It’s best-ball season. If you aren’t drafting best-ball teams right here on Yahoo, honestly I question whether you even like fantasy football.
I’m being 100 percent serious.
Best-ball allows you to compete for real money, sharpen your craft against serious competition and enjoy the best part about fantasy football (drafting) over and over again all summer long.
Despite all the work done on cracking the best-ball code, there are still so many ways to create a roster. Many present truly viable paths to winning. One of my favorite strategies I try to employ in every single best-ball draft comes with a daily fantasy football influence.
I’m all about stacking offenses I expect to be good units, especially at a value.
If you need a refresher on what stacking is and why you should do it, refer to the intro piece for this series.
I divide best ball stacks into three tiers:
-HIGH-VALUE STACK: You'll have to pay a draft premium to get these players.
-DISCOUNT STACK: A few high picks, but won't break the bank.
-CLEARANCE-AISLE STACK: Mid-to-late-round fliers who could pay off in a big way.
This week, we’ll look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are suddenly shining with fresh new optimism thanks to a generational quarterback prospect with bright, flowing blonde hair.
The Case for Stacking the Jaguars
If Trevor Lawrence is indeed the prince that was promised, the 2021 Jaguars are going to put up some points. While their skill-position spots aren’t loaded with household names, the cupboard for ingredients around Lawrence is far from bare.
If everything goes right, Jacksonville sports a trio of wide receivers who offer Lawrence a solid group of players with diverse skill sets.
With injuries nagging him for huge chunks of last season, DJ Chark didn’t have the encore campaign he wanted after breaking out in 2019. He averaged just 54.3 yards per game after going for 67.2 the year before. We should still have a good degree of confidence that Chark is an ascending young receiver who specializes in the vertical game. Fantasy managers are largely expecting a rebound performance from Chark, and Lawrence should be able to get the best out of him.
Chark currently sports a best-ball ADP of WR31. That’s a fine draft slot for him but it’s a little confusing that there’s a massive gap between him and the rest of the Jaguars wide receivers ... especially Marvin Jones.
Apparently, this will be just another year of fantasy drafters totally disrespecting the always underrated Marvin Jones. The veteran receiver currently has an ADP outside the top-50 receivers but might well be the safest bet in the Jacksonville receiver corps. If you just looked at Marvin Jones’ numbers from Detroit I bet you’d be surprised how good he’s been.
Jones managed a touchdown rate of 7.5 percent in his five years as a Lion. He had three seasons with 100-plus targets and could see that type of work in Jacksonville. He just doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a rock-solid No. 2 wideout. There’s a reason he played out all five years of his original free-agent deal from Detroit.
Jones is actually going behind second-year wideout LaViska Shenault (WR42). That might be an aggressive projection for Shenault and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if Jones outscores him, but the appeal for the hulking receiver is legitimate.
There was some weeping and gnashing of teeth when the Jaguars took Travis Etienne in Round 1 and Urban Meyer came right out and said he actually wanted receiver Kadarius Toney at that pick. It seemed like a clear signal that Meyer and co. didn’t want Shenault in the “slasher” role typically featured in his offenses (think Percy Harvin or Curtis Samuel). That threw some folks off considering Shenault was used in that low aDOT and rushing role as a rookie.
My take: That was great news for Shenault’s outlook.
Shenault is a big receiver (6-foot-1, 227 pounds) who thrives in contested catch situations and in open space after the catch. What a waste it would be to throw him in some nebulous hybrid-running back/outlet receiver role. He should be playing a true big-slot role, ala JuJu Smith-Schuster. Word out of Jaguars camp is that’s exactly what the coaching staff wants:
With a huge hole at the tight end position, Shenault could really own the middle of the field in this passing offense with Jones and Chark operating outside.
On that Shenault note, the presence of Darrell Bevell actually boosts my optimism for this unit. Not only will it keep Meyer from having an oversized and potentially negative impact on this offense, but Bevell has also overseen some underrated offenses.
His Seahawks units had some highly productive years, he coordinated the electric Brett Favre year for the Vikings, and when Matthew Stafford was healthy in 2019, he had the veteran passer uncorking deep balls all over the yard. Bevell is an underrated coordinator and should help Lawrence get rolling early.
It’s difficult to project the target distribution for Chark, Jones, and Shenault over the course of the season, especially with Etienne slated to dig into the passing distribution. But that just makes them the perfect best-ball stack with Lawrence. I’m confident all of these players will have good 2021 seasons as long as Lawrence is good right from the jump.
You get exposure to all three of their big games while being insulated from the pain of picking the wrong guy on the wrong week.
Lastly, the draft positioning of this stack just adds an extra cherry on top. The highest-drafted player out of Jacksonville is Etienne, with an ADP just outside the top-50 overall picks. Oddly enough, he’s one of my least favorite Jaguars’ players to draft in 2021 (more on that later).
On the flip side, I love the value you’re getting on this wide receiver corps right now.
The Case Against Stacking the Jaguars
Unlike the other teams we’ve investigated for this series, the Jaguars come with relative unknowns at just about every level. Relative is the keyword, considering we just spent the last section singing their praises.
Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck but as a rookie, he’s no lock to be an above-average passer in Year 1 even if he eventually gets on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
Urban Meyer has made every college program he’s touched better while routinely featuring innovative and exciting offenses.
College being the operative word in that analysis, however.
We have zero clue how Meyer will function as an NFL program-builder. Some of the early signs, like signing Tim Tebow and the bungled failed hiring of Chris Doyle, aren’t exactly what you want.
You can absolutely make a case for this skill-position group being a high-quality unit. You still need to project DJ Chark to rebound from a rough 2020 season, LaViska Shenault to take the next step in his development, and the whole Travis Etienne as a slasher experiment to work out.
All of these things can swing positively but you have to acknowledge the range of outcomes the 2021 Jaguars present.
One other hesitation is the aggressive ADP of Lawrence himself. Fantasy managers are already projecting Lawrence as a top-15 fake-football quarterback. Lawrence has the rushing chops to make for a safe floor and turn that into a solid ranking, but it’s still a leap for the rookie. You’ll need to make a relatively (quarterback adjusted) early in-draft move for Lawrence if you’re to complete this stack.
Lastly, the lack of a tight end worth drafting is problematic. You’re basically counting on this wide receiver trio and Lawrence alone with this stack. I just can’t endorse clicking Etienne to get his passing upside in this stack given that he goes so high. James Robinson doesn’t make much sense either, considering Jacksonville should often be playing from behind and the early down banger of a committee backfield doesn’t correlate well with that script.
The Jaguars are an appealing stack. The options are just rather limited.
Verdict: CLEARANCE-AISLE STACK
With ADPs ranking from 60th to 123rd overall, you can get all of Chark, Jones, Shenault, and Lawrence at great discounts. The fact that Shenault and Jones are possible double-digit round fliers makes this an extremely buyable stack.
I also like that you can hammer early round players you like without having to give a second thought to Jacksonville until Round 6 or so when you’re entering the DJ Chark zone. Roster construction can be diverse and enjoyable with the Jaguars as one of your core stacks.
Since Jacksonville players are on clearance, it gives you the flexibility to put together one of the highest-value stacks before grabbing these Jags receivers. You can stack Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, etc., and then double-back to load up on Jacksonville offensive pieces.
The odd distribution of roles and variance in Jacksonville’s offense presents some challenges to projecting this team over the course of the season. However, the most reliable pieces are in the receiver room and behind center with the hotshot No. 1 overall pick. It makes for an ideal best-ball construction.