I concluded Part 1 by discussing the following split:
It makes sense that Geno Smith would be more efficient in games when the completely ineffective Stephen Hill was not playing. Four or five targets per game to a wide receiver who is only averaging 3.31 adjusted yards per target is a huge difference. Out of the split, Smith played Oakland, Carolina, Cleveland, and Miami. Oakland’s terrible defense aside, that was a pretty tough group of defenses.
There is actually a more interesting version of that split. I mentioned that they happened to pull Hill out of the lineup for the last four games of the season. That was not the only major change they made:
In the last month of the season, the Jets encouraged Geno Smith to run more. The results are clearly promising. I don’t think Geno will quite reach 772 yards rushing in 2014, but 500 seems attainable, which would be a huge boost to his fantasy prospects. This also explains some of the Jets’ offseason moves. Paying Michael Vick $5 million per year to be a backup seemed confusing, but once you consider that they want QBs who can run and his past experience with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, it starts to make a lot more sense. Similarly, they added noted running QB Tajh Boyd in the draft. The Jets seem committed to QB rushing in 2014.
Does Geno offer the same running upside as his teammates though? The Douche examined his running prospects last year, and found that he has a lot of potential as a running QB. Geno ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds, had a vertical jump of 33.5 inches, and a broad jump of 124 inches at the combine. Athletically, he definitely has what it takes. He never rushed much in college or during the first 12 weeks of the 2013 NFL season, so people assumed it was something he just could not do. LaDainian Tomlinson never had more than 16 receptions in a single season in college either. It’s important to remember that there is a key difference between a player being unable to do something, and simply not having demonstrated that they can.
Let’s look at Geno’s prospects using the QB Similarity Score App by focusing on the last four weeks of the season. The app says his high-end projection in leagues where touchdowns are worth 4 points is 18.2 points per game. Interestingly, that’s actually worse than he did in the sample, so it may be an overly conservative estimate. The app used a multiplier of 1.22,1 which suggests that it’s really not quite sure what to make of Geno. Let’s look at his similarity plot:
The plot doesn’t look particularly optimistic, but there’s a few guys on there who essentially did not play the next year. I am not particularly concerned with the shape of the plot since the app’s multiplier suggests the comps are not all that close. I just wanted to draw your attention to the names on it: Michael Vick himself shows up five times, Kordell “Slash” Stewart and Donovan McNabb each appear twice, and young runners Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III each appear once. Even with the less appealing comps, this is basically a list of QBs who have been far more relevant in fantasy because of their rushing ability.
The main concern with Geno is that QBs who start their career as poorly as Geno tend to not get better. There are a few examples of those who do, however, including Alex Smith (who I have already compared to Geno), Drew Brees, and Eli Manning. I think Alex is the most interesting comparison. He dealt with injuries, changes at head coach and offensive coordinator, a lack of quality receivers, and uncertainty about his job early in his career. Basically, San Francisco did everything they could to derail his career. Compare that with Geno’s rookie season: He had absolutely no weapons, a declining offensive line, and he was not even supposed to start in 2013. I think there is a real chance the Jets were not planning on starting him because they knew just how bad his situation would be. After all, they already knew Mark Sanchez was terrible and Geno reportedly outplayed him all offseason. Compare that with this offseason where Geno seems to be handily defeating Vick, a far more talented QB than Sanchez, in the battle for the starting job. Geno seems to be the center of a calculated offensive rebuild.
Here is a recap of why I am so bullish on Geno Smith:
- Geno Smith was a rare talent as a college QB.
- Over the last four weeks of the 2013 season, Geno’s fantasy point per game output would have made him QB9 for the year.
- Geno Smith is essentially free, at a price around QB29.
- Geno Smith’s median projection is that of a high-end QB2, with upside to be a real-deal QB1.
- Those projections, to at least some extent, do not factor in how drastically improved his situation is.
- Those projections also do not fully factor in the change in his rushing, which greatly boosts both his fantasy floor and ceiling.
Admittedly, my arguments do involve some small sample sizes and assumptions about usage. Those are unfortunate realities of fantasy football projection. That being said, if you’re going to rely on those kinds of arguments, you want to do it when the player in question is incredibly cheap, which Geno is. In drafts, he is a flat out bargain no matter how you slice it. If nothing else, you will be able to start him in games the Jets are projected to win. He should be even cheaper to acquire in dynasty, where QBs are less coveted than running backs and WRs. His real life draft position depressed his fantasy draft stock, and his rookie year likely depressed his value even further. Try offering his owner a pick one round later than what they spent on him and see if they accept. You could also try offering a mediocre QB with name value like Joe Flacco or Eli Manning for Geno plus a little extra.
There is a good chance I am going to come out of drafts this year with a combo of Geno and <insert another unappealing QB here>, and people are going to think I am crazy. I am completely OK with that. If they did not think I was crazy, there would be no value to be had. And you cannot spell “2014’s Most Valuable Quarterback” without value.
- The app uses a multiplier to adjust projections for players who have few close comps. 1.22 is huge. (back)