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Scott Pianowski

Juggernaut Index No. 28: The New York Jets

The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise (Oakland), and we're working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.

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28. New York Jets

When you crash and burn like the Jets did at the end of the 2008 season, wholesale changes are to be expected. No more Vesuvio for you, Eric Mangini. Good luck in your retirement next act, Brett Favre(notes). Keep in touch, Laveranues Coles(notes).

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was somehow spared from the carnage (despite a pedestrian three-year resume), but it's clear the 2009 Jets are aiming to be this year's Ravens, a physical team with a defensive focus. Incoming head coach Rex Ryan came directly from Baltimore, as did a pair of notable free-agent signings (linebacker Bart Scott(notes), safety Jim Leonhard(notes)). And like those Ravens, the Jets are just about ready to turn their offense over to a rookie quarterback. The city is yours, Mark Sanchez(notes).

The Jets are still listing Kellen Clemens(notes) as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, but that's merely for show. Clemens hasn't shown a lick in his NFL experience to this point (most fans have noticed), and you don't trade up and draft a QB with the fifth overall pick unless you think you can play him fairly quickly. If Sanchez doesn't throw up all over himself for the majority of training camp, look for him to quickly become the starter, and the face of the franchise.

There's no reason to put a fantasy value on Sanchez right now, of course (he's unmentioned in our current quarterback ranks). He doesn't have a job sewn up yet, and even if he is starting, the Jets aren't going to turn into an aerial circus. New York's offensive line is one of the best around – guard Alan Faneca(notes) and center Nick Mangold(notes) made the Pro Bowl last year – and the identity of the offense needs to stay conservative while Sanchez adjusts to the pro game (don't forget he started just one year at USC). And if Clemens winds up starting for some of the schedule, he's someone you need to hide in your game plan.

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The Gang Green running backs should see plenty of inviting lanes, but nonetheless there's a lot of unhappiness in the backfield these days. Thomas Jones(notes) felt his 1,312-yard, 15-score season deserved a raise and boycotted some offseason workouts; the club merely yawned and ignored his actions (with Jones about to turn 31, there's no reason to throw a bunch of cash his way). Dynamic change-of-pace back Leon Washington(notes) also skipped some OTAs and it's clear he wants to be more involved in this year's offense; Washington's role was embarrassingly skimpy at times over the last two years, despite the fact that he's clearly the most dangerous threat on the roster. And to make things as complicated as possible the Jets added a third piece to the puzzle – rookie Shonn Greene(notes), a pile-moving back out of Iowa (the club moved up in the third round to grab him; check this video to see why). Greene has a chance to take over the short-yardage and goal-line work from Jones at some point this year, and if that happens, we've got a big fat mess for fantasy purposes.

The early mock returns show more faith in Jones (No. 18 at the position) than the Yahoo! experts do (consensus 23), and that's the same story on Washington (ADP position rank is 38, but we ignore him). Greene's position rank is 54 right now, but if he shows anything in the exhibition season that position could shoot forward quickly.

The fantasy slant is a lot simpler when the Jets thrown the ball. Jerricho Cotchery(notes) is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver now that Coles is gone, but he's got a couple of key issues limiting his upside: he doesn't haul in a lot of long passes (just 11 receptions over 20 yards in the last two years) and he's nothing special in the red zone (seven TDs in two seasons as a starter). He should see a higher percentage of targets now that he's the main show in town, but New York's overall pass attempts will likely decrease given the experience level of the quarterbacks. The wisdom of the crowd agrees with the current Yahoo! rank on Cotchery – he's slotted in the mid-30s at receiver.

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A bunch of journeyman types are batting to start opposite Cotchery – Brad Smith(notes), David Clowney(notes), Chansi Stuckey(notes) – but make them play their way on your fantasy roster. Smith's adjustment to the pro game and a new position has gone at a snail's pace – the Jets have tried to use him in gadget packages with laughable results – and Stuckey and Clowney haven't shown anything that makes us optimistic they're starting material at this level. The most intriguing sleeper from this passing offense comes through tight end Dustin Keller(notes), who quietly put things together during the second half of his rookie year (35 catches, 388 yards). Young QBs often rely on their tight ends as they feel their way around, and that's probably going to pad Keller's catch total.

Jets Jibberish: Jay Feely(notes) was effective taking over for a gimpy Mike Nugent(notes) last year, and might be worth a last-round pick or waiver-wire try if this turns into a drive-and-stall offense. The defense figures to keep the Jets in decent field position most of the year . . . Speaking of the defense, it's turned into a trendy pick this summer; the mock drafters call it a top-five unit and we've got it slotted at No. 9 . . . Tackle machine David Harris(notes) is a strong IDP pick at linebacker, and roving safety Kerry Rhodes(notes) should be a monster in the Ryan defense. Don't let Scott's giant deal trip you up at the table; he's never been a heavy stat-grabber. Darrelle Revis(notes) is also getting a lot of IDP love at cornerback, but as his skills and reputation increase, his opportunity to make fantasy-relevant plays will decrease. Caveat emptor . . . I consider strength of schedule to generally be a waste of time for fantasy purposes and looking ahead to November and December can also be a fool's errand – the NFL, more than any other major sport, is a reshuffle league – but I suppose I have to mention that info for those that want it. New York's schedule is ranked the seventh-most difficult on paper, and the Jets face these three games for the fantasy playoffs: at Tampa Bay, home against Atlanta, at Indianapolis.

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Earlier Juggernaut posts: 32) Oakland, 31) Cleveland, 30) St. Louis, 29) Miami.

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