When the New York Jets announced their planned release or trade of wide receiver Eric Decker on June 7, one of the most perplexing offseasons in NFL history had been completed. Out went established veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, the team’s leading receiver in 2016, and numerous other big names on defense, including Darrelle Revis and David Harris. Instead of relying on a veteran presence to help rebound from a 5-11 record, General Manager Mike Maccagnan decided to reboot the franchise with a wide-scale youth movement (though he inexplicitly signed the 38 year old Josh McCown to challenge for the starting QB spot). Dumped was offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and in came former New Orleans Saints’ receivers coach John Morton. As training camp approaches, fantasy owners’ minds turn to a question of whodunit? Or more exactly who’s going to get the ball, and is there anybody left on the “Mean Green” even worth drafting?
For fantasy managers looking to the Jets for hope (my condolences) or a late round sleeper, there is some good news. New coordinator Morton brings with him a West-Coast styled playbook that will feature a lot of short to intermediate routes, which bodes well for big-bodied wideout Quincy Enunwa. The 6’2″, 225 pound receiver out of Nebraska is entering his fourth NFL season and is coming off a 58-catch campaign where he averaged almost 15 yards per reception and scored four td’s. Enunwa will also have a fan in new quarterback Josh McCown, who has made it well known that he likes big receivers. McCown enjoyed the most successful season of his career with the Chicago Bears in 2013 while throwing to Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. In fact, McCown’s appreciation of taller targets was one of the key reasons he signed with Tampa Bay in 2014. The rest of the Jets’ receiver cupboard remains incredibly bare; Second-year pro Robby Anderson flashed plenty of talent in 2016, but he was arrested for resisting arrest on May 8th and his status for the upcoming season remains in doubt. There were no impact veteran receivers signed, and the Jets didn’t select a wideout until the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft (ArDarius Stewart). Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns at tight end, but he has never had more than 21 receptions in a single season and is suspended for the first two games of 2017 for a DUI.
The best fantasy prospect on the Jets will be a running back, but not 2016 big-name free agent signing Matt Forte. Instead it’s 28-year old Bilal Powell, who posted career-highs with 722 rushing yards and 58 receptions in 2016. Powell split time with Forte in ’16, but took on a larger role late in the year when Forte looked to be wearing down, and rushed for 411 of his 722 rushing yards over the final four games. This included a 149 yard, 2 touchdown effort versus the San Francisco 49ers on December 11th. Jets’ OC Morton will look to have more run-pass balance then his predecessor Gailey, and Powell should take over lead back duties in 2017. No matter which QB ends up claiming the starting gig for the Jets, there will no doubt be plenty of dump-off passes to the New York running backs. It would not be surprising if Bilal will lead the Jets in receptions and rushing yards for 2017, making him a great late-round gem, especially in Points Per Reception leagues.