- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The Jacksonville Jaguars are pretty much all or nothing for fantasy football these days, as in running back Maurice Jones-Drew is owned and active in all leagues, and the rest of the squad represents pretty much nothing. Perhaps that's not entirely fair, but look around your leagues and report how many owners are actually using rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, tight end Marcedes Lewis or, digging deeper, quarterback Blaine Gabbert or the team's kicker or defense. It's rare.
This week the Jaguars are facing a rather appealing matchup against another struggling franchise in the Oakland Raiders. Would I use Gabbert or one of the wide receivers in fantasy? It would have to be a deep league, but as we often do in the Friday Sneaky Pickups blog, we dream about possibility and plan ahead past the current week. Maybe the Jaguars won't score a ton Sunday -- they're averaging only 15 points per contest -- but planning ahead for fantasy purposes, let's not be so quick to dismiss the potential of the passing game if, as this offense-challenged team is suggesting, Gabbert is given a chance to open things up a bit.
Blackmon, the overall No. 5 pick in the real 2012 draft, is the No. 2 Jaguar in terms of standard league ownership, at 54.4 percent, but it seems to drop each week, and as of this writing he's active in barely 4 percent of leagues. That makes sense because he has scored a total of 12 fantasy points, on 13 receptions for 119 yards. Looks like a normal Wes Welker game, no? However, the kid has talent, but needs a quarterback and a game plan. The Jaguars were on bye last week, a fact realized by perhaps only the Jones-Drew owners, and they have pledged to get Blackmon and second-year receiver Cecil Shorts more involved this week. While the former is owned in deeper leagues, I've added the latter in a 20-teamer just in case he makes big plays.
Of course, in order for Blackmon, Shorts and, when healthy, veteran Laurent Robinson (concussion) to mean something in fantasy, Gabbert has to improve, but it's also important for the play calling to be more aggressive. As AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky noted, the conservative approach isn't working. This is a one-win team, and the victory came when Shorts hauled in a short crossing route and blasted off for an 80-yard touchdown late in Week 3 at Indianapolis. Shorts also made a big play late in Week 1 at Minnesota, scoring on a 39-yarder with 20 seconds left. There's talent here, and it's not ridiculous to expect these wide receivers and perhaps Lewis (he did score 10 touchdowns in 2010, after all) to matter.
The Raiders, by the way, are seventh-easiest for fantasy quarterbacks to accumulate points against. Here's to hoping offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey pushes Gabbert to be more aggressive, perhaps in running more, and he hopefully improves his terrible yards per attempt. Let's face it, there are other appealing matchups later in the season (Colts again, Lions, Titans twice, Bills), and the Jaguars need to see not only what Gabbert is capable of, but the talented, underused receivers Blackmon and Shorts as well.
Quarterback: With probably 15 or so quarterbacks worthy of starting attention in standard leagues (when there are no byes), maybe you see no need to snap up a John Skelton in advance. I can't argue that. This is the lone week with six teams on bye, but those owning Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III (both on bye in Week 10) should see if Christian Ponder, Ryan Tannehill and Gabbert are out there now. I'm in a deep league where the other owners grabbed all the starting QBs so those not planning would be stuck, or need to overpay in trade.
Running back: Keep an eye on the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are hurting. Jonathan Dwyer will likely start this week's game, and Baron Batch has deep-league value. ... Felix Jones starts for the Dallas Cowboys, but Phillip Tanner might be a better and more durable player, and should see chances. ... Jacquizz Rodgers has been so, um, average, Jason Snelling could become a factor again. ... I expect Vick Ballard to have a decent game for the Colts, but Delone Carter should get opportunity as well. ... Montario Hardesty has failed before, and if Trent Richardson cannot play, and if Hardesty disappoints, Chris Ogbonnaya is lurking in Cleveland.
Wide receiver: The NFL trade deadline is the Tuesday after Week 8 (in the past it would have already passed) and there are rumors of the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins discussing Dwayne Bowe. Hmmm. It might not alter Bowe's value much, but it would do wonders for barely owned Jon Baldwin. ... It's odd that the Colts' T.Y. Hilton is so ignored (0.8 percent). I'd still take Donnie Avery over him, but that hierarchy should change eventually. ... Chris Givens needs more attention in St. Louis after three consecutive games with a 50-yard play. ... Stephen Hill of the Jets isn't sneaky, because he's owned in 15 percent of leagues, but that figure is low. ... Devery Henderson tends to be all or nothing, but the Saints' schedule features a few games that could be "all." ... Jacoby Jones of the Ravens is a factor in the return game, for those leagues that give extra credit there.
Good luck to all in Week 7 and of course, beyond!
Eric Karabell's sneaky pickups for Week 7, including a few options on the currently struggling Jaguars offense.