Fitz on Fantasy: 2019 New York Jets Buying Guide

With training camp here, TFG fantasy expert Pat Fitzmaurice is breaking down the prospects for all 32 teams. Click here for a running list of teams, and check back often as teams are added on an almost daily basis. On to the New York Jets…

It’s not fun when your instincts tell you to fade a player you love, so I’ll mope like a lovesick teenager when I come out of fantasy draft season without Le’Veon Bell on any of my teams.

I first fell for Bell when – true story – he liked a tweet of mine in which I cast doubt on his chances for NFL success before his rookie season because he had been too “showy” a runner at Michigan State. (Yeah, I wrote that, so I’ll understand if you choose to stop reading now even though you’re dying to know how I feel about Charone Peake.)

Anyway, I dug it that Bell basically winked at me by liking my stupid tweet, as if to say, “We’ll see, buddy.” My ardor only deepened when he proceeded to make me look like a jackass.

Bell’s per-game numbers in Pittsburgh were jaw-dropping: 129 yards from scrimmage, 19.8 carries, 5.0 catches, 0.68 touchdowns. He set the standard for what it meant to be a workhorse in the backfield-by-committee era. Bell also patented a signature running style. “Showy”? He might be the most patient runner the league has ever seen, choreographing blocks like Bob Fosse.

So what’s not to like?

Well, for one, his head coach. We knew before Adam Gase took the Jets job that he was a different breed of cat. But then he ran quite the Machiavellian power play on the man who’d hired him, Mike Maccagnan. Not that Maccagnan was a good GM, mind you, but as he walked out the door of Jets headquarters for the last time, he balanced a box full of his personal belongings in one hand while the other hand groped for the knife still sticking out of his back. Then it was reported that Gase had opposed the Bell signing – which had to feel like an open-hand slap to Bell even though he publicly shrugged it off.

Mike Tomlin showed his appreciation for Bell by working him to the bone in Pittsburgh. As great as Bell is, can we trust Gase to give him a similarly enormous workload? Probably not, since Gase’s offenses have operated at a glacially slow pace in recent years. Gase has also talked about wanting to monitor Bell’s usage.

Then there’s the whole year-off thing. Some people have spun it as a positive, saying that Bell got hard-earned rest and time for his body to recover from five seasons of NFL punishment. Maybe. But will he be more susceptible to injury after a year away? Will he have lost even a tiny fraction of the magic? 

As a parent, I know how I’d feel if any of my kids decided to take a “gap year” and put off college. Do I think my child would use the year away to broaden his horizons and gird himself for the higher-education challenge ahead, or do I think he’d spend the year smoking weed and playing Madden? Let’s just say I don’t view Le’Veon’s “gap year” as a good thing.

And then there’s the offensive line downgrade. How well will the uber-patient running style work if Bell’s linemen blow their blocking assignments more often than his Steelers teammates did?

That’s a lot of doubt heaped on a player I have ranked RB6 and ninth overall. But Bell has an average draft position of fifth overall, and I think he’ll go somewhere from fifth to eighth in the vast majority of drafts. I’m out on Bell for this year.

The Jets have an interesting group of running backs behind Le’Veon: Ty MontgomeryElijah McGuireBilal PowellTrenton Cannon. The most intriguing is Montgomery, a versatile run-catch threat who generated some fantasy enthusiasm when he came out of the gate quickly as the Packers’ lead back for the first few games of 2017 before getting hurt. None of these Bell backups are draftable in most leagues, but if anything were to happen to Bell, there would be a waiver-wire feeding frenzy in this backfield.

Less than four months after he’d turned 21, Sam Darnold became the youngest quarterback to start an NFL game in the post-merger era. His first NFL pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown for the Lions, and that pretty much sums up how the first part of the season went for the No. 2 pick of the draft. Over his first nine games, Darnold threw more interceptions (14) than TD passes (9) and had only four outings in which he completed more than half of his passes. 

Then, Darnold missed a month with a sprained foot, and maybe watching from the sideline helped slow down the NFL game for him. When he came back in December, Darnold completed 64% of his passes and had a 6-1 TD-INT ratio. 

Considering what he was dealing with last year, Jets fans have to be thrilled with their new quarterback. His protection was atrocious, his barely adequate WR corps was depleted by injuries, and he sustained a fairly significant injury himself. But Darnold toughed it out and finished well. Now, the Jets have added a multidimensional stud at running back and a veteran slot receiver. Gase might be an unusual fellow, but he had a fruitful working relationship with Peyton Manning and also managed to milk a good season out of the moody and inconsistent Jay Cutler.

Darnold probably isn’t rosterable in most 12-team single-QB leagues, but he could be an asset in larger single-QB leagues or in superflex and 2QB leagues. It won’t be long before the young man with the prominent cranium is a prominent fantasy contributor.

Robby Anderson wasn’t clicking with Darnold early last season (save for Robby’s big game against Denver in Week 5), but they started to mesh in December, with Anderson catching 23 passes for 336 yards and three TDs over the last four games of the season. In the all-important fantasy playoff stretch from Week 14 to Week 16, only DeAndre Hopkins scored more half-point PPR fantasy points than Anderson. He had an even better season in 2017, coming on strong near the midpoint of the season and putting together a stretch of six straight games in which he had either 100 receiving yards, a TD or both.

Anderson only finished 41st among wide receivers in fantasy points per game last season after finishing 22nd in 2017. As noted by Mike Clay of ESPN (@MikeClayNFL), Anderson is likely to face a murderer’s row of cornerbacks this season. Anderson has a seemingly wide range of outcomes this year, and in drafts I’ve been in this year, he’s come off the board a little earlier than his average draft position of WR30. I like him, but I don’t think he’s bargain-priced at that ADP.

In 2017, Jamison Crowder had a preseason ADP of WR26 at and finished WR37. Last year, Crowder had a preseason ADP of WR33, lost seven games to injury and ranked WR66 in fantasy points per game. I’m not sure why Crowder has been such a Venus flytrap for fantasy owners the last few years. Is it his cool name? Is it because he went to Duke? (I thought we were supposed to hate Duke.)

Crowder is a decent little slot man, nothing more. His ADP (WR62) has finally returned to reality, but he’s not really the type of receiver I like to target at the end of drafts. I’d rather throw late-round darts at wideouts with big potential payoffs, and Crowder’s ceiling is not especially high.

Quincy Enunwa was Darnold’s security blanket early last year. Over the first four games of the season, Enunwa was targeted 36 times and had 21 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown. A lot of those receptions came on quick-hitting throws or on bubble screens – simple stuff to build a rookie quarterback’s confidence. Then Enunwa was felled by a high-ankle sprain and was largely a nonfactor the rest of the way. 

Anderson is going to be the alpha receiver, but Enunwa is going to play a lot of snaps as long as he stays healthy. Still, it might take an injury to one of the other Jets pass catchers for Enunwa to have a path to fantasy relevance.

Rookie tight ends have an abysmal hit rate in fantasy football, but Chris Herndon was one of two pleasant rookie surprises at the position last season, along with Mark Andrews of Baltimore. A fourth-round pick out of Miami, Herndon was highly efficient last year, catching 39 of 56 targets for 502 yards and four TDs.

Unfortunately, Herndon incurred a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The suspension is frustrating, but it also makes Herndon more affordable. In larger leagues where it isn’t a mistake to carry more than one tight end, Herndon might be worth considering as a second tight end, or maybe even as a first tight end if you’re REALLY trying to cut corners at the position.

Sam DarnoldQB26QB23QB262QB possibility
Le’Veon BellRB6RB7RB6Fade
Robby AndersonWR31WR30WR30Be careful
Jamison CrowderWR62WR57WR62Meh
Quincy EnunwaWR68WR69WR85Late-rounder
Chris HerndonTE19TE20TE21Consider

ADP = Average Draft Position  ECR = Expert Consensus Ranking  (based on half-PPR scoring)