Fantasy Football: Eric Decker Is a Monster Draft-Day Value

New York's quarterback questions have led to Decker's average draft position dropping significantly. How much does it matter who is under center?

My wife and I saw The Secret Life of Pets this past weekend. Our love of dogs brought us to a theater full of screaming kids on a Saturday afternoon. Before the movie started, a trailer began for a family movie called "Nine Lives". The movie features prominent actors such as Kevin Spacey, Christopher Walker, and Jennifer Garner, but the movie follows a ridiculous premise.

Spacey is turned into a cat because he was not spending enough time with his family and now has one week to reconnect with his family, or he is stuck as a cat forever. The trailer shows a cat with Spacey's voice yelling "Wait a second, I'm a cat!". An accomplished actor like Spacey agreeing to do such a baffling movie is, well, baffling.

It's also baffling that Eric Decker is currently being drafted 30th among wide receivers in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues according to Fantasy Football Calculator. This is beyond maddening for a receiver who has consistently outperformed that draft position.

Year Receptions Receiving Yards Receiving Touchdowns WR PPR Rank
2012 85 1064 13 8th
2013 87 1288 11 9th
2014 74 962 5 26th
2015 80 1027 12 14th

Even in 2011, Decker managed to score eight touchdowns while playing with Tim Tebow.

Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Jets passing attack in 2015 and is still unsigned as of this writing. Geno Smith is currently slated to be the starter, which is scaring the crap out of everyone.

Quarterback Quagmire

Smith has underachieved since being drafted out of West Virginia in the second round of the 2013 draft, but is he really so much worse than Fitzmagic?

In Smith's rookie season in 2013, he struggled badly in the passing game, but his receivers were Jeremy Kerley, an over-the-hill Santonio Holmes, and a soldier named Kellen Winslow Jr. I think Fireman Ed even took a break from annoying thousands of fans to play some snaps at receiver.

It is difficult to grade Smith's only full season of work, but he had the fewest Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) that year, according to our metrics. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 passing attempts, his score of -0.11 per drop back was second worst in the NFL behind only E.J. Manuel.

To put that into perspective, Fitzpatrick played well last season year with the Jets, averaging 0.14 Passing NEP per drop back while playing with Brandon Marshall and Decker.

Smith's numbers are drastically lower in our small sample size of each quarterback. Smith played in one game for the Jets in 2015 and did rather well considering he was rushed into the game because of an injury to Fitzpatrick. Smith threw a costly interception early but made some nice plays, as well, including this under-pressure pass.

A small sample size for sure, but in that game, Smith threw for 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back, showing that he can produce positively in this offense when given the chance.

Of course, Smith starting is not the best-case scenario for the Jets. That would be signing Fitzpatrick. Time will tell how the Jets' quarterback situation plays out, but as our own Brandon Gdula showed in Wednesday's mailbag, Decker makes for a solid value play regardless of who is under center.

Red-Zone Specialist

If Smith winds up being the guy, it'll help him to have a proven red-zone monster in Decker.

According to Pro Football Reference, Decker led the NFL in red-zone targets in 2015 with 28. He also led the NFL in market share of his team's red-zone targets with 44.4%. He was utilized in the red zone so often for good reason as he was able to parlay those 28 targets into 10 touchdowns. In the previous three years, he finished in 28th, 3rd, and 1st in red-zone targets.

It should also be noted that Chris Ivory finished in 6th among all running backs when it came to rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line. He is now on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets signed Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson, but neither has been a big goal-line rushing threat throughout their careers.

Other Options

Players like Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, and Michael Floyd are all going ahead of Decker even though he has a more proven track record and outscored all three of them last season. Allen Hurns is also being drafted ahead of Decker, and he is likely to regress.

According to Pro Football Reference, only Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, and Decker have had three seasons of double-digit receiving touchdowns since 2012.

That is pretty darn impressive.

The upside is there, and that's what you look for in receivers after you get out of the initial top tier of pass-catchers. His touchdown-scoring prowess is a great reason to like his chances, regardless of who the quarterback is this season. Realistically, he has the upside of a top-10 wide receiver and the floor of his current draft position. Please capitalize on this tremendous ADP value before the drafting public realizes it.