The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, that player is wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
When your quarterbacks are Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert, it’s tough to put up big time numbers as a receiver, but 2nd year receiver Cecil Shorts did a good job of that in 2012 as the 2011 4th round pick caught 55 passes for 979 yards and 7 touchdowns. He caught his 55 passes on 101 targets, which is a low catch rate of 54.5% and he did drop 9 passes, but he was a big time big play receiver, averaging 17.8 yards per attempt and quarterbacks threw 7 touchdowns to 4 interceptions when throwing to him.
That’s good for a 94.5 QB rating when thrown to, 15th in the NFL among eligible wide receivers, which is absurd considering his quarterbacks were Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, who combined for a 74.7 QB rating on the season. How did he manage that? Well, he ranked 10th among eligible wide receivers averaging 6.7 yards after catch per catch. Only Percy Harvin caught more passes and averaged a higher yards after catch per catch than Shorts.
Even more impressive, he did this despite missing 2 games with injuries and not playing more than 50% of his team’s snaps until the team’s 6th game of the season. He ran 423 routes on the season, giving him 2.31 yards per route run, 8th in the NFL behind Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, and AJ Green. In his 9 starts, he caught 47 passes for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, which extrapolates to 84 catches for 1386 yards and 9 touchdowns over 16 games.
On top of that, it didn’t seem to matter to him which crappy quarterback was throwing to him. In his 3 starts with Blaine Gabbert, he caught 12 passes for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. With Chad Henne, he caught 35 passes for 532 yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s good news because the Jaguars could go with either Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert this year and will probably have both start at least one game.
In 2013, Shorts will be in his 3rd year in the league, a frequent breakout year for receivers, and he’ll be the starter from week 1. Provided he stays healthy, he should make 16 starts. Justin Blackmon is suspended for the first 4 games of the season, so Shorts will see plenty of targets. He’ll also see more attention from defenses and he won’t seek up on anyone this time around, but he should be fine. He probably won’t reach those aforementioned extrapolated stats, but he has a very good chance to be Jacksonville’s first 1000 yard receiver since Jimmy Smith in 2005.