By Alex Levin
With the draft complete and the bulk of the free agency rush over with, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2020 season! And with that, I’m back with year 2 of my Opportunity series.
For those who didn’t see this series last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill rankings. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.
As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.
Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.
Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.
New York Jets
Last Year’s Accuracy
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.
It was starting to look like Adam Gase might become a one-and-done head coach in New York after the Jets started 1-7. The Jets were able to take advantage of an easier second half of the schedule though, posting six wins in the last eight games to finish a respectable 7-9. The strength of that second half stretch likely saved Gase’s job going into 2020. He will keep on Dowell Loggains as his offensive coordinator (read: lackey) and Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator.
One has to wonder how Gase can call himself an offensive-minded coach when his M.O. seems to be running a slow paced offense that can’t sustain drives. Between last year calling plays for the Jets and his three previous years calling plays for the Dolphins, his offenses have averaged a scant 936 plays per year. Interestingly there is a clear correlation between the number of plays Gase’s teams run and how lopsided the run-pass ratio is. In the last four years, Gase called for at least 42% running plays twice. In those two years his offense posted play totals of 913 and 878, both times the lowest in the league. On the flip side, he called for a league leading 63.8% pass rate in 2017 and his team ran a respectable 995 total plays. Last year with the Jets, he ended up somewhere in the middle with almost exactly a 40/60 run-pass ratio. Correspondingly, his offense posted 956 plays. It’s hard to say whether one causes the other or if an outside factor is weighing heavily on both (namely team talent, or lack thereof), but it is a noteworthy correlation nonetheless.
While Gase has overseen a wide variety of outcomes in play total and balance, his position group preferences have actually been remarkably consistent. In his four years of head coaching experience, His wide receivers have slipped below a 60% target share only once, and only just barely at 59.8%. The other three years they commanded 63.0%, 64.2%, and 65.8%. His running backs and tight ends have seen similar consistency, ranging from 16.6%-22.6% and 10.9%-15.3%, respectively. One trend that has emerged between the running backs and tight ends is that Gase has been using his running backs more over time and using his tight ends less. To whit, Gase’s running backs have eclipsed a 20% target share only in the last two years while his tight ends have failed to reach 13% in that same time frame.
Going into 2020, those positional target share trends don’t figure to change much. The wide receiver corps lost Robby Anderson, but the Jets dipped into both free agency and the draft to replace him. If Anderson and Jamison Crowder could drag this ragtag group to a 63.0% target share, then Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Denzel Mims shouldn’t do much worse. Star running back Le’Veon Bell isn’t going anywhere either. The only wrinkle in all this is the return of tight end Chris Herndon. He showed some flashes his rookie year before a suspension and subsequent injuries forced him to miss almost the entirety of last season. Gase theoretically wants to “unleash” the third year tight end, but it’s hard to project any serious uptick in the tight end target share until we actually see some consistent production.
Speaking of consistent production, a revamped offensive line should help with that. After an abysmal year in 2019, Gase & Co. went and spent some serious money along with their first round pick in an attempt to address the issue. Don’t expect any significant improvement right away as the new faces won’t have the usual offseason camps to really gel, but as they get more comfortable through the season we should start seeing some notable improvement from the group. Given the quietly solid defense, any increase in efficiency on offense should push the run-pass ratio a little more toward the run side as the Jets should find themselves competitive in more games. As noted above, historically this has led to a drop in total plays for Gase. Arguably this is a better team than the last two more run heavy years Gase has called so perhaps he can break that trend, but it is something to keep in mind.
Alex Levin – Projections/Redraft
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