JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the wide receiver position in this post-2019 NFL Draft look at the Jaguars’ roster…
Position: Wide receiver (11).
Projected starters: Dede Westbrook/Chris Conley/Keelan Cole/DJ Chark Jr./Marqise Lee
Others: C.J. Board, Tyre Brady, Raphael Leonard, Dredrick Snelson, Michael Walker, Papi White.
Arrivals: Conley (unrestricted free agent, Kansas City Chiefs), Brady (undrafted collegiate free agent), Leonard (undrafted collegiate free agent), Snelson (undrafted collegiate free agent), Walker (undrafted collegiate free agent), White (undrafted collegiate free agent).
Departures: Donte Moncrief (unrestricted free agent, Pittsburgh Steelers), Rashad Greene (unrestricted free agent).
Offseason breakdown: The Jaguars made moderate changes here in recent months, allowing Moncrief and Greene to become free agents and signing the dynamic, athletic Conley from the Chiefs. They opted against selecting the position in the 2019 NFL Draft, but emphasized the position heavily in collegiate free agency.
Oehser analysis: The Jaguars surprised many observers with their offseason approach to this position, with the only high-profile offseason wide-receiver acquisition being the signing of Conley as an unrestricted free agent. Conley became part of an intriguing group – equal parts talent and uncertainty. While Westbrook showed big-time playmaking ability last season, he must continue those strides. While Cole has potential as he showed in a 700-yard rookie season, he must play much better and more consistently than last season. While Chark has first-round potential, he must improve dramatically in his second NFL season to fulfill it. While Conley has big-time athleticism, he must adapt to a new team after slipping in the Chiefs’ receiving rotation last season. While the team loves Lee’s toughness and leadership, he is returning from a major knee injury and hasn’t played a meaningful game since the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season. The Jaguars believe strongly in this group, which will get a comparatively clean slate with Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles as the team’s starting quarterback. Expect this to be a major storyline in the first half of next season. This group must answer a lot of questions positively and quickly for the Jaguars to make the necessary strides in the passing game.
Sexton analysis: John keeps telling me the Jaguars’ brass is good with the team’s receiving corps, and I guess they are because they hardly touched the position this offseason. Lee, Westbrook, Conley, Chark and Cole have enough combined talent to make the offense go, but individually I have questions. Is Lee’s rebuilt knee ready to stand up to the pounding it will take? It was a significant injury, especially for a guy who wins with his speed, but he tells me every time I see him, he will be back and ready to roll in Week One: Lee is a middle-of-the-field, run-after-the-catch, block-through-the-whistle kind of guy. He needs to be on the field if this group is going to reach its potential. Two: Can Chark play the role of the No. 1 receiver? The first time I laid eyes on Chark it was clear he is what a No. 1 receiver is supposed to look like: tall, long arms, huge hands, a broad frame and electrifying “you-can’t-possibly-stop-this” speed. The word was he was coming on strong in practice until the quad injury in late October and the drop in the end zone in London. Three: Who is Keelan Cole? The third-year wideout was a sensation as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and entirely unaccounted for in 2018 outside of a highlight reel, one-handed catch against New England in September. Is he the guy who rose above his small-school experience and looked like a star during 2017’s playoff run or the guy who wouldn’t talk to the media in London after another key drop that cost the Jaguars bigtime? It’s time to decide. There are enough playmakers in this group for Foles to work with. Perhaps with a higher level of performance from the quarterback, someone among this group will rise to the level of being “the man.”