Don’t Forget About D.J. Chark in Jacksonville
There has been tons of buzz surrounding two young playmakers on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault has intrigued fantasy players with his diverse skill-set and ability to make big plays after the catch, drawing attention as a potential Year 2 breakout. Rookie running back Travis Etienne has mouth-watering upside with his elite receiving ability and first-round draft capital. Add in generational first-round rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and you have the makings of an impressive offense. While Shenault and Etienne are two interesting players, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the other young pass-catcher on this team in D.J. Chark.
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At 6-foot-3, 199-pounds with a 4.34 40-yard dash, Chark has the size and speed to profile as a potential alpha wide receiver who can command targets in an offense. He’ll be entering his age-25 season looking for a fresh start with a new quarterback after a disappointing 2020 season. Chark finished as the WR38 in half-PPR points per game (PPG) last season among wide receivers with at least 10 games. This has caused fantasy players to become enamored with the shiny new toys of Shenault and Etienne, but Chark profiles as the top option in this vastly improved Jaguars offense. Let’s dive in to find out why you need to give Chark a mulligan for last year’s poor performance and target him in your fantasy leagues.
Lack of Chemistry with Gardner Minshew
It was clear that Chark struggled to get on the same page with starting quarterback Gardner Minshew last season. Following a 34-16 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 6, a game in which he caught 7-of-14 targets for 45 yards, Chark stated that he “felt like we were open” when asked about how the Lions defended the Jaguars’ wide receivers. This was a common theme throughout the season for Chark. According to SportsInfoSolutions, Chark had 15 uncatchable deep balls (20+ air yards), tied for the fourth-most in the league. Among players with at least 20 such targets, Chark saw the fourth-highest uncatchable ball rate
Chark’s ability to win downfield is a major proponent of his skill-set. His 14.1 average depth of target (aDOT) was first among wide receivers with at least 90 targets last season. Imagine what his season would have looked like if he had a quarterback who was able to find him downfield. To get a glimpse of what could have been, look no further than rookie Jake Luton’s first start as Jaguars quarterback last season. Luton came out of college with a 50% deep-completion rate, so finding his wide receivers downfield was one of his strengths. In that first start against the Texans, Chark caught 7-of-12 targets for 146 yards and a 73-yard touchdown. This could be a sign of things to come this season with a new quarterback in the fold.
Projected Improvement with Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence has been touted as the top quarterback in his class since he was a freshman. This is a generational quarterback prospect, the best we have seen since Andrew Luck. Lawrence is an athletic, strong-armed quarterback with elite college production and terrific size at 6-foot-6, 213 pounds. He has the ability to fit the ball into tight coverage and hit his receivers downfield. According to Sports Info Solutions, Lawrence put up a 70% on-target rate (downfield passes that hit a receiver in strive), ranking as second-best in college football in 2020, behind Zach Wilson. Lawrence is also the type of quarterback who can elevate his teammates. There’s a good chance that this offense can support more than one fantasy-relevant wide receiver. I’m betting that Chark will be one of them. It’s unlikely that you’ll see Chark complaining to the media about his quarterback’s inability to find him while he’s wide open this year.
Chark has an Established Ceiling
Chark had a terrific sophomore year in 2019, catching 73-of-118 targets for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games, finishing as WR17 in half-PPR PPG. His ability to function as a target hog, downfield threat and red zone target makes him an appealing player in fantasy leagues. Out of wide receivers with 80+ targets in 2020, Chark was one of three to have a target share of at least 20%, red zone target share of at least 20%, and average depth of target of at least 13 yards, the other two being Calvin Ridley and DK. Metcalf. That is some pretty impressive company. According to Stathead, Chark is one of seven wide receivers with two or more 30+ PPR point performances in 2019, along with Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett, and Cooper Kupp. In fact, over the last two years, Chark has more 30+ PPR point games than Allen Robinson.
Chark is currently being drafted at WR34 with a 72.9 average draft position in Underdog fantasy leagues. Considering that he finished as WR38 in half-PPR PPG last season, this is close to his floor. Even if Shenault emerges as an impact player this year, the Jaguars offense should remain prolific enough to support two fantasy-relevant wide receivers, with the outside chance of a third in Marvin Jones Jr. This is a team that will be forced into shootouts while playing from behind, which bodes well for Chark. Chark is one of the most overlooked players in fantasy football right now. Target him with confidence.