The start of the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars training camp is underway and Calais Campbell has already boasted that the Jaguars can go undefeated in the regular season. On the offensive side, Leonard Fournette has reported to camp weighing 11 less pounds than his rookie year weight of 235 lbs. With a stacked defense returning, a slimmed down Fournette, and several offensive weapons added to the arsenal; here's why the Jaguars have a great chance at dominating the regular season and going undefeated.
It's no question that the Jaguars have the best defense in real life and in fantasy football. In ESPN standard scoring settings, the 2017 Jaguars D/ST scored 206 total points, 34 more than the next closest defense (Ravens had 172 total points). The defense is absolutely stacked at all three levels losing only two rotational players to free agency prior to this season. A plethora of defensive draft picks has provided more depth in the linebacking corps and secondary; so the 2018 Jaguars defense has the making of being the all-time best.
So why can the defense be one of the all-time great units to grace the hallowed grounds of a football field? Let's start up front with Calais Campbell who graded out on Pro Football Focus (PFF) with a 93.5 rating in 2017. With 73 quarterback pressures and getting to pay dirt with 14.5 sacks, it's a no brainer to have Campbell towards the top of your IDP defensive end rankings. Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus man the defensive tackle (DT) and can give you some solid points on a week to week basis, Jackson had eight sacks and 40 tackles, good enough to finish seventh in the defensive tackle rankings. Yannick Ngakoue was pleasant surprise for owners last year, breaking out for 12 sacks and 40 tackles. It will be interesting to see how former first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. will play should Campbell or Ngakoue miss time. Fowler, who will serve a one-game suspension to open the season, is in a contract year to be resigned or get a lucrative contract from team next offseason in search of pass rushers.
Second Team All-Pro Telvin Smith mans the linebacking corps and after grading out at 90.5 on PFF, aims to take a shot at being the league’s most versatile linebacker. Finishing with 102 tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, three interceptions, five passes defended, 11 run stuffs, and one touchdown scored, Smith could possibly be the best linebacker in the league this upcoming season. Smith tied only C.J. Mosley on first contacts on runs at 172 last season, meaning when there is a run, expect Smith to be the first to the ball. Draft him with confidence in first round of your IDP drafts. Paired alongside Smith are Myles Jack and seventh round pick Leon Jacobs. Jack totaled 90 tackles in the regular season while Jacobs ran with the first-unit to start training camp. If there is any weakness in the Jaguars defense it may be the linebacking corps, especially on the strongside with unproven Blair Brown.
Arguably the best secondary in the NFL, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye help man the pass break up aspect of this elite defense along with Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson at safety. This secondary led the league in passer rating allowed at only 76.4% to go along with 21 interceptions 2017. That is the 4th best rating in the past 25 years per NFL.com. A rare feat that has only happened once since 2006, Bouye played 583 coverage snaps without allowing a touchdown while intercepting six passes in the regular season. The cornerback duo of Bouye and Ramsey only allowed 133 catches on the year with Ramsey securing four interceptions himself en route to the pair finishing with a 57.3 passer rating in coverage. Draft Bouye and Ramsey in your IDP leagues with confidence and reap the rewards.
The Jaguars defense has players on all three levels that will help you win IDP leagues and the unit as a whole can help you secure a minimum of ten points on a weekly basis especially when they blitz 18.4% of the time and 50.5% of the blitzes are successful ending in quarterback pressures, sacks, forced throws, or fumbles. The Jags also scored eight defensive touchdowns on the year. This is the defense to own in all leagues; draft with total confidence!
On the offensive side of the ball Leonard Fournette checked into camp at 224lbs, which was his college playing weight. Fournette's offseason goal was to slim down to help improve versatility and durability. Fournette is a huge part of this offense as he will help Blake Bortles and the play-action attack as well as grind out tough yards in the trenches. Fournette gladly welcomes contact from defenders and with a slimmed down frame, look for more juke moves to be added to the repertoire instead of the typical Fournette truck stick. With free agent acquisition in offensive guard Andrew Norwell (88.8 PFF grade) and solid offensive line, Fournette should have plenty of running lanes to expose defenses with his breakaway speed and power.
What happens if Fournette is forced to miss time, as he did last year? Enter T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. Yeldon was never able to get the wheels churning prior to the arrival of Fournette, but when Fournette did miss time in the 2017 season, Yeldon was a capable backup and solid handcuff in the fantasy world. Corey Grant is a sneaky bet to get some work this season, converting 30 carries for 248 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and a pair of scores. In deeper leagues, definitely have Yeldon and Grant on your bench should Fournette go down.
Blake Bortles and his shiny new toys in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Donte Moncrief along with proven teammates Marquise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook, will help benefit play action once defenses start to stack the box to stop Fournette. Lee secretly led the league in successful crossing route targets, converting 24/30 for 286 yards and a pair of scores generating a 128.6 rating (PFF). Westbrook (ADP of 193 per NFL.com) and Cole (ADP of 212 per NFL.com) provide solid options for Bortles in 3 wide receiver sets but not solid options in your fantasy lineups.
Moncrief is the dark horse in this offense. Can he fend off Keelan and Dede for the WR2 position? Or will rookie DJ Chark steal the show in training camp and solidify himself as a potential game changing deep threat (4.34 40-yard dash)? This is the camp battle to watch. It will be interesting to see who emerges and how dynamic these players can be in the run-first offense.
Seferian-Jenkins has already provided a few highlight reel catches on the first day of training camp. Seferian-Jenkins is a sneaky bet to be a top ten tight end by the years end. Bortles and Seferian-Jenkins have shown strong rapport from OTAs, minicamp, and now training camp, so it will be a delight to see this chemistry carry into the regular season. My offensive hot take will be that Seferian-Jenkins will finish as TE8 or better this season.
Jacksonville has all of the talent to reach SB LIII this year and it will be a joy to watch witnessing them have the opportunities to shut down opposing offenses on a weekly basis. A strong running game and solid play action will bode well for the Jaguars offense to help rest the elite defense that resides in Duval. It wouldn't surprise many if the Jaguars dominate the regular season and finish undefeated with the caliber of talent on both sides of the ball.