The New York Jets‘ victory over the Buffalo Bills was anything but pretty (27 penalties for 255 yards and more incompletions than completions), but it left fantasy owners who sat Geno Smith with a bad taste in their mouths. The rookie quarterback hit a few big plays on his way to a strong 345-yard three-score day, ranking him eighth in total fantasy points scored (in standard ESPN leagues) and fourth among all quarterbacks.
He’s the focal point of an offense that is going to give him every opportunity to succeed, so why am I not buying Smith as anything more than a bye week filler in standard leagues and a fringe top-20 quarterback this season?
Let’s start with the Bills game and work our way backwards. Buffalo entered this contest without their top corner (Stephen Gilmore) and their top safety (Jarius Byrd), making them vulnerable to the deep pass. They become more susceptible to being beat down field after the reigning defensive player of the week (Mario Williams) suffered a leg injury and could be spotted limping on the sidelines, significantly slowing their pass rush.
The injuries to the defensive backs was clearly a big factor in the Jets’ Week 3 game plan, as they had an extended week to prepare their offensive attack for this game as a result. The injuries and extra days of preparation paid off as Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill combined for eight catches that totaled 262 yards, with two scoring plays that exceeded 50 yards.
I’m not saying those plays were fluky (they were well-designed plays with precise execution), but it does feel like a perfect storm allowed these big plays to happen.
Whether it is a short four-day week or a long 10-day week, Smith has been far from accurate these past two weeks (48.4 percent completion), a trend that scares me for a New York quarterback. While the schedule is manageable over the next month or so, I expect his fantasy value to decline rapidly after that as teams develop a scouting report and the weather worsens.
After the Jets’ Week 10 bye, five of their final six fantasy relevant games come in what figures to be difficult weather conditions, a major concern for an already erratic passer.
There are two more trends in the early going that worry me long term about Smith’s fantasy value: his lack of a check-down game and his declining numbers with an increased volume of passes. Ignoring the first week, as Holmes was very limited in his first game back from injury, running backs and tight ends have caught 12 passes for 79 yards this season.
That total may not seem too bad, but with a rookie quarterback who has struggled to complete passes, you’d think that the Jets would focus more on short gains and chain moving than anything. The speedy wideouts on the perimeter are nice, but the lack of a safety valve is going to limit Smith’s upside.
Running backs like Giovani Bernard, Ray Rice, Danny Woodhead and Jamaal Charles, and tight ends like Owen Daniels, Martellus Bennet and Heath Miller allow their mid-level quarterbacks to pick up easy fantasy points and extend drives, something the Jets lack.
As for Smith’s trending passing stats, the early numbers indicate that New York would be better served to put a “less is more” game plan into effect. As the game progresses and he throws more passes, Smith’s QB rating, CMP rate and TD/INT ratio have all declined with consistency. A ball control offense where Smith is throwing less would play nicely into the Jets’ defense-first philosophy, but would sap a significant amount of his fantasy upside.
Smith is a raw quarterback who will have his days in the sun like he did against Buffalo on Sunday, but counting on him as anything more than a bye week replacement is a risk I’m simply not willing to take.