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Fantasy Football Verdict: Blake Bortles

The popular belief in the fantasy community is that Blake Bortles is due to regress. Was his success a result of good fortune or a precursor of 2016?

The month of July always brings the question, “Which are the most popular fantasy football debates for the upcoming season?”  We have already covered Ezekiel Elliot’s rookie year potential, and whether or not Rob Gronkowski is a legitimate first round selection.  Now, let’s turn our attention to one of the biggest breakout performers of 2015: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles came from the bottom of the NFL quarterback rankings to finish the year as the number four rated fantasy quarterback.  He finished ahead of high profile quarterbacks such as Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.  As the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback begins his third season, the key question is:

Was last year’s success a sign of things to come, or is Blake Bortles headed for a big fantasy regression in 2016?

Fantasy Football Verdict: Blake Bortles

Currently, Bortles is the eighth quarterback off the board in mock drafts, with an average draft position (ADP) of 77th (  If you plan on selecting Blake Bortles in 2016, it is important to determine if he will solidify himself as a legitimate top five fantasy quarterback.  Most in the fantasy community feel strongly he is due for a big regression in 2016.  The main reasons are as follows.

  • Since the Jaguars finished with a 5-11 record, Bortles must have accumulated the majority of his statistics in the second half of games when the Jaguars were trailing.
  • Bortles simply isn’t that good. He led the NFL with 18 interceptions and his 58.5% completion percentage was 31st among starting quarterbacks.
  • The Jaguars defense should be much improved, making for more competitive games, which will prompt less passing attempts.

If these reasons prove to be valid, then Blake Bortles is very overvalued in mock drafts.   If those statements prove to be false, then Bortles could actually be undervalued at his current position.

I decided to breakdown his performance in each first half of 2015, and assess whether the game was competitive or if he got the majority of his points during “garbage time.” I then analyzed whether the game was a good or bad performance. What’s the fantasy football verdict on Blake Bortles?  Let’s get to the breakdown.

Game 1:  Carolina 20, Jacksonville 7
1st Half Statistics:  13/23, 125 yards, 1 TD, 26 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 13

Skinny:  A good first half against a tough Panthers defense.  He connected with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on some long passes, and led the team on three nine play drives that ended with a field goal, a Hurns fumble, and a one yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene.  Overall a great first half by Bortles, but he only ended up 22 of 40 with two interceptions.  (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Game 2:  Jacksonville 23, Miami 20
1st Half Statistics:  12/18, 186 yards, 2 TDs, 28 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 21

Skinny:  A fantastic home opener by Bortles.  Three first half drives of at least eight plays resulted in two Allen Robinson touchdowns and one field goal.   He ended up 18 of 33, 273 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 27 rushing yards for a total of 24 fantasy points. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 3:  New England 51, Jacksonville 17
1st Half Statistics:  8/16, 90 yards, INT, 5 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 13

Skinny:  Score one for the Bortles detractors.  The halftime score in Foxboro was 20-3, and Bortles didn’t throw a touchdown pass until midway through the 3rd quarter, when the Jaguars were down 30-3. He ended up with 19 fantasy points, but only had one point at the half.  This was definitely a garbage-time game for Bortles’ fantasy points production. He ended with 20 total fantasy points.  (Garbage Time Game/Bad Performance)

Game 4:  Indianapolis 16, Jacksonville 13
1st Half Statistics:  14/18, 179 yards, TD
1st Half Fantasy Points: 13

Skinny:  Better first half here than second half.  Bortles finished with 298 yards, the one touchdown to Allen Hurns, and a nice 31-yard rushing bonus.  He was a superb 14 of 18 in the first half, and a miserable 14 of 32 in the second half.  Bortles finished a poor 28 of 50 for 298 yards, 1 touchdown, and 31 rushing yards. (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Game 5:  Tampa Bay 38, Jacksonville 31
1st Half Statistics:  10/13, 134 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 21 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 17

Skinny:  His first game of at least four touchdowns in 2015 (he had three total).  Bortles’ first half was again outstanding. He had a 77% completion percentage and threw for two touchdowns.  His only misstep was the second quarter interception, but the 21 rushing yards negated that two fantasy point loss.  This game was close throughout, and Bortles certainly justified his end of year ranking with 37 standard scoring points.  (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 6:  Houston 31, Jacksonville 20
1st Half Statistics:  15/25, 138 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 18 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 10

Skinny: An average first half gave way to a big second half for Bortles.  However, this was not a “garbage time” performance.   The Jaguars were winning at the start of the fourth quarter by a score of 14-10.  If anything, his second half performance was worse in this case, as he threw two costly fourth quarter interceptions, including a pick-six Houston touchdown.  With under eight minutes left and trailing 31-14, Bortles did lead the Jaguars on a twelve-play touchdown drive, in which he passed or ran on every play. But given his two interceptions and the two earlier touchdown passes, this game does nothing to support the idea that Bortles statistics were usually accumulated in garbage time.  He finished the game with 31 fantasy points, giving him back to back 30 point games. (Competitive Game/Good Performance).

Game 7:  Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31 (England)
1st Half Statistics:  5/10, 79 yards, 1 TD, 1 rushing yard
1st Half Fantasy Points: 9

Skinny:  The annual overseas trip for Jacksonville produced average fantasy production for Blake Bortles.  A seven-play, 73-yard first half drive ended with a Bortles to Allen Robinson ten-yard touchdown pass.  This was one of the most memorable NFL games of the season, as the Jaguars used two defensive scores to build a 27-3 lead, only to trail 31-27 after a Bortles pick six.  Yet, under heavy pressure from the Bills pass rush, Bortles masterfully led an 84-yard drive in the fourth quarter, capped off by this 31-yard touchdown pass to Allen Hurns.  This game validated Bortles as a legit NFL quarterback for the 2015 season. He finished with a modest 18 fantasy points however, which cannot be classified as a “good” fantasy game.  (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Game 8:  New York Jets 28, Jacksonville 23
1st Half Statistics:  7/20, 101 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 20 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 10

Skinny: Interesting road game for Bortles at the Meadowlands.  He threw an interception in the first quarter and struggled with accuracy for most of the first half.  The Jets led the game 21-13 at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars simply decided to attack through the air more.  He finished with 381 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 32 rushing yards. The game was close throughout, and again Bortles produced at a high fantasy level. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 9: Jacksonville 22, Baltimore 20
1st Half Statistics:  8/19, 72 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 14 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 7

Skinny: Maybe the most memorable ending to an NFL game in 2015.  Bortles struggled against the Ravens defense on a cool November day in Baltimore.  His first half touchdown pass was a five-yard strike to Allen Hurns late in the first quarter. Bortles then looked deep for Hurns at the start of the second quarter and was intercepted by Ladarius Webb.  He finished with 19 points in a very competitive game. (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Game 10: Jacksonville 19, Tennessee 13
1st Half Statistics:  10/16, 125 yards, Fumble, 13 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 4

Skinny: This was a game with long first half drives that produced limited points.  Bortles led the team on an 11-play, 73-yard drive which ended in a field goal.  He followed that with a 13-play, 78-yard drive at the start of the second half which ended with Denard Robinson getting stopped on three straight runs from the seven yard line. Bortles struggled in the second half as well, including another costly interception at the Tennessee 23 yard line.  Bortles did get a touchdown on a five-yard pass to Julius Thomas late in the fourth quarter.  Not a great overall performance, but a clutch fourth quarter pass when his team needed it.  Bortles finished with only 14 fantasy points. (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Game 11: San Diego 31, Jacksonville 25

1st Half Statistics:  16/25, 180 yards, INT, 18 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 6

Skinny:  Six fantasy points would appear to indicate that Bortles had a terrible first half. But as always in fantasy football, we need to “look deeper.”  Here are his first half drives:

  • 10 plays, 76 yards:  Field Goal
  • 8 plays, 53 yards:  Field Goal
  • 3 plays, 7 yards:  Punt
  • 7 plays, 39 yards:  Punt
  • 6 plays, 36 yards:  (TD pass nullified by penalty) Field Goal
  • 3 plays, 6 yards:  Interception

That’s a very successful first half in terms of drives, just not in terms of results.  Jacksonville was down 21-9 at the half, and Bortles led two second half touchdown drives.  This was not a “garbage time” game. It was the Jaguars doing what they do best on offense: letting Bortles throw.  He ended up with 27 fantasy points, which means he did get 21 of his points in the second half.  But if two of those first half drives end in touchdowns, this could have been a 40+ fantasy point game. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 12: Tennessee 42,  Jacksonville 39
1st Half Statistics:  8/14, 116 yards, TD, -1 rushing yard
1st Half Fantasy Points: 10

Skinny:  Two nice first half drives here: an eight play drive with a T.J. Yeldon touchdown run and a ten play drive with a Rashad Greene touchdown catch.  Huge second half for Bortles, as he threw four touchdown passes, including three to Allen Robinson.  This was a close, high-scoring game that was definitely helped by a poor Jaguars defense.  Bortles’ final line:  24/36 for 322 yards and the five touchdown passes for 42 total fantasy points.  This was Bortles’ highest fantasy output of the season. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 13: Jacksonville 51, Indianapolis 16
1st Half Statistics:  7/17, 104 yards, Fumble
1st Half Fantasy Points: 2

Skinny:  Just two fantasy points at the half, but he finished with 35 fantasy points for the game.  Hard to believe that the Colts were winning this game at halftime by a score of 13-9.  The Jaguars passing offense got going at the start of the second half with a one-play 80-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to Allen Hurns on their first possession.  He finished 16/30 for 250 yards, 3 passing touchdowns, and 17 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.  Certainly not “garbage time” points here for Bortles, but it was clear by Week 13 that the Jaguars were a much better red zone passing team than running team. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 14: Atlanta 23, Jacksonville 17
1st Half Statistics:  12/21, 157 yards, INT, 30 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 11

Skinny:  A solid first half by Blake Bortles that could have been even better had he not ended the half with an interception on the one yard line.  Turn that interception into a touchdown pass, and he would have had 19 points at the half. Bortles ended up with 26 fantasy points in a game where both teams battled throughout the game.  It’s not surprising that Bortles’ numbers really picked up in the latter point of the season, as the Jaguars best goal line rushing option was Bortles himself.  Bortles was playing with confidence, and was a very popular starter as we headed into the fantasy playoff weeks. (Competitive Game/Good Performance)

Game 15: New Orleans 38, Jacksonville 27
1st Half Statistics:  8/13, 57 yards, TD, 2 INT, 5 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 4

Skinny:  Huge second half for Bortles here, and one of the best games in support of a 2016 regression.  34 second half points? 68 projected for the game?  The Jaguars were behind 24-6 at the half and had to throw the ball.  No counter argument here, as this in the quintessential “garbage time” production game. (Garbage Time Game/Good Performance)

Game 16: Houston 30, Jacksonville 6

1st Half Statistics:  5/15, 80 yards,  INT, 5 rushing yards
1st Half Fantasy Points: 1

Skinny: The Jaguars season ended on Bortles’ only single digit fantasy output. Only seven total points in a game the Texans dominated from start to finish to clinch their first AFC South title since 2012.  A bad overall performance, hurting Bortles’ efficiency level as an overall quarterback.  He finished 17 of 32 for 239 yards with two interceptions. Very few fantasy leagues compete during the last week, so this is really not a relevant game.  (Competitive Game/Bad Performance)

Fantasy Football Verdict: Blake Bortles

Here are the season totals:

Competitive Games: 14
Garbage Time Games: 2
Good Performances: 9
Bad Performances:  7

Looking at Bortles’ seasonal breakdown by halves:

Comp. % Yards TDs INTs Fumbles Rush. Yds
1st Half 56.7% 1923 12 10 2 198
2nd Half 60.2% 2505 23 8 3 112

Bortles’ completion percentage and yards were fairly consistent.  He did throw 11 more touchdown passes and two less interceptions, but it’s difficult to use that as the basis for a regression when he only had two “garbage time” games. The addition of Chris Ivory could hurt his rushing touchdowns (only two total in Weeks 14 and 15), but could also help him cut down on his league-leading 18 interceptions.  The real key to a successful season for Bortles is for him to improve his completion percentage (oonly Jameis Winston was worse among starting quarterbacks).  Bortles had the most deep ball attempts by far (110 attempts), and finished a solid ninth in deep ball completion percentage according to

My verdict?  With an improved Jaguars defense and a balanced running game keeping the opposing defenses honest, draft Blake Bortles with total confidence heading into the 2016 season.

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