The Jacksonville Jaguars officially open the 2018 campaign this coming Thursday with the start of training camp practices, and one of the few “holes” the team will use the camp sessions and preseason games to shake out, is the pecking order at the wide receiver position.
While the official depth chart will not be released until mid-camp by the team, here is what I feel is the best guestimate as to how the depth chart stands as we start camp, as well as their outlook for making the final 53 and their position in the line-up come kick-off September 9th. I’m going with the assumption the Jaguars keep five receivers.
- Marqise Lee
Roster Outlook: Lee re-signed with the team in March as an unrestricted free agent, thanks to a combination of a thin receiver market and the Jaguars missing on fellow free agent Sammy Watkins. He enters camp as the team’s elder statesman at the position, and finds himself in a new role as the definitive leader of the receiver corps. Health permitting, he will see the field in a variety of spots come opening day, particularly in the slot on third downs.
2. Donte Moncrief
Roster Outlook: The Jaguars signed Moncrief to a one-year “prove it” deal, shortly after announcing the Lee re-signing in March. Moncrief reportedly had a great first impression throughout the team’s off-season workouts, and he will be someone many fans will certainly be watching during camp sessions & preseason. Moncrief is guaranteed $9.6 million this season, so he can go full Jerry Porter and still be on the 53 come September. That aside, expect the team to use him exclusively on the perimeter of the field, and be opposite of Lee on most downs Week 1 when the Jaguars use two receiver sets.
3. Keelan Cole
Roster Outlook: In my opinion, this is where the jockeying for position starts on the depth chart. Cole showed promise late last season and during the playoff run, after being the star of last year’s camp and having an expected up and down start as an undrafted rookie free agent. This season, he faces stiff competition from fellow second-year guy Dede Westbrook and rookie D.J. Chark. I expect him to make the team as no less than this spot on the depth chart, and starting opposite Moncrief on the outside, with Lee in the slot when the team goes to three-wide sets.
4. DJ Chark
Roster Outlook: Chark is likely to be eased in at first through camp, but his deep speed is something the Jaguars simply haven’t had and I can’t imagine a situation, outside of injuries, where he doesn’t make it on the field regularly come Opening Day. His ability as a return man probably spells the end for two of his fellow receivers down the list.
5. Dede Westbrook
Roster Outlook: After spending the first half of 2017 on the injury report and off the field, Westbrook played well in spots for a rookie. Lots of Jags fans have high expectations for Westbrook heading into Year 2, I just need to see more and frankly don’t believe he is better than Chark or Cole. I don’t think Dede is at risk of losing a roster spot at this point, but he’s going to find it hard to make it on the field consistently with the talent in front of him come September.
6. Jaydon Mickens
Roster Outlook: Mickens was the human incarnation of the Jags “Cinderella story” last season, spending a good portion of the second half of 2017 looking like the best return man potentially in the team’s history after being signed off the street as a free agent. The carriage started to turn into a pumpkin late in the season and into the playoffs, however, as Mickens’ contribution was minimal at best. He finds himself entering camp on the bubble, and Chark’s ability as a return man makes Jaydon expendable in my opinion.
7. Rashad Greene
Roster Outlook: Take Mickens’ 2017 season, subtract the winning, and you have the story of Rashad Greene’s impact as a Jaguar. Greene reportedly had a fantastic spring, but I don’t expect him to be on the team when they face the Giants.
8. Shane Wynn
Roster Outlook: If I had to pick someone from this group as my prediction to be a preseason star, it would be Wynn. The 5’6 receiver has good hands and has never looked out of place in camp practices or preseason games, so it wouldn’t shock me if he had a good summer. He is just in a tremendous uphill battle, against more talented and financially vested players.
9-12. DeAndre Smelter, Allen Lazard, Montay Crockett, Dorren Miller
Roster Outlook: Smelter and Lazard are likely practice squad candidates, should they flash this month. For Crockett and Miller, this will be about putting some tape together for scouts for their next NFL opportunity.