Former Super Bowl hero Nick Foles coming from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Jacksonville Jaguars to replace quarterback Blake Bortles is an example of how two things can be simultaneously true: He’s a significant upgrade for the Jags, and it still doesn’t make a difference in fantasy football.
Bortles had his occasional moments in the sun and far too many others of melting down under pressure. Foles, on the other hand, has mostly been mediocre until when it matters the most. Clutch in the late-season and playoffs, Foles earned a reputation (over what amounts to 13 starts) that he isn’t the same guy we saw fail in KC and St. Louis.
Everyone loves a feel-good story.
Even though there is reason for optimism, the downside far outweighs it for fantasy purposes. Concerns at the forefront of the picture: Durability, a shaky offensive line, a basic offense for passing, limited weaponry, and arguably the toughest division in football. And, none of that includes the reality Foles is a glorified game manager.
Last year, Jacksonville suffered an inordinate number of injuries along the front five, and its lack of depth was exposed. Foles needs a clean pocket to consistently deliver the ball, and his history of injuries suggests we may see backup Tanner Lee at some point in 2019.
Running back Leonard Fournette has to be at his best to keep defenses honest and give Jacksonville a chance to work in play-action passing — where Foles will excel. But we’ve seen far too many injuries of his own from Fournette, along with recent off-the-field issues to raise a few eyebrows. In most settings, he will be the engine that determines whether this vehicle is a Prius or a Porsche. Unfortunately, every chassis needs to be able to handle the engine’s horsepower.
As mentioned, the receiving corps is, well, inferior would be a nice way of putting it. Third-year man Dede Westbrook appears to be on track for a breakthrough season, which still may be only in the fringe WR2 or strong No. 3 neighborhood in fantasy. Marqise Lee returns from injury, and former Kansas City Chief Chris Conley is a newcomer to the city. He has turned some heads in OTAs, which is encouraging, but let us not get too excited until we’re later in the summer. Leeaat his best is still a role player.
Keelan Cole failed to establish himself last year, despite a fine opportunity to step up. A second-round pick in 2018, D.J. Chark swings a home run bat but hits .220. Veteran Terrelle Pryor is on what could be his last chance after injuries and a poor attitude have led to a revolving door of jobs.
Excited yet? Tight end offers no one with experience to suggest a hidden gem is awaiting to be unearthed. It’s a shame, considering this offense loves to utilize the position. Geoff Swaim could see the majority of targets, and Jacksonville spent a 2019 third-round pick on Josh Oliver, a San Jose State pass-catcher with long-range upside.
Can Foles get the most out of this merry band of misfits? Unlikely in terms of fantasy success. In the real game of football, however, Jacksonville needs to play strong defense and limit the turnovers — something Bortles wasn’t cut out for doing. This rarely translates to big plays or fantasy-relevant stats on any regular basis. But that’s just what Foles is as a fantasy passer, so expecting this jaguar to change his spots is foolish.
In 2018, starting seven games in a much better Philly offense, he threw more than two TD passes just once, and Foles had one or fewer scores in four of those contests. In his six 2017 starting appearances, Foles did the same thing in 50 percent of his outings, but he was a rock star in the other half of the games, accounting for 10 aerial strikes — and that team was better than the most recent version of the Eagles.
Fantasy football outlook
While Foles is an upgrade for the Jags, fantasy football owners shouldn’t see a big difference in Jacksonville. There just isn’t enough with which to work to presume journeyman will offer more than spot-start duty with a great matchup or as a DFS flier.
Fortunately, fantasy owners drafting early on have been wise enough to let him go undrafted, on average. Foles doesn’t belong in the top 25 or so players at his position, and there is little reason to expect a surprise performance.