Now for another installment of our Fantasy Stock Watch periodical. This series takes a look at players who either exceeded their anticipated contributions this year, or failed to live up to them and what we can expect come 2014. The biggest concern: you want to draft based on value, rather than paying for stats that will be hard to repeat and/or paying an expectant price for development that may not come.
Fantasy Stock Watch 2014: Other Entries
Ace Sanders, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 ADP: 374 (WR117)
2013 Position Rank: 87
Fun fact: do you know who led Jacksonville in fantasy points this year? Paul Posluszny, that’s who. Let’s face it. In fact, I really don’t want to face it anymore – I live in Jacksonville and have to face it every Sunday. It’s plain and simple: the Jags are awful. Honestly, the only more ignominious team I can think of this year was the Texans, and they’re in the same division! I can’t really cast any stones here though. I remember not too long ago when the AFC West was just as bad…
Who says things can’t look up? It’s pretty likely that the Jaguars won’t re-sign MJD though; the draft is full of running backs and my “ear inside the locker room” says that he’s asking for a bit too much money. Despite that, the Jags offense has some promise. If we take a step back and look at their receiving corps, it’s brimming with potential that has had about as much of a chance as the Guinness in my glass. Justin Blackmon is directly responsible for his lack of opportunity, but his playmaking ability is unrivaled in Jacksonville. Team owner, Shahid Khan, knows this which is why he’s decided to give Blackmon yet another chance to prove he can step up for the team.
We saw what Cecil Shorts was made of last year. All that’s missing for that monster to awaken is a worthy man under center, namely not Blaine Gabbert. That said, the team has tentatively decided to keep Gabbert on the squad as a backup, saying he still has “potential” that hasn’t been tapped into yet. I’ll believe it when I see it.
2013 Expectations and Results: Ace Sanders
Ace Sanders was thrown into the fire toward the end of the season because of Mike Brown’s injury/fumbling issue and the absence of Blackmon and Shorts. This kind of spotlight wasn’t the best situation for the rookie from South Carolina. When thrust into the WR1 position, he struggled, but when placed in the slot he showed us his spark. It comes as no surprise. Sanders is only 5’7” and nipping at the heels of 180 pounds, so the slot is where he belongs: away from sticky cornerbacks and running around the middle of the field. The perimeter is too structured for him at this tender time in his career, but that’s not to say he can’t play the position. If we recall a game against the Cardinals in week 11, Sanders caught a bubble screen that turned into a 15 yard gain thanks to his elusive running style and small frame. However, most of the time when we saw him on the outside he missed routes and looked confused. He even said it himself:
“I’ve got to trust the route technique, using it each and every time and not reverting back to college ways. That’s tough to do, because you get so used to something and then you’re taught something else. It’s really helpful what I’m learning, but it’s tough to avoid the old, bad habits.”
For a rookie receiver who has always played on the inside, that’s like switching from linebacker to safety. He’s used to catching the ball and making the play with his legs, not his intangibles. What I’m trying to say here is we can’t judge him on those poor performances too harshly; Sanders wants to learn and that’s the first step. He is a raw talent, much like Brandon Banks was, except Sanders has a much better opportunity of solidifying a role on the Jags offense, even over Mike Brown (who hasn’t shown as much poise on the field). The Jaguars certainly seem to think so. Sanders drew the second most targets on the team this year with 87 and in the last 7 weeks of the season he had 3 games with double digit targets. As we all know, targets mean opportunity and Sanders should see a steady amount going forward. They even had him taking carries out of the backfield which provided a solid change of pace for the team. I think next year we’ll see Sanders hold the role in the slot, and I have a feeling he’s not the only 2013 addition to the Jags that could surprise us.
2013 Expectations and Results: Kerry Taylor
Let me preface with this: I’m a Jaguars season ticket holder – on the visitor’s side of course – and I pay a lot of attention to the Jacksonville crew, not because I’m a fan but because I love the sport. If I lived in Dallas, I’d be at every Cowboys game, practice and camp I possibly could, and I absolutely loathe the Cowboys. Needless to say, I keep a close eye on all of the new talent in Jax every year and I really like Kerry Taylor. He only played in 6 games this season (not even all for the Jags) and filled a minor role, never drawing more than 7 targets until the final game of the season where he was given a proper chance – and he delivered. Against Indianapolis, Taylor caught 8 of 9 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown, which happened to be his first career, regular season touchdown. That’s pretty good for a guy who went undrafted in 2011 and bounced around between 5 different teams before being signed off of the Cardinals practice squad in early November. He is a very serviceable athlete for the perimeter because, at 6’0” and 200 lbs, he has the size to bump shoulders with rough corners and soft enough hands to pull in quick passes. Should the Jaguars keep him on the squad in the offseason (and I’ve heard there are plans to) he would be the perfect fit to back up Shorts and Blackmon so that Sanders could remain in the slot where he’ll flourish. All that’s left now is for Jacksonville to get their quarterback situation under control. Oh, and find a new running back. Oh, and give Posluszny some help (who was a full 40 solo tackles ahead of the next highest mark on the team), among other things.
2014 Outlook: Ace Sanders and Kerry Taylor
The Jaguars could pick up just about anyone in the draft this year to replace Gabbert/Henne as the starting quarterback and it would be an improvement, especially with Shorts and Blackmon healthy, and even if they aren’t there is some great talent in that receiving corps that’s just chomping at the bit for a chance to shine. I see Ace Sanders as a fairly solid WR3/4 next year in fantasy, finishing with 4 TDs and 650 yards in 2014. In deeper leagues he is definitely a diamond in the rough, or an “ace in the hole” if you will and will probably make it on fantasy rosters around week 4. Kerry Taylor doesn’t hold much value as of right now, but if the stars align, he could have the perfect opportunity to fill an injury role or be a reliable backup. From a fantasy standpoint, he would be the deepest of sleepers next year, but so was Bobby Rainey and I know he helped some owners in a bind this season. Anything can happen in the NFL. Sanders will step up next year without a doubt, as long as the Jaguars use him properly, but Kerry Taylor is worth keeping tabs on. I predict we will be seeing more of both of them next season.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff