Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Augury, Chapter 8: New York Jets

QB:  Even though Michael Vick says Geno Smith is the starter, and Geno Smith says Geno Smith's the starter, and Rex Ryan says Geno Smith's the starter.... this is a big, sticky mess in New York City and it's going to get uncomfortable sooner rather than later.

Vick is playing the PR game right now.  He is saying all the right things because he's been told to say all the right things.  But if you think the New York City media isn't going to delight in stirring this sloppy pot, you're crazy.

And if you think Vick is perfectly satisfied playing second fiddle to a younger, inferior player, you're drinking the green Kool-Aid Uncle Rex mixed up himself.

The facts are inconvenient:  Smith committed the fourth-most interceptions in the league and threw for the least touchdowns and fewest yards among quarterbacks who started all 16 games last year.

He was benched at halftime during week 13 due to poor play and struggled like a sea turtle trying to right itself.  

On the bright side, he ran the ball 72 times and scored an impressive six touchdowns with his feet (tied for most in the league among quarterbacks).  He also proved durable and played hurt.

But that's a rather slim silver lining.  Smith's confidence is as brittle as a spider web and now he's got Michael Vick breathing down his sweaty neck.

Once Vick unseats Smith as the starter (it's just a matter of time), Vick will get hurt; he's played all 16 regular season games just once in his career.  At that point, the moping, pouting Smith, now with no confidence whatsoever, will regain the starting role and continue to struggle.  It's a vicious cycle.

What I'm trying to say here is don't touch either with a ten foot fantasy football pole.

RB:   Everyone remembers Chris Johnson's spectacular 2009 season.  You know, the one in which he earned the cutesy nickname "CJ2K" fact, he even got a CJ2K tattoo.  But it turns out that was an anomaly.

Johnson's real nickname should be "Jekyll and Hyde".

He has been wildly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis over the past three seasons.  And if there's one thing that drives me crazy in fantasy football, it is inconsistency: there is nothing worse than pulling a player from the starting line-up because he's scoring three or four fantasy points per game, and the week you bench him, he goes off for 25 fantasy points.  That's Chris Johnson in a nutshell.

And if you've owned Johnson over the past few seasons, you know what I'm talking about.

Now he goes to a new team and is rehabbing an injured knee, all the while missing OTAs.  The Jets say they will keep him on the bench until he's 100%.  After signing a $8 million contract (with $3 million in guaranteed cash), I don't see Johnson terribly motivated to push himself very hard. To make matters worse, he's got competition for the ball.

Chris Ivory put together a decent season in 2013 and the Jets have already said he will split rushing duties with Johnson.  Bilal Powell actually led the Jets in combined rushing/receiving yards last year and he will surely steal touches from Ivory and Johnson.

All told, no Jets running back can be ranked as more than third tier... yes, including Johnson.  You probably won't hear that anywhere but here, but you cannot live in the past.  This is a mess.

WR: Speaking of a mess, I present to you Eric Decker and his gang of Average Joe's.

Full disclosure here:  I'm a little biased with Decker.  He played his high school football not too far from my home and we are both alumni from the same college alma mater.  But I gotta keep it real.

Decker is a perfect example of why one should not use last year's stats to project this year's fantasy rankings.  If one did, Eric Decker would be a top 12 receiver.  But things have changed just a little.

Decker and his reality show have moved from the Rocky Mountains to the Big Apple and his production is going to suffer big time.  Geno Smith couldn't carry Peyton Manning's jock strap and Michael Vick (when healthy) is still a run first, pass second type of QB (and always will be).

Last year Decker tallied 1,288 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.  This year, he's lucky if he gets 75% of that production.  He's a low-end second tier/high-end third tier receiver... and that is only because he will get the majority of the targets.

The good news is Jeremy Kerley led the Jets in receiving yards last year; the bad news is it was only 523 yards.  Stephen Hill was a second round draft pick two years ago, but in all honesty, he's not done a damn thing for Gang Green.  His career totals of 45 catches, 594 yards and 4 touchdowns make a nice 1/3 season for Calvin Johnson.  Both are fourth tier receivers; you're in trouble if you have to start them.

TE:  Quite often we see struggling quarterbacks go to their tight ends as a safety valve, but not Geno Smith.  Jeff Cumberland's best game was against the Falcons with 79 yards receiving and a touchdown.  The remainder of the season (14 starts) he caught just 319 additional yards and three touchdowns; his not worth even jotting down in the tight end tiers.