By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson (with Contributions from Joe Zollo and Chris Tyler)
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When talk of a potential 0-16 season started making the rounds in 2017, few pegged the Cleveland Browns being the team to pull it off. No, many thought the New York Jets would have a legitimate shot at a perfect storm of pitiful. So much for that.
The Jets pulled off a minor miracle, winning five games with a rag tag group of youngsters, led by a guy who many on the team assumed was actually one of their coaches. The then 37-year old was on his 7th NFL team and had started only 60 games since entering the league in 2002. He’d played in only 13 games the last two years prior to joining the Jets, so it’s fair to agree with the pessimistic approach pundits took when predicting the outcome of the Jets’ season.
What Josh McCown did in 2017 was astounding. Did he outplay Tom Brady? No, don’t be foolish. But from Weeks 1 to 13 before getting hurt in Week 14 and missing the rest of the season, McCown was actually QB9 in fantasy. That’s right, he was an every week starter! I think I just had a stroke. His success also brought WR Robby Anderson into every week consideration. Once thought of as strictly a deep threat, Anderson showcased legit WR1 potential via his connection with McCown. From Weeks 1-13, Anderson was WR13 and had only three weeks where he scored in single digits. In the words of the great Vince Lombardi, “What the hell’s goin’ on out there?!”
Suffice to say, the Jets 2017 season had all of us wondering the same thing.
|(Projected Starting Lineup)|
|QB2||Teddy Bridgewater (w/ MIN)||-2.30||QB73|
|QB3||(R) Sam Darnold||N/A||N/A|
|RB1||Isaiah Crowell (w/ CLE)||143.40||RB29|
|WR4||Terrelle Pryor (w/ WAS)||50.00||WR103|
|TE1||Clive Walford (w/ OAK)||17.00||TE77|
Rookies and Undrafted Free Agents to Watch: RB Trent Cannon & TE Chris Herndon IV.
Let’s pick up where I left off with McCown. During our broadcast of the 2018 NFL Draft on Die Hard Sports Radio, my colleague Joe Zollo said “Josh McCown for 2018 MVP.” How serious he was, I have no clue. But McCown certainly left a good taste in fantasy owners’ mouths after the year he put together prior to his injury in Week 14. He was 4th in the NFL in completion percentage and had a 2:1 TD to INT ratio. Maybe it was an anomaly as all career backups have that one great season that helps them get paid – Ryan Fitzpatrick is a prime example. McCown will be 38 going into this season and even the Jets know he’s not the answer. Based on his age and history, McCown is nothing more than a fantasy backup, if you want to roster him at all.
During the offseason, the Jets signed former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater to compete with McCown to lead the Jets.. See? Even the Jets are skeptical McCown can do it again. Bridgewater is a former 1st round pick and showed the tools necessary to be a franchise caliber QB. Then a devastating knee injury derailed his career, leading the Vikings to go after Kirk Cousins in free agency this past year. Bridgewater did in fact suit up last year, coming in during the end of the Bengals game. This wasn’t enough time to let anyone know how healed he really was. The Jets are taking the gamble because they really don’t have much to lose. It will be a QB battle during the preseason, and as talented as Teddy B is, I expect McCown to win the job. Bridgewater will be a backup so you’re not drafting him, but I wouldn’t chastise you if you wanted to stash him on your Dynasty team in the event he’s fully healthy.
Now for the savior of New York Jets football. The Jets traded three 2nd round picks to move up three spots in the 2018 draft. They had no idea what QB would be available, but they were comfortable with any of the top 3 QBs to make that move. Turns out, the 1st QB on their board fell to them at three. Welcome to New York, Sam Darnold! Look, I’m not a huge fan of redshirt sophomores coming into the league and starting right away. They have too much still to learn. One of Darnold’s biggest problems is turnovers. He had 22 INTs in his two years starting at USC, including 13 in 2017. He’s careless with the football and the types of mistakes you can get away with in college will doom you in the NFL. The Jets need to hope that Bridgewater is healthy and McCown resembles 2017 McCown versus 2002 to 2016 McCown to keep Darnold on the bench all season. Darnold is a Dynasty stash and that’s it.
Around this time last year, most of us in the fantasy industry were hyping up Bilal Powell as a big time player that would finally get a chance to shine. Todd Bowles and the Jets had other ideas. Powell finished the season splitting time with the recently retired Matt Forte, with rookie Elijah McGuire sprinkled in for good measure. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Not this time. Powell did lead the team in rushing attempts (178), rushing yards (772), and tied for the team lead in rushing TDs (5). What really drew his value down was his lack of receptions. Powell had only 23 to Forte’s 37. With Forte gone, Powell is primed to pick up more of the slack in the passing game and should approach 40 catches. But I don’t see him reaching 700 rushing yards like last year. Powell is a FLEX option, even in PPR leagues. He should be a top 35 RB, but nothing more than a spot starter based on matchup and bye weeks.
The reason I don’t see Powell eclipsing 700 rushing yards has to do with the Jets’ biggest free agent acquisition. Isaiah Crowell, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, was brought in to be their 1st and 2nd down back, to bludgeon teams and milk the clock. Last year, Crowell was 13th in the NFL with 2.63 yards after first contact. His best year was in 2016 where he rushed for 952 yards, had 40 receptions, and scored 7 TDs. The Jets have an inconsistent line and Crowell will likely have to increase his yards after contact to approach those 2016 numbers, but he can certainly cut into Powell’s receiving numbers. Any time you look at RBs in committees, they shouldn’t rank anything higher than RB2 status. That’s where I see Crowell coming in on draft day. He should be in the 800 rushing yards with 6 TDs range, and contribute about 250 receiving yards on 20 catches.
The young buck to watch is Elijah McGuire. I think he’s the future 3rd down back whenever the Jets part ways with Powell. He can scoot and chipped in almost 500 total yards last year. He’s a deep league option and potential Dynasty stash, but I think his ceiling at the position is nothing better than RB30.
Heading into 2017, fantasy owners were excited about one wideout on the Jets. Quincy Enunwa would finish the year as WR45, with 58 catches for 857 yards and 4 TDs. Not eye-popping numbers, but with shoddy QB play, something to hang your hat on in the event a veteran QB – translation, competent QB – headed up the Jets offense. That QB was Josh McCown and if you read the QB section of this preview, you’d know he had a pretty decent season. Slight problem. Enunwa suffered a neck injury during the offseason and missed all of 2017. Bummer. Of course, we know how 2017 went down, sans Enunwa. With 2018 on the horizon and Enunwa presumably healthy, what can we expect? I think we’ll see similar numbers from 2016 for Enunwa, something in the range of 60 catches for 820 yards and 5 TDs, putting him in top 50 WR territory. Is there potential for more? Sure, but we saw the emergence of Robby Anderson as far back as late 2016 and McCown has developed a rapport with him. I see Enunwa more as the number 2 option on the Jets until he shows me he is THE guy going forward.
Speaking of Anderson, he has seemingly been flying under the radar for the better part of two years. The kid has skills. From weeks 13 to 15 in 2016, Anderson was WR9. Even with that kind of finish, people were still talking up his teammate Enunwa. Then Enunwa went down and still no one talked about Anderson. Heading into 2017 drafts on ESPN, Anderson had an average draft position (ADP) of WR72. All Anderson did in 2017 was finish as WR14, scoring 202.70 fantasy points. His 63-941-7 stat line shows a WR1 on a bad team. If you don’t think the Jets are a bad team, you’re clearly a Jets fan or oblivious to actual talent. The good news? Anderson is actual talent who just needs consistent QB play to truly maximize the potential. I’m conservatively putting him in the WR3 conversation, but he’s a top 25 guy at the position, whether it’s McCown, Bridgewater, Darnold, or Fireman Ed throwing him passes. Anderson found himself in hot water this offseason and despite the charges being dropped, he could face league discipline and be suspended. No word has come out in regards to a suspension, so I’m proceeding under the belief Anderson will be in a position to play all 16 games. That said, look for 70+ receptions for his first 1,000 yard season and 8 TDs.
The forgotten man in this receiving corps is the throw in player from last season’s Sheldon Richardson deal, Jermaine Kearse. Before all the talk shifted to Robby Anderson, Kearse started the season on fire, posing as WR5 after 2 weeks. From Weeks 3 to 10, he was WR47. After their Week 11 bye, the next two weeks, he was WR6. All told, Kearse finished as WR29, posting 65 catches for 810 yards and 5 TDs. Enunwa’s return from injury puts Kearse in a tough spot. He would have a better chance at replicating those types of numbers if Enunwa weren’t around. If Enunwa proves healthy, the Jets will let them battle it out for playing time. They don’t have the kind of offense that can produce 3 WRs over 800 receiving yards, as witnessed by their 24th ranked passing attack. If Enunwa returns healthy, as I believe he will, I see Kearse being more of a matchup grab on DraftKings or FanDuel than I do a regular in your fantasy lineups. Look for something in the way of 40 catches for 515 yards and 3 TDs, en route to a top 60 performance.
Another intriguing target on the Jets in 2018 is former Browns and Redskins WR Terrelle Pryor. He was a popular option for teams in 2017 after a breakout 2016 in Cleveland, but he never developed chemistry with ‘Skins QB Kirk Cousins and failed to amount to anything resembling his 2016 self. Pryor took a one-year deal with New York to play with former QB McCown, who was the lead QB option in his breakout 2016. Oh, and new Jets RB Isaiah Crowell was the lead RB on that same Browns team. Can history repeat itself? Don’t get your hopes up. Unless injury befells one or two of the Jets top options, Pryor is destined for WR4 duty, with numbers resembling that of his 2017 campaign — 20 catches for 240 yards and one score. In a deep leagues, I guess you can draft him as a lottery ticket, but he won’t be on any of my teams in 2018.
I’m going to make this section short and sweet. Well, short at least. 2017 saw only the second Jets tight end since 2008 to score over 100 fantasy points in a season. But Austin Sefarian-Jenkins took his 101.70 fantasy points to Jacksonville this offseason, so the Jets find themselves at square one at the TE position. They signed former Raider Clive Walford this offseason, who has done little to nothing to bring about his potential as a receiving threat. They drafted Clemson TE Jordan Leggett last year and spent a 4th round pick this year on Miami’s Chris Herndon IV. As a rabid Hurricanes fan, I can attest to Herdon’s skill. He’s legit. But as the stats show, the Jets as an offense don’t exactly target TEs often. New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has one previous year as an OC, 2010 with the Seahawks. His top TE that year had 31 catches for 318 yards and 1 TD. Needless to say, I’m not thrilled about Jets TEs in 2018. But Herndon’s prospects lead me to at least be curious about his potential, so I would classify him as a Dynasty stash.
Rookie to Watch
With the re-signing of Josh McCown and addition of Teddy Bridgewater, we likely won’t see a lot of Sam Darnold in 2018. The Jets are going to treat Darnold like the Browns will Baker Mayfield — as a toddler learning to walk. Darnold is the future of the Jets and with his college performance I can see why, but they don’t want to throw him in the fire yet. – Chris Tyler
Quincy Enunwa was M.I.A last season with a neck injury that sidelined him the entire season so you might have forgotten about him and his 58 receptions for 857 yards in 2016. Enunwa comes back and now slates in at the number 1 WR position on the left side. At only 25, Enunwa could look to be a high WR3 in fantasy this season and even become a weekly starter on your team. – Joe Zollo
2018 Loose Ends
The most interesting battles during the preseason for the Jets will be at the wide receiver position. Is Robby Anderson a legitimate number one option? Will Quincy Enunwa return to full health? How do Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor fit into the equation? The quarterback situation should solve itself. It’ll be Josh McCown’s job to lose – spoiler alert, he will at some point in the season – but how soon Sam Darnold sees the field is anyone’s guess. He was the 3rd overall pick so you know the fans want a glimpse into the future. The only Jets players I would have any interest in drafting are Crowell (RB2), Powell (FLEX), and Robby Anderson (WR3 with immense upside). I’ll let my leaguemates gamble on the rest.
Here are a few additional notes I stumbled across that intrigued me:
- From Weeks 6 to 13 in 2017, Robby Anderson was WR4, averaging 19.1 fantasy points per game.
- During that same time, Josh McCown averaged 25.23 fantasy points per game, good for QB3.
- Robby Anderson tied for 9th in the NFL with 26 targets on passes that travelled 20 yards or more downfield. His 12 catches on such passes tied for 8th. His 7 TDs led the league.
- In two games against the Buffalo Bills, Anderson had 8 catches for 70 yards and a TD. The Jets play the Bills in the first week of the fantasy playoffs in 2018 (Week 14).
- Bilal Powell averaged 6 yards per carry running mostly behind RT Brandon Shell. By contrast, new lead back Isaiah Crowell averaged 2.2 yards per carry behind the right tackle in Cleveland.
- The Jets play at Buffalo and home against the Texans and Packers during Weeks 14 through 16. The Bills gave up the most fantasy points to RBs in 2017. The Packers allowed the 7th most. The Texans allowed the 7th fewest.
|New York Jets|
|1||9/10 (Mon)||@ DET|
|3||9/20 (Thurs)||@ CLE|
|11||** BYE WEEK **|
|15||12/15 (Sat)||vs HOU|