Jake Luton: Flash in the Pan or Breakout Star?
Photo by David Rosenblum/Getty Images
One of the more polarizing situations in the fantasy community right now is the Jacksonville offense. Of course, the James Robinson naysayers are dwindling; he's a stable RB1 every week. But the polarity comes in the form of the passing offense. Jake Luton took over for an injured Gardner Minshew, and the fantasy takes were extreme on both ends. I stuck my neck out there and advocated for Jake Luton ahead of his Week 9 matchup, and I'll tell you what: I was sweating after his first pass attempt. You know, the one where he tried checking down to James Robinson and got the ball batted down (it was encouraging that he got all the way through his reads, though). I've also been on record saying that, with Jake Luton, DJ Chark should be a WR1 rest-of-season. I wrote the first FITPOBS about Travis Fulgham back in October. Without further adieu, let's see if Jake Luton has any shot at sustaining the success from his debut.
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I don't put a ton of stock into quarterback measurables (not even hand size), so take all of this with a grain of salt. Jake Luton is one of the least-mobile quarterbacks I've ever seen. He's the polar opposite of Gardner Minshew; he locks his feet in, and if he faces pressure, he's going to get sacked. He's not running away from anyone.
If you're someone that does put stock into hand size, height, and weight, then Jake Luton has to be a crush of yours. At 6'6, 224, and with massive hands, there's not much to dislike. He's the prototypical quarterback from yesteryear, though the success of mobile quarterbacks in today's NFL would create cause for concern regarding Jake Luton's long-term future.
The College Success
I wouldn't call what Jake Luton did in his final year at Oregon State "dominant" or even "outstanding," but I would call it "promising" or "trait-positive." In Luton's senior year in college, he threw 358 times for 2714 yards, 7.6 Y/A, 62% completion%, 28 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. His Y/A put him smack-dab in the middle among his peers, but that number (and his yardage total) is deceptive; Jake Luton has a cannon. His air yards per attempt of 8.8 were 19th in all of college football. His completion percentage actually declined from 2018 to 2019, though much of that was a product of the talent around him. Outside of my draft crush Isaiah Hodgins, the Oregon State offense didn't have a receiver surpass 500 yards.
Bottom line: Jake Luton was actually better in his final year at Oregon State than statistics would indicate. The term trait-positive comes from that arm talent, his ability to throw the ball (fairly accurately) downfield, and his mental traits (runs through progressions really well). Those things can't be understated when discussing if a quarterback can succeed in the NFL.
I tried finding the cut-ups that crafted my pre-draft opinion of Jake Luton, before remembering that YouTube purged all old cut-ups (and therefore, I couldn't find any college film). So I took a look at Jake Luton's NFL debut.
This throw came on Jake Luton's second NFL passing attempt (I walked through the first attempt earlier). From snap to release is about 3 seconds, a sign that the Jaguars offensive line actually can hold their own when their quarterback stays put. This was essentially a long handoff, with a smooth drop, always single-read, perfectly-placed throw. Luton's held the safety with his eyes for just a split second, before moving over to Chark, and DJ Chark's elite abilities are on full display here.
In the subsequent drive, we see Jake Luton make a pretty substantially-incorrect read. James Robinson fantasy managers, look away. Luton is running the read option here, and he fails to identify 41 on the blitz. A handoff would have seen a massive gain out of Robinson - there are three OL, one searching for a block. Instead, we see a tipped pass, Luton's second of the game. It's a mistake that a lot of rookie quarterbacks would make, but with such low draft capital, it's not one that screams "continue to start me."
One thing you probably could have guessed based on the measurables was that, if you force Jake Luton out of the pocket, bad things happen. This is on the same drive. Jake Luton is forced out to his right, and without time to set his feet, he sails the throw. Again, I will reiterate that Jake Luton is the polar opposite of Gardner Minshew.
Make sure you click the arrow on the right side of that screen cap. These photos were captured a full two seconds apart. Jake Luton never once brings his eyes off of Laviska Shenault, and ultimately throws him the ball after scrambling out of the broken down pocket. Against a formidable (or even competent) secondary, this isn't something Jake Luton would typically get away with.
In one of Jake Luton's first under-center plays, they call a play action look for him.
He sells it well, and the linebackers bite.
The result is a completion to Tyler Eifert in between two defenders.
This play actually impressed me more than the 74-yard touchdown throw, simply because he looked extremely comfortable taking that snap under center. His read was the correct one, but he had Dare Ogunbowale (yes, that Dare Ogunbowale) underneath if he felt he couldn't get the ball into that spot. The accuracy here is outstanding.
I could go through every single snap of Jake Luton's, but I think what I have included paints a decent picture. Jake Luton brought his team back and had an opportunity to tie and therefore, win the game on Sunday. He also was part of the reason that they were in that situation to begin with. The Jaguars put up 25 points under Jake Luton. They were averaging 22 on the season. Jake Luton put up 300 yards in his debut; Gardner Minshew has put up 300 or more yards three times on the year. The difference between the two isn't vast, even if their playstyles are completely different.
There's a chance that the Jaguars go back to Minshew, but I am of the belief that one of the more important things the Jaguars have left to do is keep their pass-catchers happy, especially DJ Chark. He exploded in this game, largely due to his second-highest target total of the season. Jake Luton should retain the job moving forward, if the Jaguars want to have any semblance of stability.
Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Jake Luton popped on tape when I watched his college film, but still ended up just outside my top-10 quarterbacks for the 2020 NFL Draft class alone. He has some promising traits that could result in his longevity in the league. He has a lot of things that need to be cleaned up; his refusal to move off of his first read, his inability to throw accurately on-the-run, and even some of his footwork when his pockets are collapsing are all examples. But Luton surely gives the Jaguars deep-threats the best chance at a play; Gardner Minshew is incredibly inconsistent throwing downfield, whereas Jake Luton was good. Luton threw deep on 18.4% of his attempts, per PFF, which would put him at 5th in the league if the pace continues. His adjusted completion percentage on throws downfield puts him ahead of:
For fantasy purposes, Jake Luton should be rostered in two-quarterback and superflex leagues. He is going to put up more top-12 weeks, simply because the Jaguars will continuously be throwing the football. As far as the title of this article goes, Jake Luton can't be considered anything more than a flash in the pan. I think Kyle Allen's situation is a good comparison; of course, another team will have to like Luton enough to trade for him, because Doug Marrone won't be obtaining another head coaching job next season. There are definitely things to like about Luton, but after one game, I don't think there's much indication that he's going to be a long-term draft capital anomaly. We may be revisiting this if he makes it out of his next three matchups (at Green Bay, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Cleveland), but don't send too many dynasty trade offers for Jake Luton just yet.