2015 Fantasy Football Outlook: New York Jets
August 21, 2015 | Chet
In 2014, the New York Jets finished at the bottom of the AFC East, closing the season at 4-12. After two winning seasons under Rex Ryan to begin his tenure, New York failed to post a winning season for the fourth consecutive season and moved on from Ryan, replacing him with Todd Bowles. With new blood in New York, will the Jets vault themselves back into relevancy in 2015?
2015 Jets Schedule
Express some caution when looking ahead at the schedule over the summer, but the Jets don’t draw very much green on the above table in terms of expected vulnerable pass defenses. The rushing game appears to have the best outlook going forward and that plays into what they Jets will likely do best to go along with playing good defense.
This isn’t an offense we’re expecting to vault into the upper tier of offensive efficiency, but they’ve made some personnel moves to go along with the hire of new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey’s offenses have been the epitome of mediocrity as over 12 seasons as head coach or coordinator, his offenses have produced just three top-10 seasons in total yardage with six season ranking 14th to 21st. That said, offensive mediocrity would be a welcomed change for the Jets, as out producing the 2014 Marty Mornhinweg led offense shouldn’t be a tall mountain to climb.
Piloting the Jets
What has really mired the Jets consistently is their lack of high end quarterback play. Over the past two seasons under Geno Smith and Mike Vick, no team has thrown for fewer passing yards than the Jets at 5,878 yards. Even more surprising, the Jets have had just four 3,500 yard passers in their 55 year history with the last one being Vinny Testaverde back in 2000. They’ve had just one lone 4,000 yard passer, Joe Namath, all the way back in 1967.
Smith was set to open the preseason as the starter for the third consecutive season this year, but after suffering a broken jaw in a locker room altercation will now miss at least the opening two weeks of the season. That injury could allow the Jets an easy out to move on from Smith as little from the start of his career suggests he becomes a functional quarterback in the league. With Smith out, Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the opportunity to hold onto the job and is coming off of his most efficient season to date.
Most of Fitzpatrick’s overall efficiency is masked by his 358 yard, six touchdown performance against the Titans last season. In what I described as his most efficient season to date, we still seen him benched in favor of Ryan Mallett at one stage. Outside of that Titans game, Fitzpatrick threw for multiple scores or 250 passing yards just three times each.
Fitzpatrick also spent three seasons with Gailey in Buffalo. That familiarity with the system is why the Jets acquired him and he turned in a top-12 season sandwiched by two below average ones. Pat Thorman believes Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade for the New York offense over Smith and it’s hard to disagree based on Smith’s performance to date. I do believe Fitzpatrick is at least a short term upgrade for this offense because we at least know who he is, which is a streaming quarterback in the right spots. We know he’s capable of a weekly ceiling, unfortunately in the opening month; there aren’t many soft spots to use him.
That ties into the other question, which is does Smith start again when he can return? That’s a tough question to answer mid-August, but if the Jets are successful in the opening month, it will be hard for them to turn away from Fitzpatrick. It’s also conceivable they open 1-3 or worse before their week 5 bye, meaning we could see Smith sometime thereafter if the offense isn’t hanging around in games. I’m projecting the Jets to struggle early and the split to be something in the neighborhood of 60/40 in favor of Smith, but we don’t need to dwell here on the quarterbacks longer because no matter who is under center, they are at best a matchup play for fantasy.
Should We Leave the Jets Receivers on the Runway?
While whoever is playing quarterback may not impact us when pursuing the actual quarterback himself, there is a ripple effect on the rest of the offense. While I mention short term I believe Fitzpatrick is a boost, it’s important to acknowledge he’s had a wealth of good receivers over his career to throw to and only DeAndre Hopkins had efficient success.
When you look at that list it’s rather ugly, but also noticeable that the best of the target group is filled running backs, tight ends and intermediate options. That serves to bode well for Brandon Marshall, who is a very good interior receiver and given his apex curve, may be best suited to do the bulk of his damage in that area of the field. 2014 was an injury filled season for Marshall, contributing to the worst season of his career.
Marshall was never fully healthy as he dealt with an ankle injury for nearly the first two thirds of the season, and then missed the final three weeks with a rib injury. The 31 year old receiver was basically reduced to only a red zone contributor as he’s now had back and hip issues entering the back end of his career.
Marshall has had a sensational career to this point and it’s definitely a positive that he posted three consecutive seasons with at least 80 receptions for 1,000 yards with Kyle Orton, Chad Henne and Matt Moore as his quarterbacks in the middle of his career, but his red zone production should take a hit again with subpar quarterback play. During his three years in Chicago, he had a 37 percent red zone conversion rate for scores, but he was a subpar red zone performer in every season in Denver and Miami with just a 20.5 percent conversion rate.
|Year||RZ Tgt||TD||TD %|
If Marshall becomes reception and red zone dependent on a team that may not score much, this could potentially make Eric Decker the better value for fantasy. Unfortunately, Decker left a lot of the worry of if he could thrive post attachment to Peyton Manning on the table after his first season in New York.
Decker had an injury riddled 2014 season in the same ilk as Marshall. He was on the injury report from weeks 2-9 with a hamstring injury as he posted his lowest reception (4.9), yards (64.1), and touchdown marks (.03) per game since 2011 pre-Manning and converted just three of 15 red zone targets for scores on the season. When fully healthy, he did top 80 receiving yards in three of his final four games with a 10 catch, 221 yard game to close out the season in week 17 against Miami.
Decker still has some vertical juice to his game as he’s had seven or more receptions of 25 plus yards in each of the past three seasons and still had eight a year ago through injury. Fitzpatrick was actually the second best passer per Pro Football Focus on passes 20 or more yards downfield in 2014, so maybe he doesn’t hurt Decker that much after all. The flip side of that is that when Fitzpatrick was in this same system, he struggled vertically compared to last season.
Those lower marks could have been affected by surrounding talent and Fitzpatrick did have a good mark in Tennessee, largely targeting Justin Hunter vertically, so he still may be good for Decker as well. But Decker owners may in fact still want Smith to take back over at some point. Pulling back up the AYA App from RotoViz, surprisingly, Decker was almost as efficient per target with Smith though as he was with Manning.
The way I’m handling Marshall and his WR24 sticker price is dependent on my draft up until that stage. I feel that he’s a porridge player, just properly priced right on the nose with just enough squeeze leftover for value if he’s a weekly high end WR2. If I’ve gone running back heavy, I like Marshall as my WR2 as a safe floor player with touchdown upside. If I’ve already gone wide receiver heavy by that point, he’s likely a player I will bypass for a running back or a higher upside receiver. With Decker, he’s a screaming value under all circumstances at his WR47 cost. C.D. Carter highlights that neither Decker’s ceiling and median outlook are priced into that cost, giving you nearly a free pass to swing on either of those outcomes. There exists a scenario where Marshall could be a PPR machine and Decker is an ancillary, volatile option, but the gap between the two in draft cost is far too cavernous in my opinion as I believe Decker is the better option of the two this upcoming season.
Rookie Devin Smith was a player I profiled during the draft and is arguably the best vertical playmaker that was available this spring. To begin his career, I see him more as a package player as he develops the rest of his game and is already shelved for the start of the season with a punctured lung. It’s hard to see him hashing out 2015 relevance but it’s worth monitoring his role deep into the season for DFS. The issue with either is this passing game will have a hard enough time supporting Decker and Marshall for fantasy let alone another option.
It feels like we’ve been waiting forever on the inevitable breakout of Chris Ivory and 2015 has left us with no shortage of buzz from his supporters. Ivory has always sported alluring ancillary traits that have drawn us in before. Last year was no different as he forced 52 missed tackles, the fourth most in the league behind Marshawn Lynch (88), DeMarco Murray (67) and Le’Veon Bell, all players that had over 100 more touches than Ivory had.
Despite the glow surrounding Ivory, he’s really just been an “OK” fantasy option and performer, however. He was right on league average marks for rushing points per attempt (.60) last season and below in 2013, has been a subpar career producer inside the five-yard line, converting just 37 percent (10 of 27) of his attempts into touchdowns and has just 23 career receptions. Even among Jets backs last year and in comparison to the league, he was just around the center and even below the marks of an average back in success rates per carry.
|Player||Att||Yds||Y/A||2 Yd Or Less||%||5+ Yds||%||10+ Yds||%|
|NFL RB AVERAGE||44.5%||32.7%||10.1%|
Still there’s reason to like Ivory heading into 2015 and Pat Thorman brings a lot of those reasons to the table here. Ivory was hampered by game script last season as he had 121 rushing attempts in the first half of games, which ranked 11th in the league. As highlighted above, he wasn’t overly effective with them as he turned those into just 3.9 yards per tote. In the second half of contests, Ivory had just 77 attempts, 29th in the league and two fewer than Russell Wilson. The Jets ran 69.2 percent of their plays while trailing last season, the highest percentage in the entire NFL. We can expect the Jets to improve this season based on their defensive additions, but how much more will they control games this season and will it be enough to get Ivory to the 250 carry plus mark?
Ivory’s price is holding at RB32 near the sixth and seventh round turn because he’s never had massive volume to nurse along his counting stats. Gailey has been fond of using multiple backs at his past two stops in Buffalo and Kansas City, but has grinded a bell cow down in almost all of his previous stops in Denver, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Miami. It remains to be seen if Ivory will be given that much of a workload because they Jets are rostering two similar backs in Zac Stacy and maybe Stevan Ridley to spell Ivory on similar touches.
Stacy has been an ineffective player per touch through two seasons, relying on volume for his usable fantasy moments, but does sport some solid pass catching ability with 44 catches through two seasons. Ridley is still on the PUP after suffering a torn ACL in week 6 of last season and only signed a one year contract. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that with Stacy on hand, he doesn’t make this roster if he cannot get into top shape. I don’t see either back as a major threat to Ivory, but one will likely take enough away to keep Ivory’s carry mark under the ceiling we’re hoping for.
In Gailey’s stop in Buffalo, running backs had 99, 103 and 84 targets. There’s not really a strong pass catcher on the roster, but there’s a role open for Bilal Powell to also be involved. Like Stacy, he has a 30 plus catch season under his belt in the NFL. Rich Cimini pegs Ivory to lead this group in receiving, so if Ivory can secure that role then his outlook appears much brighter.
I’m all for Ivory at his current price tag as I like him more than Shane Vereen, Joique Bell and Isaiah Crowell. He’s just hardly a back that finds my rosters because I’m not often taking running backs at his price point, rather I’m pursuing upside receivers like Charles Johnson or Vincent Jackson in that area. To go along with that, his situation has some ambiguity and he doesn’t project to score a lot of touchdowns. I’m interested in Ivory if he falls down past that tier of receivers, but I’m content letting another owner making a play on Ivory more times than not.