Player: Joe McKnight
Team: New York Jets
Draft Range: 160-Not Drafted (All ADP data courtesy of www.mockdraftcentral.com)
McKnight’s messy introduction to the NFL was documented on HBO for all to see. In fact, statistically his second season was not much better on the offensive side of the ball as he had the since departed Ladainian Tomlinson in front of him. However on kick returns McKnight showed some burst and talent, racking up 1,073 return yards. This is important to note for leagues that count return yardage, and for owners in general as it is a possible sign of things to come as McKnight will be receiving more playing time this season, at the minimum as the third down back for the Jets.
Between his mess of a training camp his rookie year and the lockout last year, as McKnight enters his make it or break it third season this is the first time that he had a legitimate offseason to prepare for the upcoming season. More importantly he enters this season with positive momentum from last season and a set role that could expanded based on new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s inclination to run the ball.
Last season McKnight caught 13 passes and he is line to inherit the 42 catches that Tomlinson had last season. That alone should put him on the radar of all PPR owners. Those catches coupled with McKnight’s average last season of 10.7 yards per catch gives him a nice start towards being a productive player. Granted his rushing line of 43 rushes for 134 yards was not much, but there is potential for that number to be improved upon both in number of carries (Tomlinson had 75 last season) and in yards per carry as well.
With it looking like the Jets will be running the ball close to 40 plays a game this season (maybe even more given their emphasis on rushing plays early in the training camp) and the fact that Shonn Greene probably isn’t good for more than 20 or so carries a game, there is clearly opportunity for McKnight. Obviously the elephant in the room is Tim Tebow and much he will take away from the Jets skill players in general, but regardless McKnight will be playing a larger role this season.
Granted athletes have gotten good at saying the right things, but it appears McKnight is doing so, and his words match his actions. In an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas (click here for the article), he alluded to his participation in Jets West which will help create enhanced chemistry with Mark Sanchez. Entering this season McKnight knows that this is the time for him to shine saying, “Yeah it’s a big year. If I don’t get it this year it will probably be it for me.” Those are some heavy words and based on his offseason training program he appears to be in better shape physically and mentally than at any other point in his Jets career. He is clearly a player looking to make his mark, “I don’t want to take a step back and go back to year one, where I am just sitting on the sidelines for 8 games and just sitting there wasting space on the team.”
This is a different Jets team than that which what we got accustomed to seeing the last few years. Under Sparano they will be pounding the ball and looking for some explosiveness out of the running game. Despite Greene gaining 1,000 yards last season, he did not have a rush longer than 31 yards so there is a need for a big play threat out of the backfield along with a pass catching threat. McKnight has the talent and this is the all important make or break third season. Based on his ADP there is no reason not to take a chance on him. In PPR leagues he has more value but depending on both his and Greene’s performance there could be some opportunity as a rusher as well. He could be a high upside RB5 or RB6 and someone to keep an eye during the preseason and into the regular season.
What do you think? Is McKnight someone that you will be looking to draft late? Or will he just remain on your watch list for the season?
Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: