Photo by Greg Cooper

Photo by Greg Cooper

The first four games of Geno Smith’s career have been…interesting. He leads the league in turnovers (tied with Eli Manning) with 11, gets a lot of poor press reviews, and has created his own, new and improved butt fumble. Is he just another Jets’ folly? Another Mark Sanchez? Or, possibly worse, Browning Nagle?

 

Here’s a Smith-Nagle comparison after four starts. Obviously, it’s not a flattering measure for Smith:

BROWNING NAGLE VS. GENO SMITH: FIRST FOUR GAMES

QuarterbackComp/AttPct.TDINTYds.Rating
Nagle69/13850.04487867.8
Smith78/13657.4481,09068.6

 

I’m here to say it’s too early to pass judgment. In fact, in dynasty formats, I think he’s worth acquiring if his current owner is disillusioned by his inconsistency and turnovers. Nothing has happened that should discount his solid pre-draft projections, and he could be better than we think. Here’s why.

The Comps, Please

Let’s be clear right up front: four games is a really small sample size, so we shouldn’t draw any hard and fast conclusions from it. But the sample size can help reframe your thinking about Geno. For example, what if we compared Geno’s first four starts to oh, say Peyton Manning’s.

PlayerYear CmpAttCmp%YdsTDIntY/A
Peyton Manning1998811460.5559923116.8
Geno Smith2013781360.5741090488

To be clear, I do not think Geno Smith is better than Peyton Manning. The point is that, after four starts, condemning him for being similar to Browning Nagle is just as silly as thinking he’ll be Manning-esque.

For fun, I went back to 1983 and found 49 QBs drafted in the 1st or 2nd round who started at least 4 games as a rookie. I compared the first four starts for each of them to Geno Smith. Some findings:

  • Geno’s 8 interceptions ranks only fifth worse. Yes, 4 other rookie QBs had more than 8 interceptions in their first four starts. Who were these horrendous turnover machines? Peyton Manning (11), Matthew Stafford (11), Alex Smith (9), and Tommy Maddox (9).
  • Blane Gabbert, Jimmy Clausen, and Tim Couch had only 2 interceptions in their first four career starts. So “ball security” in the early stages of a QBs career doesn’t seem particularly indicative of anything.
  • Only 2 QBs had more yards through four games: Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.
  • Only 6 QBs had a better YPA through four games: Matt Ryan, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, and Cam Newton. Again, I’m not saying Smith turns out like these guys, but if you wanted to extrapolate his performance negatively by looking at turnovers, why not also do so positively by looking at yardage and YPA?
  • Here’s how Geno’s first four starts rank within this historical cohort.

Comp

Att

Pct

Yards

TD

Int

YPA

10th

13th

15th

3rd

21st

5th

7th

Crème de la Comps

Here are the QBs whose YPA is within a half yard of Geno’s through four starts. The thought exercise here is to challenge yourself: if you’re down on Geno after four starts, you would also have been down on these guys, right? As you can see, you would have been jumping the gun.

Player

Yr

Cmp

Att

Pct

Yds

TD

Int

Y/A

Cam Newton

2011

97

163

59.5

1386

5

5

8.5

Dan Marino

1983

72

115

62.6

983

10

3

8.5

Ben Roethlisberger

2004

66

93

71.0

761

5

2

8.2

Geno Smith

2013

78

136

57.4

1090

4

8

8.0

Jake Plummer

1997

63

113

55.8

863

4

7

7.6

Byron Leftwich

2003

75

133

56.4

981

4

8

7.4

Remember, I’m not saying Geno is going to have a career similar to any of these guys. But I am saying that, based on what he’s done so far, he’s in pretty good historical company.

Recent Comps

Here’s Geno’s first four starts vs. other rookie QBs from 2012 and 2013.

Player

Cmp

Att

Pct

Yds

TD

Int

Y/A

Geno Smith

78

136

57.4

1090

4

8

8.0

EJ Manuel

74

130

56.9

856

5

3

6.6

Robert Griffin III

86

124

69.4

1070

4

1

8.6

Ryan Tannehill

80

143

55.9

1046

2

6

7.3

Andrew Luck

96

177

54.2

1208

7

5

6.8

Brandon Weeden

90

167

53.9

997

3

7

6.0

Russell Wilson(3rd Rd)

60

100

60.0

594

4

4

5.94

I think it’s interesting that only Geno and RG3 crack the 8 YPA threshold. Geno definitely holds his own across the board. So if you liked any of those guys after 4 starts, shouldn’t you also like Geno?

Big Play Geno

A quick look at Smith’s performance relative to other 2013 QBs. Smith has consistently produced more big plays than Mark Sanchez ever did. In fact, his ability to generate big plays is near the top of the league. So far in 2013, Geno has 17 pass plays of more than 20 yards.

Player

Plays

Yards

TDs

YPA

Michael Vick

23

702

4

30.5

Ben Roethlisberger

21

588

2

28

Joe Flacco

18

532

1

29.6

Peyton Manning

17

583

5

34.3

Geno Smith

17

575

3

33.8

Matthew Stafford

16

543

2

33.9

Eli Manning

16

537

3

33.6

Matt Ryan

16

497

2

31.1

Aaron Rodgers

15

461

1

30.7

Philip Rivers

15

450

3

30

That’s right; he’s tied with Peyton Manning, and ahead of Stafford, Ryan, Rodgers, and Rivers. He’s also ahead of every other 2012 and 2013 rookie QB. How about 30 yard plus pass plays? Smith’s 9 lead the league. Situational passing? On third downs, his 9.3 YPA is second best in the NFL amongst passers with more than 10 3rd down attempts. His 4th quarter YPA is 10th best amongst passers with more than 10 4th quarter attempts.

OK, So What?

The point of this article is that Geno IS doing a lot of positive things already. Will they translate to long term career success? I don’t know. But the spate of negativity surrounding his performance might create an opportunity to acquire him at a bargain price. There was a lot to like about him pre-draft, and his performance so far shouldn’t discourage you. For this season, he’s a questionable, but possible occasional start (two fantasy useful games, two duds) himself, and he’s not killing the value of his teammates: Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes are both top 35 in PPR formats. Long term, there’s a lot to like. In keeper formats, if you can pick him up, or pry him away cheaply from his current owner, I’d do it. If he pans out, you bought him near his lowest point. If not, you didn’t lose much.

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