The Jets hold a plethora of versatile players in their arsenal who can play multiple positions. The ability to interchange players from one position to the next will be a huge advantage come game day. From a fan’s standpoint, this is great news, but from a fantasy football perspective, this leaves a lot of uncertainty. In this week’s “Joe Jet 5,” I rank the Jets’ most relevant fantasy players for the upcoming season. (Note: all rankings based on PPR scoring format)
1) Le’Veon Bell: Bell missed the first three weeks of his rookie year (2013), but still finished as the 15 ranked RB. He burst onto the scene in his sophomore season and yielded one the most prolific fantasy seasons in recent history. According to sources, Bell tied a league record—set by Walter Payton—with three consecutive games of more than 200 yards from scrimmage. He ended the season with 11 total TDs, 1,361 rushing yards, 853 receiving yards and caught 83 balls to cement himself as the number two overall points producer and first ranked running back.
His third year (2015) was cut short with an MCL injury but he came back strong and ready to roll in 2016. Even after missing the first three games (four overall), for missing a random drug test, Bell finished sixth in overall points and the fourth ranked RB. One of his more notable performances was his franchise breaking rushing record when he ran for 236 yards and 3 TDs (Dec. 11 vs. the Bills). Let’s hope he continues to enjoy those Bison burgers. 2017 was no different when he ranked third overall and accumulated 1,291 rushing yards, 11 total TDs, 85 receptions and 655 receiving yards.
Bell was a consensus top two pick—prior to missing 2018 with a contract dispute—but some questions have dropped his average draft position. How well will he play after missing the season? Is he a good fit for Gase’s system? Will the Jets offensive line hurt his game?
From a fantasy perspective, fresh legs are a good thing and nobody should hesitate to draft him in the first round; however, it’s fair to be somewhat skeptical. The Jets’ rushing offense ranked 26th and the OL averaged a subpar 54.6 run blocking grade (PFF) in 2018.
One metric I find useful when making fantasy projections is comparing adjusted line yards to open filed yards. According to Football Outsiders, “A team with a high ranking in Adjusted Line Yards but a low ranking in Open Field Yards is heavily dependent on its offensive line to make the running game work. A team with a low ranking in Adjusted Line Yards but a high ranking in Open Field Yards is heavily dependent on its running back breaking long runs to make the running game work.”
In 2016, the Steelers ranked third (4.68) in adjusted line yards and 25th in open field; in 2017, Pittsburg ranked seventh in adjusted line yards and 27th in open field. These stats appear to indicate that Bell’s fantasy success (6th overall in 2016 and 3rd overall in 2017) was largely due to a well-built offensive line.
While stats like these are helpful when ranking players and making projections, there is always more to the story. According to PFF, Bell is the highest graded running back in the NFL as of 2013 and first (for a RB) in yards after catch (2,276) since 2014; in 2017 he was the hardest running back to bring down: second in yards/contact, fourth in missed tackles (44) and third in receiving yards after catch (678). Bell is arguably the best RB in the NFL and it wouldn’t shock anybody if he leads all running backs in receptions, rushing yards and/or touchdowns scored this season.
Bell is my 8th overall player and 5th ranked RB. He’s well worth a top 10 pick in all formats.
2) Robby Anderson: Robby was going to be one of my sleepers going into this year, but the fantasy world has woken up to his potential.
Anderson is yet to a have a thousand yard receiving season and never caught more than 63 balls, but I foresee that changing. A great indication of this is the chemistry developed with Sam down the stretch last season. According to Pro Football Focus, from weeks 14-17, Robby was the fifth-rated WR in the league with an 83.4 grade.
This spark also contributed to solid fantasy numbers. From weeks 12-16 (5 games), Robby remained the 10th ranked fantasy wideout in PPR formats. In week 16 alone, Anderson racked up 29 fantasy points (PPR) and definitely was a contributing factor in someone’s championship victory. With that said, Robby is well worth a draft pick in conventional leagues; however, many of his numbers come in bunches and that kind of production yields the most value in a best ball tournament.
According to Fantasy Pros, Anderson’s average draft position is 76.8. The number will fluctuate as the season approaches but that’s a solid spot for him. Defenses will have their hands full with Bell resulting in more opportunities for Sam and his speedster. Robby is my 25th ranked WR in PPR leagues, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended the season cracking the top 20 for the second time in his career.
In my estimation, Robby will finish the season with around 75 receptions, 1100 receiving yards and 7 TDs, which would have placed him in the top 15 last season (PPR). If you draft Robby, I have a feeling “dat the sun might stay out a little later” for you this season.
3) Chris Herndon: Other than QB, TE is the most difficult transition—from college to pros—out of any position on the field. With that said, Herndon answered the call with grace his rookie year notching over 500 yards receiving and scoring 4 TDs in 12 games. According to PFF, he scored a team leading 74.1 overall grade (fifth most among tight ends with a minimum of 50 targets) and finished the season with the second highest contested catch percentage among tight ends.
Herndon and Darnold’s rapport is undeniable; the dynamic duo already hit their stride in the fantasy game, and it appears the Jets have finally found a star player at a position which has long eluded them. From weeks 3-16, Herndon racked up the 12th most fantasy points for a TE, and from weeks 5-16, he ranked eighth.
According to Fantasy Pros, Herndon’s average draft position is 149.5 and expert consensus ranking is 15th. Herndon’s two game suspension hurts his stock but that shouldn’t prevent people from selecting him with confidence. He will far outperform his average draft position and ranking. I predict from weeks 3-16 Herndon will be a top 10 TE in all formats.
Gase loves to incorporate the TE within his scheme and I anticipate he will use Herndon much like Julius Thomas in 2013 (with the Broncos). In 14 games, Thomas finished the season with 90 targets, 65 receptions, 788 receiving yards and 12 TDs en route to a pro bowl.
While it’s unlikely Herndon will score 12 touchdowns, he’ll get every chance to showcase his unique skill set in several spots on the field (H-Back, TE, Slot or even out wide).
4) Jamison Crowder: Crowder arrived on the scene in his sophomore season (2016) when he averaged 12.1 points per game and finished the year as the 31st ranked WR. He followed that up with a similar third term which had many pundits anticipating a breakout year in 2018. Unfortunately, subpar QB play and injuries derailed his season.
Crowder is not seeing much love from the fantasy community and his average draft position—which will vary as we enter the season—is 209. In other words, he’s not being drafted at all in many leagues. Nevertheless, Crowder is one of my favorite sleepers and well worth a late round pick, especially in PPR leagues.
Gase’s history with targeting slot receivers remains encouraging: Wes Welker (111 targets in 2013), Jarvis Landry (131 targets in 2016 and 161 in 2017), and Danny Amendola led the Dolphins in 2018.
Crowder is a huge upgrade over last year’s slot receiver, Jermaine Kearse, who saw the second most targets but had a subpar catch rate of 48%. Crowder should flourish in a system reliant on slot receivers; his 4th ranked YAC per reception in 2018 and a 67% career catch rate proves promising.
5) Sam Darnold: At first glance, Sam doesn’t appear to have much fantasy value outside a bye week, 2 QB or Super Flex league; however, notable leaps by other second-year QBs feel encouraging. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz both made major strides in their sophomore seasons. Goff, whom many considered a bust his rookie year, was the 8th ranked QB (Weeks 1-16) and Carson Wentz was in the MVP conversation prior to tearing his ACL.
According to PFF, “between the weeks of 14-17, Sam Darnold finished with an 87.7 overall grade which ranked 1st among QBs with a minimum of 100 drop backs.” During that same time span, he was the 12th ranked fantasy QB.
I fully expect Sam to utilize some of the most versatile players in the league (Bell, Montgomery, Herndon, Crowder, Enunwa, and Anderson) and continue to progress. The only thing, which may hinder his fantasy stats and ultimately his development, are the guys up front.