An Undervalued Blake Bortles is Going to Have a Breakout Season
Hear me out. I know you’re probably thinking “I’m not falling for this trap again.” Blake Bortles supposedly burned so many people last year and people are not going to want to go down with that ship again this year. However, I am a firm believer his ship is going to sail and not sink this season. I say supposedly because when we dive into the stats, they aren’t as ugly as they seem on the surface and there are some pretty noticeable trends that are pointing upwards for the upcoming season. He could end up being an absolute steal in all draft formats.
Draft Value as Opposed to Names
So how “bad” was Bortles last season? He actually wasn’t as bad as perceived by the fantasy community. Using ESPN PPR standard scoring he finished 8th in total points, ahead of guys like Derek Carr, Cam Newton (who was going as the top QB off the board in a lot of drafts last season), Philip Rivers, and Jameis Winston. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, here are the current Average Draft Positions (ADP) for each of the listed QBs above in 12 team leagues:
Derek Carr – 7.03 (Round 7, pick 3), 6th overall QB and 75th overall player.
Cam Newton – 8.07, 8th overall QB and 90th overall player.
Jameis Winston – 9.04, 11th overall QB and 99th overall player.
Philip Rivers – 10.04, 13th overall QB and 112th overall player.
Blake Bortles – 14.01, 21st overall QB and 157th overall player.
Bortles is being drafted between 50-80 picks behind other QBs who he finished in front of last season in terms of total points, leading to his insane value for his current draft slot. If you are an individual who thinks Bortles had a down season last year, here is where he ranked across each passing and rushing category. Yes, I am going to include rushing stats because Bortles is sneakily one of the highest rushing QBs in the NFL, which adds safety to his floor value.
Passing yards – 3905 which was good for 15th overall.
Passing TDs – 23 which was also good for 15th overall.
Interceptions – 16 which was the 6th most, but still less than Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Jameis Winston (who are all perceived as safer options than Bortles.)
Passing Attempts – 625 which was the 3rd most only behind Drew Brees and Joe Flacco.
Rushing yards – 359 which was the 5th overall among QBs.
Rushing TDs – 3 which was 8th overall.
Looking at Bortles “down year,” he finished no lower than 15th in any stat categories that affect fantasy points awarded to QBs and is currently being drafted as the 21st overall QB. He has inherent value already built in to his draft slot. Now on to the case for how he is able to right the ship this year and have a break out season.
The Fuel for the Ship
Having a good defense can effect the offense in tremendous ways. By forcing turnovers and getting stops, you not only keep the field shorter for the offense, but you keep their heads in the game. It allows the offense to feel as if they are always playing for something each and every drive, instead of always playing from behind like the Jaguars were last season. To address their defense, the Jags added 3 big name players who, according to Pro Football Focus, grade out above 85. Barry Church is the new starting safety who had a grade of 85 last year in Dallas. Calais Campbell was also added to the team and was the 2nd ranked defensive tackle with a grade of 90. Finally, the Jags added A.J. Bouye, who was ranked by PFF as the 3rd overall cornerback last year with a grade of 91.This new look defense should be able to get stops and turnovers frequently, allowing Bortles to work with a shorter field more often and in turn leading to more red zone opportunities.
Not only did the Jags make a splash on defense, but they added stud running back Leonard Fournette in the NFL draft. If teams respect the true talent of Fournette, they are going to start putting more defenders in the box and letting Robinson and Lee have man coverage on the outside. Bortles is not afraid to throw it deep, and will throw it deep a ton if he has man coverage across the board. If Bortles can perform similar to 3 of his final 4 games last season, he is going to have a monster year. Here are his game lines from 3 of his final 4 games last year:
Week 13 against Minnesota:
23/37, 62% completion rate, 257 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 6.95 yards per attempt (Y/A) and a passer rating of 91.8.
Week 15 against Tennessee
26/38, 68% completion rate, 325 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 8.55 Y/A, and a passer rating of 103.5.
Week 16 against Indianapolis
25/39, 64% completion rate, 301 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 7.72 Y/A, and a passer rating of 96.2.
The only concerning factor from those 3 games at the end of the season are the lack of touchdowns. Remember though, the new look defense is going to create more red zone opportunities for Bortles and he won’t have to drive down the field himself every time. He should be able to approach the 30 TD mark this season. Let’s not forget he did throw 35 TDs two seasons ago. He turned the corner with the decision making at the end of the year by completing a higher % of passes (his season average was 58% which includes those 3 weeks listed above) and throwing less interceptions.
Again, with as “bad” of a season as Bortles had, he still finished as the 8th highest scoring QB in standard ESPN scoring, partially due to his ability to run the ball but that just adds to his floor. I would much rather spend high draft picks on running backs, receivers, and tight ends and take a chance on a guy like Bortles as my QB who is currently criminally underpriced.