The longest-tenured player on the roster, Lewis has racked up more than 4,100 receiving yards since joining the Jaguars as a first-round pick in 2006. The UCLA product has taken a backseat in recent years and has reached the end zone just once in the last two seasons. Lewis is coming off of a 2016 season in which he caught only 20 passes for 169 yards, the lowest total since his rookie year. With Julius Thomas out of the picture, Lewis will have an opportunity to reclaim the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, but he'll face stiff competition from free agent addition Mychal Rivera. While Lewis holds the advantage in terms of experience, the 26-year-old Rivera has a higher ceiling.
While the 11-year veteran played all 16 games last season for the first time since 2012, he hauled in just 16 passes on the year and failed to reach the end zone. The addition of Julius Thomas has relegated Lewis to a lesser role, but the 32-year-old still opted to re-sign with the Jaguars this offseason, inking a three-year, $12 million deal. Lewis will open the season as the No. 2 tight end, though he hasn’t shown enough over the last few years to warrant much fantasy consideration.
Lewis, who was limited to only eight games last season, returns to Jacksonville after restructuring his contract in the offseason. For the first time since he was drafted in 2006, he won’t hold the No. 1 tight end designation, as the Jaguars made a splash by bringing in Julius Thomas from Denver as a free agent this offseason. Thomas is the clear top tight end, and he might be Blake Bortles’ top overall target in the passing game. That doesn’t mean Lewis won’t play a role in 2015, but he’s unlikely to be valuable fantasy commodity playing behind Thomas in an overall weak offense.
Lewis missed all but two plays of the first six games last season with a calf injury but developed a bit of a rapport with quarterback Chad Henne in the second half of the season. He scored in four consecutive games late in the year, all on red-zone targets, three inside the 10-yard line. That might be the best Lewis can hope for this season as the downfield targets could be harder to come by with the addition of second-round draft picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. And with the Henne back at the helm until first-round pick Blake Bortles takes over in 2015, the passing game doesn't figure to be much better than last year's attack that averaged 6.34 yards per target (30th). Lewis will be 30 when the season starts, and at 6-6, 272, could be asked to do more blocking than receiving.
Lewis got back into the end zone last year (four TD) after being shut out the previous season, and his yards per target rebounded from a meager 5.4 to 7.0. He was helped by the emergence of receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, which opened space for him underneath and prevented double teams.
But as one of the best blocking tight ends in the game on a shaky offensive line, Lewis had little opportunity to become a major player in the Jacksonville passing game. Despite clocking in at 6-6, 275, Lewis saw his work inside the 10-yard line reduced last year to five targets. Lewis is likely once again to be used more as a blocker than receiver, and like the rest of the team’s receivers, his value will be strongly correlated to the development of a subpar Jacksonville passing game.
Despite only three fewer targets than in 2010, Lewis saw a drastic drop in his numbers last year. He caught 19 fewer passes and recorded 240 fewer receiving yards. Most shockingly, after scoring 10 touchdowns the previous year he did not find the end zone once last season. Much of the blame for the drop in production can be placed on the Jaguars’ passing game and the play of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who struggled in his rookie season – consider that Lewis totaled only 460 receiving yards, yet that was enough to lead the impotent Jaguars. Absent legit receiving threats, Lewis attracted most of the defensive attention, especially near the goal line, which he never crossed despite matching his red-zone and inside-10 targets (15, 8) from the previous season. While Lewis totaled only 460 receiving yards, that was somehow enough to lead the impotent Jaguars.
A hulking tight end at 6-6, 275, Lewis turned in a career year for the Jaguars last season. He was targeted a career-high 88 times, rewarding fantasy owners by finishing fourth among tight ends with 130 fantasy points. An outstanding blocker, he deserves some credit for Maurice Jones-Drew’s success, opening holes at the line of scrimmage. This in turn makes him a useful target in play-action as he slips through initial contact to give David Garrard an open receiver down the seam. Lewis also used his size to become a dependable red-zone receiver last season, getting 15 targets there and eight inside the 10, resulting in 10 touchdowns, tied for most among tight ends. While he increased his 54-percent catch rate from 2009, last year's 65.9 percent is still middle of the pack. Further improvement this season would boost his fantasy value as his 700 yards and 58 receptions ranked just eighth and ninth, respectively, among tight ends. The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him in February and then gave him a new five-year contract, which means Lewis will again be a big part of the team’s plans.
Had he qualified, Lewis would have led all
tight ends with a whopping 16.2 yards per
catch last season. He was targeted 12 fewer
times than the previous season, though, resulting
in just 32 receptions, nine less than in 2008.
In the red-zone he was thrown to only five
times, the lowest number among the top-25
fantasy tight ends. Lewis also catches a low
percentage of his passes for a tight end — just a
54-percent catch rate, though some of that is a
function of running deeper routes. Finally,
second-year man Zach Miller could push Lewis
for the starting job this year.
Lewis finished with a respectable 41 catches for 489 yards last season, though he scored only two touchdowns. This was a direct result of only four targets in the red zone, the lowest among the 27 tight ends with at least 50 targets. That number could change with Maurice Jones-Drew having the clear-cut running back gig and defenses zeroing in on him near the goal line. Lewis will also have to improve his hands, as his eight dropped passes were the worst among tight ends. That number’s particularly bad when you consider he had just 72 targets (tied for 15th).
A 2006 first-round draft pick, Lewis is the
leader among an unspectacular bunch in Jacksonville, but he's not a lock to begin the year as the starter. He was among the position's leaders in targets inside the 10- and 5-yard lines, but his overall numbers (37 catches, 391 yards, 2 touchdowns) are middle of the road. With no real dominant player in the receiving game, Lewis could snare another 40 balls or so in 2008, but the team doesn't look for its tight ends in the end zone. Jaguars’ tight ends have caught just 8.8 percent of the team's receiving touchdowns the last three seasons (28th in NFL). This is in part due to the team's corps of large wideouts, and it just added another in Jerry Porter.
Lewis may be an emerging pass-catcher during the 2007 season, especially given new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's tendency to throw to the tight end. Jermaine Wiggins will probably receive most of the tight end receptions, but Lewis could see his fair share of catches and may be a nice waiver wire fantasy pickup later in the season.
Lewis won the 2005 John Mackey award as the nation’s top collegiate tight end, after leading the Bruins with 59 receptions for 741 yards and 10 TDs. With his good size and hands, he gives the team another red-zone target who could be involved in the offense right away.