JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' wide receivers in this position-by-position look at the '21 offseason
Position: Wide receiver.
Position coach: Sanjay Lal.
2020 starters: DJ Chark Jr. (12), Laviska Shenault Jr. (12), Keelan Cole Sr. (5), Chris Conley (4).
Others: Collin Johnson, Dede Westbrook, Terry Godwin, Josh Hammond, Trey Quinn, Damion Willis.
2020 at a glance: This past season was as tough at times for the Jaguars' wide receivers as it was for much of the team – with injuries and a lack of continuity at quarterback among the difficulties faced at the position. Chark, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2019 season, caught 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns. Cole, playing in a contract season, caught 55 passes for 642 yards and five touchdowns with Shenault – a second-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – leading the team as a rookie with 58 receptions for 600 yards and five touchdowns. Conley, the team's most veteran receiver, caught 40 passes for 471 yards and two touchdowns and Johnson – a fifth-round selection in the '20 draft – showed potential as a rookie with 18 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Westbrook, a fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, played sparingly early and missed the final nine games of the season with a knee injury.
Offseason storyline: The Jaguars have talent here, with several players having the potential to help form the position's core moving forward. That's one reality for the group. The other is there are key decisions to be made for the team's new decision-makers, with three familiar names – Cole, Westbrook and Conley – scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Westbrook's health also is an issue, with the one-time slot receiver/punt returner having sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament injury in a Week 7 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. How the decision-makers see players such as Chark, Shenault and Johnson – and whether the team believes the group needs more speed and/or physicality – will be key. A tricky decision could involve Cole, who has developed into a reliable option in four seasons with the team, but who could opt to test the market.
Free agents as of March 17: Cole, Conley, Westbrook.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent wide receivers: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears; Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions.
Bucky Brooks' top three wide receiver prospects: DeVonta Smith, Alabama; Ja' Marr Chase, Louisiana State; Jaylen Waddle, Alabama.
Oehser analysis: This is among the Jaguars' more intriguing offseason positions. While Chark, Shenault and Johnson form a solid young core, the uncertain futures of Cole/Conley/Westbrook could mean at least one major offseason change – and multiple departures. There are many positives here. Chark in three NFL seasons has proven capable of creating plays across the middle and deep downfield; he has at times shown the go-to characteristics of a No. 1 wide receiver, Shenault has big-time playmaking ability, can run out of the backfield and showed flashes of being one of the NFL's better young receivers with the ball in his hands after the catch. Johnson as a rookie showed encouraging ability to make plays on the ball with the ball in the air. The question with Cole will be whether he and the team agree on his role and value moving forward; if so, he has proven to be a reliable, productive option – particularly the past two seasons. One option could be to add speed to an already athletic core, and another could be to add a possession target to help what likely will be a rookie starting quarterback. A positive here: This is considered a strong year for the position in both free agency and the draft. With a strong core at the position, the Jaguars could use either avenue to add to an already capable group.
Brooks analysis: The Jaguars are solid at wide receiver with Chark and Shenault coming into their own as playmakers. Each pass-catcher has flashed big-play potential, with Chark thriving as the WR1 and Shenault adding some sizzle as a "catch-and-run" specialist. That said, the Jaguars need to add a No. 3 receiver with outstanding slot skills to balance out the lineup. The draft is loaded with intriguing options at wide receiver with big-bodied pass catchers and speedy playmakers available in every round. The Jaguars could link a young receiver with a baby-faced quarterback to create a dynamic wide-receiver corps that grows together over the next few years. If Head Coach Urban Meyer opts for a veteran receiver on the free-agent market, the Jaguars could add a proven veteran to reset the pecking order or create a 1A and 1B situation. To compete with the heavyweights in the AFC, the Jaguars need a more explosive offense with big-play pass-catchers positioned all over the field.