Going into every fantasy draft you should have a list of players that you are specifically targeting and would be willing to reach a bit for because you think they’re going to exceed expectations. At the same time, at the other end of that spectrum there are going to be guys that are getting drafted ahead of where you think they’re going to end up and are going to avoid unless they start to fall. Finally you have your "sleepers" that you are going to try and impress all your friends with by taking with your last couple of picks or pick up as a free agent and end up being this year’s Arian Foster. This is the Jaguars’ version of the players you should target, watch, and avoid.
Maurice Jones-Drew: This one’s really a no brainer. He has been running the ball successfully for the Jaguars ever since he was drafted back in 2006 and will continue to do so. I think a lot of fantasy pundits have been way too hard on a guy who finished the year with the 5th most rushing yards even though he missed the final two games of the year.
This brings us to his knee which is a concern going into this year but at the same time it is his first major injury during his entire pro and college career. I think you should always look at an entire body of work rather than one sampling from it which is why I still think he’s a first round pick in fantasy drafts. I’ll let you know more specifically where I think he should go in my "Where Should Jones-Drew Be Drafted" series.
Marcedes Lewis: Last year Lewis finally fulfilled his promise as a first round pick. He led all tight ends along with Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski with 10 touchdowns and I think that number should be near, if not at the top again, this year. Last year he was first on the team with 13 red zone targets and second on the team with four was Mike Sims-Walker, who we all know is no longer on the team. He should continue to receive a high amount of targets in the red zone with our number one receiver now being 5’8" Mike Thomas, who received two red zone targets last year.
Lewis also finished the year fourth in fantasy points among tight ends yet Yahoo! only ranks him as the 13th best tight end. That makes it all the better for us though because that means you can wait on drafting your tight end rather than having to spend an early pick and still end up with a premier one.
Mike Thomas: I hate to do it but I am just not sold on Mike Thomas being a number one receiver. He is a perfect fit for being a slot guy and I hope he can return there soon. I’m not sure how he’s going to deal with being the number one guy and having defenses key on him. He is also no longer a guy who you’re going to be able to "watch" and draft with your last pick or pick up as a free agent like you could last year. This year he’s being drafted in the middle rounds and I just think that’s expecting too much from him in his first year as being the primary receiver.
Other Jaguar WRs: Mike Thomas is going to be the only Jacksonville WR rostered in most fantasy leagues to begin with this year while the rest of the Jaguars’ receiving core is going to be left undrafted. That doesn’t mean we have to though. I’m a huge fan of Jason Hill as a late round flier this year and Cecil Shorts as a guy to watch.
Hill left Washington State as the leader in both receiving yards and touchdowns even though he only played three years. His 32 touchdowns are also good to tie for second all-time in the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12). The Jags are now giving him his first real chance to prove that he can be a starter in this league allowing him to line up opposite of Mike Thomas to begin the year. I hope both as a Jaguars’ fan and fantasy player that he takes this opportunity and never looks back.
Shorts on the other hand is a rookie out of a division III school and has a lot to prove but I believe will force his way into being the team’s third wide receiver. Early reports out of training camp are that he has yet to drop a pass and is really showing a lot of promise. Of course it is still very early on but keep looking for his name because there has been nothing but positive things out of him so far.
Rashad Jennings: God forbid Jones-Drew knee doesn’t hold up and he ends up missing a significant amount of time but if it does (knock on wood), Jennings is an instant pick up if the person who drafted Jones-Drew didn’t already have him as a handcuff, which they should.
The Jags are going to give Jennings more carries to try and lessen the burden and chances of re-injury on Jones-Drew. In this role last year Jennings sported an average of 5.46 yards per attempt which was good for third best among all running backs last year with at least 80 rushing attempts. This bodes well for if Jennings is forced into the starting role.
The Jags are built to run the ball and will have to continue to do so even if they lose MoJo for a period of time and I think Jennings could do an admirable job of filling in if need be. He had to do just that twice last year for the two games Jones-Drew missed and had a forgettable first game against the Redskins but then followed it up with a good one against the Texans. In that game he had 108 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown. If the need arises for Jennings to have to start again this year, I think he could build upon that starting experience and would become an instant play in fantasy.