There was a lot of hype around Isaiah Crowell in 2017 and anyone who drafted him ended up being disappointed, including me. Heading into 2018 Crowell is on a different team and the disappointment from last year has people down on him this year. I believe that has made Crowell a post hype value for a few reasons and is one of the better values in drafts according current ADP.
New and Improved Situation
This is not saying the Jets are an amazing situation but compared to the Cleveland Browns in 2017, it is a big step up. Cleveland was playing from behind most of last season, which forced them to abandon the run quicker than they wanted. In 2017, the Browns had 288 rushing attempts while the Jets had 372. Matt Forte’s retirement means Crowell was brought into take over the lead back duties.
The passing game last year in Cleveland was bad. The top targets in the passing game were Duke Johnson, Ricardo Lewis, David Njoku and Seth Devalve. Not that the Jets are filled with All-Pros, but Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse represent a big step up in receiving options. Not to mention DeShone Kizer was clearly thrown into a bad situation he was not prepared for and it impacted the entire offense. Josh McCown is a professional, veteran QB and he will be able to keep the offense on track. In the unlikely event that Darnold is rushed into playing that is still better than the turnover machine called DeShone Kizer.
Crowell only had 2 touchdowns in 2017. This number was affected by Kizer having 4 rushing touchdowns of 1 yard and another from 3 yards out. McCown did also have 5 rushing touchdowns in 2017, but over the previous 12 years of his career he has a total of 8 rushing toudchdowns, suggesting 2017 was an anomaly.
2 touchdowns was a career low for Crowell, previously he had at least 5 total touchdowns in every season and averages just under 7 (6.7) in his career before 2017. The number will be higher than 2 in 2018, even if he only finishes with 5 TDs that will be a boost to his fantasy value, in 2017 he finished as the 31st PPR RB and adding 18 points to his total would bring him up to the RB25.
Pass Catching Potential
Fantasy football players get much more excited about an RB that can catch passes as well. Most assume Crowell will not do this in 2018, but I believe his target volume will be higher than people expect. Over the last 3 seasons he has played with Duke Johnson, one of the best pass catching RBs in the league. Over that time, his role has been limited in the passing game but the results have been encouraging. His catch rate over his career is 73.2% and he averages 8 yards per reception. He has the skill set to add value in the passing game and in 2017 the Jets targets RBs 124 times which includes 45 targets to the retired Matt Forte.
When most people think of the Jets passing game they assume the duties will fall to Bilal Powell, but comparing the numbers for the two, Powell has worse career numbers for his catch rate and yards per reception than Crowell, at 69.2% and 7.5 respectively. Add that to the fact that Crowell (25 years old) is significantly younger than Powell (30 years old). Elijah McGuire is the 2nd year RB in New York that could assume a larger role, but he has a very limited sample in the passing game being targeted only 26 times in his rookie season.
My favorite part of Crowell this year is his draft price. He is currently going at pick 5 of the 8th round in PPR drafts. That means you are able to get a starting RB in the 8th round that is likely to see over 200 carries and increased involvement in the passing game.
Crowell should average in the 15-20 touches per game range and as long as his current cost continues to be depressed because he burned people last year. The way I normally put a team together he is likely to be the 4th RB I draft at that price. For people who like to start their draft going WR heavy or picking a QB/TE early (I advise against this, please as I have said before wait on QB) you can take Crowell and be comfortable with him as your RB2.
The other factor about Crowell is even though is carry total has increase every season in the league he has proven to be durable; he has played in 16 games every season since entering the league. There is no guarantee he will not get hurt, but it is comforting to not see a history of soft tissue injuries or concussions causing him to miss games.
What I am telling you is: right now in the 8th round you can have a starting RB that will get volume and averages about 7 TDs a season, while being durable to this point in his career. Crowell is not a name that is going to get people excited and he is not going to be an RB1, but he is valuable and will help fantasy teams in 2018.