Fantasy Impact: Corey Davis Signs with Jets (2021 Fantasy Football)
Many were waiting for one of the big-name wide receivers to sign in free agency, and the first one has come off the board. Corey Davis and the New York Jets have agreed on a three-year deal worth $37.5 million with $27 million guaranteed.
Through the first three years of Davis’ career, many would’ve labeled him a bust. In fact, that’s why the Titans chose to decline his fifth-year option. Was it Davis’ fault that he wasn’t performing, or were the conditions just too much for a receiver to overcome? After being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Davis was injured in training camp, leading him to fall behind the curve and play in just 11 games his rookie season.
His second year in the league netted a full 16 games, though 891 yards and four touchdowns isn’t a stat line that you’d call a major success, though many didn’t realize just how horrendous Marcus Mariota was playing during that time.
Fast forward to his third season in 2019 when the Titans decided to move on from Mariota and go forward with Ryan Tannehill. That proved to be another obstacle for Davis, as Tannehill and A.J. Brown had spent all offseason (and early in the season) working with the backups, so Davis never had reps with Tannehill until he was inserted as the starter. It was clear that Brown and Tannehill had a connection, leaving Davis the short end of the stick. Still, Davis increased his yards per target for the second consecutive year (5.8 in 2017, 8.0 in 2018, 8.7 in 2019).
We then arrived at the 2020 season where Davis had a full offseason with a competent quarterback, and he came out swinging. In Davis’ last 16 games with the Titans (playoffs included), he racked up 102 targets, 70 receptions, 1,049 yards, and five touchdowns. Davis set career highs in catch percentage (70.7 percent), receptions (65), yards (984), touchdowns (5), and yards per target (10.7) in 2020, leaving the Titans with a very difficult decision. Had they known he would finally live up to his draft position, they would’ve certainly picked up the fifth-year option.
A WHOLE LOT OF UNCERTAINTY
Ideally, we would’ve seen Davis go to a team with an established quarterback who we knew could support a fantasy wide receiver, but that didn’t happen. The jury is still out on Sam Darnold and whether or not he can be a franchise quarterback. In fact, we don’t even know if he’ll be the Jets starting quarterback come Week 1. We’ve heard Jets General Manager Joe Douglas say that they’re open to offers for Darnold, which is never a good sign. This means Davis may have a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball in 2021. While this is a good class of quarterbacks, it adds a level of uncertainty.
On top of the quarterback question marks, we have no idea how new Head Coach Robert Saleh and Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur will run the offense. Many will speculate that it’ll be similar to what Kyle Shanahan ran in San Francisco, but the Jets don’t have the personnel the 49ers did, and how many times do we have to see failed prodigies to understand that they’re not the original?
What we do know is that the Jets have a whole lot of targets up for grabs and that Saleh/LaFleur hand-picked Davis, while the rest of the roster is made up of Adam Gase’s selections. We also know that the Jets defense is transitioning to a 4-3 defense, which often takes a bit of time to transition, and it’s not like they have a ton of talent on that side of the ball right now. We should see plenty of negative gamescripts in their future, leading to plenty of pass attempts, though we don’t know who those attempts will be coming from.
TIME TO BE HONEST
Anyone who tells you what to expect out of Davis and the Jets offense in 2021 is flat-out guessing at this point. There are so many variables, with the most important one being quarterback, and free agency has just begun.
Here’s what I do know: Davis is a very talented football player who can produce with a competent quarterback. The Jets new coaching staff chose Davis out of the bevy of free agent options that include Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who all remain unsigned at this moment. They also paid him plenty of guaranteed money, so they clearly have big plans for him in this offense. On a depth chart with Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, Davis should be the favorite to lead this team in targets for the 2021 season. The issue with Crowder being around is that Darnold has only propelled slot-heavy receivers to fantasy relevance, and Crowder doesn’t play on the perimeter. If Davis is pigeonholed into the perimeter role and they stick with Darnold, it may not be the best thing from a fantasy standpoint, though Davis is likely the most talented receiver Darnold has worked with. On the other hand, if the Jets move on from Darnold and draft a young quarterback, that could present other challenges. Bottom line is that Davis has a lot of variables in his projection right now, but betting on his talent and targets that should come along with his new salary might be a smart thing to do. As of now, he should be in the back-end WR3 conversation, but stay tuned as we progress through the offseason.
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