2023 Fantasy Football Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

by Daniel Johnson
2023 Fantasy Football Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

Rolling along here at F6P, aren't we? Like wooden hammers cobbling away in Santa's workshop all autumn long, we're hard at work for you—heads down, noses to grindstones, etc.—pumping out these team-by-team guides to the forthcoming Fantasy Football season. Today's installment: the 2023 Fantasy Football Jacksonville Jaguars Preview.

Let's be honest with each other—this is a bit of a sexy team to write about this year, isn't it? Talk about some mega-juicy storylines. Can Calvin Ridley—one of the NFL's foremost disgraced whipping boys in 2022—come back and blow the stat sheet up, as he predicted in his "A Letter to the Game" article on The Player's Tribune? Will Etienne hold onto the ball enough to become a truly elite Doug Pederson lead back? Is this the Evan Engram we've always wanted? Is Zay Jones the most annoying WR3 TD vulture to ever run routes?

Many more, especially when you consider the exciting defensive personnel, the gutty divisional round loss, the wide-open AFC South—all of which might cultivate a spirit of fierce and rabid desire to win big this season.

But, of course, what the fans want to know most: after a pleasantly productive 2022, what will Trevor Lawrence's third year look like quarterbacking this team?

As per usual, we'll go position-by-position and sink our teeth into the depth chart—this time with an eye toward what Duval County can bring to your lineups.

2023 Fantasy Football Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

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Let your hair down, big man, so that North Florida can place its franchise crown atop your golden head. You're what the people want to see! The promise fulfilled!

All of Duval County, last year, rallied around Lawrence as he led their team to a wild-card playoff berth. And so did savvy fantasy managers.

We love the final statline, sure: 387 completions, 66.3% completion rate, 4,113 yards, 25 touchdowns against only eight interceptions. But how incredibly impressive was the way Lawrence passed the eye test?

He got better as the season went on, too. Check out the pocket presence, the footwork, the progression-reading in this play against the Titans last December:

It wasn't just the flashes of poise and excellence; it was the efficiency, too. He finished the season top-ten in passer rating (95.2) with the eighth-best adjusted completion rate (77.7); this landed him as PFF's 15th-overall quarterback over 48 total qualifiers.

At his current ADP, Lawrence is sort of in a bit of a no man's land. He's being drafted right before Tua and Daniel Jones; I like him to positively lap those two guys in points this year.

Which is to say: you might be able to wait a bit in your drafts—if you're lucky, rounds seven or eight—but I think you should have no hesitation snatching him confidently in the early sixth round. Top-eight QB potential, here.

Running Backs

If you read and followed my 2022 Fantasy Football Drafting Running Backs Strategy last year, you were likely as high on Etienne as I was. And if you were able to double him up with Barkley, like I suggested, you had a good-but-mostly-great dual-horse stable to run out there every week.

I want to talk first about what Etienne did poorly. Because, frankly, there was quite a bit. He had five fumbles: one of which marked the advent of the Jaguars's first franchise butt fumble, another of which he committed on an almost totally open runway to the end zone that nearly cost the team a win against the Giants.

His sure-handedness was in question in the passing game, too. Anyone else still infamously haunted by this drop in the Jags's first game? Pro Football Focus had him rated near the absolute bottom (47 of 49) of catch-passing running backs. So, yeah, there's stuff to work on in a few of the areas we might have all considered Etienne a near lock for.

I'm still taking him as an RB2, but maybe not the high-priced RB2 he's currently being drafted at (RB14). Still—he had 255 total touches last year, and if he even comes close to that this year (remember: he is the lead back in a Doug Pederson offense), I bet he's got a shot to blow 2022's Fantasy numbers out of the water.

No—I do not think  the presence of Tank Bigsby portends the end of ETN SZN, despite where the Jags drafted him. Where it will hurt Etienne most is in short yardage and goal-line carries. But we didn't rely on Etienne hitting paydirt from the goal line last year, anyways. How could we? He only cashed in on 20% of his attempts inside the five yard line (also near the bottom for qualified running backs). That's not where his points were coming from.

If Etienne were to miss time, Bigsby—an absolute standout at Auburn—could see his value become that of an RB2, but low-end. I honestly think this team likes JaMycal Hasty too much to just hand the keys to the city to a rookie if Etienne has any reoccurring injuries from his foot problems last year.

Standalone, I'd take Bigsby as a speculative handcuff for Etienne, and maybe for the lucky weeks he falls into the end zone twice and can provide double-digit points in your flex.

Wide Receviers

Honestly, despite his impressive and doubt-defying 2022, Christian Kirk's listing atop the depth chart as this team's WR1 is only nominal, right? We know who the true alpha is in this wide receiver room. So we're going to talk mostly about him.

The ceiling might be scary good for Calvin Ridley. We need not waste pixels getting into his suspension, but, I mean, the sheer gall of the NFL—my goodness.

In any case, he finds himself now in a motivated, young, exciting, pass-heavy offense. He brings with him a meteoric chip on his shoulder. And, let's be clear: his fury is directed at the NFL as an institution. Do I think this means he's going to fly down the field like a bat out of hell and leave flaming footsteps along his routes? I want to believe he will, so I'll draft him at that price.

Last year, Christian Kirk had 133 targets to lead the team; Zay Jones was second with 121. Let's just assume, conservatively, that Ridley will get right around 115-to-125 this year. When he was Fantasy's WR4 at the end of the 2020 season, an aging Matt Ryan had thrown him the ball 143 times. Think of how much higher-value his targets could be in this Jags offense, even if the volume proves to be a bit less.

I think you jump for Ridley in the third round if you, like me, want to believe. He's a hot commodity—almost in the same way Josh Gordon was an object of Fantasy managers' fascination. People in your drafts will want him. He feels like almost a surefire WR2 with top-five upside.

And, listen—I get it. This wasn't some stat-heavy analysis that should make you feel like the floor beneath you is totally stable when you draft Ridley. This is a gut feeling. A—at the risk of being suspended for a year by the NFL for saying so—gamble, if you will.

As for Kirk: he's a fantastic WR3/flex option, given his career-best performance in the offense last year: 84-1,108-8. We already noted that Lawrence spread the ball between his top-two wide receivers pretty evenly, so Kirk might even find himself in the WR2 conversation come the end of the year. I like his ADP where it is.

Zay Jones will steal some looks and some touchdowns; Jamal Agnew will run some jet sweeps that'll hurt Etienne owners more than Ridley/Kirk owners. Only one here that has a shot at being relevant in standard leagues is Jones, and that's likely only by way of an injury to the guys in front of him.

Tight Ends

Poor Giants fans. All they wanted was for Evan Engram to be either consistently good, or just make a bunch of great, high-value plays. Alas—they got neither!

The Jaguars, however, got both. And they got both early. Here's a big play from Week 3 against the Chargers:

Engram only dropped the ball three times last year. Three! That's, again, three drops on 85 total receptions between the regular- and post-season. He was incredibly sure-handed, and if you were questioning Lawrence's trust in him, look no further than Engram's stat line in the Wild Card win against the Chargers: 7-93-1.

It's getting a bit stuffy in the pass-catching hangar this year for the Jags, what with the addition of Ridley, but the tight end position stinks. Engram is a locked-in top-ten option.

To that end: I don't think Brenton Strange is draftable right now. He's intriguing from a dynasty perspective, but only sort of.

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Final Verdict

Draft the stars early and often. I like their ADPs where they're at currently, but would probably jump for Ridley. Maybe fade Etienne a bit, but only ever so slightly.

Get ready to see a bunch of jungle cats on the moon. That's where this passing offense is headed.

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