give drafters to pause to take him that early.
The Jaguars added significant play makers to their defense in the off-season and their defense is expected to be much better. If they are indeed improved, there will be significant less need for the offense to play catch up and a call for more balance with improved running.
Bortles' production rose dramatically in pass attempts. Jacksonville ranked 16th in pass attempts his rookie season in 2014 and 12th a year ago. There are a couple of reasons to expect fewer pass attempts this year. The Jaguars running game was decimated by injuries last year. T. J. Yeldon was their leading rusher with only 182 carries and he missed four games. Denard Robinson was used the second most and he had only 67 rushes and missed three games. No other running back even appeared in half their games. This year, Yeldon should be more comfortable in his second season and the team added Chris Ivory, giving him a 5-year $32-million contract with $10 million guaranteed. Those two should together greatly enhance the team's ability to run the ball.
The Jaguars ranked 31st in 2014 in passing yards and jumped all the way to 10th a year ago. The expected decrease in attempts will also decrease the passing yards, possibly even more than indicated by the decreased attempts. Bortles averaged 6.12 YPA as a rookie and increased that to 7.31 last year. His top two receivers Allen Robinson averaged 17.5 YPC and Allen Hurns 16.1. Robinson increased his yards per catch by over 6 yards compared to his rookie season and Hurns average jumped almost 3. The phrase regression to the mean seems applicable to Bortles, Robinson and Hurns related to yards per play.
Bortles' greatest source of passing production increase was in passing touchdowns. Bortles threw for 11 touchdowns as a rookie and the team had 15 total, ranking 31st in the NFL. Last year, Bortles threw for 35 touchdowns - third in the NFL. Regression to the mean is even a greater probability here. Lastly, even while all these passing statistics were climbing, Bortles completed a slightly worse percentage of his passes than in his rookie season. In his two seasons, he has averaged 58.7% completion percentage. He needs more attempts and an outlier touchdown ratio to produce to his current ADP.