DJ Chark vs. the AFC South: Hope for fantasy football in 2020

DJ Chark had a mixed bag when it came to his fantasy performance against AFC South opponents in 2019, but there is hope for more in 2020.

DJ Chark’s fantasy performance against the AFC South last year showed impressive promise for 2020. Last year‘s WR17 averaged 15.1 points per game in PPR leagues. Fantasy players saw that number drop to 8.5 points per game in the Jacksonville Jaguars second meetings with AFC South opponents.

New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden should help increase production in the passing game. As the top wide receiver on the team, Chark will undoubtedly be a benefactor of this move. After noticing this first and second matchup trend, we are going to pivot from how we’ve looked at Mike Evans and D.K. Metcalf and opt away from a team by team examination.

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DJ Chark’s first meetings with the AFC South

Chark first saw the Houston Texans in Week 2, The Tennessee Titans in Week 3, and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11. Respectively he scored 18.5, 17.6, and 30.4 PPR points in these games. The Jaguars went 1-2 in these games, totaling 45 points and 661 passing yards, all less than stellar marks.

The Week 2 and 3 matchups were rookie signal-caller Gardner Minshew’s first two NFL starts, while the Colts game saw Nick Foles back under center for the first time since being forced from action by injury in Week 1.

Neither QB proved to be a massive increase or reduction in his production. While Chark’s first game against the Colts was his second-best fantasy game of the season, Foles was also at the helm a week later for the 22-point loss to the Titans where Chark netted just 10.8 points.

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Chark’s subsequent meeting with AFC South teams

In follow-ups with each divisional opponent, Chark did not see massive swings in usage. His targets against the Texans stayed the same at 9. We saw them go up against the Titans from 5 to 6. In the second meeting with the Colts, Chark saw a dip in targets from 15 to 5. That final Colts game took place in Week 17, well off the radar of most fantasy players.

With similar levels of involvement, no coaching changes, and no QBs that were unfamiliar with Chark, the problem was twofold. Chris Conley put together an impressive season, catching 47 balls for 775 yards and 5 touchdowns. But watching games, it is clear that Chark was the primary receiving threat on the team.

Defenses didn’t need to pay attention to the ancillary options. Former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo didn’t present many new looks, and teams prepared to stop what previously beat them.

Hope for DJ Chark in fantasy football for 2020

Jay Gruden, as an offensive coordinator, had a 1,000-yard receiver each year with the Bengals in A.J. Green. Then as head coach in Washington, he repeated that feat three times in six seasons, even seeing two 1,000-yard receivers in 2016 with Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson. Add in Terry McLaurin’s 919 in 14 games as a rookie last season and Jordan Reed’s 952 in 14 games back in 2015, and it is clear Gruden has the bona fides to put Chark over the top as a player that will flirt with low-end WR1 status some weeks.

Chark did not produce much tape as a rookie, and Minshew, taking his first snaps, certainly left teams with less to study than usual when looking for tendencies. Perhaps that is a more significant factor as to why Chark had a hot start in 2019. Yet the talent is undeniable, and with new arrivals in Gruden, Tyler Eifert, and Laviska Shenault, the Jaguars should have more ways to attack defenses in 2020. Chark having sustained success against the AFC South will be a big part of that.

Andrew Thomas Jordan is an editor and analyst for the Pro Football Network covering Dynasty Football. You can follow him @The_ATJ on Twitter and hear him weekly as host of The Fantasy Force Podcast.

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