Eric Decker to the New York Jets: Just Crazy Enough to Work?

To the relief of New York Jets fans, the team signed wide receiver Eric Decker after the first two days of free agency passed with barely a whisper from Florham Park.

As reported by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Decker and the team signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract with $15 million in guaranteed money.

It’s incredibly hard to get a firm grasp of what to expect from Decker for many reasons.

First, Geno Smith is an unproven quarterback who struggled much of the season, though he improved as the season went on. Any quarterback is a step down from a future Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning, but even though Smith could prove to be a very good starter, this is more akin to a stumble down a flight of stairs than a step down.

Can Decker produce? Well, while we can focus on the back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with Manning heaving the ball, we should also remember he caught eight touchdowns and had over 600 yards with Tim Tebow throwing him the ball.

So while he will definitely see a dip in production, it might not be as horrible as many think.

We also should consider that New York is not likely to be done yet. The Jets are very likely to add another free-agent receiver, which will further change his production and potentially his role. Ditto for any addition of a rookie in the upcoming draft.

So let’s talk about what we do know about him and what he can do.

Decker lacks elite speed but is a tough receiver who can come down with contested balls by outmuscling defenders. That makes him a solid red-zone target—something the Jets have lacked for several years.

With Jeremy Kerley mostly in the slot (though with all the injuries, he has shown he can do more), Decker is probably destined more for a role as the “split end” or “X” receiver—a guy normally farthest from the center on his side of the field and often on the opposite side of the field from the tight end.

That means while he will occasionally be asked to go vertical, he’s going to have to get off the jam at the line and could be asked to do some shorter routes as well.

Pro Football Focus tweeted out two charts from some of the material it provides for teams which is worth looking at.

First, it tweeted out a route breakdown for Decker. The chart shows that, out of 87 catches (and 135 targets), Decker was thrown at most on “Go” routes, followed by “Out” routes.

Next, we have Geno Smith’s numbers by route. While Smith threw the ball most on “Hitch” routes, he spread the ball pretty evenly among multiple routes.

He threw specifically to the “Out” route 39 times, completing 20 of those throws or 51.3 percent of them. The completed passes accounted for 278 yards and two touchdowns but also three interceptions.

Smith threw even more often to the receiver on a “Go” route—41 times, his second-highest total after the “Hitch” route. Unfortunately he only completed just 36.6 percent, though he totaled 418 yards (101 after the catch) and six touchdowns. He also threw six interceptions on those plays.

What does this all mean aside from Pro Football Focus teasing us with stats it won’t normally release?

Well, it means Smith and Decker could hook up for quite a few passes, as routes that Decker runs well, Smith tended to throw to.

Again, depending on who else gets pulled into this offense, Decker could see an awful lot of work come his way.

I could absolutely see him grabbing 60-70 balls, totaling somewhere between 700-800 yards and seven or eight touchdowns.

It’s a guess, though, until we see more of the offense come together.

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Fantasy Football Week 8: Early Advice for Your Roster (B/R)

Hey, we’re going to be gearing this thing back up again (we meaning me) and I’ll have a few announcements later but for now, just know that I’ll keep posting my stuff here as well as new material directly for this site.

This morning I posted one of my weekly columns for Bleacher Report, a fantasy football piece on matchups to take advantage of as well as playersa you want to dump or grab while you can.

 

Here’s a sample – as always you can read the whole thing here.

 

We’re about to hit a very difficult two-week stretch for fantasy owners, as we lose six teams worth of players in both Week 8 and Week 9.

Here is a list of the players you could be losing this week. Each position has at least one stud in it, and all of them also have multiple fantasy relevant players who could have been anything from a No. 2 receiver to a flex-spot tight end.

QB: Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Luke McCown, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum

RB: Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson, Donald Brown, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Arian Foster, Ben Tate

WR: Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Torrey Smith, Marion Brown, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins

TE: Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Antonio Gates, Ed Dickson, Garrett Graham

 

Week 4

Green Bay , Carolina

Week 5

Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington

Week 6

Atlanta, Miami

Week 7

Oakland, New Orleans

Week 8

Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Houston

Week 9

Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, Arizona, San Francisco, Jacksonville

Week 10

Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, New York Jets

Week 11

Dallas, St. Louis

Week 12

Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

Fantasy Football 2013: Buying or Selling Value of Top Preseason Stars (B/R)

This past week we took a look at who really is going to be as good as they looked in the preseason and who might not be.

There’s little more precarious than trying to figure out what preseason really means in terms of fantasy football value, so as always, I am happy to help.

Here’s a sample as always:

BUY: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans

Hopkins looks like the solution to Houston’s longstanding quest to find a receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Johnson attracts the lion’s share of the secondary attention, but so far nobody has been able to regularly take advantage of that.

But that’s where the former Clemson University wide receiver comes in.

While he has missed most of the preseason due to a concussion, and according to CBS Houston, still isn’t through the NFL‘s concussion protocols, Hopkins should be ready to go Week 1.

What we saw in the small preseason sample was impressive, though. Hopkins caught a total of six balls for 74 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown—which came in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings—was a good example of what the wide receiver is capable of. In single coverage against cornerback Bobby Felder—who admittedly is a depth guy and may not be on the roster come Week 1—Hopkins ran a simple go route towards the end zone.

Felder stayed with him, but as the pass from T.J. Yates came in—a high, lofting ball—Hopkins leapt up, caught it at the high point of his jump and came down. Felder got his hand on the ball a bit but was turned around, and Hopkins held on as they fell to the turf in the end zone.

On the broadcast, announcer Spencer Tillman relayed a story about when he asked Houston wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey if Hopkins could catch in traffic. They said Kirksey simply told them, “There’s nothing he [Hopkins] can’t do.”

Hopkins can take advantage of the space created by his size and frame, while his speed can create separation.

That won’t change in the regular season.

As always you can read the whole thing at Bleacher Report.

Fantasy Football 2013: What Did We Learn from Saturday’s Preseason Week 3 Games? (B/R)

I haven’t been too good about updating lately – I’m going to start scheduling myself a couple minutes post article to add the stuff I write here.

Today’s piece is about what we learned from Saturday night’s action from a fantasy football standpoint.

Here’s a sample – as always, you can read the whole thing at Bleacher Report.

Michael Vick is a guy who frustrates the heck out of most fantasy GMs.

At 33 he’s still one of the most athletically gifted players in the league. He’s also always hurt, so you never have him for a full season, nor see his full potential. Last year he turned the ball over all the time.

We saw it all on display again Saturday night. The good, bad and ugly.

The Good was his 15 for 23 effort resulting in 184 yards and a touchdown. The Good was his ability to take advantage of head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense to keep the defense off-balance, especially at the start of the second half.

The Bad were the moments he held the ball way too long, didn’t set his feet and made poor decisions to throw balls he never should have.

The Ugly was partially about Vick and partially about the team. For Vick it was his fumble and interception. After a season where he fumbled the ball 11 times and threw 10 interceptions, he can’t afford to make many mistakes.

On the interception, Vick threw a ball under pressure off of his back foot. It needed to be tossed out of bounds or totally clear from any player, but instead it floated right to Dwayne Gratz for a turnover.

Vick did that more than once, throwing the ball away poorly.

The offensive line was also part of The Ugly, allowing two sacks and seven quarterback hits in just two quarters. If you want to know why Vick is often hurt, that line is part of the reason.

With Michael Vick you get some fantastic fantasy numbers for part of a season. You also get a lot of turnovers and several missed games as well as a lot of unfulfilled promise.

Thanks for reading.

 

Top Fantasy Football Team Defenses for 2013 (Bleacher Report Video)

Again, really wish I could embed these.

Here is my gorgeous face talking about the top fantasy defenses in the NFL this year. Also, there is an accompanying piece about why the Denver Broncos missed the cut.

Enjoy!

Manziel’s Twitter Issues Highlight Challenges Facing Today’s Student-Athletes (Bleacher Report)

If you haven’t looked up Wright Thompson’s piece on Johnny Manziel at ESPN.com, do it.

I was moved to ponder how the new age of social media is challenging athletes about how they conduct themselves as well as what colleges (and major league teams) need to help them navigate it.

You can see the whole piece here, but here is a snippet:

By now, everyone has probably read Wright Thompson’s excellent piece on Johnny Manziel over at ESPN.

If you haven’t, take a few minutes and do so, because it’s fascinating.

For extra credit, read the comments, which are almost as fascinating as the article itself.

Since the article hit, there has been a wide range of reaction (perfectly represented by the comments on the article, by the way) about what the article means and who Johnny Football is.

The turmoil around Manziel highlights how athletes today are faced with challenges that athletes 10 or even five years ago weren’t confronted with.

Social media, especially Twitter, is a benefit and a curse.

Once upon a time, if you were a football player at Michigan and wanted to go to a party at Michigan State, you might get away with it.

Maybe someone would make a call to a local radio show and say something or perhaps the trip might end up in your student newspaper.

As long as you stayed out of trouble, though, you were probably fine.

Now, with Twitter, Facebook, Vine, YouTube, Tumblr and numerous other social media sites, you cannot burp without someone posting about it.

The most fascinating thing about articles like mine or Thompson’s is the venom regarding Manziel and his actions. It’s not that he’s acting out, mind you—it’s that his family has money.

That might say more about us than him.