2020 New York Jets Fantasy Team Outlook: Sam Darnold Breakout Looks Unlikely

Entering his third season, New York Jets QB Sam Darnold still looks to be developing slowly. Ultimately, it's up to the offensive line to improve for this offense and team to take the next steps forward.
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Coaching Staff

Adam Gase led the New York Jets to their ninth straight season without a playoff berth. New York finished with a 7-9 in 2019, which was their highest win total since 2015 (10-6). Gase has a 30-34 record in his four years as a head coach for the Dolphins and the Jets with one playoff appearance. He has 15 seasons of NFL experience, with all of his coaching coming on the offensive side of the ball.

Dowell Loggains returns as the offensive coordinator, which is the same position he held over the previous four seasons in Chicago, Miami, and New York. Last year the Jets fell to 32nd in the NFL in offensive yards, which was their third straight season of decline (26th in 2016, 28th in 2017, and 29th in 2018). New York scored only 276 points (31st), which was 57 fewer than the previous season. Loggains won’t survive another season if the Jets don’t improve by a wide margin in 2020.

The Jets brought in Gregg Williams to run the defense after spending 2018 as the Browns defensive coordinator and interim head coach. Williams has been in charge of an NFL defense for 19 seasons. Gregg went 22-34 over four different years as a head coach. In 2019, the Jets improved to seventh in the league in yards allowed (25th in 2018) while shaving 82 points off the scoreboard (16th in points allowed – 359).

Free Agency

The first order of business for the Jets in the offseason was improving their offense. They added a pair of offensive linemen – C Connor McGovern, G Greg Van Roten, and T George Fant. T Brandon Shell signed with Seattle after failing to improve over the last three years.

In his second year as a starter for the Broncos, McGovern worked his way to a league-average player with his best area of growth coming in pass protection. Van Roten earned starting snaps over the last two years for the Panthers, but his game projects a backup option for New York. He’s never been an asset in run blocking while playing in front of Christian McCaffrey in 2018 and 2019.

Fant signed a three-year deal for $30 million in March. He’s never been a full starter in the NFL. Fant will be insurance at left tackle while looking position to start at right tackle.

New York took a flier on WR Breshad Perriman after his success late in the year for Tampa. He’ll replace WR Robby Anderson on the roster who signed with Carolina.

The Jets didn’t bring back RB Ty Montgomery, WR Demaryius Thomas, T Kelvin Beachum, CB Trumaine Johnson, S Rontez Miles, C Ryan Kalil, and RB Bilal Powell. Beachum is the only player who added value last year.

CB Pierre Desir, CB Maurice Canady, and LB Patrick Onwuasor were the top players added to the defense. New York should slide Desir into their starting lineup. He played well in 2018, but wide receivers beat him for too many long plays last year.

Draft

By one metric, the Jets had the best draft in 2020. In the first round of this year’s draft, the Jets invested in T Mekhi Becton. New York hopes that they found a long time Pro Bowler, who should instantly improve the run game. Becton is a beast of a man (6’7” and 364 lbs.). His range should be expansive with his long reach while possessing the footwork to control pass rushers. Becton’s desire to fire after the snap can lead to some poor timing if he misses his mark. Maintaining his weight and overall quickness are the keys to his long term upside.

New York picked up WR Denzel Mims with the 27th selection in the second round. At the goal line in fade or jump ball options, he has the feel of a battler with some outcomes almost looking like a war of contact. In the NFL, Mims needs to be cleaner out of his breaks to create a better rhythm with his quarterback. He can make tough catches, but he doesn’t have that natural snatch the ball with his hands at the high point feel. A slight bobble will be an incompletion most of the time in the pros.

With their two selections in the third round, the Jets added S Ashtyn Davis and LB Jabari Zuniga.

Davis comes to the NFL with plenty of upside. His thinker mentality should improve with more experience. He has cover skills for the safety position with a willingness to fire at oncoming ball carriers. His next step is finding a balance between attack and patience. Davis needs improvement in his vision and timing when making tackles in the open field.

Zuniga looks the part of an explosive player with the talent to attack the quarterback. If given daylight on any play, he has the game to finish while also have an edge if asked to change direction. Zuniga must get stronger to win against top-flight power players. Offenses will game plan to attack him with strength.

New York brought RB La’mical Perine and QB James Morgan with their first to additions in the fourth round.

Perine has the feel of running back that will take the yards given to him, but his feet don’t have the change of direction value needed to create a winning starting edge in the NFL. His best move may be a slight jump-cut through the line of scrimmage where his acceleration has value over a short area. Perine runs with patience and some power, but his game takes a clear step back when faced with no running room and forced to make yards with his quickness from a standstill.

Last year Morgan played through a knee issue, which hurt overall production. Morgan is a big quarterback (6'4" and 230 lbs.) with a live arm. He wants to drive the ball to his receivers, but his mechanics need improvement, which will upgrade his accuracy. Morgan has a long motion while holding the ball at waist level at times, which will lead to many fumbles in the NFL. He doesn’t read defenses well and his rhythm, feel, and touch in the short passing game needs plenty of work.

G Cameron Clarke was New York’s choice with their third pick in the fourth round. Clarke played left tackle in college. His power projects well at guard at the next level. He needs a better plan with his hands to help overcome his shortfall in quickness. Clarke can step up his game vs. top competitors, but his motor doesn’t carry as well from game-to-game.

New York added CB Bryce Hall and P Braden Mann in the fifth and sixth rounds.

Hall hasn’t been able to overcome his shortfall in his movements when back peddling. His game plays well moving forward in zones and handling wide receivers over short areas in the press. Hall lacks the wheels and the movements to cover receivers over the long field. He projects well in the red zone, and I expect growth as a CB3 for New York in his rookie season.

Mann has a big leg with the ability to pin an offense inside the ten-yard line. His next area of improvement needed is adding more height on long kicks to help his coverage team.

Offensive Line

New York fell to 31st in rushing yards (1,257) last year while scoring only six rushing TDs. They gained 3.3 yards per carry with two measly rushes over 20 yards. The Jets finished 27th in passing yards (3,443) with 19 TDs and 16 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 52 sacks and 106 QB hits.

LT Mekhi Becton

The rebuild of the Jets offensive line starts with their rookie first-round draft pick. Becton should stop the bleeding in sacks allowed while being a significant improvement in the run blocking.

LG Alex Lewis

After missing the first three games in 2019 with his recovery from shoulder surgery, Lewis made 12 starts for the Jets. His play in pass protection improved late in the year while never developing into an asset in run blocking. New York signed him to a three-year contract for $18 million in March, which puts him on track to start in 2020. Lewis has a lot to prove going forward.

C Connor McGovern

Over the last two seasons, McGovern started all 32 games for the Broncos. Their offense played well at times in the run game, but lack talent in the passing game. McGovern looks to be a slight negative in run blocking while should a massive improvement in his pass blocking last year. He’s trending toward a league-average player.

RG Greg Van Roten

Van Roten will compete with Brian Winters for the starting right guard job. Van Roten made 27 starts over the past two years for the Panthers. His play was much better in pass blocking while seeing action at left guard. Winters hasn’t played well since 2015 and 2016. He grades as a below-par player in all areas at this point in his career.

RT George Fant

In 2018 as a rotational player for Seattle, Fant showed improvement at right tackle. Last year he started 8 of the 17 games for the Seahawks with some issues in both run and pass blocking. His overall plays did improve in all areas over the final quarter of the regular season while playing left tackle.

The Jets’ offense is coming off a low bar in 2019 with weakness in all areas. They revamped their whole offensive line, but only their left tackle projects to an upper-echelon player. Overall, they moved closer to the league average, which is much better than where they finished last year.

Offensive Schedule

The data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).

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This information is based on 2019, which will work as our starting point for 2020. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2019 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2019.

2019 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.

2019 Adjustment is based on the 2019 league average and the 2019 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.

New York has a league average schedule for their rushing offense in 2020. They have one favorable game (CLE) based on 2019 data and three mid-tier matchups (KC and MIA X 2). Their two most challenging contests look to be against the Patriots (2) with three other outings (IND and BUF X 2) looking below average.

The Jets have the second most rigid schedule in the NFL for their passing offense. Their season starts with two challenging games (@BUF and SF) followed by six unfavorable games (DEN, LAC, BUF, CLE, and NE X 2) over the final 13 weeks. Their best chance for success throwing the ball should come against the Cardinals.

Offense

New York finished 21st in the NFL in passing attempts (521) and 26th in rushing attempts (383), which contributed to a poor offense. They struggled to sustain drives with minimal big gains. The Jets should improve in all areas in 2020, with their upside tied to the changes on their offensive line.

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Here’s a look at the early projections for the Jets, which will be fluid all summer after taking in all injury updates and training camp news:

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Quarterbacks

Sam Darnold

2020 was a rough year for Darnold and the Jets’ offense. After a short Week 1 (175/1), he missed three games with a battle with mononucleosis. Darnold finished with one impact game (293/4) while posting 32 or under passing attempts in eight contests. At this point in his career, Darnold lacks the star power to be a top tier QB in the fantasy market. The Jets struggled to run the ball last year with weakness at the TE position (44/446/6 on 57 targets). 

New York added WR Denzel Mims with the 27th pick in the second round in 2020, which gives the Jets a deep threat with scoring ability. He has volume pass-catcher in WR Jamison Crowder, and the combination of WR Breshad Perriman and TE Chris Herndon should add more length to the passing options in 2020. 

Darnold has the talent to be a league-average QB (4,000 yards and 24 TDs), but this offense has a lot to prove this year. Fantasy owners have him priced as the 24th-drafted quarterback in the early draft season with an ADP of 128. In the first run of the projections, I have Darnold passing for 3,691 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

James Morgan

Morgan had a chance to play quarterback over four different seasons in college, but only once did he flash any intrigue (2018 at FIU – 2,727 passing yards with 27 TDs and seven Ints). Over 42 career games, he passed for 8,654 yards with 65 TDs and 34 Ints. His completion rate (57.2) was a liability in every season except one (65.3). Morgan will hold a clipboard for many games before getting a chance to play in the NFL.

Other options: David Fales, Mike White

Running Backs

Over the past three years, New York ranked poorly each season in yards per rush (3.98, 4.02, and 3.43). The addition of RB Le’Veon Bell didn’t have the expected impact, but his offensive line was also a significant part of the problem. The Jets had a similar number of targets (107, 102, and 109) to their running backs over the last three years, and Bell did help their catch rate (80.4) in this area in 2019. New York’s running backs gained only 6.79 yards per catch while only scoring four receiving touchdowns over the previous three seasons.

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Le’Veon Bell

The quest for a payday in the NFL led to Bell getting $27 million in guaranteed money from the Jets, but he had to be clicking his heels during the year while saying, “there’s no place like Pittsburgh.” He finished the year with a measly 3.2 yards per rush and regression in his yards per catch (7.0). New York gave him 311 touches, leading to 1,250 combined yards or a 36 percent regression in yards (1,946) from 2019. Bell played through shoulder, knee, and ankle issues while missing one game due to an illness.

Bell gained over 2,100 yards in 2014 with 83 catches and 11 TDs, almost 1,900 yards in 2016 with 75 catches, and nine TDs, and over 1,900 yards in 2017 with 85 catches and 11 TDs. Over his six years in the NFL, he averaged 24,05 touches per game.

Tough to get excited here, but Bell will out touch many backs drafted higher than him in 2020. Don’t dismiss as his resume and opportunity give him a chance to rebound with better offensive play. I’m bullish on him this year (1,435 combined yards with ten TDs and 63 catches) compared to his ADP (37 – 19th RB drafted). Buy the expected touches while knowing he has a chance at offering more upside.

Frank Gore

Gore is the running back that keeps on ticking. He’ll start 2020 at age 37 while ranking third in rushing yards (15,347) and rushing attempts (3,548). He gained under 4.0 yards per rush in four of his five previous seasons. Gore scored only three touchdowns over his last 347 touches. Only veteran insurance with no fantasy value on draft day.

La’mical Perine

Over four seasons at Florida, he gained 3,159 combined yards with 30 touches and 72 catches on 565 touches. His best value running the ball came in 2018 (134/826/7)) while setting career highs in catches (40), receiving yards (262), and receiving TDs (5) last year.

His speed (4.62 forty) is below par while showing plenty of strength (22 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine). He works hard with fight in his game. Perine has looker feel in pass protection while thinking rather than knowing where to go to pick up the free-running blitzer. This shortfall looks coachable, and more experience in these situations will help his growth.

The Jets signed RB Frank Gore in mid-May, which pushes Perine a notch down on the depth chart.

Josh Adams

Last year the Jets carried Adams on their practice squad after picking him off waivers in August from the Eagles. In 2018, he gave Philly two solid outings (22/84/1 and 20/85) as an injury replacement while starting five games. Adams is a big back (6’2” and 225 lbs.) with a power runner feel. With only eight touches last year, he’s nothing more than a waiver wire player in 2020 while needing some injuries to increase his playing time.

Other options: Kenneth Dixon, Trenton Cannon, Jalin Moore

Wide Receivers

The Jets’ wide receivers accounted for 70 percent of their passing yards in 2019. They caught 59.8 percent of their team's completions, five percent more than 2018 (54.8). Their wide receivers continue to trail the top teams in the league in yards per catch (12.50) and TDs (12).

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Jamison Crowder

The Jets gave Crowder the most targets (122) of his career, which helped him set a career-high in catches (78). He finished 26th in WR scoring (197.7) in PPR leagues despite not gaining over 100 yards receiving in any game. His season started with massive targets (17) and a great showing (14/99) in Week 1. Crowder played well over a three-game stretch midseason (8/83/1, 5/81/1, 5/76/1) while offering one other impact showing (6/90/2). His downside showed in eight additional weeks when he combined for only 22 catches for 180 yards and no TDs on 44 targets. Inconsistent WR3 with more competition for targets in 2020 with WR Breshad Perriman and rookie WR Denzel Mims added to the roster.

His early ADP (114) falls in line with my expected regression and initial projections (75/917/5). More steady than explosive with any growth being directly tied to the Jets improving as a passing team.

Denzel Mims

Over the last three seasons at Baylor, Mims caught 182 passes for 2,901 yards and 28 touchdowns with his best success coming in his sophomore (61/1087/8) and senior (66/1020/12) years.

He’ll have an edge for sure in the deep passing game where he has the wheels to win over the long field and separate after the catch. His rhythm in space showed more explosiveness on slants and fast-moving routes. Mims comes to the NFL with size (6’3” and 205 lbs.) and speed (4.38 forty). He labored through the 20-yard shuttle (4.43) but showed explosiveness in the three cone-drill (6.66). Overall, Mims needs to clean up his route running while adding more fight to his game. His release could be an issue when pressed over the short areas of the field where his speed has less value.

I have him ranked 47th out of the gate with 57 catches for 768 yards and five touchdowns, which makes him a value opportunity based on his early ADP (213). This year he’ll battle WR Breshad Perriman for the top outside wide receiver role in New York.

Breshad Perriman

Over his first three seasons, after getting drafted in the first round in 2015, Perriman caught only 59 of his 126 targets for 916 yards and five TDs. His playing time was minimal last year over the first 11 games (11/139/1 on 32 targets). After a couple of injuries to Tampa's wide receivers, Perriman played the best ball of his career. He caught 25 passes for 506 yards and five TDs on 37 targets in five games, which delivered WR1 stats in PPR leagues. His excellent finish to the year (5/113/3, 7/102, and 5/134/1) earned him a one-year deal for $8 million for the Jets. Tempting, but a fantasy owner has to keep in mind his career catch rate (48.7). A risk/reward player on a new team, pointing to a trap in fantasy drafts. Perriman saw his ADP in the high-stakes fall to 148 after the 2020 NFL Draft.

Other options: Vyncint Smith, Josh Doctson, Braxton Berrios, Jehu Chesson, Lawrence Cager

Tight Ends

With TE Chris Herndon injured in 2019, the Jets only looked the tight ends’ way 57 times, which was more than a forty percent draft in opportunity from the two previous years. New York’s tight ends tend to gain short yards per catch (10.14 in 2019) with a chance to score in about one out of every four games.

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Chris Herndon

Herndon drew some attention in the 2019 early fantasy draft season as a possible back-end TE1. He showed some upside in a few games (4/42/1, 4/62, 7/57, and 6/82/1) over the final 11 weeks in 2018, but a four-game suspension paired with a hamstring issue, and a broken rib led to a lost 2019 season. Last year the Jets ranked near the bottom of the league in TE production (44/467/6). His replacement Ryan Griffin did flash in two games (4/66/2 and 5/109/1). Possible playable value in four to five games, but Herndon needs Darnold to play better this season.

Other options: Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Ross Travis

Kicker

Brett Maher

There was a lot to like about Maher in his first year in the NFL at age 29. He boomed six of his seven kicks from 50 yards or more in 2018, which led to him making 29 of his 36 overall chances. Last year his value continued from long range (4-for-8) while having a sharp drop-off success in field goals (16-for-22 – 72.7 percent). Maher has only missed one of his 69 extra-point tries. The Jets scored 31 touchdowns last year while creating only 28 field attempts—a hot and cold kicker who has a lot to prove 2020.

Defensive Schedule

The Jets face two teams (SF and SEA) that ran the ball well in 2019. They have three other mid-tier matches (IND and BUF X 2). New York should have an edge against Miami (2) while their contests vs. the Rams and Chargers look favorable.

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Over the first seven weeks in 2020, the Jets have five games (IND, DEN, ARI, and BUF X 2) vs. teams that struggled to pass the ball. From that point on, New York has a tougher schedule. Their defense will be tested in three contests (LAC, LAR, and KC) in the passing game, but the Chargers have questions at quarterback in 2020.

Defense

New York finished 2nd defending the run (1,391) with 12 TDs and only eight runs gaining over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained 3.3 yards per carry. Their pass defense ranked 17th (3,779 yards) while allowing 25 TDs and picking up 12 Ints. They finished with 35 sacks.

DT Steve McLendon

Over the past four years, McLendon worked as a rotational early run stopper for the Jets. He’ll start the season at age 34 with minimal value in sacks (2.5).

DE Quinnen Williams

In his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round, Williams saw action in 13 games, leading to 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He finished with the most value in run support. His quickness, hands, and vision grade well while offering a disrupter mentality. He puts himself in a position to make plays, but Williams needs to get stronger to defeat top offensive linemen and learn to make an impact vs. double teams. Quinnen is still learning, which is part of his upside, intrigued.

DE Henry Anderson

After playing well in 2018 (35 tackles and seven sacks), Anderson lost his way last year. He finished with only one sack and regression against the run. Anderson has only been a part-time player in his career.

LB C.J. Mosley

In his first year with the Jets, Mosley missed 14 games with a groin injury. He has over 100 tackles in four of his five seasons with the Ravens, but he only has 1.5 sacks over his last 47 games. Mosley is a high-volume player with an edge defending the run.

LB Avery Williamson

Williamson missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL in his right knee. He played well over the previous two seasons. His best value comes vs. the run. He finished with a career-high 120 tackles with three sacks and six defended passes in 2018.

LB Jordan Jenkins

Over the last two seasons, Jenkins picked up 15 sacks. His play vs. the run has been a problem in back-to-back years.

LB Jabari Zuniga

New York should use Zuniga on passing downs in his rookie season. His passing rushing skills grade well with the talent to show growth earlier in his career.

CB Pierre Desir

Desir has only once started all 16 games in his six years in the NFL. He tends to give up big plays with hot and cold value in coverage. The second cornerback spot is full of risk with no definable starter.

S Jamal Adams

The best player on defense for New York is Adams. He played great in all areas over the past two years after getting drafted sixth overall in 2017. Last season he showed growth in the pass rush (6.5 sacks).

S Marcus Maye

In his two seasons as a starter, Maye offered no helps in the pass rush with neutral value in the run support. The Jets added him in the second round in 2017.

Team Defense

Overall, this defense has three possibly four talented players that project upside. They should have front runner value against the run, but their cornerbacks are going to have issues covering wide receivers in a top offense. More a second fantasy defense with matchup value.