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In this July 25, 2019, file photo, New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell participates during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Florham Park, N.J.
In this July 25, 2019, file photo, New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell participates during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Florham Park, N.J.|Seth Wenig | Associated Press
NFL

Fantasy Life NFL Preview: 2019 New York Jets – Will Le’Veon Bell give Sam Darnold the compliment they need to get to the playoffs?

Justin Gagliardo

Last season being a Jets fan proved once again to be painful. The Jets went from 5–11 in 2016 and 2017 to 4–12 this following season. Like any other classic Jets season, the Jets showed hope at first. A 48–17 rout of the Lions in Week 1 left all Jets fans thinking, “Could this be the year?” Sam Darnold’s very first pass proved to be the true indicator of the Jets season: pick six. The Jets managed to go from such a high to such a low as after the Lions game they went an embarrassing 0–3 during the next three weeks. That includes against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 when they blew a lead after Baker Mayfield came in and helped end the Cleveland Brown’s losing streak.

After a tough middle stretch to the Jets season, the Jets managed to show hope yet again for 2019. Darnold had the best passer rating of all quarterbacks in December. Darnold’s promise and a completely new front office is leaving Jets fans to be hopeful yet again this season. As season 100 approaches, the Jets are looking to leave their 4–12 2018 campaign behind them.

Off-season Changes

The off-season started immediately after the Jet’s 38–3 blowout loss to the Patriots in Week 17. Todd Bowles was fired after four years where the Jets posted one season with more than five wins. Taking over as the Jets new head coach is Adam Gase, who was the Dolphins head coach the last three years. Gase managed to go 7–9 this past season with poor quarterback play and his first season with the Dolphins got them to the playoffs. The Jets hired Gase with the hope that he could help mold Darnold into a franchise quarterback. If Gase can do that, then the Jets hired the right guy. They also fired their GM Mike Maccagnan and replaced him with Joe Douglas from the Eagles following the draft.

In free agency, the Jets got a few new assets. Their abundance of cap space lead them to sign big names like RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Jamison Crowder and LB C.J. Mosley. They also traded for offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele. The Jets followed a successful free agency with additions from the NFL draft. The Jets went ahead and drafted DT Quinnen Williams, DE Jachai Polite, OL Chuma Edoga, and then traded down to get TE Trevon Wesco as their first four picks.

With so many new additions to a team in a re-build stage, the Jets have a promising future. This includes Bell, who was a controversial addition to their team after holding out all of 2018. Jets fans wonder whether Bell is focused enough on football and whether he will put some of his ego aside. Bell’s game play has never been a problem though and he is the best running back the Jets have had in a while. His patience while running the football allows him to find holes and his pass catching gives Darnold a dump-off option.

Williams is also a great addition to the defensive line. Heading into the draft, people knew that the Jets needed a defensive lineman. The Jets played it safe and drafted a defensive lineman who was viewed really highly. Williams showed lots of spark in his one year at Alabama and gained the weight to be an interior defensive lineman. He showed big time potential in just one year and is viewed as one of the top defensive tackles to enter the draft in the past decade.

Getting a defensive play maker that could get to the quarterback was important, but getting a defensive captain was arguably more important. In free agency, the Jets snagged linebacker Mosley at about $18 million a year. It is a lot of money, but Mosley is a big upgrade over Darron Lee and will be able to be a leader on defense. He has consistently been viewed as a Top 100 player in the league, so securing him was a big win for the Jets.

Fantasy Prospects

One of the guys I didn’t talk about much that was an addition to the Jets offense is Crowder. Crowder joined the Jets after a disappointing fourth year with the Redskins. Prior to this he has had at least 600 receiving yards in his first three seasons in the NFL. He is now headed to the Jets to play in the slot. Crowder is a sleeper fantasy candidate that I’m not sure is worth drafting in re-draft at this point, but he will be another reliable target that will help Darnold in the passing game along with their addition of Bell. These additions will make Darnold a QB 2 in re-draft this year and a promising dynasty prospect.

A big question mark for many people is Bell. Can he return to 2017 form and will be an RB 1 for me in fantasy? When asking these questions we have to look at his situation. First thing is that the offensive line is not as good as in Pittsburgh. Fans hope that Osemele, from the Raiders, will help improve the offensive line from last year, but it probably won’t be as reliable as it Pittburgh. So Bell won’t have as much time to be patient in the backfield if he hopes to succeed. Besides that though, defenses will plan more heavily against him without as many assets as he had in Pittsburgh. I expect his usage to be greater since Darnold needs a running back that he can pass to, and Bell is arguably the Jets best player on offense. I think that Bell can get about 300 touches this year if you combine the passing and running game. This will help him to be able to overcome the obstacles of a new team and make him an RB 1. He might not be 2017 good with a year off, but he is still worth a first round pick in re-draft leagues.

Promising pass catchers emerged for Darnold last season, including fellow rookie tight end Chris Herndon, who faces a four game suspension. Robby Anderson also stepped up last year as Darnold’s top target. Herndon was a Top 16 tight end last year with four touchdown and 502 receiving yards, but I expect him to be a TE 2 this year with his early suspension. I expect Anderson to continue to blossom and connect with Darnold. It wasn’t until late in the season when he started producing, but when Anderson finally clicked with Darnold he had three touchdowns in the final four games of the season. I expect Anderson to be a mid-range WR 2 heading into his third year as the top Jets receiver.

2019 Preview

The Jets have an easier schedule and have been viewed as some as a sleeper playoff contender. But they still have the Patriots in the division, so that will be hard to overcome. Even still though the Jets have a chance at the playoffs, personally I predict the Jets will go 7–9 and finish second in the AFC East. But the Jets are really starting to gel into something special. Their re-build phase could soon become complete. I don’t think it will happen this season, but seven wins is still impressive for this team nonetheless!

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