Injury recency bias is currently providing a massive discount on Jamison Crowder’s potential in New York. Now is a terrific time to buy the new Jets’ slot receiver in every format.
Crowder’s Injury History
Over the past two years, we’ve seen Crowder play a total of 24 out of 32 possible games. He missed one game in 2017 due to a hamstring strain in Week 9, then came back and finished the remainder of the season. Soft tissue injuries happen in the NFL and while it may have lingered for much of the 2017 campaign, there were no ill effects shown in 2018.
Crowder’s 2018 ankle injury, however, led to him missing seven straight games last season. After starting the season with just 13 receptions from offseason addition quarterback Alex Smith (Weeks 1-4), Crowder finished the 2018 season (Weeks 13-17) with multiple backup quarterbacks unable to get him the ball consistently (16 receptions). It was a season to forget for multiple reasons.
Outside of last year’s injury-shortened season, Crowder was considered a player on the rise:
|Year||Games||Tgt||Rec||Yds||Y/R||TD||Catch %||Fantasy Finish|
A career slot receiver, Crowder’s high catch percentage (67.2 percent) and ability to consistently get open made him a coveted PPR asset that was considered on the rise. Washington’s HC Jay Gruden described Crowder as someone with
great quickness in intermediate routes, can separate, has good hands, he’s tough, [and] he’s physical in the running game. There is really not anything Jamison can’t do.
The Jets showed they agreed with Gruden’s assessment, and that they view Crowders’ medical red flags as a thing of the past. One of the very first moves during the “legal tampering” period was New York offering Crowder a three-year, $28.5 million deal with $17 million guaranteed.
Will Crowder Get Chowder (Targets) in New York?
As always in fantasy football, the key thing we’re looking for is targets.
HC Adam Gase’s offense in Miami was the second slowest in situation-neutral pace last year. The Jets also ranked bottom-five.
Last year’s Dolphins squad also ran the fewest plays per game on total offense while orchestrating the third-fewest passing plays.
Despite the Jets’ free agent transactions on offense — Crowder, Le’Veon Bell, Kelechi Osemele — it’s likely a safe bet to assume the passing volume in New York won’t lead the league in 2019.
Quarterback Sam Darnold took his lumps throughout his rookie campaign. Among the 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Darnold ranked 31st in both completion percentage (57.7 percent) and adjusted yards per attempt (6.1). He finished bottom-five in both interception rating (3.6 percent) and QB Rating (47.9).
That being said, those numbers don’t really fall that out of line with recent rookie signal callers. In fact, one could argue that there’s reason for optimism for Darnold heading into 2019.
Looking at all first-round rookie quarterbacks in the past three years (min. 200 pass attempts), Darnold finished with the third-highest touchdown rate and adjusted yards per attempt. The non-rookies on this list — Carson Wentz, Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Jared Goff — almost all uniformly improved in each of these categories in their sophomore seasons (excluding Watson’s 9.3 percent TD rate as a rookie).
While there’s optimism for Darnold to take that next step forward like those before him, the biggest area he’ll need to improve is in the short middle section of the field.
Darnold rarely threw short and over the middle — just 16.5 percent of his attempts went in the short middle area of the field.1 When he did, the results were not pretty. According to ESPN, he completed a league-low 62.9 percent of his attempts in the 1-to-10 yard range last year.
DFS players remember this all too well from Week 7’s “Jermaine Kearse chalk week,” where he was highly anticipated to get a lot of run out of the slot and put up big numbers. He finished with a 3-30-0 stat line despite seeing 10 targets.
Crowder was brought in to be an upgrade over Kearse and continue to operate out of the slot where he’s run over 75 percent of his career routes. Crowder’s career catch percentage (67.2 percent) is a markedly improved number over what Kearse put up last year (48.7 percent), and should help naturally boost Darnold’s passing efficiency over the middle. Combine that with the addition of Bell, and now Darnold has two terrific underneath options to utilize over the middle of the field and turn last year’s weakness into an area of strength.
This was arguably a strength of Miami’s offense, where we saw Gase utilize Jarvis Landry heavily in this part of the field. He notably finished as the fantasy WR13 in 2016 and the WR4 in 2017.
That type of expectation for Crowder is beyond lofty until we see Darnold and this entire offense take a step forward. Placing Crowder into the offense as the primary slot receiver should help boost Darnold’s numbers over the middle where Crowder runs the plurality of his routes. While that’s a great first step, I think we should temper expectations and look at his career numbers. We saw Kirk Cousins turn Crowder into a repeat WR3 candidate. It makes sense to pencil Crowder as a WR4 with WR3 upside until we see the Jets grow into a more pass-heavy offense and gel as a unit.
Crowder’s Current Value
Crowder’s seen a decent bump in ADP since joining the Jets, but solid buying opportunity remains.
Over the past month, we’ve seen his ADP in Fanball best ball leagues climb from WR74 up to WR61. He still presents tremendous value there when you consider his last two healthy seasons in Washington he finished as the WR31 and WR33.
Crowder remains an even better buy in dynasty leagues given the “injury stigma” still surrounding his name.
His dynasty value hasn’t even come close to returning to his pre-2018 season value as a WR3.
While there’s still time to buy Crowder, I think now is the time to acquire him. We can reasonably expect him to have a significant role in this revamped Jets offense given his lofty new contract (three-years, $28.5M). That price likely means he won’t be an afterthought in this offense, but could end up being an arbitrage version of Landry if Crowder hits his potential ceiling.
Crowder remains a buy due to his suppressed price, WR3 potential in an offense on the rise, and the fact that he’s just entering his age-26 season. Crowder has the potential to outgrow WR3 expectations on a Jets team that has solidified itself this offseason with multiple free agent acquisitions and looks like a team on the rise.
- League average in 2018 was 18.4 percent. (back)