JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' wide receivers in this position-by-position look at the '20 offseason
Position: Wide receiver.
2019 starters: DJ Chark Jr. (14), Chris Conley (14), Dede Westbrook (9), Keelan Cole (1), Marqise Lee (1)
Others: C.J. Board, Terry Godwin, Charone Peake, Michael Walker, Jayson Stanley (cornerback).
2019 at a glance: This area flashed productivity in 2019, with Chark – a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft – showing signs of being a go-to receiver and star moving forward and several others turning in productive seasons. Chark caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time, with Conley catching a career-high 47 passes for 775 yards and five touchdowns after signing as an unrestricted free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs last March. Westbrook, a fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, played through neck/shoulder issues to catch 66 passes for 660 yards and three touchdowns and Cole – an undrafted rookie in 2017 – caught 24 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns as the fourth receiver. Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft who missed 2018 with a severe knee injury, caught just three passes for 18 yards before an ankle injury ended his season after six games.
Offseason storyline: The Jaguars must decide if their core wide receiver group of Chark, Conley and Westbrook is strong and dynamic enough moving forward, or if they need to draft a playmaking wide receiver early to complement Chark. While Chark emerged as a potential No. 1 receiver, the passing offense overall stagnated at times. Many draft analysts see receiver opposite Chark as a need, with some projecting the position to the Jaguars with one of their two first-round selections.
Free agents as of March 18: Cole (restricted free agent).
Oehser analysis: The Jaguars enter the offseason in a decent position at wide receiver. What they must decide is if they are satisfied for now with "decent" or if they want to try to get great. Chark last season showed signs of being an elite player at the position, though he must be more consistent and continue to learn how to beat the double-teams and shaded defenses that he saw in the second half of the season. He appears to have the best chance of the current group to develop into a go-to receiver. Conley showed big-time speed and athleticism at times, but can he produce beyond the career-highs he set last season? The answer to that question could determine the Jaguars' offseason direction here. An intriguing story next season will be Westbrook, who appeared poised for a breakout season in 2019 before appearing to be hampered much of the last three quarters of the season with his injuries. The Jaguars won't be deficient at receiver if they open 2020 with Chark/Westbrook/Conley/Cole as their top four receivers, but the thought here is they could – and should – drafted a receiver in the first four selections to try to upgrade a spot that wasn't quite as dynamic in 2019 as would be ideal.
Sexton analysis: Chark became a star in 2019, taking folks by surprise early and gaining the attention of defensive coordinators as the season continued. His height, length and speed were known commodities; his competitiveness wasn't. The guy is a total professional who loves the game and knows he can be really, really good. That makes his upside beyond exciting. Chark overshadowed Westbrook, who emerged at the end of 2018 and was the go-to guy for quarterback Nick Foles in training camp; he more than anyone suffered with the instability at quarterback as Chark became rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II's favorite downfield target and the rookie quarterback struggled to read the middle from the pocket. Still, Westbrook is an exciting talent with the ability to turn on a dime and accelerate quickly to top speed – and he should benefit from Minshew's offseason development. The scouting staff had to feel like they got exactly what they paid for in Conley, who delivered some big plays such as a 70-yard touchdown against the New York Jets in Week 8. That's No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3; if the Jaguars want another big target, this would be the offseason to do it. Wide receiver stands out as one of the deepest and most talented positions in April's 2020 NFL Draft.