It’s fair to say the Jaguars are a rebuilding project. The team finished a woeful 1-15 in 2020, earning the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After the season, a house cleaning saw new coach Urban Meyer hired to guide the Jaguars in a new direction. And this off-season has been about bringing in new talent to re-build those units.
The Jaguars spent the top pick on quarterback Trevor Lawrence and signed veteran C.J. Beathard, pairing them with holdover Gardner Minshew. In the backfield, the team drafted Travis Etienne and signed veteran Carlos Hyde to join last year’s bright spot, undrafted rookie James Robinson. And at receiver, the Jaguars signed veteran Marvin Jones to pair with D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault in a re-built receiving corps.
Then there’s the tight end position. The Jaguars have six players on the roster, but to say it’s a group that’s work-in-progress is the understatement of the off-season. Will there be any fantasy value at tight end in Jacksonville? Let’s weigh the evidence.
TE wasn’t an incredible force for the Jaguars in 2020, but the team did boast decorated veteran Tyler Eifert. He saw 60 targets, catching 36 passes for 349 yards and two TDs. It was good enough to have him finish as TE28. While it wasn’t an incredible year, compared to what’s returning, Eifert’s 2020 would have in the Hall of Fame.
Eifert is still a free agent, and the Jaguars may add to this group, but there’s not much experience here. Currently, the Jaguars have veterans James O’Shaughnessy and Chris Manhertz, second-year players Tyler Davis and Ben Ellefson, and rookie Luke Farrell on the roster. Combined, the players bring 13 years of NFL experience and just 101 total receptions.
The leader of the pack is O’Shaughnessy, who played in 15 games and started 13 for the Jaguars in 2020. He saw 38 targets, catching 28 for 262 yards. In his career—spanning six NFL seasons for two teams—he’s seen 132 targets, catching 88 for 864 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a durable contributor and blocker but unlikely to be a big producer for fantasy.
The same is likely true of Manhertz, who signed a two-year deal with the Jaguars this off-season. He has five years of previous experience with New Orleans and Carolina. In his career, he’s seen 19 targets, catching 12 for 142 yards and a touchdown. Unless this is his breakout spot, he is likely more of an NFL signing than a fantasy target.
Davis and Ellefson are unknowns, with neither contributing much in 2020. Ellefson was the only one who saw a target, catching one pass for 10 yards on four targets. Both will likely be surpassed by Farrell, who was taken in the fifth-round out of Ohio State. Meyer will be familiar with Farrell, who caught 34 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons for the Buckeyes.
The Tebow Effect
Then there’s Tim Tebow, who has come out of NFL retirement to join his old college coach, Meyer, and the Jaguars at a new position – TE. Tebow hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2012 and hasn’t even been in camp since his go with the Patriots in 2013. And he has never given it a go as a TE in the NFL. In his entire NFL career, he has zero receptions and only one target. But since his signing, there has been a buzz about Tebow, who has been a trendy pickup and a hot-selling jersey.
The reason is the possibility. Taysom Hill has been a versatile weapon for the New Orleans Saints. A quarterback in college and sometimes in the NFL, Hill has moved all around the field, running the ball and catching it from the TE position. Some have suggested Hill—who has 30 receptions for 336 yards and seven TDs as a receiver in three seasons—is the prime example of what Tebow could have been. Now, at 33 years old and has been out of the league for nearly a decade, Tebow will see if he can make the team and use his skills to contribute as a jack-of-all-trades for Meyer and the Jaguars.
The Fantasy Implications
A starter for any NFL team is perceived to have some fantasy value, but even in 2020, the best TE in Jacksonville was only a TE3. My suspicion is O’Shaughnessy and Manhertz will be the nominal starters, and what we saw from O’Shaughnessy in 2020—his career-best—is about what we’ll see in 2021. He finished as TE45 last season. Manhertz has never been a big receiving threat either, and I doubt that changes much in 2021.
I think Farrell will make the roster, and while he’s an interesting Taxi Squad stash, I don’t see him making a big fantasy impact. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if one will have a fantasy impact in 2021, I think it’s Tebow. He will likely make the team, and I think they’ll scheme plays for him, especially in heavy Red Zone packages. That’s what makes him an interesting stash, though his ADP of TE30 is too rich for me.
I suspect Tebow will have a few fun plays, possibly even a few scores, but he’ll be impossible to handicap on a week-to-week basis. Given the landscape, I won’t be playing any Jaguars’ TE on a regular basis this season.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.