Right now, WR Eric Decker is going as the 35th wide receiver in mock drafts (89th overall player). This seems odd for a player who has been a top 10 option at his position for the past two seasons. Of course, this decline in his projected value is due to him leaving the Denver Broncos (mostly Peyton Manning) to be the lead wideout for the New York Jets. But I ask, is his value really that dependent on players around him?
When Decker hit the free agent market, there were plenty of teams looking at him. His stats were quite impressive while at the Mile High City, combining for nearly 400 fantasy points in two seasons, posting over 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs in each season. But that could all be because of his signal-caller, Manning, right?
The Jets’ receiving coach, Sanjay Lal, commented that they weren’t scouting stats when looking at Decker. Like most good coaches, he considered the intangibles and Decker’s natural talent that would then translate into those gaudy stats people flood over in fantasy football.
Of Decker’s greatest assets, Lal stated that Decker shows great separation, beats the press and is a great vertical threat against defensive backs (per ESPN). It’s these traits that Lal and the rest of the franchise are starting to get behind; believing they now have a go-to man
People admit that Decker is an impressive player, but it’s that he’s in the Jets’ system that hasn’t produced a top 20 WR since Laveranues Coles in 2006 that has fantasy owners most worried. He no longer has Manning throwing his way, and Decker is now the chief passing target (not playing second-fiddle to Demaryius Thomas). Whether it will be Geno Smith or Michael Vick as the Jets’ QB is in question also. But Decker has proven effective under said circumstances before.
In 2011, Decker placed 34th among WRs in his second season. It was more so his rookie season, as he saw little playing time in 2010. But he took off running with the quarterback situation that first saw Kyle Orton throw two touchdowns to Decker, and then Tim Tebow added six more to Decker’s total.
What’s most impressive about those stats is that Decker was able to pull off two-touchdown games with each said QB. That shows that he’s able to perform within a system with ease, no matter who’s throwing him the ball. But in the case of his time with Tebow, Decker caught half of Tebow’s touchdowns. To me, that says Decker’s a player who a quarterback will actively target.
In the past three seasons, Decker has been targeted exactly 20 percent of the time among the Broncos’ targets. Meaning he’s consistent within the system, and not entirely hooked into a QB’s tendencies. That being said, the Jets’ top receiver usually sees about 20 percent of targets as well. But when they had the likes of Coles as a top 20 WR, the target rate was more near 30 percent.
So, Decker should be able to haul in about 80 receptions this season (making three consecutive seasons at that mark). But Coach Lal expects he’ll be even more efficient with his looks, as the Jets’ system calls for more deep passes that Decker has shown to be a weapon at.
I’d expect Decker to haul in about 1,000 yards with double digit TDs once again this season. That means — at a minimum — he’d hover around the top 15 fantasy wide receiver options this season. But he could certainly work his way into the top 10 once again, once his chemistry with the team begins to come into mold a little more.