What is Quincy Enunwa's value in fantasy?
It’s summer, and we’re still four weeks from training camp and two months away from the start of the season. But it’s prime time for planning draft strategies. It’s a time to dive deep into players, looking at their cost and potential to see if it’s worth it.
Today I’m turning my gaze to the New York Jets. It’s without dispute that the Jets are a talent-depleted offense. They could also end up being one of the worst, if not the worst, team in the NFL this season. But even bad teams have top targets that can have fantasy relevance.
The question is what’s a reasonable expectation for the team’s top target, Quincy Enunwa.
Prior to week one of 2016, Enunwa probably wasn’t on a ton of people’s fantasy radars. Enunwa was a sixth round pick for the Jets in 2014, but during his rookie season he played in only one game, not recording any stats. His second season, in 2015, saw the Jets finish 10–6 and narrowly miss the playoffs. But Enunwa wasn’t a big part of the team’s success.
Enunwa was suspended for four games that season, but in 12 games (six starts) he amassed just 42 targets, catching 22 passes for 315 yards and no touchdowns.
Still, heading into the 2016 season, some thought he had the potential to be fantasy relevant. But it wasn’t until the opening day game against the Bengals that the Enunwa hype train really left the season. Playing in the slot with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the outside, Enunwa caught seven of eight targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. And soon, he was a hot pick up.
The following week, Enunwa caught all six of his targets for 92 yards and suddenly looked like a legitimate fantasy asset. After a slip in week three, Enunwa caught six passes for 60 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in week four, his first as a starter opposite Marshall after Decker was lost for the season.
After his hot start, Enunwa settled into a more uneven rhythm. That was also in part because the Jets slumped throughout 2016, finishing as one of the worst teams in the league. Still, Enunwa played in all 16 games, starting 13 and catching 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns on 105 targets.
So what should we expect from Enunwa in 2016? While he had a modest 2016 finish, he finished with one fewer reception, more yardage and more touchdowns than Brandon Marshall, despite receiving 23 fewer targets. And now that both Marshall and Decker are gone, and Matt Forte is now 31, Enunwa figures to be about the best option for the Jets.
Despite that, projections for Enunwa are fairly modest. ESPN’s Mike Clay has him ranked as WR67 with a projection of 69 receptions for 918 yards and four touchdowns. That would be an increase on last year’s production, when he finished WR45.
Enunwa, despite being the likely top target for the Jets, is still a relative bargain. His current ADP has him drafted as WR51 at the end of the 13th round or top of the 14th round in 12-team leagues. If he hits that projection, he could present a reasonable return on value as a WR4/5 in the back half of drafts.
If you’re a glass half full person, you’d see reason for optimism and upside with Enunwa. That starts with a complete lack of competition. The Jets currently have 16 WRs on the roster, but it’s hardly a who’s who of talent. Potential speedster Devin Smith, who caught nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in 2016, is out for the year with a torn ACL. Jalin Marshall, who contributed last season, is suspended for four games. And prospect Robby Anderson was arrested in May and may face a potential suspension of his own.
The Jets did address the position in the draft — taking ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen and KD Cannon — but it’s doubtful any of them is a serious threat to the No. 1 spot in 2017. So that leaves Enunwa as the most successful and available receiver to the Jets, who have to do something with Brandon Marshall’s 128 targets from 2016. And they can’t give all the targets to Forte and Bilal Powell (who might be the best fantasy option on the Jets). It’s also likely the Jets will be in plenty of negative game scripts and forced to throw.
If you’re a glass half empty person, you’d point to the quarterback situation. And, to be fair, it’s awful. The triumvirate of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. Many, myself included, believe that the Jets are already playing for 2018. While McCown is the best quarterback on the roster, and will probably start games at the beginning of the season, the Jets main mission in 2017 has to be seeing whether Petty or Hackenburg is the long-term answer at quarterback. (I’m betting they’re not.)
We haven’t seen McCown play with the Jets, or Hackenburg play in a real game at all, so it’s unclear what rapport they’d have with Enunwa. But Petty played in six games for the Jets in 2016, serving as the primary quarterback in four of them. His primary games were weeks 10, 12, 13 and 14. During those four games, Petty finished 73-for-128 for 790 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in those four games.
Enunwa finished with 10 receptions for 110 yards and no touchdowns in games with Petty as his quarterback. That’s not a great encouragement. He was targeted just 24 times in those games, an average of six a game. Worse yet, in two of those games with Petty as the primary passer, Enunwa caught just a single pass. He went 1–7–0 in week 10 on six targets and 1–10–0 on just two targets in week 12. In week 13 he went 3–29–0 on seven targets, while finally connecting with Petty in week 14, catching five passes for 64 yards on nine targets.
It’s a small sample size, but it’s worth noting that Enunwa did better with Ryan Fitzpatrick. In between his two one reception games with Petty in weeks 10 and 12, Enunwa caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown on five targets with Fitzpatrick in week 11. In the final week of the season, Enunwa caught five of eight targets for 81 yards, again with Fitzpatrick at the helm. That suggests that he may thrive more if McCown starts the season.
So there’s reason for optimism (Enunwa will get a bunch of targets) and reasons for caution (he didn’t groove with Petty in 2016) to go along with a modest projection (69 receptions, 918 yards, four touchdowns) in 2017. Where does that leave us?
The whole point of these profiles has been analyzing the player’s potential projection, their draft position and determining if they can help you win your league. Enunwa isn’t a sexy name, and he won’t put up sexy numbers. No one on the Jets offense will. But he’s clearly the best receiving option on the team, and he’s in line for a healthy share of targets. He finished as WR45 in PPR last season despite being in a bad offense and fighting for targets with Brandon Marshall and Decker, who are no longer there. And, best yet, he’s going in the 13th or 14th round of most fantasy drafts. That’s value that’s hard to argue with.
When you get to the later stages of the draft, you’re not looking for every week starters or the cornerstones of your team. You’re looking for value and upside. A WR4/5 who is the top option on his team with a guaranteed target share provides a safe floor and plenty of upside. It’s not the kind of pick that gets you high fives on draft day, but it could leave you hoisting a trophy in December.