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Sam Darnold
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Jets Fantasy Preview

by Raymond Summerlin
Updated On: August 15, 2019, 6:56 pm ET

2018 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 4,787 (29th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 29 (27th)
Offensive Plays: 971 (26th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 561 (23rd)
Rush Attempts: 410 (16th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 178 (8th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 151 (10th)

Coaching Staff
Fired by the division-rival Dolphins, Adam Gase was hired in January to help jumpstart an offense which has been mostly bad since their surprising run in 2015. Gase does have some impressive showings in his past, but his offenses have been lackluster at best since he left the comfy confines of Peyton Manning. His team has not finished inside the top half in points scored or total offense over the last four seasons, and Miami averaged a lowly 5.34 yards per play during his three years there. In addition to not being very efficient, play volume was a big concern for the Dolphins under Gase. The offense averaged just 929 plays per season during his time there, which would have ranked third-worst in the league last year, including a historically low 878 plays last season. New Jets OC Dowell Loggains filled the same job on that 878-play team, and his pace history is equally concerning. To be fair, the quarterback situation in Miami left a lot to be desired, something which should not be an issue with Sam Darnold at the helm in New York, but play volume is a significant concern for the fantasy prospects of Darnold, his pass catchers, and Le’Veon Bell.

Passing Game
QB: Sam Darnold, Trevor Siemian
WR: Robby Anderson, Charone Peake
WR: Quincy Enunwa, Josh Bellamy
WR: Jamison Crowder, Deontay Burnett
TE: Chris Herndon, Trevon Wesco

It was a tale of two rookie seasons for Darnold. There were some good performances over the first nine games, but he completed just 55 percent of his passes with an 11-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio before a foot injury sent him to the sidelines. It was a different story once he came back, with the rookie completing 64 percent of his passes with 6 touchdowns and just one interception over the final four games. That is a small sample to be sure, and Darnold finished the year on a down note against the Patriots. Still, it was a promising showing on which he will hopefully be able to build.

Like the rest of the offense, volume will be the major area of concern as Darnold looks to make a sophomore fantasy leap. Miami quarterbacks finished with fewer than 480 attempts in two of Gase’s three seasons while Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen combined for just 523 attempts during his one year with the Bears. Again, Darnold might already be the best quarterback Gase has worked with since leaving Denver, and it is possible Gase opens things up with Darnold and Le’Veon Bell in his backfield. That uncertainty keeps Darnold in the low-end QB2 ranks, but he could certainly surprise.  

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Robby Anderson was the main beneficiary of Darnold’s strong finish, catching 23 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns over those final four games while operating as the clear No. 1 receiver. That spot on the depth chart is a little more questionable with Jamison Crowder added to the roster and Quincy Enunwa back at full health, but Anderson is still the favorite for whatever targets are available in this attack and has proven he can produce when given those opportunities. At worst, he has the big-play ability to have some spike weeks – he has scored 10 touchdowns of 30 yards or more in his career – and has the upside for more than that if the offense clicks.

Crowder’s fantasy upside is more questionable. Slot receivers have fared well under Gase – Wes Welker was productive during Gase’s first season as an offensive coordinator and Jarvis Landry averaged 103 catches, 1,062 yards, and six touchdowns in his two seasons under Gase – so it is possible Crowder gets enough of the targets to be a real fantasy option. As has been the theme of this preview, however, there simply might not be enough passes to go around even if Crowder commands a large target share, and he has not proven to be a consistent touchdown scorer since exploding for seven back in 2016. He has seven total touchdowns on 230 targets in his other three seasons. Unless that touchdown production changes, Crowder’s best-case scenario looks like a reliable but low-end PPR option, and it is possible he does not even get there.

There is not a lot to get excited about for Enunwa despite his hot start to last season. Things could change during training camp, but it seems unlikely he is better than third on the depth chart, and the No. 3 receiver in this offense is not going to get many targets. He has also struggled with injuries throughout his career including last season. That said, Crowder’s arrival means Enunwa will play almost exclusively on the outside moving forward, and Gase has talked about getting him more downfield looks than he has seen to this point in his career. None of that will matter if the targets are not there, but it is at least worth watching in camp.

Chris Herndon looked like a much better breakout candidate before he was hit with a four-game suspension, but there is still reason for optimism after a promising, 39-502-4 rookie campaign in which he caught 70 percent of his targets with a 12.9 yards-per-catch average. It is also worth noting his usage increased throughout the year. The suspension makes it tough to draft him in standard, one-tight-end leagues – because of New York’s early bye, he will not return until Week 6 – but he is a good upside stash in deeper formats and could be an impact waiver addition once he is back on the field.

Running Game
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell
OL (L-R): Kelvin Beachum, Kelechi Osemele, Jonotthan Harrison, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell

After sitting out all of last season, Le’Veon Bell found his new home when the Jets signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Rumor has it his new head coach was not excited about that deal, and the general manager who signed him has already been fired. Even so, Bell is easily the Jets’ most talented player on offense, and Gase had an above-average run rate two of his three seasons in Miami despite negative game scripts.

That is not to say there are zero concerns. In Pittsburgh, Bell played in one of the best offenses and behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. The former seems unlikely unless Darnold takes a big step forward, and the latter is even less likely despite the addition of Kelechi Osemele over the offseason. In addition to reports Gase was unhappy with the Bell signing, the coach had issues with all of his lead backs in Miami. There was also offseason chatter about Bell being out of shape, and he has not participated in an NFL game since January of 2018.

Ultimately, Bell is one of the best three-down backs in the league, and the Jets do not have the talent for Gase to play games with the depth chart. As long as he is healthy, Bell should be one of the true workhorses in the league, handling most of the rushing attempts when the Jets are in games and serving as a primary target in negative game scripts. That makes him a top-ten running back, but his draft cost undoubtedly comes with risk.  

Win Total
The Jets’ win total is either seven with a heavy price on the over or 7.5 depending on the book. That is an aggressive valuation for a team which has won four, five, and five games in the last three seasons, albeit under a different coaching staff, and still has serious questions at important spots on the roster, most notably offensive line, pass rusher, and corner. New York does have one of the easier schedules in the league, featuring just four top-10 opponents according to Warren Sharp’s methodology, and did spend big on Bell, Crowder, and C.J. Mosley. Gase also had a knack for winning more games than he should have in Miami with the team bettering its expected win total each of his three years there. All of that said, this roster just is not that good, and the win total seems high. I would lean toward the under, especially at 7.5.

Raymond Summerlin
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.