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C.J. Mosley fantasy football 2021 outlook: A low-risk, high-reward IDP

Can C.J. Mosley have an elite IDP fantasy football season for the NY Jets in 2021?
NY Jets, C.J. Mosley, Getty Images

Will C.J. Mosley be a productive IDP fantasy option?

New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley is finally back and healthy. He will be looking to re-establish himself as one of the most productive IDP (individual defensive player) options in fantasy football.

If he manages to do just that, the man will reward fantasy owners that participate in IDP leagues. At the very least, he’s deserving of a low-risk, high-reward IDP option at this current moment.

In the 2014 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected Mosley with the 17th overall pick to invigorate youth into an aging defense. Mosley was a Day 1 starter, ending his rookie campaign with 133 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, eight passes defended, three sacks, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble over 16 starts.

The Alabama product was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as the All-Rookie team in his debut season. He ranked eighth in fantasy points among IDP with 197.3 points (12.3 per game), according to Fantasy Pros.

Overall, Mosley’s time in Baltimore was defined by dominance and durability. He missed just three games over five years while making the Pro Bowl four times.

On a per-season basis, Mosley averaged 115.8 tackles, 8.6 tackles for loss, 7.0 passes defended, 1.8 interceptions, 1.7 sacks, 1.2 forced fumbles, and 1.0 fumble recovery.

The move to Metlife

In 2019, the Jets signed C.J. Mosley to a massive five-year, $85,000,000 contract. During the first half of the Jets’ Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills, it looked like that contract was going to be well worth it.

Mosley was on fire before leaving his Jets debut with a groin injury. He had returned an interception for a touchdown, deflected a would-be touchdown pass, recovered a fumble, and recorded six total tackles. He was the primary reason the Jets claimed a 16-0 lead, and when he left the game, the defense fell apart and blew the game.

To many, that game is a brutal memory of a Jets team that squandered every opportunity given to them. But before the Jets snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, Mosley was a one-man wrecking machine.

That injury would cost Mosley four games. He would attempt to play again against New England in Week 6. He would only muster three tackles on an 83% snap count, which is unusual for a man who is used to playing every single snap. Shortly thereafter, Mosley would have season-ending groin surgery.

In 2020, Mosley opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Now, after nearly two years off from football, Mosley is back; and he’s paired with a defensive savant for a head coach in Robert Saleh.

To boot, Saleh is known for his exceptional background as a linebackers coach, helping players like K.J. Wright and Fred Warner rise to stardom. The same can be said for Jeff Ulbrich, who tutored Eric Kendricks and Deion Jones.

But can the new-look Jets provide a bounce-back opportunity for Mosley’s fantasy football outlook?

Fantasy football overview

During his five years with the Ravens, Mosley was a top-12 linebacker for fantasy football three times (2014, 2015, 2017).

Mosley finished as the #1 LB and the overall #1 IDP in 2017. He compiled 132 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, seven passes defended, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and one sack in 16 games.

In 2018, Mosley remained one of the league’s best linebackers in many advanced metrics but saw his box score production dip as he ranked 39th in fantasy points per game among linebackers (11.6).

A lot of Mosley’s fantasy points come from making tackles in the running game. However, many fans overlook just how good he is in the passing game as well; he is aware of the opposing quarterback’s tendencies and has great instincts.

Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania did an excellent job broadcasting Mosley’s strengths.

Robert Saleh’s LB history

Prior to becoming the Jets’ head coach, Robert Saleh was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-2020. I was interested to see how well his Mike linebackers performed for fantasy football purposes.

In 2017 Robert Saleh made do with a makeshift roster of linebackers, so that season is fairly inconclusive. But from the point that Fred Warner was selected by the team in the 2018 NFL draft, we begin to see what type of expectations are fair for C.J. Mosley for the Jets.

From 2018-2020, Fred Warner finished as the fantasy football LB28, LB12, and LB14, respectively. It helps that Warner is a great player himself, but Saleh relies heavily on his LBs to fill gaps and prevent RBs from getting into the second level, so Mosley will have a lot of opportunities to make plays. Saleh also relies on his LBs to cover a lot of ground in the passing game.

2021 Fantasy Football Outlook

This season, Mosley has slimmed down to 231 pounds, allowing him to perhaps be more versatile and more disruptive in the passing game. Mosley will be the leader of Saleh’s defense and the main beneficiary of the opportunities that Saleh’s scheme presents to its linebackers.

If he can stay as durable as he did in Baltimore (3 missed games in 5 years), Mosley is the prototypical ‘workhorse’ for fantasy football. He will play nearly every defensive snap and rack up a massive amount of tackles.

Because of his lack of sacks and low interception numbers, Mosley does have a potentially low floor. In the two seasons with the Ravens where he did not finish as a top-12 IDP linebacker, he was the LB39 in 2018 and LB38 in 2016. That’s an LB4, and not someone you can completely rely upon on a daily basis.

Thankfully, that’s proven to be his absolute floor, and his booms (three top-12 finishes) in healthy seasons are much more plentiful than his busts.

Right now, C.J. Mosley’s ADP (average draft position) is as the LB36 – essentially at his floor production level.

At 29, Mosley is getting old for a linebacker in today’s NFL. His slimmed figure may help create longevity, but his absence of nearly two years in the NFL could lead to a rusty start to the season.

With all of that being said, I think Mosley is a steal at his current ADP. He is still in his prime, will have a couple of linebacker gurus guiding him, and will at least have a consistent tackle floor if he remains healthy throughout the year.

I believe Mosley will comfortably finish as a top-24 fantasy football linebacker, with the potential for a top-12 finish this season.

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