Is Eric Decker Jetting Towards Great Value This Year in Fantasy Football?
Sting, Paul McCartney, and Eric Clapton all started in great bands, but went in their own solo directions after them. While they saw success in both places, it was attained at greater measures when they were not on their own.
Just last year, Eric Decker left the prized band he had in Denver with Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas. Immediately, he was labelled as a Peyton product who wouldn't produce under the limelight with Geno Smith as his quarterback. For fantasy owners last year, he provided value, finishing the season averaging WR26 numbers weekly outperforming his WR33 average draft position.
As this year came around, Decker was left for dead once again with the arrival of Brandon Marshall in New York as their top receiver. While Decker came to New York as a solo act, this offseason had all the makings of him creating a new band, Denver-Lite, in New York. Instead of having Peyton throwing him the ball,
Geno Ryan Fitzpatrick would have that role, and rather than the Thomas' surrounding him in the offense, Marshall and Chris Ivory were the other main skill position players in this offense.
Giving Decker a new light version of his original band caused his average draft position to drop to WR43 this offseason, making him a great value pick as part of the improved Jets offense.
While there was an understandable sense of avoidance with Decker this year from the general public, history shows us that this opinion was far from accurate. Decker was at his best when he was in Denver playing along other talented skill position players.
In 2012, Decker posted 85 catches for 1,064 yards with 13 touchdowns, and he followed that up in 2013 with 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Although last year doesn't look up to par for Decker, he only played in 14 games and maintained his pace in both catches and yards with only touchdowns regressing, as he recorded 74 catches for 962 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Although last year's touchdown production appears alarming on the surface, it was more a product of the Jets offense. Decker is one of only 10 receivers to post back-to-back seasons with 10 or more receiving touchdowns between 2007 and 2013. While Decker isn't as highly touted as the wide receivers he lines up next to, he has accomplished the same feat as both Marshall and Thomas. This should not go overlooked, as touchdowns do not happen accidentally, and Decker is a proven touchdown scorer. Currently, he's on pace for 15 touchdowns, and while the pace may slow, his volume should increase.
Digging deeper into Decker's efficiency, it's apparent that his production this year is not a fluke. While the Jets overall Net Expected Points (NEP) total is in the middle of the road at 7.19, their passing offense is near the bottom of the pack at -2.06. Meanwhile, with this quarterback play, Decker has a 0.93 Reception NEP (number of expected points added on catches only) per target, giving him A.J. Green-like levels of efficiency.
Meshing With an All-Star Cast
Marshall, as he has been throughout his career, is maintaining his status as a target hog having received 44 targets in four games as opposed to Decker's 19 targets in three games -- this comes out to 11 targets per game for Marshall compared to 6 per game for Decker. With this high target share, Marshall is producing a Reception NEP of 32.7, far greater than Decker's total, but he's doing so less efficiently than Decker, producing a Reception NEP per target average of 0.74. Even if Decker's NEP per target is to drop somewhat, he has earned an increase in target share with his early season play, and on a per game basis, Marshall certainly shouldn't be nearly doubling him in targets.
Also helping the Jets' offense is their impressive run game. The overall run offense is posting a schedule-adjusted Rushing NEP of 7.21, seventh best in the league, and Ivory is paving the way with the ninth best Rushing NEP in the NFL. He's achieving this in an efficient manner, too, as his per-rush numbers are on par with Jamaal Charles. Having a running back who is producing at a very high quality helps keep the defense honest instead of doubling receivers knowing that a team needs to pass.
Having these skill players working alongside Decker provides a boost to his value, as a complete team makes it impossible for a defense to scheme away all players. Even more beneficial for Decker are all the favorable matchups created from having teammates like this around him, so that he can feast on the second or slot corner on all teams the Jets play.
On the surface, the Jets don't appear to possess the most opportune schedule for their receivers, but this shouldn't count against Decker. The Jets have already played some of their more challenging matchups for wide receivers when they faced off against Cleveland and Indianapolis, but Decker wasn't as affected in these games because Marshall lined up against both top corners, Joe Haden and (sort of) Vontae Davis.
While Marshall encountered the top corners in what made these appear like tough matchups for the whole receiving core, Decker lined up against the weaker second and slot corners on these teams. Against Cleveland, Decker converted 2 of his 3 targets for 37 yards and a touchdown, and he followed that up against Indianapolis, turning 8 of his 11 targets in to 97 yards and a touchdown.
While the Jets may have some tougher opponents, keep in mind that Decker will benefit from lining up away from each of these teams top cornerbacks. He should continue to feast on the teams secondary cornerback options.
Buy Decker while he's still available, since owners may believe he's purely a touchdown-dependent receiver bound to regress. In reality, he's quite the opposite, proving to be an efficient receiver.