Fantasy Impact: Nick Foles to the Jaguars
Weeks after rumors of a potential deal surfaced, Nick Foles has agreed to a four-year/$88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After two different stints with the Philadelphia Eagles that saw him bring a Super Bowl Championship to the city, Foles decided to take his talents to Jacksonville on a much bigger deal than the Eagles would have ever imagined giving him. What are the fantasy implications of this move and what can owners reasonably expect from the former Super Bowl MVP?
Foles began his career with the Eagles, who selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He filled in for then-QB Michael Vick for six games in his rookie season with modest results. Foles earned his first and only Pro-Bowl selection with a ridiculously efficient 2013 season in which he played 10 games in relief of the injured Vick. He played one more season in Philly, lasting only eight games in 2014. He moved on to the Rams in 2015, where he started 11 games with mediocre results. He played a throw-away year in Kansas City in 2016 before re-signing with the Eagles in the offseason after contemplating quitting football.
In 2017, tEagles raced out to an 11-2 record behind the brilliant play of Carson Wentz before Foles was thrust into the starting lineup due to Wentz’s season-ending ACL injury. Foles led the Eagles to a 2-1 regular season record before ultimately leading them to a Super Bowl win over Tom Brady and the Patriots and earning Super Bowl MVP honors. Foles filled in for Wentz yet again in 2018 when the latter missed time with a back injury, leading the Eagles to an improbable playoff appearance and upset win over the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card Round. Philly was knocked out in the Divisional Round, and speculation began immediately as to the futures of both Wentz and Foles.
Foles’ exceptional 2013 season saw him complete 64.0 percent of his passes for 2,891 yards and an NFL-record 27-2 TD-INT rate, adding 221 rushing yards and three more scores on the ground. He led the league in some important statistical categories that season, including yards per attempt (9.1), TD percentage (8.5), and QB rating (119.0). Foles tied an NFL single-game record with seven TD passes against the Oakland Raiders that same season. That was easily his best year as a pro. In his seven-year career, Foles has a 26-18 record with a 68-33 TD-INT ratio in 44 games. Foles has never played an entire 16-game season, with 11 games as his career high. He’s never thrown for 3,000 yards in a season, and he’s thrown at least 20 TDs only once.
The Jaguars made the move to sign Foles to a long-term deal after the Blake Bortles experiment failed miserably. Bortles played five seasons in Jacksonville, totaling 103 TDs and 75 INTs — an average of 15 INTs per season. Bortles averaged a QB rating of 80.6 and completed fewer than 60.0 percent of his passes. Bortles performed well in the 2017-2018 playoffs as the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship Game and lost a close one to the Patriots. In the weeks following the Super Bowl that season, Bortles signed a ridiculous three-year, $54 million extension. The Jags fell back to earth in 2018, going 3-9 in Bortles’ starts while the QB threw for only 209.1 yards per game to go with a 13-11 TD-INT rate. That was the final straw, and Bortles is expected to be cut once Foles’ deal is finalized.
Foles’ previous stints in Philadelphia featured high-powered defenses and a balanced offensive attack. The Jaguars have also relied on defense, but they’ve been a run-first team in recent years. The spectacular “Sacksonville” defense was exposed last year after a dominant 2017, and the Jags don’t boast an elite offensive line to protect the QB or to help in the run game. Foles will have to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden, and he’ll be asked to do more on his new team than he ever did with the Eagles, especially considering the amount of money he was just paid. More opportunities could mean more fantasy points, but it’s very unlikely Foles continues to be an efficient QB in Jacksonville considering the teammates around him. Garbage time in losses could pad the stats for Foles, but that’s not the type of outlook that sounds very attractive.
Almost all of the Jaguars’ personnel is a downgrade from the Eagles’ personnel, particularly at the skill positions. Jacksonville would be wise to pick up a talented pass-catcher in this year’s draft, but otherwise, Foles is left with Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark as his top two receivers and no semblance of a TE positon. The departure of T.J. Yeldon leaves the Jags with only Leonard Fournette, who has never been known as a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. All of the skill players on this team get a boost with Foles starting over Bortles, though the outlooks of any player not named Leonard Fournette were rather dim in the first place. Fournette should be a 20-touch guy in 2019, and he’ll certainly face fewer stacked boxes. Westbrook has some late-round flyer appeal if he’s the top dog in Jacksonville based on volume alone. No other Jags receiver or tight end offers much upside.
His run to the Super Bowl and subsequent playoff success have made Foles’ perceived value skyrocket despite a history of not being able to stay healthy or play consistently at a high level. Nevertheless, the Jaguars were bullish on him, and he got paid handsomely. Foles is a big upgrade over Blake Bortles, but his presence won’t be a game-changer for a Jags team that has other important needs to address. Should Foles play all 16 games in 2019, he’ll be asked to do more than ever with less at his disposal than ever, leading to a potentially bust-worthy season. Foles is talented enough to finish as a top-20 fantasy QB this coming season, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him finish outside that range. This year will be fascinating to see if Foles can sustain consistent production for an entire season as the franchise QB rather than the backup because there is a lot more pressure on him than there’s ever been. His performance this season may answer the burning question — is he an elite NFL QB or a backup who caught lightning in a bottle? I think Foles throws 3,000 yards for the first time in his career and eclipses 20 TDs, though it’s an ugly inaugural season where Foles commits his most turnovers as a pro.
A fair prediction for his 2019 stat line: 3,570 passing yards, 24 TDs, 14 INTs, QB20
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