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Boy, so much can change in a season. Last year, at this point in the preseason, Fantasy Football owners had a lot to get excited about with the New York Jets. They had two prolific wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, a sleeper at the quarterback position in Ryan Fitzpatrick and they also had an overlooked all-around contributor in Matt Forte at running back, paired with PPR specialist Bilal Powell.
This year is a different story.
Gone are Fitzpatrick, Decker and Marshall. While the trio underachieved last year due to injury and/or performance, Fantasy owners are yearning for the days of 2016, because the Fantasy options this year are, frankly, limited.
Let’s first look at the pass catchers that will be looking to fill the void left by veterans Decker and Marshall.
The most notable pass-catching options for the Jets this year could actually be in the backfield, but we’ll get to them. For players lined up at the line of scrimmage, it’s a bit bleak, as second-year wide receiver Robby Anderson is the by-default No. 1 option.
Anderson is the leading returning receiver from last year, as he hauled in 42 of 78 targets for 587 scores and two touchdowns. His 14 yards per reception was tie for 21st in the NFL last year with Dontrelle Inman and Adam Thielen.
The talent is still a question with Anderson, but he showed enough last year while playing second and third fiddle in the Jets’ passing game, highlighted by a six-catch, 99-yard performance in mid-December and a four-catch, 80-yard performance with a touchdown the following week. However, how will Anderson adapt to being “the guy” in the offense?
Anderson was set to be the second downfield option in the offense, but after Quincy Enunwa required season-ending back surgery, Anderson was catapulted to the lead role. The schedule is average early on, but for the season, according to published Fantasy analysis, the Jets have the 25th hardest strength of schedule for wide receivers. Now, obviously, regression to the mean is going to happen for most teams around the league, and just because a team was poor or great defensively last year, doesn’t mean the same will be true this year. But, the Jets are expected to be playing from behind early and often, allowing defenses to key in on Anderson without an adequate quarterback to get him the ball consistently.
But will Anderson thrive in the position? He had a -31 Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR), which is defined by Football Outsiders as the value of the performance on plays where the receiver caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. In short, Anderson was below average last year. He will, however, have an uptick in targets from his 78 last year, making him a worthy pick toward the latter part of your standard and especially PPR leagues, where he should be peppered with targets. He has a limited ceiling, but he does have Top 50 potential in both formats.
But other than Anderson, who else is going to fill the void in the passing game? Between Decker, Enunwa and Marshall, there are 254 targets to replace. Anderson will see a bump, but someone else has to step up. The only problem is, as mediocre as Anderson is, the other receivers make him look like Don Maynard when it comes to talent.
Fighting for targets will be Chris Harper and Charone Peake, with Chad Hansen, Marquess Wilson and Frankie Hammond, along with promising third-round pick Ardarius Stewart, projected as the backups. None of the bunch are worth a selection in any size redraft league, but Stewart, an Alabama product, is worthy of a pick in a dynasty league, as he has the potential to contribute for Fantasy purposes in the coming years.
A sleeper from the Jets offense is oft-troubled tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is getting a second shot at his career. Jenkins was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year after a DUI arrest. The loss of Enunwa opens up targets and opportunity for the 6-foot, 5-inch tight end in the seam. Seferian-Jenkins shouldn’t be drafted in leagues – his current ADP has him as the 28th tight end off the board, according to FantasyPros – but he’s worth monitoring, as any tight end with a pulse can have value from week to week.
The Fantasy highlight for the Jets comes in the backfield, as once again Forte and Powell look to carry the load. This time, though, Powell will lead the charge. Forte outgained Powell last year 813 to 722 and outscored him seven to three, but Powell was the more efficient back, averaging 5.5 yards per carry compared to 3.7 for Forte.
There’s reasons to be optimistic this year about Powell, and it’s not just because Forte has been injured throughout training camp, he’s 31 years old or has more than 2,200 regular season carries under his belt. Powell is a dual-threat option out of the backfield, and his 182 DYAR was eighth in the NFL last year.
Powell, who is the 27th running back off the board, has extra value in PPR leagues, as he hauled in 58 receptions on 74 targets. His total receptions could surpass his targets from a season ago as he gets more and more of the lion’s share of the work. In PPR leagues, Powell is a high-end RB2, while he’s a low-end RB2 in standard leagues. As for Forte, he’s a 10th- or 11th-round pick, but don’t expect much more than waiver-wire production from him if Powell were to get hurt.
Usually, a team’s starting quarterback should be owned in at least two-quarterback leagues, but the Jets are the rare exception where none of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg should be owned. Even they won’t be able to turn garbage time into consistent Fantasy production.
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