I’ve explained why I dislike Kelvin Benjamin‘s chances of fantasy success this season even though he was taken in the first round. But what about a player who had first round talent, but because of a down senior year and an injury was taken in the second round, Marqise Lee? Lee was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 39th pick of this year’s NFL Draft after the Jags took QB Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, and this duo could be incredibly effective.
Bortles, though playing in the weaker American Conference, was still able to garner enough attention to be a first-round selection, and he never had a dominant target such as Lee. Lee was a unanimous All-American in his sophomore season and placed fourth in Heisman voting that season. He obviously has talent. In fact, he has enough talent to be the No. 1 WR in Jacksonville by leap-frogging current starter Cecil Shorts with the team treating the Justin Blackmon situation as if he’s not going to play this season due to suspension. But because he’s a rookie, I’m not completely sure that he’ll be the No. 1 starter. They would be wise to not place him as the No. 1 receiver as to allow him to adjust to the tougher cornerback play in the NFL. But even as the WR2 on the team, he’s sure to get a lot of targets from Bortles.
Lee won’t be blazing by defenders like Brandin Crooks will with the New Orleans Saints or tower over corners like Mike Evans, but Lee has incredible vision, hands and agility that gives him separation. His skills paired with the Jaguars’ offense that threw 590 times last season can be dangerous. Because of the quarterback switch, we can’t really judge patterns of the target-distribution with Bortles in the NFL because he hasn’t played a snap yet. But consider Bortles’ distribution of passes at Central Florida.
In his two seasons as the starter in college, Bortles gave about one eighth of receptions to his top target and about one ninth to his second and third targets. Assuming the pass attempts in Jacksonville stay over 500, he’ll be targeting Lee around 60 times and he will probably reel in about 50 of them. That’s not shabby for a rookie, and he certainly could take in more receptions than projected. Blackmon took in 64 receptions in his first NFL season, and Lee could see that rate as well. If so, we could be seeing Top 30 WR production from Lee this year.
I’m projecting Lee to take in 55 receptions, six of them in the end zone, for 800 yards. If he were playing last season, he’d be the 32nd-ranked WR in fantasy terms and a welcomed WR3 and FLEX option in 12-team leagues who could likely be taken past the 12th round. So be on the prowl for this rookie ready to emerge right away.