Does Quincy Enunwa Have What It Takes to Be the Jets' Lead Receiver in 2017?
The Jets, man.
This is somewhat of a personal vendetta for me, because I landed on the wrong side of Jets Twitter a few months ago. New York fans jumped on my tweet suggesting the team’s wide receiver corps had never looked worse after Brandon Marshall jumped ship (he is #smart).
Has the Jets WR corps ever been uglier? (Love Decker but he's banged up & age 30) pic.twitter.com/fXbGw9ozQL
— Matt Franciscovich (@MattFranchise) March 21, 2017
I was wrong they said. It’s been worse in seasons past, they said. See 2012, they said. Fine.
But New York’s receivers were 2016’s ninth-worst group per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric and have lost their two top targets. Since the end of last season, the team has made strides in terms of the receiving corps that we as fantasy owners should not ignore, and one player is at the center of it all.
Everything is lining up for Quincy Enunwa to break out in 2017. Let’s find out why.
Following Marshall’s departure, the Jets’ receiving corps has experienced some serious turbulence.
Speedster Devin Smith tore his ACL (again) and is out for the entire 2017 season. Robby Anderson, who showed some promise late last season, was arrested just a few days ago. Jalin Marshall is suspended for the first four games of the year and may not even make the team. Eric Decker's health is a major question mark, and some beat writers believe he "doesn’t fit" on the roster anymore.
A recent report stated that Enunwa, by far the most talented of the aforementioned group, is ready for a bigger role in the Jets' offense. And a bigger role could mean big things for the third-year pro in terms of his fantasy outlook.
With a 26 percent market share of his team’s targets in 2016, Enunwa hauled in 58 receptions and team-highs in receiving yards (857) and receiving touchdowns (4). The 58 catches doesn’t sound like much, but it was only one fewer than Marshall led the team with, and Marshall drew 23 more targets on the season.
Among the 23 receivers who caught between 50 and 65 receptions in 2016, Enunwa had above average results in Reception NEP, Reception NEP per Target, Reception Successes, and Reception Success Rate.
That’s not too shabby when you consider that he was being targeted by a mashup of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty. All three signal callers finished with well below average Passing NEP per drop back scores for the season, and the Jets’ combined opponent adjusted Passing NEP per play ranked 30th.
One may conclude that that perhaps not all of Enunwa’s 105 targets were, for lack of a better word, quality.
The Jets hired a new offensive coordinator in John Morton, whose previous gig was the New Orleans Saints' wide receivers coach. Morton was Pete Carrol’s offensive coordinator at USC and worked as the 49ers' receivers coach under Jim Harbaugh. He’s been under Sean Peyton’s watch with the Saints receivers since 2015.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, New Orleans produced two top-10 fantasy wideouts last year in Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas (of course they had Drew Brees under center, which helps). Still, it’s a positive sign that the team is serious about revamping the passing game.
What’s more, Morton’s hiring was immediately considered "good news" for Enunwa’s outlook.
Jets coach Todd Bowles has already stated that there will be a competition at quarterback in training camp.
That means Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg, and Petty are going to duel in one of the saddest quarterback rooms in the NFL. McCown will likely win the starting job, and while he’s not Brees, he may be a step up from what Enunwa dealt with last year.
Enunwa stated that he was “put almost in a box” in terms of his role in the offense last season. With Decker and Marshall both healthy to start the season, that made sense.
But when the veteran duo got banged up and missed time, New York didn’t adapt. The Jets limited Enunwa mainly to slot duties (68 percent of his snaps were in the slot) in three- and four-receiver sets (92 percent of his touches came in packages of three or more receivers per NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats). That’s going to change in 2017.
The Nebraska product also said he wants more opportunities at X receiver. Does he possess the skill set for that role? Well, Enunwa’s measurables compare similarly to that of Josh Gordon per PlayerProfiler.com.
His toughness and agility allow him to make plays over the middle on short and intermediate routes. His size allows him to go up and get the ball on back-corner end zone fades. And his speed allows him to burn man coverage on deep balls down the sideline.
Enunwa did all of these things extremely well, albeit in a limited capacity, last season. Still, we must remember that Brandon Marshall was on the field with him for 15 games, so Enunwa wasn’t always lined up against an opposing team’s top defender. That could pose a challenge if he does indeed become the top option
On the flip side, Marshall's departure opens up some 120-ish targets.
So, is Enunwa ready to become the Jets' number-one target?
He is ready. With attributes of both an X and a Z receiver plus the ability to line up at tight end due to his size, he’s a unique and versatile weapon.
For now, let's keep expectations realistic; the Jets clearly have issues at quarterback. And while Morton’s hiring as offensive coordinator is a positive sign, a new offense means there will likely be a severe learning curve on all fronts.
Just because things are lining up for Enunwa as New York's top option in the passing game, that doesn't necessarily translate to elite fantasy production. A high-end WR2? Sure.
Can we be friends again, Jets Twitter?