Fantasy football drafters will be hard-pressed to find an offense with more upside than the New York Jets entering the 2021 NFL season considering the team's pieces are ranked 30th in cumulative ADP. The market isn't over the fact that Adam Gase's Jets offense came in as PFF's 32d-ranked unit and finished last in yards per play. The expectations are pretty low here.
It's important to realize that a new coaching regime has entered the picture under head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, both of whom are Kyle Shanahan disciples. And having 2021’s No. 2 overall pick, Zach Wilson, along with several other additions on offense, changes the entire dynamic of how the Jets offense should be viewed in 2021.
2021 Team Preview
Ultimately, the fate of the Jets' fantasy football success rests solely on the performance of their rookie quarterback. Wilson is the driver of the offense, and there should be optimism that he can deliver worthwhile fantasy production for New York's offensive skill players — at least more so than last season. Fantasy players will no longer have to rely on a 40-year old Frank Gore for 15 carries for 50 scoreless yards.
This offense is a perfect fit for the former BYU quarterback. He is best suited the outside-zone scheme likely to be run under the new Jets offensive coordinator. There’s going to be a higher reliance on play-action (25th in play-action rate last season) and a larger emphasis on explosive plays under LeFleur. Last year’s offense ranked 22nd in explosive pass-play rate (13%) and 29th in total passing plays over 15 yards, in part because the team ranked 26th in passing plays per game. When LeFleur served as the passing game coordinator in San Francisco from 2017-2020, the 49ers ranked fourth in explosive pass play rate (16%).
Wilson generate big plays at a higher rate, as the incoming rookie led the country in 20-plus yard passing accuracy rate (73%) last season. He's also extremely accurate, having thrown the lowest rate of uncatchable passes beyond the line of scrimmage (13.6%) than any other quarterback in the nation in 2020.
The Jets’ pass–funnel defense — 28th-ranked secondary, 25th-ranked linebacker unit — ensures that the rookie QB's arm will be unleashed early and often. That might sound like a scary proposition for a signal-caller behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines over the past several seasons. Part of Wilson's success at BYU last year can be attributed to the fact that he saw pressure at the fourth-lowest rate (21.6%) in college football.
The Jets made significant strides to bolster the offensive line during the offseason, earning a seven-spot bump to No. 22 in PFF's 2021 offensive line rankings. That might not seem like significant progress, but an average offensive line can actually sustain above-average overall offensive production. It's crucial to not have a bad line.
With a better supporting cast than Sam Darnold ever had, Wilson has the ceiling of a legitimate fantasy quarterback. His arm talent checks off all the boxes, and his underrated rushing ability is a welcomed addition to his fantasy football skill set. His 34.9 rushing yards per game was nearly identical to fellow rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence (34.3).
Fantasy drafters will need to be patient with Wilson, though. There are going to be growing pains, as his jump from relatively easy college competition to the NFL level cannot be overstated. In the meantime, he should be able to lift the wide receivers in this offense to fantasy-viability a year after they were virtually left out to dry.
New York’s WRs ranked 15th in expected fantasy points but failed to convert due to the ineptitude of the Jets’ passing offense. That will not be the case in 2021, with rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore on the cusp of a Year 1 breakout.