Who Is the Jets WR to Target in Fantasy Drafts?
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa
- The New York Jets have plenty of capable pass-catchers, from Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder to Le'Veon Bell and Chris Herndon.
- Who will lead the team in targets? Ian Hartitz analyzes which pass-catcher could offer the most fantasy football value.
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The Jets are slowly but surely starting to get some hype despite their puzzling move to abruptly fire general manager Mike Maccagnan after he had already finished directing free agency and the draft.
Regardless, the offense appears to be on the rise as 2018 first-round pick Sam Darnold flashed some tantalizing upside over the final stretch of last season.
The Jets took steps to improve the level of talent around their franchise quarterback, signing high-priced free agents Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder to multi-year deals. Bell needs no introduction — he’s one of NFL’s premier talents at running back — but the addition of Crowder is more interesting considering their suddenly deep corps of capable pass catchers.
The continued progression of Darnold should only mean good things for anyone involved in the Jets’ passing offense. But who will those receivers be, and can we can expect them to offer fantasy football value as early as 2019? Let’s answer both.
The Jets Have At Least 3 Competent WRs
Crowder signed a three-year deal worth $28.5 million, including $17 million guaranteed. That type of deal — for better or worse — indicates that the former fourth-round pick will have a significant role in the Jets offense.
The former Redskins slot receiver was banged up with an ankle injury for a large portion of 2018. He ultimately caught 29-of-49 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns in nine games of action. The 21st-percentile SPARQ-x athlete is just 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds, but has demonstrated he can be one of the better players on the field once he gets the ball in his hands.
Crowder’s best season came in 2016, when he set career-high marks in receptions (67), yards (847) and touchdowns (seven) under then-Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Crowder finished the season as the PPR WR26.
It seems likely that Crowder starts the season as the offense’s primary inside receiver considering he spent 71%, 71% and 72% of his snaps in the slot in 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively.
This leaves Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa in the remaining two starting spots in 3-WR sets.
Anderson appears to be the favorite to see more targets after he took a leap forward in Weeks 14-17 of last season, after Darnold returned from injury…
Robby Anderson in Weeks 14-17 after Sam Darnold returned from injury:
at Bills: 4 receptions-76 yards-1 TD (7 targets)
vs. Texans: 7-96-1 (11)
vs. Packers: 9-140-1 (13)
at Patriots: 3-24-0 (8)
Overall: PPR WR6
… but now Le'Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder and Adam Gase are in town.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 13, 2019
…while Enunwa slowly became less and less involved upon losing his slot job to current free agent Jermaine Kearse.
Complicating matters for all three receivers is that fact that the Jets boast several more competent pass-game weapons who don’t play wide receiver.
The Jets Also Have Capable RBs and TEs
Perhaps even more impressive than Bell’s ability as a rusher are his similarly strong skills as a receiver. Few running backs look as comfortable as he does when lined up on the outside or in the slot as a true wide receiver.
Bell joins Larry Centers, Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only running backs with at least three seasons with 75-plus receptions in NFL history.
And then we have second-year tight end Chris Herndon, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Herndon caught 39-of-56 targets as a rookie for 502 yards and four touchdowns, regularly demonstrating both impressive contested-catch ability as well as elite-level consistency.
14 rookie TEs have averaged 8+ yards per target since 2000 (min. 30 targets):
Mark Andrews 👀
Chris Herndon 👀
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 23, 2019
Both players figure to be regular contributors in the passing game, but the size of their role has yet to be determined. That job is up to the team’s new head coach, play caller and interim general manager.
Coaching Changes Favor A Particular WR
The Jets parted ways with Todd Bowles after the 2018 season and will now be run by former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. One of the main constants in Gase’s offenses over the years has been an insistence on feeding his slot receiver:
Targets per game for Adam Gase's primary slot receiver:
2013: Wes Welker (8.5)
2014: Welker (4.6)
2015: Eddie Royal (5.6)
2016: Jarvis Landry (8.2)
2017: Landry (10.1)
2018: Danny Amendola (5.3)
2019: Jamison Crowder (?)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 11, 2019
This strategy proved to be a good time with Peyton Manning throwing to Wes Welker back in the day, but Gase has engineered the league’s 23rd, 17th, 28th and 26th ranked scoring offenses over the past four seasons with the Bears and Dolphins.
No, Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler aren’t comparable talents to Manning. Still, it’s unclear exactly what Gase has achieved in the past that’s earned him this level of influence inside the Jets organization.
Adam Gase with Peyton Manning at QB (36 games):
423 yards per game
21 games with 30+ points
Without (65 games):
319 yards per game
12 games with 30+ points
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 15, 2019
The presence of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains isn’t expected to change much considering he worked under Gase in 2015 with the Bears (as quarterbacks coach) then in 2018 with the Dolphins (as offensive coordinator).
The biggest obstacle the offense will have to face under their new jurisdiction is the painfully slow pace that Gase and Co. have played at since parting ways with Manning and the Broncos:
Situation Neutral Pace Ranks (per Football Outsiders):
- 2015 (Bears): 27th
- 2016 (Dolphins): 31st
- 2017 (Dolphins): 29th
- 2018 (Dolphins): 31st
The Jets’ decision to tender Anderson at a second-round level reflects their optimism around the fourth-year talent. He offers the highest fantasy ceiling of the group and the arrow is pointing in the right direction considering Gase and Co. have said all the right things this offseason.
Still, history and financial investment indicates Crowder should be favored to lead the Jets in targets. But as we learned over his career-best 2016 campaign, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a consistent upper-tier fantasy option.
Both wide receivers should manage to put together some solid weeks in 2019, but the presence of Bell and the Jets’ expected plan to play at a painfully slow pace lowers the ceiling of everyone involved in what should be an improved offense.