Darrell ‘D.J.’ Clark Jr. will be 24-years old in September. He was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, and went to a local high school where he played football and track. As a running back in high school, he got the attention of several big-name schools, including Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but ended up staying in-state at Louisiana State University (LSU).
His time at LSU is interesting. Over his first two seasons, despite playing in 11 games, Chark did not record one reception. In his junior season, in 2016, he caught 26 passes for 466 yards and 3 touchdowns. Then followed this up with 40 receptions for 874 yards and 3 touchdowns in his senior season. He was known as ‘The Flash” during his time in LSU due to his straight-ahead speed.
Chark attended the 2018 Senior Bowl, where he caught five passes for 160 yards and a touchdown that gained him immediate recognition as a potential top wide receiver in the upcoming draft. He then attended the NFL Combine, where his draft stock continued to rise. He measured 6’ 2 ?” and weighed 199 pounds, running a blazing 4.34-second 40-yard dash.
Ranked as the 5th best wide receiver heading into the draft and expected to be a second-round pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars chose Chark in the second round as the 8th wideout off the board.
After a rookie season that saw D.J. Chark catch just 14 passes for 174 yards and zero touchdowns in 11 games, he became forgotten. Surprisingly how easily a 6’4” and 198-pound athlete drafted in the second round can become invisible.
Chark made people forget about any deficiencies in Week 1 of the 2019 season when he caught 4 passes for 146-yards and a score. He would score in the first three-weeks, and add another 11 receptions for 131 yards in the next two contests.
For the first 11 weeks of 2019, he was the WR5 in fantasy. Chark stumbled down to a WR64 in the next five weeks, catching just 22 passes for 212 yards and zero touchdowns. By the end of 2019, Chark posted a 73 (29th)-1,1008 (27th)-8 (T-9th) stat line. He had 12 end-zone targets over 15 games (5th). Only 16 receivers scored more fantasy points (225.8).
Let’s review some injuries. Injuries from Chark’s time in high school and college were challenging to find. In his rookie season in the NFL, Chark suffered a quad strain, which caused him to miss five games. This likely means he had a significant enough muscle tear, causing bleeding into the surrounding tissues causing a substantial hematoma/fluid-filled cyst. These can be painful and challenging to return to play.
In 2019 Chark suffered a concussion in the third preseason game but was cleared in time for week one. Unfortunately, in week two he suffered an ankle injury that sounds like it was a traditional low-ankle sprain. In Week 12, he was limited with a hamstring injury but managed to play through it. Then he suffered a back injury in Week 13 but did not miss any time due to it.
In Week 14, Chark looks to have suffered a left high-ankle sprain. These traditionally take at least three weeks and up to eight weeks to heal, depending on the severity. Chark was seen in a walking boot getting around on a scooter, which is classic for someone recovering early on from a high-ankle sprain injury. Generally, if someone suffers a high-ankle sprain in Week 14, and the team is not playoff-bound, he would be on IR. Surprisingly not the case with Chark, as he only missed one game and then returned, but maybe he should have rested as he didn’t look 100% the last two games.
Even though he’s only been in the league two years, Chark has dealt with several different soft tissue injuries. Ranging from a quadriceps strain to a low ankle sprain to a hamstring strain, a back injury, and then finally (likely) a high ankle sprain.
Some players, unfortunately, struggle with these soft-tissue injuries when they make the transition from college to the NFL. The NFL season is much longer than a traditional college season and is more grueling. You have to remember that these are the best of the best in the world at what they do and they are not small. Getting hit by men that mostly are over 6’ tall and weight 200-350 lbs weekly takes its toll on the body.
Chark has the size and speed to continue to be a top-tier producer. He has Gardner Minshew returning as his quarterback, and Jay Gruden should provide a spark. The volume will be there as he saw 94% of snaps over Weeks 9-13, signifying he can handle the workload.
Making an identical leap as he did from 2018-2019 for Chark would be very difficult. The Jaguars offense is centralized around the running game of Leonard Fournette. Also, it is still unknown that Minshew can carry more than one wideout.
Even though Chark is the Jaguars top receiver, he has some competition, including Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, and rookie Laviska Shenault and fifth-round selection Collin Johnson. Fournette also added 76 receptions last season, and they brought over pass-catching running back Chris Thompson from Washington. Tight end Tyler Eifert also comes over as a free agent from Cincinnati.
With the additions, it will be challenging to match the 118 targets, but around 100 is feasible, and probably his floor. A minimum of 65 receptions and 850 yards with 6 scores is a realistic bottom for him. However, his ceiling is around what he achieved in 2019—90 receptions for 1,200 yards with double-digit touchdowns.
The offense has not been potent over the last few seasons, and it doesn’t appear to get much better. The Jaguars were 16th in pass blocking, and all five players return from last season, so the cohesion is there. Jacksonville drafted Ben Bartch in the fourth round.
Heading into the 2020 season, Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Chark has a 52% chance of injury, which translates to about one game missed. I agree with this assessment as it’s obvious Chark has been unable to avoid injuries, despite being in the NFL for only two years. He’s missed games in both seasons.
There are no specific injuries that I am concerned about, except for maybe his ankles. My risk score for him is 6 out of 10. Just understand that there’s a chance he’s going to miss a couple of games with soft tissue injuries like a hamstring, quadriceps or groin strain.
At this point (June 24), Chark has an ADP of WR23 and an overall of 52. It is a little pricey as many things have to go right for him to finish inside a WR2. Chark has the look of a good WR3 with upside, but he has the capability of finishing inside the top-12 for wide receivers.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 6/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Dec 8, 2019||Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Chark was forced out of Sunday's game against the Chargers with an ankle injury. He missed the following game.|
|Nov 18, 2018||Leg Quad Strain||Chark missed 5 games with a quad injury.|