When Jim Leonhard went down with a knee injury in Week 14 of the 2011 season, the New York Jets lost more than just a safety. They lost reliable deep coverage and a disciplined mind that could be counted on in single-high formations while the aggressive front applied pressure to the quarterback. Leonhard received a +5.7 grade in pass coverage last season, despite missing the last three games of the season. Even though he didn’t have a full season under his belt, his coverage performance ranked sixth among all safeties, trailing names like Troy Polamalu (+8.8), Eric Weddle (+8.8) and Adrian Wilson (+12.7).
Now, with Leonhard expected to walk in free agency and with Brodney Pool headed forDallas, the Jets needed help over the top. LaRon Landry has been called upon to provide that help, and at an absolute bargain. If he’s healthy, the Jets will have landed a ferocious talent who’s capable of creating turnovers and shutting down the run game. Landry missed half of the last two seasons, but over his past 1100 snaps he earned a run grade of +6.8. That grade would likely rank him in the top ten among safeties.
What Landry won’t likely provide, however, is that reliable center-field presence that Leonhard did. In Landry’s past three seasons, he has graded negatively in pass coverage while allowing opposing quarterback ratings of 109.0, 106.1 and 139.8(!). Ouch. If General Manager Mike Tannenbaum knows what he’s doing, he isn’t done searching for safety help this offseason.
Despite Landry’s poor coverage grades and health concerns, what’s undeniable is that when he’s on the field he provides a boon to fantasy rosters. In just nine games in 2010, Landry notched 85 total tackles, five for a loss, and added a forced fumble and an interception. In 2011, his production dropped to 48 total tackles and zero interceptions, but he still added a forced fumble and 1.5 sacks.
What’s worth noting is that in Landry’s 17 games that span over the course of the past two injury-riddled seasons, he still averaged 10.29 fantasy points per game. If he maintained that average over a full 2011 season, he would have been the 14th highest ranked IDP, just above Pat Angerer, DeMarcus Ware and Calais Campbell.
If Rex Ryan caters to Landry’s strengths, we could expect a similar fantasy output. But if his ankle injury continues to prevent him from seeing the field— and it very well could— then, fantasy owners are better off searching for additional production in their secondary. It’s doubtful that Landry will be 100 percent healthy, but he’s shown that he can still put up numbers when he isn’t. That said, Landry’s potential makes him well worth a stash in leagues with deep benches.