A 2nd round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Smith has apparently been handed the Jets starting quarterback position once again in 2015. Let’s recap. As a rookie, Smith was handed the starting job when Mark Sanchez suffered a season-ending injury after the coaching staff played him with 3rd stringers in an exhibition game. Last season, management brought in Michael Vick to fill out the depth chart but ended up handing the starting job over to Smith sans competition. This season, Ryan Fitzpatrick was acquired to replace Vick but offensive coordinator Chan Gailey stated that Smith would open the season as the team’s starter only to have head coach Todd Bowles rebut him by making it clear there would be a quarterback competition. Here’s what you need to know. With 34 interceptions and seven lost fumbles in two seasons, Smith isn’t going to hold Fitzpatrick off for long. And even if he does, you have better options as a QB2 for your fantasy squad.
Entering his 11th year in the league, Fitzpatrick is the quintessential journeyman. Good enough to stick around on some team’s roster. Never good enough to lead a winning team. In 2015, he figures to enter training camp behind Geno Smith on the Jets quarterback depth chart but an ascension to the starting position seems almost inevitable given Smith’s inability to avoid turning the ball over. However, since Fitzpatrick failed to rate as a solid fantasy quarterback when new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was the Buffalo Bills head coach, we don’t see him suddenly becoming better now as a 32-year old veteran.
Geno Smith isn’t the answer and Ryan Fitzpatrick has never been the answer either. Petty likely redshirts as a rookie in 2015 with a chance to start next season but it won’t be a surprise if he starts a few games at the end of the season if the Jets are no longer in playoff contention.
Chris Ivory might just be his own worst enemy. After five years in the league, he has played in 16 games just once (ironically enough in 2014) as his physical rushing style leaves him susceptible to injuries. Splitting time with Chris Johnson last season, Ivory rushing for 820 yards with a career-high six touchdowns and had a career year as a receiver with 18 receptions for 123 yards and a score. And therein lies part of the issue with Ivory. He doesn’t see the field on passing downs and doesn’t get to play much when the Jets are behind. With Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy having joined the team in the offseason, Ivory’s production last season likely represents his upside in 2015. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has a more marginal role with either Ridley or Stacy taking away some early down work. We rate Ivory as a mid to lower tier RB3 with little upside and one who carries some risk due to his increased competition and injury history.
If he were fully healthy, Ridley would rate as the Jets most talented running back. However, he may not even make the team after signing a one-year make it contract after suffering a torn ACL during Week 6 of last season. In order to regain fantasy relevance, Ridley will need to earn a starting role ahead of incumbent starter Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and former St. Louis Ram Zac Stacy. Ridley’s career year came in 2012 when he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in a strong New England Patriots offense. In New York, touchdown opportunities don’t figure to be as plentiful and as a back who struggles as a receiver (just 23 career receptions in four years), Ridley’s upside is as a mid to lower tier RB3. Monitor Ridley’s progress (offseason reports had his availability for the opening of training camp in doubt) and draft accordingly.
In the deep flyer category, we present Zac Stacy. After his “Yikes” Twitter comment when the Rams select Todd Gurley in the 1st round of this year’s NFL Draft, Stacy was traded to the Jets for a 7th round pick where he will compete with Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley for a starting role with Bilal Powell likely handling pass catching duties. After producing 973 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 250 carries in essentially 12 games as a rookie in 2013, Stacy tumbled down the depth chart last season. With the Jets coaching staff not enamored with Ivory’s skill set and Ridley coming off a torn ACL, Stacy could surprise in 2015.
While Powell has produced respectable numbers when called upon, the truth is that the Jets lack of backfield depth is the only reason he was re-signed to a one-year, $2-million contract in the offseason. After career highs in most offensive categories in 2013 when he accumulated 969 total yards, he was a non-factor last season playing behind Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. This season, he is expected to assume a pass catching role in the Jets backfield and we hold out almost no hope that he will emerge as a starter. Powell just doesn’t possess enough upside to warrant a spot on your fantasy roster.
After topping 80 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in seven consecutive seasons, Marshal suffered through a subpar campaign in 2014 as leg and rib injuries, as well as a punctured lung, caused him to miss three games. He finished the season with 61 receptions for 721 yards and eight touchdowns, his worst production since his rookie season in 2006, wearing out his welcome in Chicago along the way. The team’s new management felt it was addition by subtraction in deciding to move Marshall to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick. In Chicago, Marshall won’t have Jay Cutler force-feeding him the ball and it certainly won’t be a surprise if the Jets issues at quarterback lead to another season with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards. In just one season, Marshall moves from being a potential top 10 fantasy wide receiver to no better than a WR3 entering 2015.
Last season, we gave you two predictions on Decker. The first was that he would be the only Jets wide receiver to have any meaningful fantasy value and the second was that his production during his first year in New York would take a deep nose dive compared to his final season in Denver. Two for two. By season’s end, Decker had accumulated respectable production, catching 74 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he wasn’t of much use to them as he produced just 531 yards and four touchdowns during the first 13 weeks of the season (he missed one of those games with an injury). He was lights out to finish the season, catching 25 passes for 431 yards and a touchdown over his final four games. By then, his fantasy owners were looking forward to 2015 or leaving him on their benches. In 2015, Decker will once again suffer through quarterback issues with Geno Smith returning and Ryan Fitzpatrick in reserve. In addition, Brandon Marshall was acquired in a trade and he figures to assume the role of the team’s number one receiver. We like Decker as an upper tier fantasy reserve with some upside.
While it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Jets will curtail Kerley’s usage as a slot receiver in order to get rookie 2nd round pick Devin Smith on the field, we don’t follow that line of thinking. First off, Smith is better suited to line up outside in order to take advantage of his speed and, second, Kerley was signed to a four-year, $16-million contract extension last season that included $5.4-million in guarantees. While we don’t expect that he will ever match his production from the 2012 season when he caught 56 passes for 827 yards, he is a decent slow receiver who should approach 80-90 targets in Chan Gailey’s spread offense. With just seven touchdowns in four seasons and lacking big play ability, Kerley doesn’t hold much fantasy appeal particularly considering the Jets issues at quarterback.
With a pair of big wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to go along with a decent option out of the slot in Jeremy Kerley, the Jets were missing a player to take the top off of a defense and provide some big plays. Hence, the selection of Ohio State product Devin Smith in the 2nd round of this year’s NFL Draft. Smith’s solid speed and big play ability fill an obvious need in the Jets offense but new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s affinity for short and intermediate throws don’t bode well for his target count as a rookie nor does the presence of Marshall and Decker. While we see Smith as a player with the potential to develop into a solid starting wide receiver, he will likely be relegated to a deep threat role as a rookie making him waiver wire material in redraft formats.
Taken in the 2nd round of last year’s draft, Amaro’s experience playing in a fast paced, quick strike offense at Texas Tech didn’t have him arrive ready to contribute in a meaningful way playing in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. However, with Chan Gailey having replaced Mornhingweg as the Jets offensive coordinator, Amaro has the chance to improve on his modest rookie production of 38 receptions, 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For that to happen, he will need to relegate Jeff Cumberland to a pure backup role after splitting the pass receiving role last year (53 targets for Amaro to 47 for Cumberland). However, since Cumberland has proven to be a solid receiving option over the last three years (78 receptions for 1,004 yards and 10 touchdowns) coupled with the presence of a pair of large, red zone target eating wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, we aren’t predicting a breakout season for Amaro in 2015. He is an intriguing TE2 with upside and a decent dynasty prospect.