New York Jets Post-Draft Fantasy Analysis
By Brian Ford
The New York Jets are rebooting their franchise entering the 2021 NFL season, with a new coaching staff and franchise quarterback. They spent their first four picks in the 2021 NFL draft on offensive players, including when they traded up nine spots in the first round to select USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. While there are question marks for sure, there is plenty of dynasty fantasy upside in the Jets’ 2021 draft class.
With the second overall pick in the draft, the Jets took BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. For months, Ohio State’s Justin Fields was the consensus QB2 of the draft class, but then Wilson climbed the Jets’ draft board until it was a near certainty he was the pick weeks before the draft.
There is plenty to like about Wilson. He has elite arm talent and good athleticism that will provide a solid rushing floor for fantasy. He is a good playmaker, improvising and making off-platform plays with regularity. Wilson has also been provided with some decent weapons at wide receiver in 2020 rookie Dezel Mims, free agent addition Corey Davis, and 2021 second round pick Elijah Moore. Should he need to check down to a running back, fellow 2021 rookie Michael Carter is capable of catching passes. With Vera-Tucker and Makhai Becton leading the offensive line, there is hope its play can improve in 2021. Finally, the Jets should be playing from behind a lot, giving Wilson plenty of passing opportunities and “garbage time” production potential.
Like any prospect, there are some things to worry about with Wilson. He has been known to have “happy feet” in the pocket and looks to scramble too quickly at times. WIth that propensity to run, he takes some big hits unnecessarily. There is some concern he will bail on plays and look to run, especially early in his career, and, while that can provide some rushing stats, it will impede his passing production and lead to those frequent big hits. Additionally, the Jets’ running game may not be very productive, limiting the offense’s overall efficiency and inviting defenses to look pass and handcuff Wilson. Finally, there is concern Wilson was a one-year wonder against bad competition in college and will have a steep learning curve in the NFL.
Wilson has been given the keys to the franchise and will look to make good on his high draft capital. If things break right, he can be a very productive quarterback in real life and in fantasy. If things do not break right, Wilson has the potential to be the biggest bust of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round. In superflex rookie drafts, it is not uncommon to see four quarterbacks taken with the first four picks, with Wilson being the last, and he also has slid to the mid-first round as well. Given the positional scarcity at quarterback, that type of draft position is probably justified, but he is far from a sure thing.
The Jets selected Mississippi wide receiver Elijah Moore with the second pick in the second round, 34th overall. Moore has very good speed (4.35 pro day 40-yard dash time) and burst, runs his routes well, and has very good hands. He amassed 1193 yards in only 8 games against elite SEC competition in 2020 and ended with a breakout age of 19.2. Moore rose up analysts’ rankings as the draft grew closer, and the Jets spent high draft capital on him.
Moore will probably have to run a wider variety of routes to excel in the NFL, and his smaller size (5’9”, 180 lbs.) is not ideal. Moore profiles as a good slot receiver complement to a WR1, but Davis has not yet proven he can be that. Moore also has slot competition as long as Jamison Crowder is still on the roster.
A typical superflex dynasty rookie draft sees Moore taken in the early second round, often ahead of Rondale Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Kadarius Toney. He likely has a wide range of outcomes given the uncertainty at quarterback and lack of a true alpha on board to grab defenses’ attention more. However, as noted above, the Jets will likely be passing a lot as they play from behind often, and Moore will be a beneficiary of that situation. It is best to be cautiously optimistic about a rookie WR in Moore’s real life and fantasy draft range, but he has a good ceiling moving forward.
The Jets’ 2020 running game featured Le'Veon Bell (before he was released), Frank Gore, La’Mical Perine, Josh Adams, and Ty Johnson. So obviously there was room for improvement entering the 2021 draft. While Johnson and Perine are likely holdovers, the team added free agent Tevin Coleman and drafted UNC’s Michael Carter early in the fourth round (107th overall). Carter has good burst and elusiveness, and produced well in college despite splitting the backfield with fellow 2021 rookie Javonte Williams. The Shanahan-like system likely to be employed in New York fits Carter’s skill set well, and with Coleman as his top competition for touches, he is not impeded by an elite workhorse or bell-cow back.
Carter never had more than 25 receptions in a season in college and does not have the best hands. He also is not the best pass blocker. If he wants to see the field with consistency in the NFL, he will need to improve in those areas. That said, Coleman is not a renowned pass catching back, so the path to playing time is there if he can hone his skills.
The mid-second round of superflex rookie drafts is where Carter seems to be going, sometimes ahead of other prospects with higher real life draft capital, likely due at least in part to the lack of options at running back after the big three of Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and UNC teammate Javonte Williams. Carter was RB4 in many analysts’ pre-draft rankings and he is going in the top five in rookie drafts, so not much has changed. For 2021, Carter could contribute more as the season wears on, and he has a shot at being the lead back for the Jets further down the road. What the lead back in a Jets offense means, though, remains to be seen.
The Jets also added UDFA tight end Kenny Yeboah after the draft. He has pretty good size and produced fairly well in only eight games at Mississippi in 2020. He could compete with Chris Herndon for playing time, and can be had in the fourth or fifth round of rookie drafts, or even in post-draft waivers.
The Jets are remaking their team and selected a potential franchise quarterback in Zach Wilson and a couple of weapons to put at his disposal. They also improved the offensive line in the draft and added a few free agents on offense. Wilson likely has a better supporting cast and coaching staff than Sam Darnold ever had, but much uncertainty surrounds the Jets’ real life and fantasy outlook. Prospects like Moore and Carter have a path to relevance, but neither is an elite prospect at their position and their fortunes are linked to Wilson’s learning curve at quarterback. Dynasty managers can be cautiously optimistic about Wilson, Moore, and Carter, but should not be banking on anything great, especially early on.
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