There’s a saying among long-time fantasy owners that goes something like this: “We don’t care when they (our players) score, as long as they do.”
Normally, when a player posts a great stat line, they and/or their team had a nice day. But that isn’t always the case. Lots of players will accumulate numbers in what’s known as “garbage time”, which is the period of the game where the result has been decided but there’s enough time to do some stat padding.
No one has been better the last couple years in garbage time than Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
Last season was a breakout year for the Jacksonville signal caller. In his second year, he threw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns, which was good enough for the fourth-most fantasy points among all quarterbacks.
Those fantasy numbers were great, but they don’t tell the whole story. Bortles averaged a measly 7.3 yards per attempt and completed only 58.6 percent of his passes. The real reason he saw such an increase in fantasy production from year one to two was due to 131 additional attempts.
Bortles also benefitted from lots of passing attempts in garbage time. At best, the opposing defense is mailing it in during that time, allowing Bortles easier completions to accumulate yards. He threw for 300 yards in a game six times in 2015, and Jacksonville lost all six contests, clearly indicating the 24-year-old mostly excels when his team is behind and trailing by a lot.
Thursday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans was no different. Bortles finished with 337 passing yards and three touchdowns, which gave him a whopping 29 fantasy points in standard leagues. He will be a candidate to finish with the most fantasy points this week at his position.
Yet, anyone who watched the game realized he was absolutely awful. It took him 54 passing attempts to accumulate all those yards, so he only averaged 6.2 yards per attempt. The Jaguars were behind by 27 points at halftime, so Bortles had 30 minutes of garbage time to pad his stats, and because they were behind by so much, Jacksonville attempted nearly 60 passes and only seven runs with a running back.
At halftime, Bortles was 8-of-16 for 64 yards. Quite frankly, his fantasy owners were fortunate he wasn’t benched because he played that poorly. His decision-making is one thing, but his mechanics are downright horrendous right now.
The Jaguars are now 0-10 in Bortles’ career when he reaches the 300-yard plateau, and the average margin of defeat in those games has been 8.6 points. And in a lot of those contests, the final score isn’t indicative of actually how lopsided the game really was.
For instance, Thursday’s game finished 36-22, but the Titans were leading by 28 with 12 minutes to go. The Jaguars added two touchdowns in the final four minutes, including one with just a second left on the clock.
Again, owners don’t care when or how fantasy quarterbacks score their points, but at the same time, it’s very hard to rely upon a signal caller that’s only going to succeed if he and his team struggle so mightily that they fall behind by multiple touchdowns and garbage time begins early.
In Jacksonville’s two victories this season, Bortles is averaging 14.56 fantasy points. Including the Jaguars’ losses that were decided by fewer than four points, and he is only scoring 12.96 fantasy points per week.
Dating back to last season, in games where Jacksonville either wins or loses by three points or less, Bortles averages 242.7 passing yards and 16.71 fantasy points per week. That’s not bad, but again, not the elite numbers he posts in garbage time.
And if Bortles can’t post top tier numbers unless Jacksonville is behind, neither can his backs and receivers. Neither running back Chris Ivory nor T.J. Yeldon can be trusted right now, but receiver Allen Robinson can’t be either. Even in garbage time he hasn’t succeeded this year. Robinson is on pace for just 836.6 receiving yards and about seven touchdowns.
Last year, he had 1,400 receiving yards and led the league with 14 scores. His production has almost been cut in half in large part because of Bortles’ struggles.
Fellow receiver Allen Hurns benefited from garbage time Thursday, posting his best fantasy day of the year, but he also has struggled to maintain his same level of productivity.
As long as Jacksonville continues to play from behind, Bortles and his receivers are worth starting in 12-team leagues. But usually owners want guys who are going to be used because they can help their team win.
Right now, it seems like the more Bortles throws, the less likley the Jaguars are going to win that week.