Torrey Smith had an impressive but under-the-radar rookie season. One way we can see this is by looking at his production per target.
I'm never really sure how to use target data. It's easy to average a high number of fantasy points per target when you're not one of the team's main options, like Green Bay's James Jones. Targets themselves are indicators of quality, so low target numbers could be a red flag even if in conjunction with good production per target. So while I struggle with the correct application of target data, I still don't ignore it. And perhaps target data is most useful in evaluating younger, unproven players.
Among those less established players who received at least 15% of their team's targets, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Torrey Smith, A.J. Green, and Jeremy Maclin were the Top 5 in fantasy points per target.
A.J. Green and Julio Jones are being drafted as number one fantasy wide receivers. Bryant will likely be a low-end WR1 or high-end WR, and Maclin will likely be selected as a low-end WR2 in most fantasy drafts. But Smith? Despite having roughly the same production per target as those players, currently has an ADP of just WR27. That may signal a fantasy opportunity.
Of course, Smith is probably the least talented of the group: Green and Jones were top-six picks, Maclin was the 19th pick in the his draft, and Bryant was a projected top-15 pick that slipped to 24 due to (so far, as advertised) character issues. Smith was the 58th pick in the draft and the fifth wide receiver selected, behind not just Green and Jones but also Jonathon Baldwin and Titus Young.
Further, Smith isn't in an ideal situation. He doesn't play with an elite quarterback like Jones or Bryant or Maclin. He isn't the clear No. 1 wide receiver on his team, like Green. Put Smith in Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati instead of the young stars currently on those teams, and his fantasy value would certainly be higher.
But again, having Smith behind those other four is not the same as having him far behind those other receivers. Being at WR27 when Green, Jones and Bryant are all in the top 15 seems like a value opportunity for fantasy drafters. Even Maclin (ADP of WR22, pick 49) is being drafted significantly ahead of Smith (ADP of WR27, pick 75).
Let's put this in perspective: Smith was a rookie last season and ranked as the 23rd-best fantasy receiver. There were four main targets in the Baltimore offense: Anquan Boldin (106 targets), Ray Rice (104), Smith (95) and Ed Dickson (89). Dennis Pitta (56) was not a big part of the offense but did catch 40 passes in limited action. But Rice, Boldin, Dickson, and Pitta all fill largely the same role: Smith is the lone deep threat on the Ravens offense. Rice will likely continue to get his 70 receptions, and Dickson and Pitta will pick up the slack as Boldin ages. But Smith's floor is close to what he did as a rookie: he's going to be the starting receiver and lone deep threat on the Ravens.
With a player like Smith, there's always the chance that he breaks out and turns into something more than Donte Stallworth. He's got explosive big play ability, an attribute the Ravens have been seeking for over a decade. Worst case scenario, he's a middling WR3, which is roughly what he's being drafted as. But I think he's got the upside to finish as a top-12 fantasy receiver. If the Ravens throw more passes or Rice or Boldin miss time or Flacco finally turns into a better quarterback, Smith will have a very enviable situation for fantasy production.
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