STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Is the Rex Ryan Era half full or half empty? Is Geno Smith the answer at quarterback or just a guy blocking the way to progress? Are we ever going to move past rhetorical questions? Welcome to another wild season of New York Jets football.
Ryan's Jets haven't seen the playoffs (or a winning record) since 2010. Last year's group went 8-8, hampered by a spotty offense (25th in yards, 29th in points). Ryan probably needs to lead his squad to a postseason appearance this coming January in order to keep his job.
The Jets have added a bunch of recognizable names to the offense but did they add them too late in the game? Chris Johnson's last Pro Bowl trip came in 2010 and he was all but booed out of Tennessee. Michael Vick turns 34 in late June and has one 16-game season on his resume. Age isn't a problem for Eric Decker; he's 27 and in his fifth NFL season. Though he clearly tops a Jets' wideout corps that also includes returnees Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson, how good will he look without Peyton Manning throwing him the football?
There won't be a lot of Gang Green names targeted in the early part of August fantasy drafts. New York only has two or three players that make sense on anyone's Top 150. But they deserve a full audit, like most teams. The team's yards and touchdowns count like anyone else's. And maybe something special will happen if Vick eventually takes over for Smith, given how well he previously clicked with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg while the two worked together in Philadelphia.
We're hoping to see more aggressiveness with the offense, not that we get a chance to call the plays. The Jets ranked fifth and sixth in rushing attempts the last two years, despite the rare luxury of a fourth-quarter lead. Too many times this team has played not to lose rather than playing to win. If we don't see a different approach this year, Ryan will be working on his resume around the New Year.
While Ryan is known as a defensive master, the Jets have struggled to keep teams off the scoreboard in recent years. Last year they were 11th in yards allowed but 19th in points allowed; two years back they were eighth in yards, 20th in points; and three years ago, it was fifth in yards, 20th in points. Turnover problems on offense have been part of the problem, but the Jets also need to play better defense in the scoring areas. We can't sign off on the Jets as an elite fantasy defense, either they ranked 22nd and 23rd in interceptions the last two years and they were a mere 13th in sacks last season. For all the talk of Ryan's creative blitzes and defensive mayhem, this unit is more about bending-not-breaking than it is about big plays.
Michael Vick - QB, Eagles
Mobile quarterbacks still pay the fantasy bills, but he'll have Geno Smith to contend with.
Eric Decker - WR, Broncos
He was a spiking stalwart in Denver, but we're 1,800 miles from Peyton Manning.
Chris Johnson - RB, Titans
He was slow to hit the hole the last couple of years, and home runs came less often.
Calvin Pryor - S, Louisville (Round 1, 18th Overall)
Hits first, asks questions later. He'll be given a chance to start immediately.
Jace Amaro - TE, Texas Tech (Round 2, 49th Overall)
The third tight end selected in May's draft will need to adjust to the pro game but was extremely productive in his final collegiate season.
Jalen Saunders/Shaquelle Evans - WR, Oklahoma/UCLA (Round 4, 104th and 115th Overall)
The Jets doubled down in the fourth round to add youth and depth at wideout.
Santonio Holmes - WR, FA
The Jets were patient with him, to a fault. It's telling no one has signed him yet.
Antonio Cromartie - CB, Cardinals
He was more name than game in 2013, and the Jets wanted to trim some cap room.
WHO'S THE QUARTERBACK?
The Jets can't seem to make up their mind on Geno Smith. He was solid during the first half of his rookie year (71.6 rating, 7.4 YPA) but his play fell apart in the second half (59.6 rating, 6.1 YPA). Defenses forced Smith into a bunch of mistakes 21 picks, four fumbles and his confidence appeared totally shot at the end of the year. Mind you, Smith wasn't a lost cause as a fantasy quarterback. He offered 366 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground, making him a Top 20 option in a lot of formats. The rushing production came more from willingness to take it on (and at times, inexperience) than raw speed, but they don't ask "how?" They ask "how many?" The Jets would like Smith to play well enough this summer to win the No. 1 spot, but they wouldn't have added Michael Vick if they considered Smith a sure thing. Vick is comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense and he didn't lose his job last year so much as Nick Foles simply took it away.
WHAT DOES CHRIS JOHNSON HAVE LEFT?
You draft Johnson for the home runs, but last year's return was a bunch of singles and strikeouts. The 3.9 yards per carry simply won't get it done, and he didn't have a single tote over 40 yards. The Titans did look his way a little more often through the air (42 catches, 345 yards), and Johnson bailed out his season with four receiving touchdowns. Are those numbers attainable again, though? Johnson had just four touchdown catches in his first five seasons. Chris Ivory (4.6 yards per carry) and Bilal Powell (36 catches) were a capable if unspectacular duo last year but neither has Johnson's (theoretical) breakaway gear. Unless Johnson gets hurt or falls all over himself, he's the starter here. Johnson wasn't working at spring OTAs, for what it's worth, as he's coming off a knee procedure. But he's just 28 and the Titans didn't run him into the ground. We're curious to see if he can show any burst in August.
CAN ERIC DECKER BE A STAR WITH THESE QUARTERBACKS?
Obviously Decker is going to miss Peyton Manning because clearly there's no superstar QB waiting for him in New York. But don't immediately dismiss what Decker might be capable of in his new environment. Decker is sure to lead the Jets in targets, given the ordinary talent around him, and he's found a way to produce with lesser options before. Remember the eight touchdowns back in 2011? Tim Tebow was Denver's primary quarterback that year.
Rising: Jace Amaro is a productive pass-catching tight end, who should at first complement, then eventually overtake, incumbent Jeff Cumberland.
Declining: It's better to be a year early than a year late with declining assets. With Chris Johnson, the Titans realized this, the Jets, maybe not.
Sleeper: Michael Vick has experience in OC Marty Mornhinweg's system and it's hard for us to see Geno Smith running away with the job.
Supersleeper: Jeremy Kerley runs terrific routes and catches everything thrown to him. You could do worse for the last player on your PPR roster.
Muhammad Wilkerson - DE
Turned into a sack-master last year and he's playing for his next contract. A legitimate star.
David Harris - LB
He's been overrated for years but he still fills the tackle column nicely.
Dimitri Patterson - CB
Grabbed four picks and one sack in just six games for Miami last year.
RotoWire Rank: 10