For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the New York Jets are a contender to win their first Superbowl. Last year, they were one half away from going to the big show. They have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league, added a Superbowl MVP at WR (Santonio Holmes) to a unit that already had a very talented possession receiver (Jerricho Cotchery) and a big play (and big drop) WR (Braylon Edwards).
They also have a defense that was ranked number one last year, and added former pro bowlers Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. As if that’s not enough, they move into a brand new, state of the art stadium that no longer has another team’s name on it.
All that may seem well and good, but let’s face it, you’re here to ask what does it mean from a fantasy perspective, and unfortunately to Jets’ fans the answers aren’t as rosy.
The Jets’ offense is its biggest question mark coming into this season. The offense starts with the running game, which was the NFL’s number one rated ground game last season.
The Jets made a huge change to their running attack when they released incumbent starter Thomas Jones and his 1400 yards with 14 TD last year. TJ, who had in his three years with the Jets carried 931 times, was on the wrong side of 30, and the Jets decided that the slowdown Jones showed in the postseason, was enough to send him on his way.
In his place steps Shonn Greene who certainly looked like the real deal in the playoffs last year, when he rushed 54 times for 304 yards, averaging a robust 5.6 yards per carry, before being hurt against the Colts in the AFC title game.
The Jets are certainly banking on a full season repeat of those games. That’s high hopes, for a rookie who only had 108 total carries last year, but with the offensive line intact except for Left Guard, its certainly possible.
The other big changes to the running game were in the area of third down back, where shifty runner and pass catcher Leon Washington was traded during the draft. Leon’s main place on the job was using his potentially game-breaking speed in open space, creating long gains. When a broken leg ended his season with the Jets, after he had threatened a holdout, it wasn’t a surprise the Jets looked to change-up.
The change though, was the unexpected addition of former MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Clearly LT isn’t the same player he was setting all those rushing records with the Chargers, and some would argue he’s never been as classy as he’s been portrayed. What he can do though, is act a great mentor to Greene, and serve as the best pass catching RB the Jets have ever had.
The number three running back figures to be fourth round pick Joe McKnight. Barring injury or blowout, its unlikely McKnight sees more than five carries per game.
Projections - Shonn Greene projects to be a borderline number one RB, but best fits the bill as a number two RB with tremendous upside. A safe projection for Shonn is 1150 yards, with 12 TD. Tomlinson should see close to 600 all purpose yards, and with his nose for the endzone, could end up vulturing maybe 8 TD. McKnight doesn’t warrant drafting at this time.
Mark Sanchez started 15 games last year for the Jets, and had what has to be called a disappointing rookie season. His TD/INT Ratio was 12:20, and threw at least one pick in eight games and four with multiple interceptions. His completion percentage was a middling 53.8% and topped 60% in only three games.
Despite this, the Jets are pleased with Sanchez, and feel that he could break out in a big way this year. The reason can be traced to the playoffs, and more specifically the AFC Title game, where Sanchez led his team to within one-half of the Superbowl, highlighted by an 80-yard hook up with Braylon Edwards in the second quarter. For the game, Sanchez completed just over 56 percent of his passes, but the leadership he showed, was impressive to most.
In the playoffs overall, he was 41 for 68, a 60.3 completion percentage with a 4:2 TD/INT ratio. Looking ahead, Sanchez will have Cotchery and Edwards for a full season, as well as Santonio Holmes for 12 games. Plus, the Jets will likely make more of an effort to incorporate talented pass catcher Dustin Keller into the game, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield on 3rd downs.
All in all, they stand to be a far superior passing targets to last year. Mark Brunell was signed to be the back-up to mentor Sanchez, and should not cut into the playing time of Sanchez at all. Erik Ainge and Kellen Clemens are competing for the number three QB spot.
Projections - Mark Sanchez doesn’t project to be a starter in fantasy this year, but with the weapons he has available to him, and the fact that there isn’t going to be anyone gunning for snaps against him, Sanchez fits in nicely as a solid number 2 QB with the weapons to be a number one. If the team decides to open up the offense for him, then 3,000 yards / 16 TD / 10 INT is a fair projection.
Jerricho Cotchery continues to be one of the leagues most consistent, yet underrated wide receivers. Consider that Jerricho has caught at least 57 passes each year since 2006 and has yet to produce under 800 yards, while routinely being considered the number two WR. His underwhelming TD production may speak more to the Jets decision to run the ball down in the trenches.
Lining up opposite Cotchery figures to be Santonio Holmes once he serves his 4 game ban for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Holmes, a former Superbowl MVP, finished last year tied for number two (Miles Austin) in plays of over 20 yards with 21.
Holmes recorded eight games with at least 80 yards receiving, and in any game in which he recorded at least three catches, he finished with 70 plus yards. It’s also worth paying attention to the fact that Holmes is playing in the last year of his contract, and would love to audition for the Jets or any other team that is willing to pay for him.
Also in a contract year is last year’s mid-season acquisition, Braylon Edwards. Edwards was expected to break games wide open for the Jets last year, however Sanchez’s struggles combined with Edwards struggles to hold onto the ball, led some of the wonder to fizzle out.
Even with the struggles, Braylon recorded four TD and 541 yards on just 35 catches, good for a 15.5 Y/R. Edwards is the type of WR that drives you crazy, because his talent is obvious when you watch him, but his inconsistencies make you think he lacks the determination to perform at the elite level for more than spurts.
Now with Holmes on board, Edwards is expected to be the slot receiver, meaning he will draw the nickel back or safety more times than not. Considering that at 6’3” with great downfield speed, Edwards has the physical tools to dominate number one defensive backs. Going up against a team’s number three should make for numbers akin to what he had in his Pro Bowl season of 07.
At this time, Brad Smith and Laveranues Coles will likely round at the four and five WR spots.
Projections – Jerricho Cotchery should continue his steady numbers, and expecting 67 catches for 850 yards and three TD seems a fair placement for him. Consider him a number three WR for fantasy purposes, as his lack of scoring will prevent him from being a star.
Santonio Holmes will only play in 12 games this year, but should still remain in the neighborhood of 58 catches for 855 yards with five TD, making him a number two WR.
Braylon Edwards in my mind, is the WR to watch on this team. Playing in the slot with two other exceptional possession wide-outs surrounding him, look for somewhere to the tune of 58 catches, 880 yards, and five TD. Brad Smith, who operates the Jets hybrid Wild Cat formation has little fantasy value. Coles has less at this time.
Dustin Keller should be a very good TE in fantasy football. He’s a decent route runner with good hands, who is not often called upon to block. Dustin’s game hasn’t matched up to his expectations, despite some individual flashes.
I bring this up because good pass catching tight ends are supposed to be a target down in the red zone, but five TD in 30 games, just isn’t going to cut it for anyone’s number two fantasy TE, let alone a guy some predicted could be a number one.
Yet, like most Jets I’ve talked about, the playoffs last year served as something of a coming out party as Keller caught 12 balls for 181 yards and three TD. Except Keller to be a bigger part of this offense, but draft him as a number two TE.
The defensive unit as a whole was among the best in fantasy last year, and this year, things should be the same. Jason Taylor was brought in to assist in getting after the QB, and throughout his career, few have been better. I see Taylor playing mainly in passing downs, and should contribute five or six sacks.
Kris Jenkins being healthy makes the leagues top run defense even better, and with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the passing unit should be top five. Obviously that takes into account that Revis is signed and ready to play on opening day. If he isn’t, I don’t think his being on the team really impacts the defense from a fantasy standpoint all that much, unless you are in a league that awards points on yardage allowed.
The biggest impact at corner back will come from Antonio Cromartie. The Jets brought him in to lock down the side opposite Revis, and as his ten INT in 2007 prove, Cromartie is good. He isn’t Revis good, but in fantasy, that’s better, because the ball is more likely to come his way. And the more the ball is thrown in Cromartie’s direction, the more likely he is to come away with an INT.
Revis locked down other teams’ number one wide out, but he did his job so well, they just didn’t throw in his direction as much. This should be the first defense off the board.
Written by Rick Marsh exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com.
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