New York Jets
|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023|
The Jets posted a losing season for the seventh consecutive year in 2022 (7-10), leading to them extending their streak of no playoff appearances to 12 seasons. Robert Saleh returns for his second year as their head coach after spending the previous four years as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers. He's been a coach in the NFL since 2005, giving him 18 seasons of experience. Saleh was part of the coaching staff in Seattle that won the Super Bowl in 2013. His defense for San Francisco in 2019 reached the championship game.
Nathaniel Hackett had a brutal first season as Denver's head coach, leading to him getting fired after 15 games (4-11). He spent most of the previous 10 seasons running the offenses for Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Green Bay. His progression with the Packers between 2019 and 2021 created his promotion to head coach with Denver. The Jets handed him the keys to their offense, along with Aaron Rodgers, who played under him in Green Bay.
New York has had one of the worst offenses in the league over the past seven years. Over this span, they finished 26th, 28th, 29th, 32nd, 32nd, 26th, and 25th in offense yards while also ranking poorly in scoring: 30th (275), 24th (298), 23rd (333), 31st (276), 32nd (243), 28th (310), and 29th (296). The Jets were outscored by 408 points in 2020 and 2021 (12.4 points per game), but they closed that gap to 20 points (1.2 per game) last season.
Jeff Ulbrich led the Jets to a remarkable turnaround on defense in his second season. They finished fourth in points allowed (316 – 188 fewer than in 2021) while also improving from last in yards allowed to fourth. He played in the NFL for 10 seasons with the 49ers before starting his coaching career in Seattle in 2010. Over the previous six seasons before arriving in New York, Ulbrich worked in the Falcons' system as a linebacker coach, plus some duties as their assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
The Jets added a pair of Green Bay wide receivers – Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb in the offseason, along with WR Mecole Hardman. After falling out of favor with New York's coaching staff last season, they shipped WR Elijah Moore to the Cleveland Browns in this year's NFL Draft. The only other offensive change via free agency was the addition of T Billy Turner. The Jets moved on from G Nate Herbig (PIT) and T George Fant (FA).
On defense, DT Sheldon Rankins played well over his 15 games but left New York to play with the Texans. He helped in run support while offering minimal sacks in most years. The only other player to leave town was DT Nathan Shepard after signing a three-year deal with New Orleans.
With the 15th selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Jets added DE Will McDonald. He is a talented pass rusher who will improve when adding more bulk and strength to his frame. His foundation in the pass rush, quickness, and speed point to winning plays behind the line of scrimmage. His first challenge in the NFL is handling the big bodies in run support.
The next two additions (C Joe Tippmann and T Carter Warren) hopefully improve New York's depth and upside on the offensive line. Tippmann should be an excellent upgrade to the Jets' run game while offering power, mobility, and vision. His strength grades well, along with his understanding of developing plays. Warren profiles better in pass protection thanks to his ability to cover a wide portion of the field. His hands create an early edge, but his game isn't quite there yet in run blocking due to questionable footwork and technique. He missed most of last season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
In the fifth round, the Jets invested in RB Israel Abanikanda. He will gain big chunks of yards when given daylight at the line of scrimmage. His ability to accelerate to full speed in a couple of steps is mesmerizing, especially on North/South runs. Abanikanda has a natural feel for developing holes, and he hits the gas before the window opens, leading to explosive plays. His challenge is creating wins when a play breaks down, despite showing the strength to break arm tackles and the vision to see cut-back lanes. With added patience, his ceiling would be much higher. Abanikanda must improve his pass protection skill set to earn snaps on passing downs. When geared down and moving side to side, his quickness wasn't at the same level as his open hole looks.
The Jets shifted back to their defense in the sixth round by adding LB Zaire Barnes and CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse.
Barnes brings coverage and speed to the NFL, with a feel for play development. His size (6'1" and 232 Lbs.) does invite risk when facing offensive linemen in traffic defending the run. He tends to be a thinker in zone coverage, leading to him being a tick behind schedule on some plays. At the very least, Barnes should improve New York's coverage teams.
Bernard-Converse needs a better foundation in coverage skills, leading to many losses vs. top route running wideouts. He gains a check more in press coverage, especially as the field shortens. His vision and flow toward the line of scrimmage get him in trouble when asked to change direction in run support or coverage. A move to safety should cover up some of his weaknesses.
New York threw a draft at TE Zack Kuntz with their final selection in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He only has 15 career starts at tight end while coming to the NFL with multiple questions about his fight vs. tight coverage, blockers, and press defenders. He checks the athletic box, but improvement is needed in his hands. Despite his shortfalls, his speed and quickness point to a winning ceiling once he gets stronger and gains more experience.
New York bumped to 25th in rushing yards (1,686) while scoring 13 rushing touchdowns. They gained 4.2 yards per carry while averaging only 23.8 rushes. Their backs finished with 11 runs over 20 yards.
Despite injuries and questionable play at quarterback, the Jets climbed to 14th in passing yards (4,040) with only 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 42 sacks.
Adding Aaron Rodgers will naturally improve the Jets' offensive line, and a healthy Breece Hall can mask some weakness on the offensive line.
This line has two first-round draft picks – RT Mekhi Becton (2020) and RG Alijah Vera-Tucker (2021), but they played a combined seven games last season. Becton missed all of 2022 with a kneecap issue and an MCL injury the previous year that required surgery.
LG Laker Tomlinson is a neutral to plus player, but his running blocking deteriorated in 2022 after two excellent seasons in this area with the 49ers. He allowed minimal sacks and pressure last season. LT Duane Brown will start 2023 at the age of 38 while coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery in February. He has a long career of being a winning pass protector, but injuries and missed time led to regression over the last two years.
There are many questions about this offensive line coming in 2023. If all players stay healthy and play up to their potential, the Jets will be a much improved offensive team. The added depth in this year's draft has the best chance to help at the center position.
QB Aaron Rodgers - Solid/Safe Pick
Rodgers comes into his 16th season with a spike in turnovers (12 interceptions and four fumbles) while setting a career-low in passing yards (3,695) for an entire season of games. His regression was tied to the Packers not retaining Davante Adams and Green Bay lacking quality receiving talent to replace him. Rodgers also had a sharp decline in his touchdowns (26 – 37 in 2021 and 48 in 2020), ranking 13th in quarterback scoring (292.75 fantasy points) in four-point passing touchdowns leagues. He threw more than two scores in only one of his 17 starts while failing to deliver an impact game all season.
The top three quarterbacks (Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White) for the Jets in 2022 completed a combined 56.7% of their passes with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Despite the appearance of quarterback failure, they did pass for more than 300 yards in six matchups (309/1, 309/4, 355/2, 315/3, 369/0, and 317/2), highlighted by success by their wideouts (20/215, 14/243/3, 9/214, 17/263, 17/213, and 14/253) and tight ends (7/106/2 and 9/104).
Fantasy Outlook: There is no doubt that Rodgers improves the Jets' offense and their ability to win games. Garrett Wilson should be an absolute beast, while Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have plenty of experience with New York's new starting quarterback. Rodgers can't reach his previous level of success in touchdowns without Corey Davis or the Jets' tight ends being more productive. I'll set his bar at 4,500 yards with a floor of 30 scores.
Injury Status: Injured Reserve
QB Zach Wilson - Low Potential
After two dull seasons at BYU (3,960 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), Wilson burst onto the NFL map after an explosive junior year. He completed 73.5% of his passes for 3,692 yards while delivering 33 passing touchdowns and three interceptions. His most impressive stat may have been his 11.0 yards per pass attempt. In addition, Wilson became more active at the goal line (10 TDs) in the run game while gaining 254 yards on 70 carries. His low output in 2019 was tied to his recovery from right shoulder surgery and a broken right thumb that also required surgery.
The Jets drafted Wilson with the second overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. They awarded him with their starting job in Week 1. He battled his accuracy (57.3%) and interceptions (9) over his first five starts before suffering a right knee injury in Week 7. As a result, Wilson missed four games while failing to be fantasy relevant over his seven matchups (1,166 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions). He did make some scoring plays in the run game (29/185/4 – 6.4 yards per carry). In the end, his completion rate (55.6) and yards per pass attempt (6.1) ranked poorly. Wilson also took 44 sacks, leading to a league-high 370 lost yards.
In 2022, he failed to make an impact in his nine games (1,790 combined yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions). Wilson passes for more than 300 yards in two starts (355/2 and 317/2). His completion rate (54.5) continues to be well below a starting job in the NFL.
Fantasy Outlook: The future of Wilson of lies in his ability to hold a clipboard and learn behind Aaron Rodgers. Based on his current path, he may only get one more shot to prove his worth to the Jets. I expect him to see minimal snaps this year.
Other Options: Tim Boyle, Chris Streveler
Injury Status: Out - Coach's Decision
RB Breece Hall - Gamble (high risk)
Over his last two seasons at Iowa State, Hall worked as a three-down back, leading to 590 combined touches. He was a prolific scorer (46 touchdowns) with a high level of success in the run game (279/1,572/21 and 253/1,472/20). In 2021, Hall set a career-high in catches (36), receiving yards (302), and receiving touchdowns (3) while gaining 8.4 yards per catch. He finished his career at Iowa State with 82 catches for 734 yards and six scores.
There is something to be said for a running back that runs with patience and vision. Hall will have some dull games with minimal running room, but he has an excellent feel for his blockers and a knack for getting defenders flat-footed in space. When Hall sees daylight at the second level of the defense, his motor kicks up a gear, leading to some long runs. He brings a nose for the goal line while having the hands and the feel for space in the passing game to push his catch total much higher in the NFL. Despite the look of a power-back, Hall does well to avoid hard hits in space. I expect him to wear down defenses, helping the Jets control the clock late in games when they have the lead.
The Jets gave Hall 20 touches over his first two pro games, leading to 121 combined yards with one touchdown and seven catches. He turned into a start over his next four matchups (63/318/3 plus 12 catches for 170 yards). The following week, he gained 72 yards on four carries with a score before leaving the game after 11 snaps with a torn ACL in his left knee, ending his season. Hall gained an impressive 5.8 yards per rush for the year and 11.5 yards per catch.
Fantasy Outlook: New York expects to have their star running back ready for Week 1, but they should limit his snaps out of the gate. His stats last year, projected over 17 games, would have led to 1,653 combined yards with 12 touchdowns and 36 catches or 16.08 FPPG in PPR formats. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, Hall ranks as the 11th running back off the board with an early third-round ADP. I tend to fade players coming off significant injuries, but there is a lot to like here if the summer reports remain optimistic about his health.
RB Dalvin Cook - Over the Hill (decreased production)
Aaron Rodgers may have wanted Cook in New York, but fans of Breece Hall sure didn't. Cook should open the seaon as the Jets' main runner, which will allow the club to bring Hall along slowly.
Cook can fill in on all three downs but is an eroding talent. Unfortunately, he still has enough talent to see plenty of touches and ultimately cut into Hall's upside.
RB Israel Abanikanda - Fantasy Handcuff
After receiving limited snaps over his first two seasons in college (151/746/8 with 26 catches for 208 yards), Abanikanda reached impact level in 2022 (1,577 combined yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 catches) despite only receiving 251 touches.
Fantasy Outlook: The home run ability by Abanikanda is a perfect fit to complement Breece Hall. He won't be selected in many 12-team formats in the early draft season. I like his chances of emerging this year, so I view him as the Jets' top handcuff in 2023.
Other Options: Zonovan Knight, Travis Dye
RB Michael Carter - Deep-league Only
Over 14 games in his rookie season, Carter gained 964 yards with four touchdowns and 36 catches on 183 touches. He graded better than expected in the passing game (36/325/0 – 9.0 yards per catch). However, Carter missed three weeks with an ankle issue while suffering a concussion in Week 17. His stock rose midseason over five games (509 combined yards with two touchdowns and 23 catches on 87 touches), highlighted by a dominating game vs. the Bengals in Week 8 (172 combined yards with a score and nine catches). He gained over 100 yards rushing in only one contest (16/118).
Last year, Carter failed to gain momentum or capitalize on the injury to Breece Hall. The Jets gave him double-digit touches in eight of his first nine contests, leading to 483 combined yards with 25 catches. Over his final seven games (29/72 with 16 catches for 92 yards), he was outplayed by Zonovan Knight.
Carter worked as the change of pace back in college. Over his final two seasons, he gained 2,669 yards with 16 touchdowns and 46 catches. He gained 8.0 yards per rush and 10.7 yards per catch in his senior year. At 5'8" and 200 lbs., Carter has a strong lower half while offering an edge in quickness. However, his top-end speed came in below expectation when adding his build.
Fantasy Outlook: The second running back for the Jets could be in flux for a good portion of 2023. Carter was much better in his rookie season, meaning camp news will dictate his early season opportunity and potential draft value.
WR Corey Davis - Not Draft Worthy
Davis showed more explosiveness and consistency in 2020 after struggling to fulfill his expected value after getting drafted in the first round in 2017. He set career highs in receiving yards (984) and touchdowns (5) while matching his 2018 season in catches (65). Davis posted four impact games (7/101, 8/128/1, 11/182/1, and 4/110/1). He missed two games with a Covid issue. On the downside, Davis was shut out in three games on seven combined targets (one game was in the postseason). His catch rate (70.7) was the best of his career, along with his yards per catch (15.1).
Over the past two seasons, Davis missed 12 games, leading to only 66 catches over 22 starts with 1,028 yards and six touchdowns. In 2021, he played well in two of his first four games with the Jets (5/97/2 and 4/111/1), leading to 24 catches for 349 yards and four touchdowns over his first six starts. Unfortunately, he sat out eight of the next 11 games due to hip and groin issues. Last season, his missed time was due to a knee injury and concussion. When on the field, David had the most value in three (6/77, 2/83/1, and 5/74/1) of his first four matchups.
Fantasy Outlook: Poor quarterback play and injuries led to the demise of Davis over the past two years. He gained more than 20 yards on 22.9% of his last 131 catches while averaging 15.4 yards per catch. Davis starts the season at the age of 28 while playing with the best quarterback of his career. His overall resume is higher than Allen Lazard, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him work at the Jets' WR2 in 2023. I expect him to be undrafted in many 12-team leagues but play his way to fantasy relevance.
UPDATE: Davis annoucned his unexpected retirement from the NFL on August 23rd.
WR Garrett Wilson - Stud (low risk)
In each season in college, Wilson improved his production in all areas. His freshman year ended with 30 catches for 432 yards and five scores. During the shortened Covid-19 season (eight games), he upped his stats to 43 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns while gaining 67 yards on two runs. In 2021, Wilson played at his highest level over his final three starts (10/126/3, 7/126/2, and 10/119/1), leading to 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He finished with four rushes for 76 yards and a score.
Wilson caught 83 of his 147 targets for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. His catch rate (56.5) paralleled the poor quarterback play for New York, which will have a natural progression in 2023 with Aaron Rodgers behind center. Wilson finished 21st in wide receiver scoring (217.00 fantasy points) in PPR formats, highlighted by his success in four games (8/102/2, 6/115, 5/95/2, and 8/162). Wilson scored fewer than 6.50 fantasy points in seven matchups (2/41, 3/27, 1/8, 4/24, 2/12, 4/30, and 3/18).
Fantasy Outlook: The excitement about Wilson is real based on his WR1 ranking (11th) in the high-stakes markets. Last season, a wide receiver needed to score more than 240.00 fantasy points to finish 12th in wide receiver scoring. Based on this, Wilson must end with a 90/1,100/7 type season to pay off. I'll take the over in all areas.
WR Allen Lazard - Bye Week Fill-in
From 2019 to 2021, Lazard had almost the same output (35/477/3, 33/451/3, and 40/513/8) over 41 games. Green Bay gave him only four targets per week in 2021. He set career highs in catches (60), receiving yards (788), and targets (100) last season over 15 games. His stats ranked 34th in WR scoring (174.80) in PPR formats while failing to score more than 20.00 fantasy points in any matchup. The Packers had Lazard on the field for 78.9% of their plays.
Fantasy Outlook: Despite working as Aaron Rodgers' WR1 in 2022, after the departure of Davante Adams, Lazard didn't offer an impact skill set. He has now played 57 games with Rodgers, leading to only three outcomes with over 100 yards receiving (3/103/1, 6/146/1, and 6/116). His catch rate (65.3) grades well, but Lazard has a limited ceiling. My starting point is 50 catches for 700 yards and five touchdowns.
Injury Status: Out - Coach's Decision
WR Mecole Hardman - Bye Week Fill-in
Hardman has made positive strides in his first three seasons (26/538/6, 41/560/4, and 59/693/2) with the Chiefs, with a progression of 21 targets each year (41, 62, and 83). His catch (71.1) was impressive in 2021 (66.1 in 2020), but Hardman saw his yards per catch (11.7) fall to a three-year low. The Chiefs only gave him more than seven targets in two games (12 and 11). He finished 2021 as the 60th wide receiver in PPR leagues (130.60 fantasy points) with three games with more than 15.00 fantasy points (9/8, 8/113, and 3/70/1).
Last season, Hardman struggled out of the gate (3/16/1, 3/49, 1/2, 1/4) while trending forward over his next four matchups (4/73, 3/42/1, 3/32/1, and 6/79/1). An abdomen/pelvis issue ultimately ended the season after Week 9.
Fantasy Outlook: Before last year, Hardman hadn't missed a game in his NFL career while being slightly undersized (5'10" and 185 lbs.). He has 57 games under his belt with Patrick Mahomes, leading to 151 catches for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns on 220 targets. His skill set gives the Jets another playmaker with an unknown opportunity. More of a follow than a target until Hardman receives more chances from week to week.
Other Options: Randall Cobb, Denzel Mims, Diontae Spencer
Injury Status: Injured Reserve
TE Tyler Conklin - Bye Week Fill-in
An injury to TE Irv Smith in 2021 created a starting opportunity for Conklin in his fourth season in the NFL. He finished with 61 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns on 87 targets. Despite his growth, Conklin scored over 11.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in only three matchups (7/71/1, 3/11/2, and 7/56).
Last season, he finished with similar success (58/552/3 on 87 targets) with the Jets. His best production came in three games (8/84, 6/79/2, and 6/80). Conklin failed to score over his final nine contests while receiving 77.2% of New York's tight end snaps.
Fantasy Outlook: The growth of Conklin gives him a TE2 opportunity under the guidance of Aaron Rodgers. In the early draft season, he comes off the board as the 26th tight end. I would consider a 50/500/5 season a success.
TE Jeremy Ruckert - Not Draft Worthy
The tight end opportunity at Ohio State was minimal for Ruckert over four seasons. He finished with 54 catches for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns over 26 games. In 2021, Ruckert set career-highs in catches (26) and receiving yards (309). Unfortunately, he gained over 50 yards in only one game (3/47) while shining in one matchup (5/47/2).
Any NFL interest in Ruckert comes from his value as a blocker. He looks more athletic than his stats project, but his route running and quickness set a low floor in catches. His chances in the passing game will come on some set plays, late dump-offs, or uncovered releases. In addition, Ruckert will sneak in some scores on play-action passes at the goal line.
He caught one of his two targets for eight yards in his rookie season.
Other Options: C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Zack Kuntz
PK Greg Zuerlein - Solid/Safe Pick
In 2020 and 2021 with the Cowboys, Zuerlein made 63 of his 76 field goals (82.9%), with most of his failures coming from 50 yards or more (5-for-14). He missed nine extra points in 84 chances. The Jets created 37 field goal attempts last season, leading to 30 successful kicks while going 28-for-29 in his extra-point tries. He missed five of his 11 chances from 50 yards or more.
Fantasy Outlook: The Jets' offense will be much better this season, and Zuerlein has the leg to be a difference-maker from long range. Aaron Rodgers will be much better at finishing drives with touchdowns, but New York still has an excellent chance of delivering a top-10 kicking season for Zuerlein.
New York - Sleeper (undervalued)
New York inched to 17th defending the run (2,068 yards) with 14 touchdowns. Ball carriers gained 4.2 yards per carry while averaging 28.9 rushes per game. The top-five run defenses in 2022 held offenses to fewer than 24.0 carries per week (TEN – 22.9, 49ers – 22.9, BAL – 23.9, BUF – 22.8, and CIN – 23.9), suggesting New York wasn't far off from ranking much higher against the run if they played more games from the lead in the second half.
Their pass defense shaved off 1,189 net passing yards from 2021 (4,409), moving the Jets to third in the league passing defense. Quarterbacks tossed only 15 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and 45 sacks while gaining 6.3 yards per pass attempt.
The Jets finished last season with two elite players (DT Quinnen Williams and CB Sauce Gardner) on defense. Williams was a beast rushing the quarterback (12 sacks) with plenty of help in run support. Gardner smashed his rookie season, leading to elite success in pass coverage while picking up 75 tackles and 20 defended passes. Both players have first-round pedigrees.
C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams led the linebacking corps. They combined for more than 250 tackles and minimal help in sacks (4). CB D.J. Reed played well after signing the previous offseason.
Overall, this defense improved last season, thanks to some career seasons and coaching. In addition, the Jets added the complementary pieces needed to achieve a higher outcome. New York hopes DE Jermaine Johnson improves in his second season after getting drafted 26th overall in 2022 while also adding LB Will McDonald in the first round (15th) this season. As a result, I expect the Jets to have a top-five fantasy defense in 2023.