Earlier this summer (On the GenJag Podcast), I broke down what second-year pass rusher Josh Allen's stat line could look like in 2020. When projecting out stats for a season, there are many factors to consider. Personal growth, scheme, health, and surrounding talent are critical determinants.
Today, we'll take a look at DJ Chark. The 2018 second-round pick had a breakout campaign in 2019. He totaled 73 catches, 1,008 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns in 15 games. He did this on an offense that struggled to score points. He was the only Jaguars' skill player to score more than five touchdowns. He put up these impressive numbers despite dealing with nagging injuries from week 12 on. He dealt with a hamstring issue, back injury, and sprained ankle.
So, what factors will impact his 2020 production?
Who is throwing Chark the football? Gardner Minshew is the Jaguars' starting QB. He and Chark showed impressive chemistry in 2019, but to understand exactly what Chark's stats looked like with Minshew, I'm going to look at the nine contests that Chark and Minshew played the majority of the game together AND Chark was healthy. In those nine games, Chark put up 43 catches, 692 yards, and six touchdowns. Over a 16 games season, those numbers would project to 76.3 catches, 1,262 yards, and 10.5 touchdowns. Not too shabby.
With Jay Gruden coming as the new offensive coordinator, the Jaguars will have a new scheme on offense in 2020. While Jacksonville was decent when it came to moving the ball last season, they were horrific inside the red zone and struggled to score points. Gruden's scheme should allow Gardner Minshew to play better football, which should lead to more success for Chark.
As for the personnel around DJ Chark, it has undoubtedly improved. Adding TE Tyler Eifert, WRs Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson, while also getting TEs Josh Oliver and James O'Shaughnessy back into the mix should help the Jaguars' offense be more well rounded and consistent. I'm not projecting this offense to jump into the top ten, but a finish in the mid-teens is well within the range of outcomes for this offense. And while some might think that the new weapons will eat into Chark's target rate, I think that the ball will be spread around more in 2020, but I see the new additions eating more into Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley's production than anything. And having better players around him should help his overall efficiency. I also see Minshew's completion percentage rising thanks to a more user-friendly offense.
Chark is currently fully healthy and has received rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike. Still, he has yet to complete a 16 game season in his two-year career. I'm not arguing that he can't play all 16 games, but we haven't seen it yet.
From a development standpoint, Chark didn't NEED to get much better. He was excellent at catching contested balls and was able to beat man and zone coverage regularly according to reception perception. Still, another year of growth for the 23-year-old receiver should only help his on-field ability.
Over a 16 games season, I'd project Chark to catch 80 passes on 125 targets, improving his catch rate by 2.1%. The new scheme would allow Chark to get into more advantageous situations, seeing him score touchdowns at a slightly higher rate. I'd see 12 touchdowns as the most likely outcome. And in terms of yards, I think his average of 13.8 yards per catch is reasonable to project again in 2020, but with his deep ball prowess, and a more well-rounded offense, I'll anticipate him averaging 14.5 yards per catch.
But I'm not going to project Chark to play 16 games. I think 13-14 is a much more reasonable projection considering his injury history. We'll go with 14 because I'm feeling generous.
Final Stat Projections: 70 catches, 11 touchdowns, 1,015 yards
Of course, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Chark blow these numbers out of the water. He has elite size, speed, route running, and catch radius. He could easily be one of the biggest breakouts receivers in the league in 2020.
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