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Player Spotlight: Torrey Smith

A detailed look at Torrey Smith's fantasy prospects for 2013

The Baltimore Ravens are evolving their passing attack, and the leading target this season should be Torrey SmithAnquan Boldin is no longer in the mix, as Ozzie Newsome decided to trade him to San Francisco for a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft back in April.  That left Smith as the clear top receiver for the Ravens entering 2013, which increases the focus and the pressure on the young speedster from Maryland.  Smith will have to battle tougher coverage and may struggle in that fight, as Boldin had a very underrated role in the Baltimore offense.  Boldin may not have elite speed at this point of his career, but he could clear out space and draw coverage and attention from a defense, creating opportunities for both Smith and Jacoby Jones to press defenses deep.  That produced chances for Joe Flacco to throw down the field, something he did often the past two seasons to Smith.

Smith has had big games and small performances throughout his first two seasons as a pro – will he be able to even out his results in his third year?   This is one of the biggest questions regarding Smith, not just this year but possibly for the rest of his career.  Smith’s fantasy numbers are dominated by several metrics that scream “boom or bust” player.  His 15 touchdowns on just 99 receptions start to hint at his big play nature, as does his career 17.1 yards per reception average.  Put those two things together and you start to see how Smith has been used over his short career – going deep and looking to score.  That viewpoint is backed up well when you look at how few games he has had with consistent stats.  In 38 career games (including the postseason), Smith has had six or more catches in a single contest just five times, and he has topped 100 yards in just four games in two years.  Giving him some benefit of the doubt for his first two games as a rookie and barely playing in Week 17 last year, that still translates to just 2-3 strong performances a season.  So what about the flip side of it – how often does Smith have poor showings?  Again, striking out those same three contests, Smith had three or fewer catches in 22 of those 35 games, and 50 or less yards receiving in 19 of 35.  Ouch.  The biggest concern I have, however, is the other frightening trend of how many targets it takes him to make those 50 catches each season – well over 100 both years.  That translates to a catch percentage below 50%, way lower than you would want for a reliable target. 

Is Year 3 a Breakout or a Backbreaker?  The answer to that one would tell you a great deal about Smith’s outlook for 2013.  Some people are predicting a big breakout year for Torrey Smith this season, one in which he will emerge as a true fantasy WR1 and push for Top 10 status.  That would mean he would be increasing his catch percentage in addition to seeing more targets from Joe Flacco – both of which could very well happen.  Others see the glass as half empty – Smith will struggle to get open deep with tougher coverage, repeat his below 50% catch rate and have issues week after week to put up any kind of consistent performances.  From my perspective, I see the truth and likeliest outcome as somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.  More targets this year? Yes.  A better catch percentage?   Maybe, but at the price of a lower yards per reception – and even then, probably nothing close to a 60% range. 

Positives

  • Anquan Boldin is gone (traded to San Francisco), making Torrey Smith the top wide receiver for the Ravens by a wide margin
  • Smith has been a Top 25 wide receiver for fantasy purposes since he entered the league, coming in at #23 overall in non-PPR in both his rookie and second seasons.  His ranking in PPR leagues is slightly lower for both seasons (28th in 2011, 30th in 2012).
  • Joe Flacco is coming off of a red-hot playoff run that carried Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory.  Flacco will need to rely on his deep threat and big target to keep that pass offense rolling
  • Smith enters his third year in the NFL, one shy of the end of his contract expiration (his rookie deal ends in 2014).  If you believe in the “Year 3 Breakout” philosophy for wide receivers, Smith is positioned well for some upside this season

Negatives

  • Anquan Boldin is gone, and this is not a recording.  The loss of Boldin is significant in that he represented a consistent underneath target and a veteran presence on the other side of the field.  Now without a true possession wide receiver to compliment Smith, the Ravens will have to rely on Smith to create space and opportunities on his own against tougher coverage this year
  • Baltimore has two strong running back options in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.  Baltimore could easily move towards a run-heavy, defense first philosophy and throw less this season
  • Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson should see more targets with Boldin’s departure.  It is not a guarantee that Smith will get the majority of the workload that had gone to Boldin
  • Smith enters this season as the top wide receiver for Baltimore, and as a direct result he will face the top coverage and most attention from opposing defenses.  It remains to be seen if Smith can rise to the occasion week after week

FINAL THOUGHTS

Torrey Smith is considered a strong WR2 for 2013, and for good reason.  He is the top receiver for a quarterback that is coming off of one of the hottest playoff performances in the Super Bowl era, and with Anquan Boldin gone the throws from Joe Flacco have to go somewhere.  With a perceived hole in the passing game at the second wideout position in Baltimore, Smith only has to compete with tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson for the majority of the targets.  Flacco will still spread the ball around to his two running backs (Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce), two tight ends and the remaining receivers, but odds are high that Smith will not just see the majority of the looks from Flacco but Smith will also be the top target  overall for the Ravens in 2013.  How that translates to Smith’s fantasy numbers is the great debate – will Smith improve on his subpar, below 50% catch rate, and if so, will the resulting increase in grabs result in a lower yards per reception?  If that is the case, then Smith may see 10-15 more catches but a 10-20% drop in yards per catch, which will both raise Smith’s value in PPR leagues but also temper his performance expectations from a receiving yardage outlook.  I think Smith will improve his catch rate to right around 55% but lower his yards per catch to around 16 or so, but the increase in changes will boost his overall fantasy value.  I like him to be right around 70 catches on about 128-130 targets but only about 15.5 yards per catch, resulting in a 1,000+ yard season.  Smith will still go deep and find the end zone about every other week and push for a solid WR2 fantasy finish.

TORREY SMITH PROJECTIONS

 

RSH

RSHYD

RSHTD

REC

RECYD

RECTD

Jeff Pasquino

0

0

0

70

1085

8

David Dodds

2

11

0

67

1045

7

Bob Henry

2

10

0

54

910

8

Jason Wood

0

0

0

68

1000

5

Maurile Tremblay

0

0

0

63

982

7

 

QUOTATIONS FROM AROUND THE WEB

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Chad Parsons (Footballguys.com) said:

It is difficult to understand why Torrey Smith is not getting more love heading into this season. Anquan Boldin and his 111 targets from 2012 are gone. That leaves Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice as the only other established options in the passing game. In addition to that trio, Jacoby Jones is the only receiver with any real NFL experience under his belt. Jones has been anything but consistent and it is doubtful that changes in any significant way in 2013. Smith enters his third season and will have plenty of opportunities to expand his game to the short and intermediate areas of the field as defensive backs have to respect his deep speed. Smith has the makeup of a receiver poised to take the next step after two seasons that have been more sizzle than substance.

Mark Wimer (Footballguys.com) said:

Smith is expected to become Joe Flacco's go-to guy now that Anquan Boldin hangs his cleats in San Francisco. With two solid tight ends - Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson - along with Ray Rice to menace teams in the short-to-intermediate pass ranges, Smith should pop plenty of long-gainers during 2013. Smith is #12 on my wide receiver board, way above his current ADP of 25th wide receiver selected.

Mr. Irrelevant said:

Boldin was more important to this offense than many people assume, not least in his ability to draw coverage away from Smith.  Unless someone steps up to fill Boldin's shoes as a possession and crossing-route receiver, it could be a long season for the Flacco-Smith connection.

He finished last season around WR23, and is being drafted this season around WR23.  As a guy dependent on the big play, Smith could put up 10 TD (which would make him a borderline WR1), but is equally or more likely to post 4 TD (which is closer to WR3 territory).  As such, he makes an attractive WR3 option if he falls there, but I'm not depending on him as my week-in, week-out WR2.
 
Projection: 59 receptions, 981 yds (16.6 avg), 7 TD

fightingillini said:

I think a lot of people will think Torrey Smith with take a big leap this year with Boldin gone.......but I am not so sure about that.  I can't see him as that volume WR1 type guy......in my opinion, he's better suited as the deep threat that benefits with someone good on the other side.  I see defenses playing the safety over the top a lot this year and force Baltimore to throw short a lot this year.  I mean, besides Rice and Pitta, who else does Baltimore have right now that will scare opposing defenses?  And it's not like Pitta is going to scare anyone either.

But his ADP of WR25 is reasonable.  I would take Smith as my WR3 all day.  I think it shows how deep the WR pool is this year. 

68 rec, 1025 yds, 7 TD


More from Jeff Pasquino:

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Eliminator Pool: Week 7 - October 16
Against The Spread Pool: Week 7 - October 16
For the Win: Week 7 - October 15
Money Talks (Free Agent Bidding Advice): Week 7 - October 14
The Daily Grind - Daily Fantasy Contest News: Week 6 - October 11
Eliminator Pool: Week 6 - October 9
Against The Spread Pool: Week 6 - October 9
For the Win: Week 6 - October 8
Money Talks (Free Agent Bidding Advice): Week 6 - October 7