Is Bilal Powell ready to take over as the lead back for the Jets?
Heading into the 2016 season the Jets offense seemed to have all the weapons they needed to be an explosive team. But after five weeks of play, the Jets are heading in the wrong direction. Injuries (Eric Decker) and poor play (Ryan Fitzpatrick) have hurt them and they may be looking to change things up to get back on track.
One area where a change is starting to take place is the running game. The first two weeks of the season, Matt Forte dominated touches and carries. Forte had 52 carries and 10 targets in the passing game. He was on a pace that couldn’t be sustainable for a 30-year-old running back. The next three games he only averaged 13 carries and only three targets in the passing game as the Jets started to mix in Bilal Powell more.
The biggest change in the RB position occurred the last two weeks. As has been the case recently, the Jets were playing from behind and Powell became the passing down back. Against the Seahawks and Steelers, Powell not only out-touched Forte in the passing game (four catches for Forte, 12 catches for Powell), but he actually played almost as many total snaps (71 for Forte, 64 for Powell).
Even with a 60/40 or 50/50 split at running back, Powell still has great value in PPR leagues. Forte is on the wrong side of 30 and he is already starting to break down. He had X-rays after Week 4, but nothing was found broken. If the Jets are wise, they will continue to expand Powell’s role and limit the touches for Forte.
Powell has been running hard in his limited workload (13 carries) and is sporting a solid yards per carry (7.6) rate. He also has been more explosive with almost as many big plays (10+ yards) as Forte (8 to 5 in favor of Forte) on 68 fewer carries. Forte has always been a great receiver out the backfield (never had fewer than 40 receptions in a year) but Powell is already starting to surpass him in that category too. Powell has more receptions, targets and receiving yards than Forte and should be able to outpace him in all those categories moving forward.
If Forte gets injured, or the Jets decide the season is over and want to see what they have in Powell, Powell’s fantasy stock would rise tremendously. He would move from an RB3 to a mid to low-end RB2 if he would get the majority of the workload. Remember, the Jets will be playing from behind a lot, and Powell will continue to be featured in the passing game and could be the number two target behind Brandon Marshall with Eric Decker gone for the year.
Take a chance on Powell if he is still on waivers, he could give fantasy owners an extra push toward a championship run. And at the very least, he would be a great bye week fill in and added depth on the bench.