The depth at quarterback is astonishing this year, and opinion on proper QB draft strategy is highly varied as a result. Late round QB will likely always be in fashion, but recently we’ve seen strong arguments for drafting a top-tier QB in 2014. We’ve also seen arguments for QBs just past the elite inner circle, like Andrew Luck.
I think we may have reached a point where the depth at QB dictates that we should approach the position with a strictly value-based strategy. Basically, as long as we can make correct valuations on QBs, we’ll be fine. Throughout the offseason, I’m going to be examining QBs one-by-one, using the AYA App, the QB Similarity Score App, the Game Splits App, and any other resource I can get my hands on. We’ll identify the QBs you need to target and those to avoid.
Geno Smith: You Don’t Know Him Like I Do
Full disclosure: I’ve been making googly eyes at Geno Smith for over a year now.1 I have a habit of watching all the final-year film I can find of top QB prospects before the draft. When I started watching Geno’s film, I was instantly in love. He struck me as being similar to NFL QBs Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers. If it seems odd to compare those two, really think about it: They’re both hyper-accurate, avoid mistakes, and have the kind of functional mobility that allows them to extend plays and sustain drives by getting rushing yards. That’s the kind of prospect I saw the first time I saw Geno’s face.
My love was only somewhat irrational. Geno finished his 2012 season completing over 71 percent of his passes for over 4,200 yards at 9.2 adjusted yards per attempt, with a 7:1 TD:INT ratio. Geno was a good prospect.
Let’s examine Geno’s current valuation. My Fantasy League currently has Geno as the 29th QB off the board. C.D. Carter created a concept he calls “Equity Scores,” that examines a player’s positional ADP and contrasts it with their projected finish. What’s really cool about it is that he uses the QB Similarity Score App, combined with his own projections, to determine where they might finish. Carter has Geno’s median projection as QB15 and his high-end projection as QB9. A QB who is essentially free is likely to finish as a borderline QB1, and has a chance of finishing in the top 10. That’s insane value. You want to know what else is insane? I think those projections are overly conservative.
Let’s start with the obvious stuff. Geno’s 2013 receivers were historically bad. Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, Stephen Hill, Santonio Holmes, David Nelson–that’s a rough group. The crazy thing? It’s actually worse than it sounds. Not a single one of those receivers played the whole season. Not only did Smith get dealt a terrible hand, the dealer forgot to give him all of his cards.
I recently argued that Eric Decker is a great receiver who will always be undervalued. Of course, after I wrote that article it soon became clear to me that I had actually undervalued Decker myself. Recently, RotoViz debuted a new WR ADP Arbitrage App. Basically, you select a WR and it compares their positional ADP with those of similar players. The app has Decker as WR34, while it has the average ADP of his comps as WR6. It’s safe to say he’ll be a big boost to Geno’s prospects.
The Jets then proceeded to add Jace Amaro, Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, and Quincy Enunwa in the draft. In my 2013 AYA All-Star article, I pointed out that Geno was at his most efficient when targeting tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow, Jr. The Jets may have been wise to add a top-tier TE instead of a lesser WR. Individually, the WRs they drafted aren’t particularly inspiring, but they figure to be a net-positive for the offense.
Let’s shift our focus back to 2013. Kerley was Geno Smith’s most efficient WR last year. I could probably just type that 100 times in a row and it would serve as a convincing argument for why Geno is going to improve dramatically. Using the AYA App I can see that Geno had an AYA of 6.85 when targeting Kerley. Remember how I mentioned that none of Smith’s top2 WRs played a whole season, so things were actually worse than they even seemed? Using the Game Splits App, I’m going to show you one of the craziest splits you’ll ever see. Are you ready? Brace yourself. Here goes:
It’s OK if you’re speechless, because I have plenty to say about it. Whether or not KERLEY(!!!!) played was the difference between Geno being a solid fantasy option and, well, not even being worth a start. I mean, you would have been better off not starting a QB. Much less embarrassing. That’s how bad Geno’s WRs were though. The loss of his only decent WR made him completely ineffective. Cumberland and Holmes also missed a game apiece in this admittedly small sample. The teams he played out of the split were New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Miami. Not great matchups, but I’m more inclined to believe the complete lack of receivers was to blame.
If you thought that split was crazy, you better sit down for this one. If you ever need to explain the concept of “addition by subtraction” to someone, I recommend you just show them the following split. In my AYA Red-Flag article, I mentioned that Geno had an AYA of only 3.31 when targeting Hill, and said they were right to pull him out of the lineup. I had no idea how right I was. I present to you Geno Smith, with and without Stephen Hill in the game:
There’s been a lot of talk from the Jets organization and football writers in general about how much Geno improved in the last month of the season, which was incidentally when they stopped playing Hill. That’s not just lip service. From a fantasy perspective, Geno was a mediocre option when Hill played. Over the last month of the season he was scoring 22.09 points per game in leagues where passings TDs are worth 4 points,3 which would have made him QB9 in fantasy last year–between Philip Rivers and football’s No. 1 crush, the aforementioned Luck. You may recall that QB9 was his high-end projection for next year, and in the last month of 2013 he showed that he can accomplish that exact rank.
Part 2 on Geno Smith’s imminent, inevitable rise coming soon.