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Blake Bortles Spotlight 2017

Devin Knotts takes a closer look at Blake Bortles' fantasy prospect for 2017.

Pro:

  • Bortles be drafted at an extreme discount compared to where he was drafted last season.
  • The Jaguars signed Branden Albert and drafted Cam Robinson to improve the offensive line.
  • Bortles ranked 8th in the NFL last season with five 300+ yard passing games and 9th in overall fantasy points
  • Bortles does not have to learn another new system as Nathanial Hackett will remain as offensive coordinator and showed improvements to the offense during the nine games he was the offensive coordinator in 2016.
  • The Jaguars picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option solidifying his role as the starting quarterback in Jacksonville and removing any potential pressure that may have come along with being in a free agent year.

Con:

  • Interception rate increased in 2016 compared to Bortles’ 2015 season.
  • Bortles was wildly inconsistent last season
  • The Jaguars coaching staff has guaranteed that Blake Bortles’ passing attempts will decrease this season which a lot of his fantasy value was predicated based on his volume of passing attempts.
  • The Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette in the offseason which gives them a big upgrade over the committee that the Jaguars had last season and will take away from some of Bortles’ touchdown upside.

Perception vs Reality

As you are reading this, ask yourself where Blake Bortles finished in fantasy scoring amongst quarterbacks in 2016. Most would say that based on the perception of Bortles having a horrendous season as a real quarterback that he was probably in the bottom half of the league. Even fewer would believe that Bortles finished ninth overall, less than one point behind Phillip Rivers, and ahead of Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, and Andy Dalton.  Looking at where Bortles two-year average fantasy finish, he ranks tied for third with Russell Wilson, and he is fourth in total points over the two-year span. Bortles is the name on this list that stands out the most considering the perception of him is that he is a quarterback who should not be taken in the top 20 quarterbacks heading into 2017.

Name

2015 Points

2015 Rank

2016 Points

2016 Rank

Total Points

Average Two-Year Fantasy Rank

Two-Year Fantasy Point Rank

Aaron Rodgers GB

347.5

10

435.3

1

782.75

5.5

1

Drew Brees NO

367.9

6

407.4

2

775.3

4

2

Cam Newton CAR

445.5

1

303.4

17

748.8

9

3

Blake Bortles JAX

386.4

4

333.2

9

719.55

6.5

4

Kirk Cousins WAS

348.1

9

367.5

5

715.55

7

5

Russell Wilson SEA

390.6

3

323.3

10

713.85

6.5

6

Matt Ryan ATL

303.9

18

403.9

3

707.75

10.5

7

Tom Brady NE

402.4

2

294.1

20

696.5

11

8

Matthew Stafford DET

349.4

8

335.1

7

684.45

7.5

9

Philip Rivers SD

345.5

11

334

8

679.45

9.5

10

Carson Palmer ARI

371.0

5

305.5

16

676.4

10.5

11

Jameis Winston TB

332.5

13

321.3

11

653.8

12

12

The Tale of Two Schedules

Looking at the Jaguars schedule last season, they had four games against the three best passing defenses in the league last year (Houston twice, Minnesota and Denver). The Jaguars will not have to face Minnesota or Denver next year, and in free agency, they made sure that they would not be facing the same Houston team as they signed their best cornerbacks on Houston in A.J. Bouye. Looking at last seasons numbers, and Blake Bortles was a different quarterback when he faced a bottom half pass defense compared to a top half pass defense, as he averaged 80 yards more passing, a half a touchdown more per game, and a quarter less interception per game. What this shows is that Bortles can be a very good quarterback when he is in a good matchup, and someone you want to avoid in a poor matchup. Bortles is one of the most volatile quarterbacks in the NFL as he had as many 320+ yard passing games as he did under 200-yard passing games, but can be extremely valuable when he is in a good matchup.

  Yards per Game Touchdowns per Game Interception per Game
Top 16 Pass Defense 198 1.14 1.14
Bottom 16 Pass Defense 279.9 1.67 0.89

The Running Threat

There is going to be a lot of speculation heading into this season that the Bills will be moving to a run based offense due to the drafting of Leonard Fournette and Doug Marrone coming in as the head coach. Part of this is true and undeniable that the Jaguars will run the ball more than they have over the last two seasons as they have gone on record stating they will not throw as much as last year, but looking into the historical numbers shows that it may not be as big of a drop off as we may think. Looking at the last two seasons and a significant number of passing attempts have come in the third and fourth quarter due to the team falling behind and being forced to throw. This will still likely be the case as the expectation is that the Jaguars will be a below average football team this season.

Quarter 2016 Pass Attempts
1 115
2 160
3 148
4 202

The best comparable that we have with Doug Marrone not using a mobile quarterback or a rookie quarterback (E.J. Manuel or Thaddeus Lewis) was Kyle Orton. In 2014, the Bills brought in Kyle Orton and by Week 5 Orton had taken over the starting job in Buffalo.  In 12 games, Orton had a career year under Doug Marrone when adjusting the stats for 16 games as shown below would have thrown for 596 times. In Marrone’s two games as a head coach last season, Bortles threw the ball for 38.5 per game which equates to 616 passing attempts. This is the ballpark we can expect Bortles to throw this upcoming season is somewhere in the 595-615 range which is still in the top 10 in the league but down from the 626 attempts from last season.

  Pass Attempts Pass Yards Pass Touchdowns
Actual Stats (12 Games) 447 3,018 18
Extrapolated Stats (16 games) 596 4,024 24

PROJECTIONS

PROJECTOR G CMP ATT YD TD INT RSH YD TD FumL
DODDS 16 315 540 3596 21 15 57 319 2 3
HENRY 16 345 585 3950 24 16 53 315 2 4
WOOD 15 325 551 3630 24 18 55 300 2 4
TREMBLAY 16 339 581 3794 21 15 67 375 3 1

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

Matt Waldman sees Blake Bortles as a high-risk player who could return to 2015 form with a strong offseason.

“The fact that Tom Coughlin picked up Bortles fifth-year option tells me that he's convinced that Bortles has spent the offseason working rather than hitting the nightlife. The offensive line has been bad but Bortles delivered top-5 fantasy production with it in 2015 so I'm convinced the work ethic was the difference between his 2015 and 2016 seasons. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are still capable of WR1-WR2 fantasy production and Marqise Lee showed signs of emerging into the talent many expected from him. Dede Westbrook offers underrated and compelling depth. It's risky if the competent version of Bortles doesn't return or gets hurt, but the weapons are there in a division with two weak defenses, too.”

Rotoworld’s Evan Silva sees Blake Bortles as a risky draft pick.

“The Jaguars’ coaching staff has gone as far as to publicly “guarantee” Blake Bortles’ pass attempts will drop this season, fully expected based on the organization's offseason decisions. Hiring no-nonsense, old-school Tom Coughlin to oversee football operations, using the No. 4 overall pick on power back Leonard Fournette, and sinking big money into CB A.J. Bouye, DE Calais Campbell, and SS Barry Church signifies a run-first, defense-oriented philosophy after Jacksonville finished the last two seasons 12th and 4th in the NFL in pass attempts, and 30th and 24th in runs. Bortles devolved into a shot-confidence train wreck in 2016, forcing the NFL’s second-highest rate of passes into tight coverage (Next Gen Stats) while finishing dead last in Pro Football Focus’ deep-ball passer rating and deep-ball accuracy after placing 5th and 7th, respectively, in those metrics the year before. In November, Bortles admitted to CBS’ Rich Gannon that he’s “not a natural thrower of the football.” Recalled Gannon, “I’ve never heard a quarterback say that at any level.” Bortles still piled up enough garbage-time stats to finish as a top-ten fantasy passer for the second straight year. In his career, Bortles has thrown seven first-quarter touchdown passes. He has thrown 45 TDs in the second half, including 29 in the fourth quarter. Despite his relative to-date fantasy success, Bortles’ almost certain loss of garbage-time opportunities and overall volume and potentially shaky job security render him a low-floor fantasy investment, albeit interestingly cheap at his QB21 ADP.”

Conclusion:

Heading into this season, Bortles’ upside is much higher than where he is currently being drafted. He is a high upside second quarterback who can easily be your starter when the matchup is a favorable one. At the value that you are able to get him, you can wait on Bortles much longer than you can other quarterbacks and while there is risk Bortles has finished in the top 10 of quarterbacks in each of the last two seasons making him a great high reward with minimal risk considering where you are drafting him. If you are in a two quarterback league, and you take a highly volatile quarterback as your first quarterback you may want to consider a different option as Bortles has shown that he has a few games per season where he is absolutely horrendous which can really hurt your team.