The Jaguars added some massively talented beef to their offensive line, inking guard Andrew Norwell to a five-year, $66.5 million contract. With a whopping $30 million guaranteed, Norwell becomes the highest paid interior lineman in the league, but should prove to be money well-spent. Though Fantasy Sheep may overlook line additions, true Wolves know these maulers mark some of the most crucial Free Agency moves. From paving wider running lanes, to allowing more time for pass plays to develop, lineman are truly the engine to fantasy success. Thus, let’s dig into just how valuable Norwell is, and what he means for the Jaguars fantasy talents you’ll actually be using (re: Leonard Fournette).
Leonard Fournette to steamroll even further in 2018
Under the hard-nosed Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars offense now hinges on Fournette and the run game. The team led the league in rushing attempts and yardage, swallowing teams up on defense while punishing them into submission via a power-based attack.
Unsurprisingly, then, Fournette was a fantasy star in his rookie campaign. Despite missing three games, Fournette finished as a Top-10 back in all formats, and averaging over 17 FPs per game in PPR settings… despite rarely catching passes. His production was incredibly consistent, as Fournette topped double digits in 11 of 13 Games Played.
And he’s only ascending, especially now with Norwell.
The Jaguars were already a strong run-blocking team, ranking 2nd in the NFL with 1.95 yards before contact for their RBs. Yet, the left guard spot was easily the unit’s largest liability, rotating through stiffs Patrick Omameh, Chris Reed, and Tyler Shatley and finding minimal success.
Enter Norwell: PFF’s No.3 Ranked Guard (33 spots higher than any Jaguars at the position). His 83.4 run blocking grade was 8th best in the NFL, and Norwell has consistently graded even higher; he had previously scored 84.1 in 2016 and 87.6 in 2015.
He’s also plenty athletic and excellent at getting upfield on screen blocks. While this would seem useless with Fournette serving as the early down hammer, recent reports suggest he’s headed for an expanded role. GM Dave Caldwell expressed his pleasant surprise in Fourette’s pass-catching at the NFL Combine, noting:
“We thought he could catch the ball pretty good, but he caught the ball extremely well. I thought the fact that we thought he could be a three-down backs for us – I think there were some questions marks from some people, but we felt like he could do it all coming out and he proved he could do it.”
Fournette was already inside most Big Board’s first rounds, but Norwell’s addition and an expanded receiving role should have him locked into all. Durability is the only barrier to a shoo-in Top-10 Campaign… but that barrier is admittedly quite large.
If you’re actually drafting Blake Bortles… this helps
For all his strengths as a run-blocker, Norwell is actually at his best in pass protection. He was the only offensive lineman to not allow a single sack all season, let alone a QB hit, while only allowing 13 hurries — second best in the league.
This, obviously, boosts Bortles’ stock, as the signal caller will receive ample time to throw. This also boosts the stock of speedsters Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook (or Donte Moncrief?!), as they’ll be afforded more time to shake free deep, while a clean pocket will allow Bortles to sling it downfield more accurately.
For all his real life woes, Bortles has actually been serviceable, if not well-above average, on the virtual gridiron. He’s finished as the QB13, QB9, and QB4 over his past three seasons, and now finds himself surrounded by a bevv of quality No.2 options with deep speed. I’m probably not drafting Bortles, but Norwell certainly doesn’t hurt his chances of another Top-15 campaign.
Though linemen often are overlooked by Fantasy Owners, Andrew Norwell‘s signing may go down as one of 2018’s most crucial. Granted, the only player we truly care about here is Leonard Fournette, but Norwell will stabilize the only glaring weakness on an otherwise punishing run-blocking line, allowing Fournette to run even more freely in his sophomore campaign. Health is admittedly a huge concern. Yet, Norwell’s presence all but guarantees Weekly RB1 production for as long as Fournette lasts. Hopefully, it’s all 16 and a masterpiece.
Free Agency is firing along at a record pace. Be sure to follow us on Twitter or Instagram for news as it breaks, and don’t miss our debut episode of the Roto Street Rundown: Free Agency Edition.
Other Free Agency Fallouts:
- Sammy Watkins raising ceilings around him, but not his own, with the Chiefs
- Kirk Cousins lands in Fantasy Paradise with the Vikings; best for all is yet to come
- Case Keenum to Broncos, making you marginally more excited about their marginal offense
- Allen Robinson to have every opportunity at WR1 value with the Bears
- Trey Burton gives Matt Nagy the field-stretching TE he craves
- Andrew Norwell ensures Leonard Fournette will continue to steamroll