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 Matt Waldman
Hurns 2016 ADP is lower than his 2015 WR19 production should merit. A valid reason for some of the declining ADP is the expectation that Hurns won't repeat his double-digit touchdown total. The reasoning includes arguments that Allen Robinson's place as the primary option Jacksonville, Julius Thomas healthy and hopefully acclimated to the Jaguars' offense, and lingering doubts that Blake Bortles can support three highly productive passing game weapons year after year. But should a potential touchdown regression for Hurns result in a drop in ADP of two-and-a-half rounds?
If 2016 Hurns earns only half of his 2015 scores, his production drops to the range of Travis Benjamin's 2015 production. Benjamin, now joining Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Steve Johnson, has a 2016 ADP of 32. Rivers has a better track record than Bortles, which explains some of the difference for Benjamin's ADP. Hurns is arguably more versatile in the middle of the field and offers Bortles an effective vertical threat on the perimeter despite the fact that last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Allen Robinson was No.1 among receivers in targets of passes of at least 20 yards and more yards gained on deep throws than any receiver since 2007.
And saying Hurns was effective as a deep threat is an understatement. Hurns was seventh in the NFL last year with 13 catches of 20 or more yards, eighth in the league in yards from deep catches (495) and fifth in the league with 5 scores from deep passes. Hurns was a top-10 vertical threat in the NFL last year as the “possession” receiver in the Jaguars' offense, cut his dropped passes rate to 1.9% last year, and earned his production while playing most of the season with a sports hernia. Are you kidding me?
I have more concerns that Julius Thomas as a bigger product of the Broncos' system and Peyton Manning than I do about Hurns' talent. The Seahawks targeted Thomas as a weak link in the passing offense when scouting Denver's unit in Super Bowl XLIX. Thomas isn't a bad player but Seattle saw that he doesn't respond well to physical play. Seattle forced Manning to funnel the ball to the tight end early where the defense had the best opportunity to limit big plays and harass Thomas into mistakes.
So excuse me if I'm not buying the drop in ADP relative to his 2015 production as a reflection of TD regression, Julius Thomas, or the caliber of his hands. Maybe I'd buy it if Hurns' production came in boom-bust fashion. The reality is that Hurns had nine games with at least 60 yards receiving. He only had four games where he saw a season-low, four targets and in those games he had one sub-par fantasy outing. The real reason people are low on Hurns is the perception that he's a fluke due to his UDFA status. Hurns is a complete receiver and both the film and data support it.
Low Side by Stephen Holloway
Allen Hurns production greatly increased in his second NFL season, but can that improvement be sustained? He improved his catch rate from 52.5% to 61.0%. He increased his yardage per reception from 13.3 yards to 16.1 yards. His touchdowns increased from 6 to 10 and from 11.7% of his receptions to 15.6%. Maintaining the touchdown rate or the yardage per reception rate will be difficult, particularly if the number of passing attempts slips as projected by many.
The Jaguars passing attempts increased last season by 53 passes (9.6% increase). There are a couple of reasons to expect fewer pass attempts this year. The Jaguars running game was decimated by injuries last year. Their running backs totaled only 1,117 rushing yards on 295 attempts (3.7 ypc) and scored only 4 total touchdowns. T. J. Yeldon was their leading rusher and he had only 182 carries in 12 games. Denard Robinson was used the second most and he had only 67 rushes in 13 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. Ivory is an excellent red zone rusher who scored 15 total touchdowns over his last two seasons with the Jets. The Ivory/Yeldon combo should greatly improve the Jaguar's production in the run game this season.
The Jaguars added significant play makers to their defense in the off-season and their defense is expected to be more effective. The improved defense should put their offense in better situations and give the Jaguars an improved chance to lead or at least be in close games. This along with the improved run game will allow them to play conservatively more often leading to more balance in their play calling.
The Jaguars increased their passing touchdowns from 14 in 2014 all the way to 35 last year. Let's put it another way, they climbed from 31st in 2014 to 3rd last year, only one off the NFL high. Regression to the mean is a very high probability for passing touchdowns. 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.
Even with all these considerations, my expectations for Hurns are not extremely low. His overall rank in ppr scoring leagues by Footballguys.com staffers is WR33, while my personal ranking is WR35. His current ADP is WR31 so this is not a significant low side ranking, more an expectation of reduced production from a year ago.