We’re not in Denver anymore …
Over the last two seasons as a member of the Denver Broncos, wide receiver Eric Decker has been extremely, extremely productive. During that span, he’s hauled in 24 touchdown passes, ranking as fantasy’s number seven and eight receiver in the process. But that was alongside the great Peyton Manning and the elite Broncos offense, with plenty of weapons to take the attention off Decker. Now he’s in New York, catching passes from Geno Smith. Going from Manning to Geno is like going from a filet mignon to a hamburger.
The reason Decker was so good in Denver was his red zone prowess. Again, 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons is mighty impressive, but he had to get the required looks. He did– and then some. During that span, Decker was targeted in the red zone a whopping 49 times, good for a top-three rank among wide receivers. He’s also seen 26 looks from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. In New York, he won’t at all see those looks. Last year, the Broncos offense averaged 4.3 red zone scoring attempts per game, the most in the NFL. The Jets, meanwhile, were sitting at just 2.6 per game, 26th in the league. New York is also more of a run-oriented offense, ranking fourth in the league in rushing attempts per game last year (30.8). Finally, for the first time in his career, Decker will be facing the opposing team’s number one cornerback each and every week, and he faces a handful of stout corners this year. Decker will face Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore and Brent Grimes twice a year in the AFC East, for instance.
So what does this all mean? Well, I’m not buying Decker as a WR1 in fantasy, and probably not even a WR2. The drop-off will be significant in New York, but I do, however, think he can make for a good value. Decker, a number one wide receiver in an offense, is being drafted as the number 37 wideout, coming off the board in the back end of the 8th round. Decker is going to regress in a big way, but you can’t seriously tell me there are 36 wide receivers better than him for fantasy this season. He will likely see a career high in targets, and while Geno isn’t the best passer in the world, he continues to improve, and finished the season strong last year, averaging almost 19 fantasy points per game during the final five weeks of the season.
Despite all of the negative aspects of Decker’s fantasy value this season, at his current price tag, I guess I’m buying Decker this year. Drafting him as a fourth or third receiver really won’t kill you, and he’s still a very gifted end zone target, as he’s proved throughout his career.
But boy, it sure would be nice to have Peyton Manning again.