The 2018 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season and/or beyond. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the final standings.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
After leading the Jaguars to the AFC Championship in 2017, Blake Bortles signed a three-year contract extension last offseason worth up to $66.5 million when including incentives. At the start of the 2018 regular season, Bortles appeared to pick right back up where he left off the year prior after a convincing Week 2 win over the eventual Super Bowl winning Patriots. From that point forward, however, it was all downhill for the Jags, as they managed to win just three more games, and Bortles found himself benched on two separate occasions. Bortles’ saving grace was the fact backup Cody Kessler was even more inept at moving the Jaguars’ offense, which resulted in the team turning back to the former 2014 third-overall pick during their Week 16 loss to Miami. With Bortles’ contract carrying $16.5 million in dead money for 2019, the Jaguars are likely stuck with him for another year until they can exercise a potential out in 2020 (which would see the dead money penalty for cutting or trading Bortles reduced to just $5 million). From a fantasy standpoint, Bortles figures to continue serving as an anchor that drags the entire Jaguars passing game down with it unless the team decides to simply cut their losses. Jacksonville could easily use their seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft on a quarterback, and sign a free agent such as Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Tyrod Taylor as a veteran bridge.
After leading the NFL in team rushing yards during the 2017 regular season, Jacksonville fell to 19th this past season. A big part of the Jags’ rushing decline was second-year back Leonard Fournette spent seven games on the sidelines due to a litany of lower body injuries, as well as an 8th due to an in-game brawl that occurred in Week 13. Even when Fournette was in the lineup, he wasn’t all that effective with just two performances of more than 53 rushing yards, as Jacksonville’s backfield as a whole ranked NFL-worst in yards-per-carry by running backs. Adding insult to injury, it was reported at the conclusion if the regular season that the aforementioned suspension voided all guarantees in Fournette’s contract, leading to speculation the team was considering moving on from the former fourth-overall draft pick during the offseason. So far Jacksonville hasn’t shown any indication that would be a course of action they plan to pursue, however, Fournette’s fantasy stock is tumbling after a tumultuous sophomore NFL season. Drafted as a top-10 fantasy running back last August, Fournette’s history of lower body injuries and contentious relationship with the Jaguars’ coaching staff knocks him down into RB2 territory for 2019. While Fournette was hobbled during the first half of the 2018 season, backup T.J. Yeldon stepped in and particularly flashed as a receiver. Between Weeks 1 and 8, Yeldon averaged 85 total yards per game, while also scoring 5 times and logging 37 of his 55 receptions. Additionally, the Jaguars’ backfield pecking order was thrown into disarray this past October when the Jaguars strangely decided to acquire Carlos Hyde via a trade with the Browns. Even with both Fournette and Yeldon missing time during the season, Hyde offered virtually nothing as a runner or receiver, and comes with a $4.7 million salary cap hit in 2019 (that is if the Jaguars don’t simply cut Hyde, which they can do at any time during the offseason without penalty). Yeldon on the other hand has completed his rookie contract, and will hit free agency this March. As one of the top available backs available on the open market, Yeldon will almost assuredly be playing for someone else in 2019. Former undrafted free agent Corey Grant signed a one-year restricted free agent tender at the second-round level (worth $2.9 million) last offseason, as the Jaguars had plans to use his big-play abilities. Grant only lasted five games in 2018 due to a lisfranc injury, and will hit free agency once again this March. Since the Jags are unlikely to pay up in order to keep Yeldon around, Grant will be a potential in-house option to serve as the team’s primary receiving option out of the backfield if re-signed.