The Value of Nick Foles in Jacksonville

The Value of Nick Foles in Jacksonville

Few players have had a more tumultuous path to a big contract than Nick Foles. Now entering his eighth year, Foles joins the Jacksonville Jaguars, his fourth team, on a four-year, 88-million-dollar contract. 

After a season backing up Michael Vick, Foles broke out with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, throwing 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He disappointed in 2014 however, throwing only 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight starts. 

The following year, he was shipped off to the Rams for Sam Bradford, where he floundered under Jeff Fisher. He then spent a year backing up Alex Smith with the Chiefs before returning to the Eagles in 2017 to back up Carson Wentz. That year, filling in for the injured Wentz, Foles took the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory, winning the game’s MVP award. Wentz was injured again last season, allowing Foles to win another playoff game before losing in the divisional round to the Saints

Now 30 years old, Foles will get a chance to start a new career as the unquestioned starter going into the season. 

It seems strange to consider Foles a fantasy question mark after eight seasons in the league, but that’s exactly what he is after joining a new team. The Jaguars are coming off a disappointing season and are in the midst of a complete upheaval. Gone is Blake Bortles and Nathaniel Hackett, the quarterback and coordinator combination that failed to move the ball consistently, and in steps Foles and John DeFilippo. 

I’ll be honest, I started this article with the intention of recommending fantasy owners stay completely away from Foles. He’s ranked 24th on John Paulsen’s never-too-early quarterback rankings and he’s a new-old player in a new system without a clear-cut top receiver on the roster. That isn’t usually a recipe for success.

However, after evaluating several factors, I walked away from the Nick Foles dilemma with a new appreciation for his game, his team and his potential as a fantasy contributor. While not elite by any means, Foles may be an excellent option for those who mine the later rounds for quarterback value and should definitely be on the radar as a streamer in good matchups.  

The Coaching Staff

Doug Marrone is the head coach of the Jaguars, while the aforementioned DeFilippo will take over as offensive coordinator. Here’s a look at how their passing offenses have fared throughout their careers:

Coaching History
Coach Year Role Team Total Passing Yards Rank Total Passing Touchdowns Rank
Doug Marrone 2006 OC Saints 1 4
Doug Marrone 2007 OC Saints 3 T-9
Doug Marrone 2008 OC Saints 1 T-1
Doug Marrone 2013 HC Bills 28 T-30
Doug Marrone 2014 HC Bills 18 T-15
Doug Marrone 2017 HC Jaguars 17 T-20
Doug Marrone 2018 HC Jaguars 26 T-30
John DeFilippo 2015 OC Browns 21 T-26
John DeFilippo 2018 OC Vikings 13 10

As with all stats, a little context is important. Marrone saw significant success with the Saints, but he was under Sean Payton during that time period, so he wasn’t a significant play-caller at the time. On the other hand, it’s hard to hold his time with the Bills and DeFilippo’s time with the Browns against them, as the quarterback talent there wasn’t nearly as good as what Foles potentially brings to the table – apologies to Kyle Orton, Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel

When DeFilippo did get some talent to work with last season with the Vikings, he delivered. Minnesota didn’t have the win-loss record everyone hoped for, but they were sixth in pass attempts and 27th in rushing attempts. Kirk Cousins, much maligned for going 8-7-1 in his first year with the team, finished 10th in passing yards and ninth with 30 touchdown passes. Granted, DeFilippo was fired after Week 14, but that doesn’t change the makeup of the offense over the course of the season. Plus, DeFilippo was the quarterbacks' coach in Philadelphia in 2017, so Foles is already familiar with him. 

This coaching staff doesn’t have a long history of consistently prolific fantasy numbers, but Marrone and DeFilippo are offensive-minded, and Foles is far better than Bortles and the trio mentioned above.

Supporting Cast

The Jaguars have a pretty good team. No, really. They made the AFC Championship game two seasons ago behind a dominant defense, despite having Bortles at quarterback. Then the team was decimated by injuries last year, and everyone wondered why the team struggled. The defense took a natural step back, and the team lost its best receiver – Marqise Lee – before the season even began. Star running back Leonard Fournette also missed considerable time due to injury and looked like he was playing catch-up during his limited action. They also never found a solution at tight end after Austin Seferian-Jenkins was lost for the season in October. 

Lee should be back after a year of rehab and Fournette should be better as well. Plus, they drafted a pure pass-catcher at the tight end position in Josh Oliver out of San Jose State in the third round, and they drafted running back Ryquell Armstead to pair with free agent acquisition Alfred Blue as insurance against another injury-plagued year from Fournette. The team should be better.

If Lee can be healthy and Dede Westbrook can continue his development, the addition of Oliver and a solid run game should be enough to support Foles.

Protection

Here’s the biggest difference over the past two seasons. Cam Robinson was a revelation as a rookie in 2017, making an easy transition to the NFL and starting 15 games at left tackle. Last year? Torn ACL in Week 2. As the season progressed, the Jaguars saw four of their five starting offensive linemen land on injured reserve, including high-priced free agent guard Andrew Norwell. They can’t possibly have such bad luck this season in the injury department.

The Jaguars gave themselves some insurance in the offseason. They brought in Cedric Ogbuehi to compete on the outside and they drafted Jawaan Taylor out of Florida. Taylor could win the right tackle job, kick in to guard or be a swing tackle for them in the event of injury. Taylor slid to the second round, but many expected him to go in the first. He has the talent to be a starter early on and will help Foles stay upright.

The Jaguars much-maligned offensive line seems unlikely to suffer the same rate of injuries they did last season, and if Robinson can come back healthy, they should offer far better protection for Foles than they did for Bortles a year ago. 

Bottom Line

Situation aside, Foles is a good player. He has a career completion percentage of 61.6 and his touchdown/interception ratio is 68/33. Rumors are he’s a good locker room guy, plus he’s always had accuracy and the ability to read a defense and run through progressions. He’s had some struggles in the past over his various stops, but he has a strong opportunity to put together an efficient season for the Jaguars

Foles isn’t going to win your league for you if you draft him in the top 10 rounds. However, looking at the available options where he’s ranked, he could very easily be a nice backup or spot-starter for owners who like to wait on quarterback. He’s assured of his starting job and has better weapons than people think. Look to target Foles as a sneaky late-round pick and streaming option. He faces the Chiefs in Week 1, who were completely dreadful on defense a year ago. They may have revamped the personnel on that side of the ball, but it’s going to take some time to improve upon allowing 273 passing yards per game. Only the Bengals allowed more, and the Chiefs offense should continue to force opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball.

Foles is better than you think, and with his job security and decent supporting cast, he’s worth targeting late, particularly in Superflex leagues or leagues where two quarterbacks are commonly rostered.

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