During the NFL draft last year I said that I thought Geno Smith in the 2nd round of the draft was a great value pick. Quarterbacks as accomplished as Geno, who are also regarded as one of the top QBs in their draft class, don’t come with 2nd round costs. The pick might eventually be a bust anyway, but so were the following much higher cost QB draft picks: Christian Ponder, Vince Young, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Jamarcus Russell, Joey Harrington, and Matt Leinart. So if you can shoot for the upside that teams probably thought they were getting when they drafted those QBs, and reduce your cost so as to price in the potential downside, you really can’t go wrong.
Now the Jets have made another value oriented move by signing Eric Decker. On its own I doubt it will be enough to cure what ails the Jets passing game, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. For not that much more money than the Dolphins are paying Brian Hartline, and for a lot less money than the Dolphins are paying Mike Wallace, the Jets will get a player that last year eclipsed the touchdown production of the two Dolphin receivers combined. Oh and Decker did that on about 140 fewer targets. And if you want to look at comparable production with non-Peyton Manning QBs, Decker had 8 TDs in 2011 when catching passes from Tim Tebow. The two Dolphins receivers had 9 combined TDs last year when catching passes from a QB widely believed to be an up and coming player in the league.
It might seem like I’m creating a straw man by comparing Decker to the Dolphins signings from 2013 and maybe I am. But Decker will cost less than return man specialist Percy Harvin, less than Sidney Rice made last year, a little more than scrappy gym rat Danny Amendola costs, and about the same as Stevie Johnson.
I think the problem for the Jets is that despite the fact that they made two value moves, I don’t see a commitment to continuing to build their passing offense. Hopefully I’m wrong about that, but the Jets have been talking about utilizing a run heavy offense in 2014. If that’s the case then instead of Decker being a value signing he might actually be a waste of money. I would rather see the Jets follow through on trying to continue to build out their pass offense by drafting one or two receivers in the draft this year. It’s possible that they eventually get something out of Stephen Hill although at this point they probably can’t bank on that. But my point is that when a team sets a plan in motion by drafting a QB and then adding a receiver in free agency, they have to try to continue to follow through on that plan and see it to its completion. I think what a lot of teams do instead is bail on their original plan and then end up in a really gross middle ground where the pieces they added aren’t actually of any value because they never completed the plan. And the important thing when doing that is realizing that hit rates aren’t going to be 100%.
From a fantasy perspective I think that Decker’s value has been impacted enough that we need to see him slide out of that WR25 area. There are probably some things that could happen to make Decker a value at WR25, although it’s tough to see how we could count on them enough to draft him with confidence at that cost. One is that the Jets defense could get worse. That would force the Jets to throw more to stay in games. The other is that the Jets could actually end up passing a lot despite what they’re currently saying. Again, I’m not sure how we could really count on that since we won’t really know what they’re going to do until it’s too late.