Week 13 Rankings & Game Flowbotics
Playoffs?! Are you kidding me? It’s that time again. In some leagues, like the Scott Fish Bowl, playoffs have already started. I just missed the cut in #SFB7, but I probably deserve it after drafting DeMarco Murray over Todd Gurley. Meanwhile, most other fantasy leagues will start playoffs next week, making Week 13 a crucial win-and-in proposition for many teams. To help you break down the matchups and inform your Week 13 rankings, the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet is once again at your service:
Editor’s Note: If you need a primer on the Flowbotics spreadsheet, check out this previous rankings article.
The Week 13 rankings are a quick mouse-scroll or touchscreen-swipe away, but for the space between, let’s do a semi-deep dive on Geno Smith, the newly appointed starting quarterback for the New York Giants.
Eli Manning Post Mortem
I tweeted a little bit about this on Tuesday, but I don’t begrudge the Giants’ decision makers for benching Eli Manning. The NFL is a business, and it’s in the interest of the team to take a more serious look at Geno Smith and Davis Webb over their last few games. The Giants aren’t making the playoffs, and despite a great career, Eli Manning hasn’t played well this season (or last season, either, to be honest). Moving on to backup quarterbacks for self-scouting purposes is a logical move for a 2-9 team.
Taking these last few games off could even been good for Manning if he plans to keep playing past 2017. The Giants’ offensive line is a mess (27th in adjusted sack rate allowed per Football Outsiders), so why not save Eli from five more games of physical punishment? The only reason to continue starting Eli would be to maintain his streak of consecutive games played. Being the professional that he is, Manning understood the ridiculousness of propping up his streak with symbolic starts. He’s a class act and missing five more games with this terrible Giants team won’t impact his legacy.
All Roads Lead to Davis Webb
As the Eli truthers and apologists were coming out of the woodwork yesterday, the other inane narrative being bandied about said that if the Giants were going to bench Manning, they should pass over Geno Smith and go directly to rookie Davis Webb. I understand the justification that Geno “is who he is at this point,” but I don’t agree with it. Our sample of meaningful data on Smith is old and of limited value because he played on bad Jets teams.
Webb is 22, but Smith is still only 27, nine years younger than Manning. Geno wouldn’t be the first failed prospect to turn his career around after a rocky start. Look at what Case Keenum is doing in Minnesota this season, or per Brian Malone on Twitter, look how long it took Alex Smith to become a competent starter. Geno Smith still has time to sort out his career, and the Giants are giving him the opportunity to prove his worth ahead of Davis Webb.
We can expect to see Webb under center at some point, though, because New York needs to evaluate him, same as Geno. But if all roads lead to Webb, the Giants could avoid going through Smith altogether, right? Yes, but it’s not as if Webbchester is some sort of dream destination anyone should hurry to visit. Anthony Amico panned Davis Webb in his Armchair Scouting Report back in March, citing a lack of college production and comparing Webb to Nick Foles. I don’t blame the Giants for detouring via Genopolis on the chance it’s a more scenic route.
A Brief Fantasy Football History of Geno Smith
As already discussed, Smith hasn’t played a sizable sample of games since 2014. We’ll get to his years as the Jets’ starting quarterback, but let’s begin our accounting of Geno’s fantasy career to date with his four most recent regular season appearances between 2015 and present day. He last saw the field in Week 9 of this season, relieving Manning in garbage time and throwing only two passes, both incomplete.
In 2016, Smith saw the field twice with the Jets. In Week 6, he struggled to get anything going against a stingy Arizona defense after Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched. Geno started the next game and got injured in the second quarter, but not before completing four of eight attempts for 95 yards, including a 69-yard score to Quincy Enunwa. Believe it or not, the 8.5 fantasy points Smith scored in his abbreviated start were more than Eli Manning scored in a full game that same week against Jeff Fisher’s Rams.
In Week 8 of 2015, Smith replaced an injured Fitzpatrick against Oakland. The Raiders were up 21-3 in the second quarter, and Geno hit on 27 of 42 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in catch-up mode. He also flashed his rushing ability in the game, carrying the ball twice for 34 yards. The end result was an even 20 fantasy points. Because he never played another game that season, Geno finished the year sixth in points per game (20.00), just behind Drew Brees (20.28) and just ahead of Blake Bortles (19.76). Yes, it was a weird season.
That brings us to the dark years in Geno Smith’s saga. Before we dive into his stats, consider the talent level around him during those seasons. In 2013, Geno started all 16 games, no Jets wideout played in more than 12 games, and these were his leading receivers:
- Jeremy Kerley, WR: 11 games, 72 targets, 43 receptions, 523 yards, 3 touchdowns
- Santonio Holmes, WR: 11 games, 59 targets, 23 receptions, 456 yards, 1 touchdown
- David Nelson, WR: 12 games, 60 targets, 36 receptions, 423 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Jeff Cumberland, TE: 15 games, 40 targets, 26 receptions, 398 yards, 4 touchdowns
- Kellen Winslow Jr., TE: 12 games, 47 targets, 31 receptions, 388 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Stephen Hill, WR: 12 games, 59 targets, 24 receptions, 342 yards, 1 touchdown
In 2014, Michael Vick signed with the Jets, and Geno only played in 14 games (13 starts). New York’s receiver corps was bolstered by Eric Decker, but the team’s depth chart beyond him remained ugly:
- Eric Decker, WR: 15 games, 115 targets, 74 receptions, 962 yards, 5 touchdowns
- Jeremy Kerley, WR: 16 games, 75 targets, 38 receptions, 409 yards, 1 touchdown
- Percy Harvin, WR: 8 games, 52 targets, 29 receptions, 350 yards, 1 touchdown
- Jace Amaro, TE: 14 games, 53 targets, 38 receptions, 345 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Jeff Cumberland, TE: 16 games, 47 targets, 23 receptions, 247 yards, 3 touchdowns
- Greg Salas, WR: 10 games, 23 targets, 8 receptions, 167 yards, 0 touchdowns
To be fair, it’s not as if Geno Smith is entering a significantly better situation here and now with the G-men. Sterling Shepard is their de facto number one wide receiver, but he isn’t a world-beater, and he’s been out of the lineup with migraines. After Shepard, Geno’s pass-catching options are raw and unseasoned. Say what you will about Eli Manning’s arm strength, but his experience reading the field and his understanding of how to best use his weapons is unlikely to be replicated by Smith.
All in all, Geno started 30 games between 2013 and 2014. Here are his accumulated game stats in that span:
And here are the fantasy-centric numbers for those two seasons from Geno’s QB Card:
To put Smith’s past production into perspective, compare his 30-game average of 11.44 points per game to these quarterbacks with at least five games played and under 13 fantasy points per game in 2017:
- Eli Manning (12.63)
- DeShone Kizer (11.31)
- Jay Cutler (11.12)
- Brett Hundley (10.63)
- Mitchell Trubisky (9.56)
- Brian Hoyer (9.12)
- Joe Flacco (8.76)
- Tom Savage (6.33)
All eight of the quarterbacks listed above also own an average weekly finish of QB19 or worse in 2017, similar to Smith’s mark of QB20.6 while starting for the Jets. Based on these sorts of measures alone, the most comparable player right now to 2013-2014 Geno is probably DeShone Kizer. Smith was a rookie in 2013, Kizer is a rookie in 2017, and their fantasy statistics lineup pretty well:
|Player||Years||PPG||Top-10 %||Top-20 %||Avg. Weekly
Going forward, our expectations for Geno Smith should be of a high-risk matchups play in 2QB and Superflex formats. We shouldn’t expect a whole lot more because, as discussed previously, the supporting cast around him is pretty awful right now. Still, imagine the progress DeShone Kizer could make with two to four more years of NFL experience, and that’s essentially the ideal Geno Smith represents. The Giants aren’t crazy for giving that hypothetical a chance in Week 13 against the Raiders, and regardless of any perceived disrespect to Eli Manning, I’m rooting for Geno to prove his haters wrong.
Week 13 Rankings
Geno Smith lands at QB27 in my initial run of ranks. Purely on matchup appeal, he has to be higher than Kizer, Tom Savage, Joe Flacco, Jacoby Brissett, and whoever starts for Miami. Oakland ranks dead last in overall defensive DVOA and pass defense DVOA. Of the quarterbacks to face the Raiders this season, only Flacco has failed to top 14 fantasy points at least once. Trevor Siemian did it in one of two games, but somehow not in the contest he started. The Raiders have been a bankable matchup for passers otherwise, even to middling guys like Josh McCown, Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, and Jay Cutler.
In Week 1, Marcus Mariota had one of his better games against Oakland, thanks in large part to scoring on one of his three rush attempts. Tyrod also scored on the ground against this them. Geno feels like a decent bet to dial up the Konami Code, as well. The Giants don’t have an exceptional stable of running backs, so watch for Smith to call his own number around the goal line.
For the most part, however, quarterbacks have found success against Oakland through the air. That could be a problem for Geno Smith. A healthy Sterling Shepard would certainly help his cause, and Evan Engram has a nice matchup against a secondary allowing the sixth-most yards per pass to tight ends (8.3), but the Giants have collectively dropped the third-most passes this season, and Smith has a 58 percent completion percentage over his career.
Strip away any rooting biases, and Geno’s track record speaks for itself. Even in a choice matchup, he could still be doomed by turnovers, which have often been his unraveling in the past. Until he gives us evidence of improvement, the basement he’s established since his rookie season must drive expectations. If you believe more optimism is justified, I could see ranking Geno ahead of Gabbert, Trubisky, Dalton, Stafford, Siemian, and/or Winston based on potential concerns with their matchups and passing volume. Dig into the ranks below and good luck in Week 13 and beyond.
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