The NFL can be a cruel and random game, and we had blunt reminders of that in Week 1. Several good teams ran bad, and of course, there were injuries, plenty of injuries.
Perhaps the cruelest of those injuries came Monday night. Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles on his first New York series. His season is over; perhaps his career is over. And despite a stunning and inspiring victory, the Jets season is also in flux.
It’s not the easiest transition, but fantasy managers have to navigate new and difficult situations. Today, let’s navigate the Jets offense and what fantasy managers can do if they had investments in it.
What if Aaron Rodgers was one of your primary quarterbacks?
The Jets presumably are going to stick with Zach Wilson, though they’ll be linked to every free-agent quarterback this side of Footsteps Falco. But fantasy managers need to do better. What’s out there on the waiver wire streets?
In shallow leagues, Brock Purdy is an instant click-and-grab. The 49ers have dynamic receivers everywhere, and Purdy solved the Steelers’ defense easily Sunday. This won’t be available to most of you, but Purdy’s roster tag is currently a modest 56%. A no-stress addition.
Jordan Love (32%), Matthew Stafford (29%) and Derek Carr (38%) could make sense for the medium leagues. Love shredded the Bears despite not having Christian Watson, and Matt LaFleur is one of the game’s best offensive designers. Stafford’s demise might have been overstated — and I’m guilty of that. Sean McVay had a smart plan for the upset at Seattle, and Puka Nacua was more ready for the NFL than anyone realized. Carr is another veteran QB probably on the back nine, but Chris Olave hides a lot of warts, and the Saints receiver depth after Olave is pretty good, too.
I’m not ready to give up on Kenny Pickett (37%), whose Week 1 stinker was largely due to the Niners being great on defense. Of course, Cleveland is a tricky Week 2 draw.
Can Bill O’Brien make Mac Jones (9%) playable in deeper formats? There was optimism Sunday against a good Philadelphia team.
Perhaps Baker Mayfield (10%) can find success throwing duck-and-hope balls to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
What’s the new rank and plan for Garrett Wilson?
Garrett Wilson was as much a “My Guy” for me as anyone all summer. I was dreaming of a monster season, maybe even a WR1 overall season. That’s out the window now as the Jets downgrade from Rodgers to Wilson at quarterback.
It’s convenient to say Garrett Wilson downshifts from a WR1 to a WR2, but that isn’t enough of an answer. Where do we draw the line? How do we specifically value him forward?
Wilson was the WR17 last season, and it’s interesting to note that all of his touchdowns came from departed QBs Mike White and Joe Flacco. The Zach Wilson to Garrett Wilson combo didn’t have a scoring play until Monday’s opener, a risky throw that Wilson turned into a highlight-film catch. There’s the possibility that Zach Wilson’s play and the Jets likely scaling back the offense is going to significantly impact Wilson’s receiver value, perhaps even crush it.
Then again, G. Wilson is a young, smart, ascending talent, and it’s not like White or Flacco were kingmakers last year. Wilson more or less beat his surroundings last season and I think he can do that again on some level. If healthy, I give Wilson a floor around WR20, a rank similar to last year’s WR17, and the potential to get into the WR10-15 range if a break or two comes his way.
I’m bummed and I’ve scaled expectations back, but I’m not collapsing them.
Of course, I don’t blame anyone who wants to trade out of this new Wilson reality. You have some options there. You could trade your nebulous-rank guy for another player tied to a bad situation. Wilson for Drake London? Wilson for DJ Moore? For many of you, that’s gettable.
There’s also the argument that if you want out of the Wilson business, you need a big game first. Maybe you wait a few weeks and then go to market after Wilson tops 100 yards in a game, or maybe when he posts another highlight-film catch. Most smart fantasy managers have to be petrified of Zach Wilson’s impact right now. But maybe he’ll give some reasons for optimism soon enough. I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s possible. This might not be the best window to trade Garrett Wilson.
Mind you, every league is different. One size will never fit all with this stuff.
What about the Jets backfield?
On most nights, Breece Hall would be the story of the day. He ripped off a snappy 83-yard run and looked good on many other attempts, en route to 127 yards on 10 carries. His only catch went for 20 yards. Given that Hall is coming off a major injury and had stops and starts in the preseason, it’s reasonable that he was limited to 11 touches. Bigger workloads are on the way.
Then again, the Jets did throw a big summer check at Dalvin Cook, too, so he’ll be involved plenty. Cook’s debut in green was underwhelming — 13 carries, 33 yards. He did have 26 yards on three catches.
Is this the new Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard situation, where the veteran gets the heavier work but the younger player is the obvious upside play? I don’t think it’s going to be quite that drastic. I suspect Hall at some point marks his territory and is the obvious starter here. But we’ll have to accept that Cook is also going to have a meaty role. Maybe it eventually boils down to a 60-40 type of split, in Hall’s favor. For now, it might be closer to 50-50.
On the downside, the offense is sure to have less buoyancy given the drop in quarterback. But I sure wish I had a bunch of Hall shares right now. He’s a very high-end RB2 as we stand, with obvious RB1 upside. Cook looks like a lower-end RB3, with contingency RB2 upside if Hall gets hurt.
Cleaning up everything else
I like the Jets D/ST a little less today than I did 24 hours ago, as it’s unlikely to see the favorable game scripts that a Rodgers offense could provide. It’s all about that leverage. And keep in mind New York’s schedule is much easier later in the season. New York’s next five games, however, are a gauntlet, a difficult run: at Dallas, New England, Kansas City, at Denver, Philadelphia. The Jets are off in Week 7.
Yes, it’s possible the Jets make a quarterback trade. No, I don’t think it’s likely — not a major trade anyway. But the Jets should kick the tires on every rostered and retired quarterback they can think of. Any league-average quarterback would instantly make the Jets playoff contenders — the New York defense is that formidable.
Unfortunately, most NFL teams at the moment are still clinging to hope, the promise of a new season. And the teams that might be in tank mode, like Arizona, what can they really offer? Kyler Murray is hurt (and wouldn’t make sense financially anyway), and the other QBs are not real answers.
Could the Jets find a backup on someone’s roster who translates into their starter? A Gardner Minshew, a Jameis Winston? Perhaps. And I’d call pretty much every name-brand quarterback who recently retired. You know the names. That’s a post for another time.
Week 1 has come and gone. Football is hard, football is cruel. Let’s stay the course, and try to make good decisions.