Lichtenstein: Fantasy Football Players Take Notice, Jamison Crowder Set For Strong Season In Jets' Slot

Steve Lichtenstein
August 15, 2019 - 9:32 am
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By no means am I a fantasy sports maven. In high school, I read the Inside Sports story that initiated the craze and started the second-ever such league back in 1981 (baseball, won by Al Yu). I played all fantasy sports off and on for the next decade or so before totally losing interest.

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Nevertheless, I feel supremely confident in offering this tip for those participating in this season’s fantasy football drafts: Grab Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder earlier than his projected round.

Now, fans who have reached to select their favorite Jets offensive player too early have tended to wreck their fantasy boards throughout this century. Other than the 2015 version of Brandon Marshall, Jets wide receivers have been especially risky propositions.

This season, however, won’t be the “same old Jets” for fantasy players. For the first time in over 20 years, the team’s head coach (Adam Gase) has an offensive bent. In addition, Gase has a quarterback he can trust in Sam Darnold, even if it’s only his second year in the league. The days of “ground-and-pound” run-run-pass possessions promise to be over.

Crowder, 26, was more of an under-the-radar free-agent signing in March, especially when compared to the big money given to running back Le’Veon Bell. However, all reports from training camp have indicated that the Jets will be giving Crowder the ball often this season while working from the slot.

As ESPN’s Rich Cimini noted in a recent article, Gase’s game plans in his previous gigs heavily featured slot receivers. Jarvis Landry, who is a more physical player than the five-foot-nine, 177-pound Crowder, caught 206 passes in his two seasons playing for Gase in Miami. The Dolphins led the league in receiving yards out of the slot over the last three seasons, per Cimini. 

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The career highs for Crowder, who has $17 million of his $28.5 million contract guaranteed over the next three seasons, are 67 receptions and 847 yards, set with Washington in 2016. An injury-plagued 2018 campaign saw his numbers drop to 29 catches and 388 yards in just nine games.

That’s why many fantasy gurus deem Crowder as, at best, a borderline starter. ESPN’s Matthew Berry ranks Crowder 62nd among wide receivers and 173rd overall.

Ignore them all.

Darnold has already developed a connection with his new toy, as evidenced by the one series they played together in last week’s preseason opener versus the Giants. Crowder beat the Giants’ coverage across the field for a 28-yard catch-and-run and then finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown reception to the right sideline on a legal pick play.

Granted, results from these exhibitions are meaningless, but my opinion would not have changed had those executions been botched. The Jets have been running plays to free up Crowder in the middle of the field throughout training camp. In addition, Gase has mentioned that he intends to utilize Crowder’s speed on more vertical routes.

Jamison Crowder
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

You may have two concerns before feeling comfortable with pulling the trigger on Crowder, so let me alleviate them. Some predict that the Jets will be too Bell-centric to allow for Crowder to pile up fantasy points. Let’s not forget that Bell hasn’t played in a competitive game in 18 months due to his contract holdout in Pittsburgh. He may skip the entire preseason too, including Thursday’s tilt in Atlanta. If Gase’s plan is to ride Bell until he drops, he will drop quickly. Running back is one of the few positions where the Jets have some depth, and they will be dependent on that on game days, spelling Bell often. 

On the other end of the spectrum are those who think the Jets have too many weapons and will spread the ball around. Well, Robbie Anderson has yet to prove he can be a legitimate number one receiver and Quincy Enunwa can’t seem to stay on the field. With tight end Chris Herndon suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Crowder will be Darnold’s security blanket those weeks. Last season, Darnold (and backup Josh McCown for three games) targeted slot receiver Jermaine Kearse 76 times in 14 games, and that guy was rarely open.

Too many weapons? On the Jets? Now that’s fantasy.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.