How Will Ryan Fitzpatrick Affect the Jets' Receivers in Fantasy Football?
Now, Smith is expected to miss six to 10 weeks of action, meaning he will likely miss up to five weeks or so of the regular season. To replace Smith, the Jets are turning the offense over to Ryan Fitzpatrick, or as he's more endearingly known, FitzMagic.
Once Smith returns to the lineup, it's unclear where the Jets will go from there. He was the nominal starter before his injury, but once the Jets realize Fitzpatrick is probably the better option (we'll get to this in a second), it's possible Geno will stay on the bench, or play on a very short leash.
Of course, it's also possible Fitzpatrick only plays one game all season. However, there's also a very plausible scenario where he ends up as the team's starter for the majority of the season and plays 10 or more games.
If you're planning on drafting a Jets receiver this fantasy football season, you should be hoping for the latter scenario.
Why FitzMagic Is Better Than Geno
From both a fantasy football and a real life perspective, Ryan Fitzpatrick is superior to Geno Smith.
Since 2011, Fitzpatrick has played in 33 games during which he threw 20 or more passes. In those outings, he has averaged 15.2 fantasy points per game (based on a scoring system that awards 4 points per passing touchdown, 1 point per 25 passing yards, and -2 points per interception).
Meanwhile, Smith has averaged 13.9 fantasy points per game in the 23 games he's thrown 20 or more attempts. Not a huge difference, but considering how fantasy football can sometimes overvalue running quarterbacks, a noticeable one.
Using our metrics, the difference is starker.
In 2014, Fitzpatrick's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, which compares a player's performance to expectation level, of 0.08 was good for 18th among 37 passers with 200 or more drop backs. In 2013, his mark of 0.09 ranked 14th among 39 qualified passers.
Smith, on the other hand, posted a score of 0.01 in 2013. That ranked him 28th among the 37-quarterback group. In his rookie year, his Passing NEP per drop back of -0.14 ranked last among the 39 qualified passers.
The good news for the Geno lovers out there is that he improved dramatically between his rookie year and his second season, leaving room for another jump his third year, though he did just barely land on the positive side of zero thanks to a huge Week 17.
The bad news is that he still looks considerably worse than Fitzpatrick, and unless he jumps up into being one of the best 15-or-so quarterbacks in the league, it is unlikely he deserves to start over Fitzpatrick. Based on their past performance, the safe bet is that Fitzpatrick will help the Jets offense more than Smith. If new Jets head coach Todd Bowles is paying attention, there is good reason to think Fitzpatrick will end up playing the majority of snaps at quarterback even when Smith returns healthy.
Just looking at things from a Fitzpatrick perspective, he's still not exactly draftable in season long or best ball type fantasy leagues. He would be a good target in the MFL 10 format if you knew he was the starter for the whole season, but there's still too much risk he plays less than five games to justify drafting him. That doesn't mean FitzMagic can't have some fantasy relevance this upcoming season.
Looking at the schedule, Week 1 against the Browns, Week 3 against the Eagles, and Week 5 against the Redskins all look like potentially enticing matchups for him to air it out. In those weeks, and if he remains the starter in later weeks against other bad defenses, he will make a solid streaming quarterback for season long players who have punted the quarterback position. Additionally, he could make a great Week 1 quarterback play on FanDuel.
Fitz and the Jets Receivers
It is easy to understand why starting Fitzpatrick instead of Smith should help the Jets receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker along with complementary pieces such as Jace Amaro and Devin Smith. Fitzpatrick will be more efficient throwing his to receivers than Smith would be, so more scoring opportunities should appear for the receivers.
None of these findings are groundbreaking, and you would expect fellow drafters to have at least somewhat raised their opinions on Decker and Marshall since the news. Right? Wrong. According to Fantasy Football Calculator's average draft position (ADP) data, Brandon Marshall had an average ADP of 5.11 on August 11th when the story broke, and his current ADP is ... now 5.12. The story is the same with Decker, who had an ADP of 11.03 on the 11th and has a current ADP of ... still 11.03.
Nothing is different based on ESPN's ADP where neither Decker or Marshall has fluctuated by more than one pick.
To me, this seems like a situation prime for exploitation, particularly if, like me, you already thought one of these receivers (in my case Decker) was a value at his current ADP. The reason this presents a clear opportunity to gain value as a drafter is that whether or not Fitzpatrick remains the starter all year you should be able to have Decker and Marshall outperform their ADP's if Fitzpatrick starts even a few weeks to begin the season.
Fitzpatrick presents a great opportunity to capitalize on a seeming mishap by the drafting community -- not in that he isn't getting drafted but that his targets are still likely undervalued.
It is unclear why Decker and Marshall's ADP have not risen, but it is clear that they should have. Investing draft capital in one of them may not be a league-winning move, but at this point, it looks like the type of strong value play you can turn to in the mid-rounds when looking for wide receiver help.