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Staff Writer

Dede Westbrook Set to Break Out in 2019?

Dede Westbrook

Dede Westbrook: The Jags were quiet on the wide receiver front in free agency and this year's draft.

The Jacksonville Jaguars used the 110th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft to select Oklahoma Sooner wide receiver Dede Westbrook, a blossoming star who caught 74 passes for 1,465 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in route to earning the 2016 Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver.

Off-field question marks stemming from two separate misdemeanor family violence complaints before his arrival at OU, and doubts regarding the offense run by Lincoln Riley, caused Westbrook to fall to the second day of the draft.

Westbrook joined a crowded wide receiving corps led by Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Keelan Cole. No receiving option on the team, regardless of position, topped the 100 target plateau, reached 800 receiving yards, or came close to double-digit touchdowns as the team focused heavily on the run in an attempt to limit Blake Bortles’ passing struggles.

Allen Hurns left the team, and Marqise Lee suffered a season-ending leg injury in 2018, opening the door for Westbrook to become the first Jaguar receiver since 2015 to reach 100 or more targets. Despite subpar play at the wide receiver position, multiple injuries to the offensive line, and changes to the Jacksonville coaching staff mid-season, Westbrook finished with nearly the same FPts/G average as Corey Davis, Sterling Shepard, and Adam Humphries.

The Jaguars finally admitted the draft mistake they made with Blake Bortles and signed free agent quarterback Nick Foles to a lucrative long-term deal. While Foles did not excel in is previous stints as the starter with the Rams and the Chiefs, he is undoubtedly an upgrade over Bortles, who is arguably the worst passer to play in the NFL in the modern era.

In addition to adding Foles, the Jags added depth to their offensive line with the addition of Florida Tackle Jawann Taylor and left guard Andrew Norwell looks ready to return after missing all of last season.

From a competition standpoint, the Jags did sign unrestricted free agent Chris Conley from Kansas City, and Lee is on track to return to the field. But the lack of a big free agent signing or the use of early draft capital on a wide receiver leads me to assume that the Jacksonville front office is comfortable with Westbrook as a starter to begin the season.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Westbrook, a third-year wide receiver looking to take that next step, is the fact that he runs most of his routes from the slot. Nick Foles loves to target wide receivers and tight ends from the slot, and I anticipate he will quickly learn to lean on a shifty slot receiver like Westbrook.

As is always the case when it comes to breakout players, their value is not just based on what they do, but also how much draft capital is required to acquire them. With the calendar flipping over to May and rookie camps starting across the NFL, Westbrook is currently ranked as the 42nd wide receiver based on ECR, making him an extremely attractive value pick for owners who draft early in the draft season.