This article is part of our Team Previews series.
New York Jets
The Jets are looking to follow in the footsteps of the Rams and Eagles by building around a cost-controlled young quarterback. Sam Darnold improved dramatically late in his rookie season, giving management the confidence to add Le'Veon Bell, who should take the team's run game to the next level.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
The Jets were among the league's most active teams in free agency, and the team's most impactful move from a fantasy perspective was the addition of three-time All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, who inked a four-year, $52.5 million deal. While the 27-year-old comes with some question marks after sitting out last season due to a contract dispute with the Steelers, his history of elite contributions as both a rusher and receiver will give him plenty of appeal come draft day. New York's offensive line is unlikely to provide the quality run blocking Bell benefited from in Pittsburgh, but he could see scoring opportunities and running lanes aplenty if Sam Darnold takes the Year 2 leap many are expecting from the young signal-caller. Even if Bell gets mediocre blocking and/or quarterback play, he's likely to finish among the league leaders in touches as long as he stays healthy. He totaled between 336 and 406 combined carries and catches in three of the four seasons between 2014 and 2017, eclipsing 1,200 yards on the ground and 600 through the air in each of those three campaigns. You'd have to go back to Brandon Marshall's 1,500-yard, 14-touchdown receiving season in 2015 to find the last time the Jets had a skill player this exciting. It's no coincidence that's also the last time the team was any good.
CROWDERED RECEIVING CORPS
The team lacks a go-to No. 1 wide receiver, but the players on the Jets' roster have complementary skill sets, especially after the signing of Jamison Crowder. Prior to catching just 29 balls in an injury-filled 2018 campaign, the 5-9 slot receiver recorded between 59 and 67 receptions in each of his first three seasons with the Redskins. He'll be a security blanket for Sam Darnold on shorter routes, allowing Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa to do their thing on the outside. Like Crowder, Enunwa does most of his damage after the catch, but while the former is small and slippery, the latter is built like a tight end at 6-2 and 225 pounds. Injuries have prevented Enunwa from putting his excellent combination of hands and strength on display more consistently, but he showed a nice rapport with Darnold in the first four weeks last season, recording 21 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown in that span. While Enunwa started strong and fizzled out in 2018, Anderson finished on fire following a slow start. Anderson will leave the shallow routes open for Crowder and Enunwa while taking the top off the defense with his blazing speed. The lanky wideout was the beneficiary of Darnold's improved deep ball over the final four weeks of 2018, hauling in 24 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns over that time.
FINDING DARNOLD'S FLIGHT CREW
After going 10-6 in Mike Maccagnan's first year as GM, New York went into rebuild mode with a 14-34 record in the three campaigns that followed. This season is supposed to mark the culmination of that re-tool, and while Maccagnan won't be around to reap the rewards after being fired in May, the on-field product he put together is ready to start winning. With a potential franchise QB in the fold thanks to Macc's trade-up in the 2018 draft, the Jets went on a spending spree to give Sam Darnold the help he needs to captain this ship in the right direction. Along with adding Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, the team bolstered its offense by trading for two-time Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele. A defense that already had talented young pieces like Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye and Leonard Williams will now also feature 2019 third overall pick Quinnen Williams and former Ravens standout C.J. Mosley. The coaching staff got an overhaul as well, with head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams joining the fold. It remains to be seen whether the massive influx of notable personnel leads to results, but these are far from your same old Jets. With Rob Gronkowski retiring and Tom Brady another year older in New England, the Jets' first flight to the top of the AFC East since 2002 could finally be cleared for takeoff.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Sam Darnold
After logging a lackluster 11:14 TD:INT mark over his first nine NFL games before suffering a foot injury, Darnold returned to post a 6:1 ratio over his final four starts. With significantly better pieces around him heading into his sophomore season, last year's No. 3 overall pick is primed to build on that strong finish.
RISING: Chris Herndon
Herndon recorded 455 yards and four TDs over his last 11 games as a rookie. He could be the most productive tight end in the AFC East given his rapport with Sam Darnold and the likely rise in scoring opportunities. However, Herndon has a four-game suspension hanging over his head.
FALLING: Elijah McGuire
Injuries opened up the starting job for McGuire late last year, but he'll open his third campaign behind star newcomer Le'Veon Bell. McGuire is now set to battle with Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell for complementary touches.
SLEEPER: Quincy Enunwa
The wideout has had trouble staying healthy, but Enunwa is probably New York's best receiver when at full strength. After suiting up for just 11 games over the past two seasons, he'll be available at a discount on draft day.
KEY JOB BATTLE – BACKUP RUNNING BACK
The Jets have clear-cut starters across the board at the skill positions, but they're pretty thin beyond that, except at running back. Le'Veon Bell will likely be asked to scale back a bit from his workhorse days of old in the first year of a four-year contract, plus you can never rule out an injury at the position, especially with a guy returning from a year off. For these reasons, the battle for the backup gig between Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon should be fascinating to watch. Powell suffered a devastating neck injury last season, but he's served as the lead option in a platoon effectively before and is the most talented of these backup options if the injury or age (he's 30) haven't sapped his effectiveness. Montgomery specializes in catching passes out of the backfield, and while that skill probably makes him the biggest lock of the group to make the roster, it also means he's unlikely to earn more than a timeshare even if Bell were to go down. McGuire was New York's starter late last season after Powell and Isaiah Crowell got injured. He's still young at just 25, but his roster spot could be in jeopardy if he doesn't show major improvement after averaging only 3.3 yards per carry thus far. Cannon's an explosive athlete whose claim to a roster spot lies in his ability as a return man, but he totaled only 257 scrimmage yards and struggled with ball security in his rookie season. There probably isn't enough here to warrant much attention in standard leagues if Bell is healthy, but Montgomery has the highest PPR floor and Powell has the highest ceiling of this group.
Le'VEON BELL – RB (from Steelers)
The elite rusher and pass catcher sat out all of last season.
JAMISON CROWDER – WR (from Redskins)
Proven slot receiver with after-the-catch skills.
TY MONTGOMERY – RB (from Ravens)
Versatile backup who specializes in receiving out of the backfield.
C.J. MOSLEY – LB (from Ravens)
Four-time Pro Bowler entering his sixth NFL season.
QUINNEN WILLIAMS – DT (Rd. 1, No. 3 – Alabama)
Interior 303-pound game-wrecker bolsters the team's defensive line.
ISAIAH CROWELL – RB (to Raiders)
Let go after Bell signing, then tore Achilles.
JERMAINE KEARSE – WR (to Lions)
Possession receiver wasn't brought back after a down year.
JASON MYERS – K (to Seahawks)
Parlayed strong effort with Jets last year into four-year deal with Seattle.
THE INJURY FRONT
Quincy Enunwa, WR – Enunwa missed a month with an ankle injury in the middle of last season and wasn't the same after returning, eventually getting placed on injured reserve after Week 14. He should be healthy and heavily involved in the offense to start the season, but the same physicality that makes Enunwa so tough to bring down after the catch also has left him injury-prone over the course of the year. On the extreme end, he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign due to a bulging disc in his neck. As a result, Enunwa can't be trusted to make it through a 16-game slate unscathed.
Bilal Powell, RB – Many thought the neck injury Powell suffered last season would be career-ending, but he recovered and looked good enough in an early-June workout to earn a contract with the Jets, even though they weren't looking for another running back. Le'Veon Bell will certainly soak up the majority of touches in New York's backfield, but a change-of-pace role is perfect for the 30-year-old Powell at this stage of his career. With good receiving skills and a career average of 4.4 yards per carry, Powell should excel on a per-touch basis. Getting enough opportunities to truly make a difference is a different story.
Marcus Maye, S – After arguably outplaying fellow rookie safety and sixth overall draft pick Jamal Adams in 2017, Maye could never get healthy in Year 2, spending only two weeks off the injury report. All told, he missed 10 games in 2018 and finished the season on IR with a shoulder injury. There's reason for optimism surrounding Maye's health, as he's expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp and didn't miss a game during his outstanding rookie campaign.