The Jacksonville Jaguars have many star players but some of them don't get the recognition they deserve. Take wide receiver Zay Jones for example. He became an important contributor for the Jags last year but he's not mentioned as one of their best offensive players nearly often as Christian Kirk or tight end Evan Engram. This led Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports to name Jones their must-underappreciated player ahead of the 2023 season.
Benjamin chose one underappreciated player for each NFL club and picked Jones for Jacksonville, pointing out that he set new career bests for yards and catches last year and his contributions in the playoffs.
"Calvin Ridley is the talk of the town as Trevor Lawrence's new No. 1 opposite Christian Kirk. But let's not forget Jones' clutch emergence after mercurial stops in Buffalo and Las Vegas; after quietly topping 80 catches and 800 yards as Jacksonville's No. 2, he went off for 13-157-1 in the team's two playoff games. He should be even more efficient back in a secondary role."
Jones, a second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2017, only had more than 50 catches in a year once in his first five NFL seasons. Similarly, he only had more than two touchdown receptions in 2018, when he reached the end zone seven times. But all changed in 2022. General manager Trent Baalke didn't care about Jones' past production and instead focus on what he could do on the Jags' offense, so he gave him a three-year deal worth $24 million last offseason.
The decision raised eyebrows at first (guilty as charged) but the Jags got the last laugh as the former East Carolina Pirate became an integral part of the Jaguars' offense. Now in Year 2, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who questions the impact he has in Jacksonville.
Jaguars WR Zay Jones is set for another productive season in 2023
Heading into the 2023 season, Jones is slated to be the No. 3 option behind Jones and Ridley but he should still be able to put up solid numbers. After all, defenses will have a hard time zeroing in on just one player, so Jones should find favorable matchups next season.
Having said that, it might be odd to characterize Jones as underappreciated given the size of his contract and production. He isn't underrated. Simply, there might be other Jaguars players that have bigger profiles or a bigger impact but that doesn't make Jones and his contributions any less valuable to the team.
All things considered, cornerback Darious Williams or Roy Robertson-Harris might arguably be more underappreciated. Both signed multi-year contracts last year but neither one posted huge numbers. Yet, they were key to the team's success on defense.
Another candidate for the underappreciated label could be center Luke Fortner, who started all 17 games as a rookie and still has room for improvement but has the potential to become a mainstay on the offensive line and doesn't get the spotlight as often as some of his teammates.
The bottom line is that the Jacksonville Jaguars have several players that might not garner lots of attention but they'll be key to their success next yea