2015 brings with it big changes in the Big Apple. Rex Ryan is gone as head coach of the Jets, replaced by former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Given what Bowles was able to accomplish with the Redbirds in 2014, it will be interesting to see what he can do with all the talent he inherited on defense with Gang Green.
There may not be a team in the NFL with a better pair of 3-4 ends than the Jets possess in Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. Both are excellent two-way players capable of the sort of strong tackle numbers that equate to consistent fantasy production. Both have already posted top-10 fantasy seasons. In fact, Richardson and Wilkerson (in that order) were the No. 2 and No. 3, 3-4 ends in the NFL last year per Pro Football Focus, trailing only J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
Richardson’s top-10 season came a year ago, and the third-year pro didn’t mince words while speaking with Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. “According to Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson,” Cosentino wrote, “the NFL’s best player last season was Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson.”
I don’t know that we’d go that far, but both ends are top-15 fantasy options up front in 2015. The Jets doubled down at defensive end by adding USC lineman Leonard Williams with the No. 6 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but with Richardson and Wilkerson in front of him Williams will be hard pressed to see enough snaps to have consistent redraft value in IDP leagues this season.
The fun doesn’t stop there with the Jets. In addition to a pair of potential top-10 linemen in Richardson and Wilkerson, the Jets also have a pair of IDP-relevant linebackers in Demario Davis and veteran David Harris, both of whom finished the 2014 campaign among the top 25 fantasy linebackers.
Harris, who has topped 120 tackles in each of the past three seasons, just re-upped for three more years with the team. The 31-year-old told Cosentino that he’s sold on the team’s direction under Bowles. “After hearing the plans and vision of Coach Bowles and Mike Maccagnan,” Harris said, “there was no doubt I wanted to return, help win a Super Bowl with the Green & White, and retire a Jet. Thanks to everyone in Jets Nation.”
Harris isn’t a “sexy” IDP pick, nor is he likely to improve much on last year’s 24th-place finish among linebackers. However, Harris also isn’t likely to pull the sorts of weekly disappearing acts that Davis has become notorious for in IDP circles. Both merit consideration and third fantasy linebackers, with Harris the preferable option.
Second-year pro Calvin Pryor will slide to strong safety (his natural position) in 2015, and Pryor told Cosentino he can’t wait. “I’m going to be back to my old self, doing what I do, being down in the box, and just tracking the ball down,” Pryor said. “That was music to my ears. That made my day go by better. I’m definitely enjoying it.”
The move could mean a big bump in IDP value for Pryor, provided he plays up to the potential the Jets saw when they selected the Louisville product in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. IDP owners appear to be skeptical given his modest asking price in early drafts, which could make Pryor an interesting upside pick for fantasy owners who like to wait before selecting defensive backs.
And no, you aren’t going to see me wax poetic about Darrelle Revis here. Elite cover cornerbacks almost always make for lousy IDPs. After all, if opposing quarterbacks are afraid to throw at you, then it’s rather hard to rack up stats.