Evaluating the New York Jets WRs’ Week 1 fantasy outlook
The New York Jets open the 2021 NFL season against their former quarterback Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, they may be doing so without two of their top wide receivers.
After the Jets were initially optimistic about his availability, Jamison Crowder will not suit up Week 1 after testing positive for COVID-19. Crowder tested positive for the virus on Sept. 3.
Potentially joining Crowder in the DNP column is Keelan Cole. Cole has been designated as a game-time decision after tweaking his knee in practice earlier this week. He surprised many this offseason, impressing the Jets coaching staff enough to be labeled as a starter on the team’s initial depth chart release (although Crowder was not included on the depth chart due to his placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list).
With a high probability of both Crowder and Cole being unavailable Week 1, what does it mean for the rest of the Jets pass-catchers for fantasy football purposes?
Expectations for Jets pass-catchers
The Jets will do as much as possible to take the ball out of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson‘s hands. He may have been the second overall pick in this year’s draft, but the team also wants him to limit mistakes in the early portion of his career.
The Carolina Panthers graded as the sixth-worst rushing defense in 2020, per PFF. They did very little to bolster the trenches but tried to rectify that by solidifying the secondary and pass-rush, drafting cornerback Jaycee Horn in the first round and signing outside linebacker Haason Reddick.
This, coupled with the probability of Crowder and Cole missing the game, makes a run-heavy approach by the Jets likely.
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So, are any of the Jets’ pass-catchers worth gambling on for fantasy football?
The Jets signed Corey Davis to a lucrative contract this offseason to be the team’s WR1. It was clear in the preseason how much the Jets plan on featuring Davis, as he ran 13 routes and was targeted on 10 of them.
There should be no doubt that Davis is the team’s alpha receiver. Without Crowder and Cole, his target share in Week 1 could be monstrous. Davis is a locked-in starter and borderline fantasy football WR1 in Week 1.
Rookie WR Elijah Moore and sophomore Denzel Mims figure to replace Crowder and Cole, respectively. Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios may also see boosts in playing time, but Moore and Mims are the players to remain fixated on in the fantasy world.
Moore should receive high usage rates, likely in the 20s. He also could potentially supplement the running attack if it were to falter.
Likely to attract a high number of short-range targets, Moore could be quite productive in fantasy football PPR leagues, as his profile and potential usage should mirror Crowder’s. Moore will have WR3-4/Flex appeal going into Week 1.
As for Mims, his usage will probably be relegated as solely a low-volume deep threat. I would be surprised to see him targeted more than five times. To me, Mims is a boom or bust player this week. Outside of fantasy football DFS plays, there are better options out there.
Tyler Kroft’s appeal has increased
Starting tight end Tyler Kroft could be on the verge of a revival. Dealing with an injury-plagued career, it looks like he may finally be turning the corner. His emergence in the preseason (two 18-yard TDs on two targets vs. Green Bay) made the team comfortable moving on from Chris Herndon, and that shouldn’t be ignored.
On top of that, Kroft become a favorite target of Wilson’s throughout camp. I expect Kroft to put up 2020 Jimmy Graham numbers in Week 1. That is, 4-6 targets and potentially a short-yardage touchdown.
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