Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell had a clear plan going into the 2014 NFL Draft – get his franchise quarterback and surround him with weapons. With the future of former first round pick Justin Blackmon up in the air, Caldwell spent two 2nd round picks on wide receivers. Some people questioned the role of veteran receiver Cecil Shorts after these moves, but the front office recently came out and endorsed Shorts as a long-term piece they hope to re-sign.
Considering the addition of Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, where does Cecil Shorts fit in the offense? Is he a slot receiver or an outside guy? Let’s take a look at his targets from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Percentage of Targets – 2012 Season
Percentage of Targets – 2013 Season
Shorts had a breakout season in 2012, specifically as a big play threat. He was one of the best receivers in the league in regards to running after the catch as evidenced by 17.8 yards per reception average. Most of his damage came in the middle of the field where he got almost half of his targets.
Despite playing in a new offense in 2013 - in addition to being asked to do a lot more as the number 1 receiver - Shorts still did most of his damage over the middle of the field. Out of necessity, Shorts had to line up on the outside a lot more to accommodate guys like Ace Sanders and Mike Brown in the slot. Consequently, he had to face a lot more number 1 cornerbacks and his yards per reception average went down significantly, but it was still respectable at 11.8 yards per catch.
If Shorts can stay healthy, he can be an effective playmaker in the middle. His two years of significant playing time indicates he does his best work when he’s being targeted in the middle of the field. Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee both played on the outside in college, and both have skill sets that should translate well to the NFL. Robinson is the big-bodied, physical receiver who can handle one side of the field, while Lee is the quick, shifty burner who can take the top off a defense on the other side of the field.
Rather than getting rid of Cecil Shorts, let’s embrace him as the 3rd piece in what could eventually be one of the most potent receiving groups in the NFL.
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(*Statistics from Pro Football Focus)