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Player Spotlight: Geno Smith

A detailed examination of Geno Smith’s fantasy prospects for the 2015 season. 

Geno Smith enters training camp as the projected starter for the New York Jets. While Smith has shown a few flashes over his first two seasons, overall he has been a disappointment as the latest Jets quarterback of the future. Through two seasons, Smith has thrown for 25 touchdowns versus 34 interceptions with an overall completion percentage of 57.5%. On the ground, a solid rookie campaign in 2013 that saw a 5.1 YPC and 6 touchdowns fell to a 4.0 YPC and only 1 touchdown in 2014. The 2015 season is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for the former first-round pick out of West Virginia. New York traded for veteran signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick in March and he will push Smith for reps in camp and the preseason.  

Looking back at 2014, there are two indelible memories of Smith. First, the Week 8 debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills in which he only attempted eight passes – three for interceptions – before being benched. Second, the Week 13 Monday Night Football game vs. the Miami Dolphins when the team attempted only 13 passes while rushing 49 times. Something funny happened following Week 13, after most people stopped paying attention to the Jets for 2014: Smith started to play pretty well. Over the last four games of 2014, Smith completed 65% of his passes while throwing six touchdowns and only two picks.

Part of the problem with Smith thus far can be pinned to the Jets offensive scheme and a lack of talent surrounding him. The Jets addressed both in a big way this offseason, overhauling the coaching staff and adding some key offensive pieces. New head coach Todd Bowles selected Chan Gailey to be his offensive coordinator. Gailey brings a ton of experience to the table and is known for molding mediocre quarterbacks into smarter passers who get rid of the ball quickly. He is expected to run a version of the spread offense similar to the one Smith excelled in at West Virginia. Some of Gailey’s previous reclamation projects have included Fitzpatrick, who parlayed his work with Gailey into a $60 million contract and Tyler Thigpen, who Gailey turned into a serviceable starter while serving as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.

On the personnel front, the Jets have assembled the best collection of talent that Smith has had at his disposal to date. Brandon Marshall, acquired for a fifth-round draft choice in March, instantly upgrades the receiving corps and will form a dynamic duo with Eric Decker. The trade also allows Jeremy Kerley to focus his attention on his natural slot position for three receiver sets, a role he may excel in. Second-round draft choice Devin Smith can stretch the field with his wheels, but questions about his hands will have to be settled before he assumes a large role in the offense. Second year-tight end Jace Amaro could also make a leap as a featured part of Gailey’s spread offense. A crowded backfield of Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley forms a solid if unspectacular RBBC.

Positives

  • Coaching. Chan Gailey has worked with similar reclamation projects and found success. He will adapt the offense to Smith’s strengths as opposed to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
  • Offensive talent. Smith has all the weapons at his disposal necessary to succeed. The uncertainty about Smith has tempered the enthusiasm for the Marshall-Decker combo, which would be regarded as one of the better duos in the league with more stability at quarterback.
  • Solid close to 2014. Closing out the season on a high note has to be a boon to Smith’s confidence. He proved that he can be an accurate quarterback and limit turnovers, even if it was in a limited sample size.

Negatives

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran signal caller will challenge Smith for reps in camp and the preseason. A strong showing by Fitzpatrick could turn into a full blown quarterback controversy.
  • New York. Tough town, the media and fans will show little patience for any signs of regression by Smith. Can he mentally handle the pressure without melting down?
  • Accuracy. Overall, Smith owns a completion percentage of less than 60%. Was the four game stretch of a 65% completion percentage at the close of 2014 simply an aberration?

Final Thoughts

Smith has all of the variables in his favor to finally put it together in 2015. A quarterback friendly coach and a plethora of weapons on offense leave him with few excuses if he falters. The coaching of Gailey should turn Smith into a very serviceable quarterback in 2015, a finish in the top 20 of fantasy quarterbacks is not out of the question.

Projections

YEAR

 

G

CMP

ATT

YD

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FumL

2013

NYJ

16

247

443

3046

12

21

72

366

6

4

2014

NYJ

14

219

367

2525

13

13

59

238

1

3

2015

PROJ-Dodds

14

262

429

2960

20

13

65

260

2

3

2015

PROJ-Henry

15

290

480

3400

20

12

76

345

3

3

2015

PROJ-Wood

9

165

281

1850

13

11

32

160

1

3

2015

PROJ-Tremblay

12

214

356

2266

12

12

25

98

1

1


Thoughts from around the web:

ESPN’s Ron Jaworski

“I think Geno, when I’ve looked at him now for a couple of years in the NFL, I see a quarterback that’s getting better. He’s forgotten the mistakes and I still remember going to Morgantown, West Virginia for his Pro Day and outside of Robert Griffin III – it was one of the best pro days I’ve seen. So he can make every throw, he can do everything it takes to be an NFL quarterback. It’s just about consistency. It’s now Year 3 and believe me we put these guys way before their time out there on the field and we expect a Peyton Manning performance. It doesn’t happen. I see a nice growth every single year in Geno and I like the future of the Jets with Geno Smith at quarterback.”

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal

“We aren't making the case that Geno Smith will be a Pro Bowler. We do believe he has the skills to be a competent starting quarterback who holds off backup Ryan Fitzpatrick all season. He can be the type of guy who finishes in the top 20 of our year-end QB rankings. Those guys have plenty of market value. To put it another way: Geno, like Alex Smith in Kansas City, will no longer be the guy to hold the team back. The Genocoaster in 2015 should more closely resemble a Swiss train, staying efficiently on schedule.”