Hello there. This is a post in which we’ll bravely explore the dark and deepest depths of depth charts, looking for sleepers who are sometimes absurdly deep that you should watch out for either as a late-round flier, or an early season waiver wire add. I’ll also be wrong often in this post, so you can enjoy that too.
Most days and most years, I would hate myself for even hinting at any kind of value hidden somewhere within the body and hands of Braylon Edwards. This day, apparently, isn’t most days, pretty much because someone has to catch footballs for the New York Jets.
Since he just can’t get enough, Edwards is set to return to the Jets for a third stint on a contract that will reportedly be finalized later today, according to The Associated Press. The life line thrown in his direction was necessary due to sheer desperation/depression. Even if the Jets’ receiving corps was fully healthy, it’s still far from impressive, and poor support for the either awful (Mark Sanchez) or inexperienced (Geno Smith) quarterback who wins the training camp competition. But about that healthy thing: it’s just not happening.
Santonio Holmes is slowly approaching the time when he’ll be a full year removed from suffering his Lisfranc injury. That will come in early October, and yet he still can’t do any full weight-bearing activities, which isn’t a good look for someone who plays a position where speed and burst is crucial. That’s why he’s starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and he’s highly questionable to be ready for the season opener.
Usually that would mean second-year man Stephen Hill will step up, and it still probably does. But after appearing in only 11 games during his rookie season, he’s still clawing back from an injury of his own (a knee injury). He’s expected to be just fine and healthy for the season opener, but the fact that he’s getting limited work and is on a snap count at camp is concerning, and the opposite of good.
So, enter Braylon, because there’s no one else. Sure, there’s Jeremy Kerley, and during a dismal season which ended in tears, he was one of the few bright spots for the Jets in 2012. He quickly emerged as a highly effective slot receiver who therefore received an abundance of targets. Specifically, 95 of them, and he turned that into 56 catches for 827 receiving yards. You should probably sit down for this, but that yardage led the team, and it wasn’t close (tight end Jeff Cumberland was second with 359 yards).
But he’s a slot guy, and during the possibly now rare times when the Jets get a hankering to stretch the field, who’s the man for that job? Yep, Braylon Edwards, maybe and probably. The sad violin is playing, but hear me out for a second.
For some reason, Edwards is viewed as an ancient artifact. But while he’s not young, 30 isn’t obsolete for a wide receiver. If an abrupt decline is coming, we usually see it much closer to the receiver’s mid 30′s, with Chad Ochocinco/Johnson and Randy Moss the prime examples.
Instead, Edwards has been slowed by injuries, and most significantly a knee injury which limited him to only nine games with the 49ers in 2011. He split six games last year between the Jets and Seahawks, and when he was with the Jets during an even more desperate situation (no Holmes, no Hill), he was pretty alright in a puke-stained offense that actually called Greg McElroy its starter, averaging 41.7 yards per game.
He’ll now most likely be given an opportunity of some significance, simply by default. And with his long wingspan and leaping ability that still exists on some level, there could be some flex value to be found here early on the waiver wire.
Again, this isn’t a joke. Consider that during his first go around with Sanchez, Edwards’ red-zone ability led to seven touchdowns. If the stars align just so with the right matchup, his 40-50 yards per game with a touchdown could end in about 10 fantasy points.
Edwards has lost speed, but the one element that won’t go away is his red-zone ability because of his physical construction. There will be blood, and there will be early-season injuries. And when that happens, Edwards could be the best fantasy glass case, just like he is in reality for the Jets.