Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole is averaging more PPR fantasy points than teammate D.J. Chark. Can he cement himself as a weekly Flex play with a productive outing against the Cincinnati Bengals?
Keelan Cole’s OVM and role with the Jaguars
The PFN Offensive Value Metric measures how much of a player’s statistical production they were actually responsible for. For example, a wide receiver that doesn’t drop passes and breaks a lot of tackles will have a higher grade than one who did the opposite. So, a player with a higher grade was more responsible for their own production than a player with a lower one. These facts make the OSM useful for gauging an individual player’s actual effectiveness in a game, separate from the performances of their teammates.
Cole currently finds himself near the mountaintop as WR2 behind only Jarvis Landry, according to OVM. He now has a score of 42.93, which is considered elite at the position. Through three weeks, Cole has 15 catches on 18 targets with zero drops, and his 53 yards after catch amount to 35% of his total yards, significantly improving his score.
When Cole is targeted, it is resulting in a 114.8 QB rating for Gardner Minshew. He is providing a consistent target underneath the defense that Minshew is leaning on more. Through the 2020 season, Cole is tied for 86th in the league in yards before catch per reception with 6.6; for context, the current leader is D.K. Metcalf with 19.7 yards before catch per reception. Cole falls even further when we look at average depth of target, where his mark of 5.8 puts him at 152nd in the NFL.
Cole is being asked to provide a safe target, and his OVM score indicates his proficiency in that regard. Increasing his role on offense and having him act as more than an underneath man could lead to better fantasy days. Still, the coaching staff either may not believe he is capable or may opt to have another teammate assume that role and keep Cole producing exactly how he is.
The Bengals defense against the pass
The Bengals are currently ranked 21st against the pass in the NFL while coming in dead last against the run. Their lack of a pass rush has been indicative of their overall success. Just five sacks on 100 passing attempts and 17 total pressures (ranking 31st in the NFL) means Minshew should have time to survey the field.
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The Bengals defense is allowing the fourth-highest adot in the league, yet are 26th in air yards by completion and 30th in yards after catch. Combine that with a 32.5% blitz percentage, and it’s clear that this defense is sitting back and opting for a bend, don’t break approach to defending the pass, to particular successes.
As long as the Jaguars take what they’re given, they can have James Robinson pile up yards on the ground and continue to employ their underneath receiver to work as a chain mover. Keelan Cole’s fantasy viability is stable with this formula.
Keelan Cole’s fantasy outlook in Week 4
With Chark back in the mix, the offense should return to a slightly better state. The Week 3 game against Miami looked like a completely different Jaguars team. Sloppy, inefficient play marred the offense as Minshew seemed unable to get much done, taking four sacks, throwing a pick, and only averaging 9.16 yards per completion.
Cole won’t function as the team’s primary weapon in any matchup, which is perfectly fine for the Jaguars and fantasy players alike. A steady, if unspectacular play for when you need to aim for safety over upside. Minshew will take shots deep but works his best when hitting a rhythm on short passes to creep a safety closer to the box.
If Cole continues to play his part, we may see something of a lower salary version of Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. in terms of roles and from where their production comes from. At the end of the day, Cole will never be a sexy pick, but he is a savvy one.
Andrew Thomas Jordan is an editor and analyst for Pro Football Network covering fantasy football: dynasty, redraft, best ball, DFS, and more. You can follow him @The_ATJ on Twitter and hear him weekly as co-host of The Fantasy Force Podcast.