In the search for glimmering jewels which are also humans in real life, there’s an instinct among some to quickly ignore anyone who plays for the New York Jets. Like the reaction to ignore the logic which tells you to start Josh Freeman over Matthew Stafford, the ignorance of all that is Jets is quite understandable.
Even though Mark Sanchez looked surprisingly competent yesterday against soft Patriots coverage, the Jets still have the league’s 28th-ranked passing offense, averaging only 200.4 yards per game through the air. If that average dips only one yard further, the Jets will become one of just five teams plodding along at a pace of less than 200 passing yards weekly.
What’s worse is that they’re also simply not attempting many passes, choosing to either run the suddenly improved Shonn Greene into some bodies, or go all gimmicky with Tim Tebow. The Jets’ per game pass attempt average is just 31.6 (23rd), but when Sanchez does throw and he throws deep, someone has to catch that ball. Or at least ideally that’s the outcome, because throwing a pass that’s intended for no one would be just a little too Sanchez of Sanchez.
When those balls are thrown and hands are outstretched, they’ve primarily belonged to one man, just as they did yesterday.
Thy name is Jeremy Kerley, the second-year wideout who’s emerged as Sanchez’s top receiver with Santonio Holmes gone for the year. During the Jets’ loss to New England, Kerley had seven receptions for 120 yards, establishing career highs in both categories. He’s averaging 79.3 yards per game since Holmes went down in Week 5, a rise that’s also the product of a bit of luck. A healthy Stephen Hill likely would have and should have taken that top receiver spot. But alas, Hill was struggling through a groin injury at the time, and so was tight end Dustin Keller, making Kerley one of the only warm bodies on the Jets’ WR depth chart.
The result has been the emergence of the ideal plug and play depth receiver who can possibly rise to become a low-end WR3 with the right matchup. As Kerley continues to benefit from his status as the only true deep option for the Jets, he’ll also continue to be targeted often. Yesterday Kerley was targeted 11 times, a week after he had seven targets, and he also had nine in Week 5.
With great opportunity comes great returns, and of his 238 receiving yards since stepping in for Holmes and 435 yards overall, most of them have come through balls that travel great distances. Sanchez has completed 21 passes for 20 yards or more, and nearly half of them (nine) have gone to Kerley. Even better, the Jets have completed only two passes for 40 yards or more, and they’ve both landed in Kerley’s hands.
What this all leads to is a high upside deep threat who can still be purchased at a bargain waiver price. Despite his rise that’s been building since Week 5, Kerley is still available in 57 percent of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. That’s a claim you need to make if you have even the slightest need for depth at the wide receiver position.
This is the part when you continue assuming that the Jets offense and by extension also Kerley won’t be remotely consistent. My magic eight ball told me to try again another time, but if it wasn’t such a lazy jerk it would probably say that yes, the assumption of more ineptitude by the Jets offense is a good one to make. But that ignores the fact that two weeks ago in a far less than ideal matchup against the Texans and either Daniel Manning or Johnathan Joseph, Kerley finished with 94 yards on just four receptions.
Kerley will be greeted with several more similarly crappy matchups, including the Cortland Finnegan/Janoris Jenkins tandem in Week 11, the Seahawks and Brandon Browner the week prior to that, and Patrick Peterson in Week 13. But of the Jets’ nine remaining opponents, five of them currently have secondaries ranked 24th or lower. That includes another game against the Patriots (Week 12), and games against the Jaguars, Titans, and Chargers during the fantasy playoffs.
The alignment of those stars could lead to a prolonged boom for Kerley, with the loudest detonations coming during money-making time.