Fantasy Depth Chart Review - New York Jets
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Currently, we have Geno Smith projected to start at quarterback. You’ll notice he’s listed in red as a poor performer while backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is rated as an average quarterback. This depth chart configuration aligns with Gailey’s sentiment in May when he essentially said there’s no way Smith can lose the job in camp.
The Jets have since backtracked from this statement with Bowles saying the job is Smith’s to lose. Translation there will be an open competition for the starting job.
Smith is coming off an ugly 2014 campaign where he completed just 59.7 percent of his passes and posted a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Over the last two seasons, no one has been worse in the face of pressure. In 2013, Smith completed 40.6 percent of his passes when under pressure, and that number dipped to 38.5 percent last season.
To his credit, Smith did post big numbers in Week 17 with 358 yards and three touchdown passes against the Dolphins. However, this was his only 20-plus point fantasy performance of the season. Smith finished as the No. 26 fantasy quarterback.
By comparison, Fitzpatrick played 12 games in 2014 and finished as 22nd in fantasy scoring. He topped 20 points four times, including a Week 13 outburst when he went off for 358 yards and six touchdowns. Fitzpatrick has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in each of the last four seasons, and last year he posted a career-high yards per attempt of 8.0 (fifth highest in the league).
Fitzpatrick will never be mistaken for an elite quarterback, but he’s shown in his career that he’s a capable starter who has a decent fantasy floor. From 2010-2012, Fitzpatrick started for the Bills under Gailey at offensive coordinator. He topped 20 touchdown passes in each of those seasons and had fantasy finishes of 17th (2012), 11th (2011), and 17th (2010).
While the Jets quarterback situation is far from resolved, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are inked in at wide receiver. We’re projecting Jeremy Kerley to man the slot, and fantasy owners should also be aware of rookie Devin Smith.
Decker did his best to make the proverbial shine last season. Despite abysmal quarterback play, he still managed a respectable 962 yards and five scores. It was certainly a step back from the big numbers he posted in Denver, but Decker still finished 28th in standard scoring. He also posted the 16th best yards per route run (2.11) out of 50 qualifying wide receivers.
Currently, Decker is coming off the board as the No. 48 wide receiver with an ADP of 11.02, while Marshall is going significantly higher at 5.02. Something’s wrong here. We’re projecting 123 targets for Marshall and 118 for Decker, yet you can get the latter six round later? That’s an absolute steal, especially if/when Fitzpatrick gets the starting gig.
The fantasy collective consciousness also appears to be too high on Marshall. Sure, he’s been one of the highest floor fantasy receivers in recent memory. From 2007 to 2013, Marshall posted five seasons with WR1 numbers, and just missed another in 2011 when he finished 13th. But he’s now entering his age-31 season, and appears to be on the downslope of his career. Before his season-ending injury last season, Marshall ranked 18th in fantasy scoring. He’s only finished lower twice in his career: in 2010 with the Dolphins and his rookie season back in 2006.
Marshall also isn’t likely to get the high volume of end zone targets that he saw in Chicago. Over the last three seasons, Marshall has seen 22, 23, and 17 targets in the end zone. While Marshall will remain a strong red zone option, neither Smith nor Fitzpatrick has Jay Cutler’s “eff it” mentality (that’s a technical term), and Gailey’s offense is a departure from the Marc Trestman system Marshall played in over the last two seasons. Touchdown regression is all but guaranteed.
Kerly has never been much of a fantasy factor, even in PPR leagues, but Devin Smith has intriguing potential. He has 4.4 wheels, and last season he led the FBS with 754 receiving yards on balls traveling at least 20 yards in the air. While some view his usage as a go-route specialist as a knock, that skillset is the perfect compliment to Marshall and Decker. While I doubt Smith has more than a few big games in 2015, he offers dynasty appeal, especially if he becomes a more polished route runner.
Moving to tight end, don’t be fooled by how we list things with Jeff Cumberland atop the depth chart. Jace Amaro is the name to know for fantasy purposes. Entering his second season, Amaro saw just 53 targets in 2014, managing a meager 345 yards and two scores while dropping six of 44 catchable balls. However, he did flash potential in Week 6 when he caught 10 balls for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Gailey’s spread offense is much closer to what Amaro played in at Texas Tech than the West Coast system the Jets ran last season under Marty Mornhinweg. This will undoubtedly benefit Amaro. It’s a stretch to expect TE1 numbers from him, but Amaro is a candidate to make the leap in 2015 and offers one of the higher fantasy ceilings among the TE2s.
At running back, the Jets currently sit with Chris Ivory as their lead back and Bilal Powell as the favorite for third-down work. New York also signed Stevan Ridley and acquired Zac Stacy in the offseason.
While we’ve seen strong fantasy production out of Gailey running backs in the past, this isn’t the best situation for fantasy purposes. That said, Ivory did manage a top 20 fantasy finish last season with 821 yards and six scores on the ground and 123 yards and a score as a receiver. It’s fair to expect similar numbers this season, which actually makes him a modest value at his current ADP of 8.05 as the 38th running back off the board. However, there isn’t any other fantasy value to be had with the Jets running backs. I’d avoid them like the plague.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets won’t change much under Bowles. In fact, they could be even more aggressive, as Bowles’ defenses in Arizona blitzed more frequently than any other unit over the last two seasons combined. Up front, the Jets are downright nasty with Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson bookending Damon Harrison. They also added the top interior defensive lineman in the draft Leonard Williams.
Both Richardson and Wilkerson have proven to be strong fantasy commodities. Last season, Richardson finished as fantasy’s No. 8 defensive lineman. While Wilkerson was a bit further back at No. 22, he missed three games toward the end of the season. Before the Jets’ Week 11 bye, Wilkerson was actually fourth in fantasy scoring among defensive linemen.
The question for fantasy purposes is what do the Jets plan to do with Williams? With both incumbent defensive ends eying lucrative paydays when their contracts expire (2016 for Wilkerson, and 2017 for Richardson), some have suggested the Williams pick was a hedge. That’s yet to be determined, but more of a rotation at defensive end this season could eat in to Richardson’s and Wilkerson’s production. We could also see the Jets deploy a lot of four-man fronts with Richardson kicking to three-technique. With little clarity on the situation, I’m positioning both Wilkerson and Richardson as high floor DL2s with DL1 upside, but that could change as we get a better sense of what the Jets plan to do in the preseason.
Things are a lot clearer at inside linebacker, as Demario Davis and David Harris remain entrenched as the starters. While neither player is a flashy fantasy option, it may surprise you to find out the Harris finished 15th and Davis 17th among linebackers in fantasy scoring last season. Both players topped 100 total tackles, with Harris adding six sacks while Davis notched 3.5.
On a per opportunity basis, neither player was elite. Harris’ tPOP came in at 12.7, and Davis was just a smidge below at 12.1. However, they really don’t need elite numbers in their home venue. Awarding 1.44 tackles per every opportunity, the Jets were the league’s most tackle-happy home stat crew. Four of Harris’ five double-digit tackle games came at home, and all of Davis’ four games with 10-plus total tackles were in New York.
Both players have solid fantasy potential as LB3s, especially in a Bowles system that will have them blitzing the quarterback. The good news is you can get your hands on them later in drafts. The current ADP data shows Davis as the 38th linebacker off the board, and Harris is going 11 picks later at 49. That’s the order I’d prefer them as well. Harris has a solid floor, but Davis offers a higher ceiling as an improving young player in a contract year.
Wrapping things up at defensive back, the Jets completely revamped their cornerbacks with Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Buster Skrine currently topping the depth chart. Revis and Cromartie are classic examples of good (or in Revis’ case – elite) players on the field who make for so-so fantasy options. I wouldn’t consider either player outside of CB-required leagues. However, Skrine is a name I’d keep my eye on. He’s going to be limited to subpackage duties, but he should see his share of targets and has shown to be a capable tackler with an average of 72.3 tackles over the last three seasons. He’ll have matchup-based streaming value.
Calvin Pryor is the other player of note in the Jets’ secondary for fantasy purposes. The former first-rounder had a disappointing rookie season with just 60 total tackles and a half sack, though it should be noted that much of the time he played out of position at free safety. With Marcus Gilchrist penciled in as the free safety this season, Pryor will get to play his more natural strong safety position. More snaps in the box will almost certainly increase Pryor’s pedestrian 9.5 tPOP. While I wouldn’t spend a draft pick on him, Pryor should be on your list of priority defensive back streamers.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven and DFS junkie of PFF Fantasy.