By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Transaction: The New York Jets sign RB Isaiah Crowell to a 3-year deal
2018 Fantasy Outlook: Isaiah Crowell has had quite the up and down career in Cleveland. But let’s be honest, it’s Cleveland so we can forgive him for his shortcomings. Right? Since Crowell came into the league in 2014, he is one of only two running backs to have never missed a game — the other being the immortal Frank Gore. He’s also 13th in rushing yards at 3,118. The down side to that rushing total? He averages only 48.7 yards per game. He does however average 4.2 yards per carry. Cleveland has by all accounts turned Crowell into a rather pedestrian runner. Cleveland, am I right?
Over the last three years, Crowell has fantasy finishes of RB33, RB17, and RB29. Two out of those three years, he has been outscored by backfield mate Duke Johnson Jr. Crowell has a total of 96 receptions in his four seasons, not a bad number, but certainly not a standout number given the current state of the league. Is Crowell an average running back or has the Browns’ ineptitude on offense dragged this talented RB down? 2016 was by far Crowell’s best year. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and had just shy of 1,000 yards rushing. He also had 40 receptions. All this led to his RB17 finish. But that’s one season and I’m hardly ready to call him a stud now that he’s found a way to leave The Land.
In New York, Crowell will enter into an even more frustrating RB committee. He will take over for the recently retired Matt Forte and join 2017 preseason darling Bilal Powell and 2nd year pro Elijah McGuire to give the Jets a formidable trio, one with a lot of different ways to keep a defense on its toes. Crowell is the bruiser, the workhorse, the 1st and 2nd down guy. Powell can spell Crowell and serve as the 3rd down option. And McGuire adds the speed element to turn the corner and blow past everyone. New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates should be salivating at how to deploy this backfield.
Which leaves me to my biggest point. No one knows who will emerge from this backfield as a viable fantasy option. Running on just 1st and 2nd down, Crowell does little to inspire confidence for me. After last year, Powell is dead to me. (Not really. Nothing against the guy as it wasn’t his fault the Jets couldn’t recognize he was the better back than Matt Forte and needed to play more.) And McGuire isn’t likely to generate 200 touches in a season to warrant strong fantasy consideration. I will probably have Crowell ranked in the low 20s/high 30s among RBs for this season, with Powell coming in just above that as he’s likely to garner more receptions and enough carries to keep him in the FLEX conversation. The one thing you love about Crowell is the durability. But last I checked, we didn’t accumulate points from games played.