We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2020 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.
The 2019 Jets weren't exactly a memorable team. Relatively high preseason expectations were essentially shattered by Week 2 after starting QB Sam Darnold was forced out of action due to mono. The team was well outside of the playoff picture at 1-7 before they knew it.
Then a funny thing happened: Adam Gase and company started winning. Sure, victories over the Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Dolphins, Steelers and Bills' backups are hardly feathers in the cap, but finishing with a 6-2 run is impossible to completely ignore.
One of the main takeaways from the Jets' brief stretch of league-average play was the productiveness of slot receiver Jamison Crowder. The former-Washington WR signed a three-year, $28.5 million contract with $17 million fully guaranteed prior to the 2019 season. All Crowder did in his first season with the Jets was post team-high marks in targets (122), receptions (78), receiving yards (833) and receiving scores (6).
The Jets won't be trotting out the exact same roster again in 2020, although Crowder is once again shaping up as one of fantasy's most-undervalued assets. What follows is a breakdown on what to expect from Crowder and the rest of the Jets' pass-catchers ahead of next season.
Adam Gase loves himself a high-volume slot WR
The Jets' head ball coach has made a habit of feeding his offense's starting slot WR throughout his coaching career:
- 2013: Wes Welker (8.5 targets per game)
- 2014: Welker (4.6)
- 2015: Eddie Royal (5.6)
- 2016: Jarvis Landry (8.2)
- 2017: Landry (10.1)
- 2018: Danny Amendola (5.3)
- 2019: Crowder (7.6)
For reference, Crowder's 7.6 targets per game ranked a respectable 24th among all WRs. Robby Anderson (96 targets), Le'Veon Bell (78) and Demaryius Thomas (58) were the only other players with even 50 targets for the Jets in 2019.
Crowder wasn't overwhelmingly efficient; he never gained over 100 yards and once converted 17 targets into 14 receptions for 99 yards and zero scores. Still, it was clear that he formed a solid chemistry with Darnold on underneath routes:
There are dozens of receivers more talented than Crowder throughout the league. Still, he's the incumbent No. 1 pass-game option in an offense that simply doesn't have a ton of other places to throw the ball.
This remains one of the more-depleted receiver rooms in the league
The Jets haven't exactly done a great job of upgrading their skill-position talent around Darnold this offseason.
This backfield should include more frequent appearances from multiple backs in 2020. Le'Veon Bell will in all likelihood remain the lead back, but newly-signed Frank Gore will almost certainly siphon off some early-down work. Fourth-round RB Lamical Perine is a threat to steal pass-down work. Expect an annoying committee consisting of at least two backs.
Rookie second-round pick Denzel Mims is the favorite to work as the offense's top outside WR. Mims possesses a lot of the same athletic traits as some of the league's best WRs (via Player Profiler):
- 40-yard dash: 4.38 seconds (96th-percentile among WRs)
- Speed Score: 115.6 (96th)
- Burst Score: 131 (90th)
- Agility Score: 11.09 (67th)
- Catch Radius: 10.34 (96th)
- College Dominator: 42.3% (86th)
His only real competition is Breshad Perriman, who has rebounded from early-career turmoil to post back-to-back solid seasons with the Browns and Buccaneers.
Chris Herndon simply needs to beat out Ryan Griffin for the starting TE role. Here's the full list of rookie TEs to average at least eight yards per target since 2000 (min. 50 targets): Mark Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry, Heath Miller, Aaron Hernandez, Noah Fant, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz, George Kittle ... and Herndon. The Jets' rising third-year TE was simply suspended and then injured before even having a chance of showing what he could do in 2019. Last season's goose-egg has left a sour taste in the mouths of Herndon's ex-fantasy investors. Feel free to bet on the proven talent bouncing back, as it won't cost you more than a late-round fantasy pick to do so.
It's fair to wonder if Mims, Herndon or even Perriman could unseat Crowder atop Darnold's pecking order ... if NFL teams had a normal offseason to work with. 2020 presents a unique challenge due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We're moving forward under the assumption that the season takes place, but at the very least it seems likely these rookie and free agent receivers won't get a chance to build chemistry with their QBs until late in the summer at the earliest. When in doubt, it's probably best to lower your year-one expectations for most new receivers.
Crowder is fantasy football's cheapest potential WR1
The Jets return the same head coach, offensive coordinator and QB in 2020. The team's long-time hopeful No. 1 WR Robby Anderson is now in Carolina, meaning Crowder's sole competition for the No. 1 pass-game role is a day-two rookie, a perceived bust that is on his fourth team since 2017, and a TE that played 18 total snaps last season.
Look, I realize drafting Crowder isn't a sexy draft pick to make. The good news is that this likely-profitable act won't cost you more than a late-round pick to do so. Crowder is egregiously the PPR WR58 in average draft position in re-draft leagues and the WR42 in best-ball formats at the time of this writing.
The PPR WR26 from 2019 doesn't exactly have an overall WR1 finish in his range of outcomes entering next season. Still, there's reason to believe Crowder could be even better in 2020 with a full season from Darnold. The young QB has enabled Crowder to his most-productive high-volume height of his career to this point:
- Darnold: 14 PPR per game for Crowder
- Colt McCoy: 14.5
- Mark Sanchez: 11.9
- Kirk Cousins: 10.5
- Josh Johnson: 10
- Alex Smith: 7.2
Crowder carried an underrated weekly ceiling with Darnold under center last season.
- Week 1: PPR WR12
- Week 6: WR19
- Week 7: WR64
- Week 8: WR67
- Week 9: WR10
- Week 10: WR11
- Week 11: WR14
- Week 12: WR73
- Week 13: WR90
- Week 14: WR69
- Week 15: WR4
- Week 16: WR46
- Week 17: WR11
Overall, Crowder was one of just 15 WRs to finish at least five weeks as a top-12 PPR scorer at the position in 2019. Only Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Kenny Golladay spent more weeks as a PPR WR1. The potential for more targets in this uncertain and uncrowded offense could lead to Crowder supplying a familiar floor to go along with newfound spike weeks.
Generally it's not a great idea to invest too heavily in players from not-good offenses. Luckily, Crowder is being drafted outside of the top-40 WRs in most formats at the moment. Let everyone else get hyped about rookies that may or may not even crack their team's starting three-WR formation. Scoop up Crowder in the later-middle rounds and be thankful to have a player with a WR3-floor and WR1-ceiling.