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Spotlight: Torrey Smith

posted by Jeff Pasquino on Jul 16th


Jeff Pasquino's thoughts

Torrey Smith enters his second year with the Baltimore Ravens, but the situation has greatly improved for him since his rookie campaign. First and foremost, Smith is now considered an unquestioned starting wide receiver for the Ravens, a role he did not have just 12 months ago. Lee Evans is long gone and Smith gets to build upon a successful first year in which he posted solid numbers with 50 receptions, 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers landed Smith as a WR3 for fantasy purposes (WR30 in PPR, WR23 in standard scoring leagues) even though he had a slow start to the year, but there are tons of reasons to expect even more from Smith in 2012.

First, many players start to feel the game slow down after their first season, and 2011 was even more challenging for rookies given the extended offseason with minimal OTAs and coaching contact. Now Smith enters his second year as the clear starter, which will only build upon his strong finish last year. Digging into Smith's rookie numbers, it cannot be overlooked that he had seven or more targets in 8 of 10 of the final regular season games with the Ravens. The troubling issue was that he caught only 50 of his 95 targets in the regular season, which can be explained to some degree by how often he was targeted deep, but there are still questions about how sure-handed the young wide receiver is at this early stage of his career.

Smith's hands are not his only downside. While some love the fact that Anquan Boldin is aging quickly, that does not bode well for defenses to not double cover Smith as often as they can. Boldin must continue to pose a threat to the opposition to keep everyone honest, as it will be hard enough for Smith to try and push for the Ravens' top wide receiver role even without facing the top cornerback defenses have to offer week after week. The schedule for Baltimore is also challenging as the Ravens must face Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice along with Cleveland's Joe Haden another two contests. In other words - Smith won't be sneaking up on any defenses this year. Speed is speed, however, and one quick move and Smith can beat anyone and get deep on any given play. His quarterback Joe Flacco has a huge arm and a chip on his shoulder to match as he continues to try and make an Eli Manning-type claim of eliteness to his game. "Flacco to Smith" several times a week can go a long way to proving a strong case for both of them this season.

Other factors that will affect Smith this season (and beyond) are the offensive style of the Ravens, along with how the team in general performs on the other side of the ball. Baltimore has a reputation of running the ball and playing strong defense, with mixing in the passing attack just to keep the opposition honest (unless the game becomes a shootout). That perception might be changing as Joe Flacco has wanted a true deep threat for years to take the top off of defenses, which will open up shorter passes to Boldin, RB Ray Rice and his two tight ends (Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta). Baltimore is aging quickly on defense as both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are nearing the ends of their careers, while Terrell Suggs will be lucky to suit up at all this year after tearing his Achilles in the offseason. Lastly but most important, Ray Rice is a stud running back that Baltimore loves to use early and often each and every week. Pounding the rock between the tackles sounds like a great idea, but more and more teams are learning to pace the workload and save their running backs for better use later in the season and the playoffs - a major goal once again in Baltimore this year.

The true story for Torrey Smith and his 2012 outlook once again goes back to the targets. Projecting seven targets a week (consistent with his average in Weeks 8 to 17, 70 targets and 38 catches) would give Smith 112 targets on the season, and just taking the same catch percentage as his rookie campaign (50 of 95, or 53%) would project Smith at 59 catches in 2012. Bolstering his catch rate seems plausible given his full offseason and work with the Baltimore team and Joe Flacco since the playoff loss to New England last year. While I would not expect the deep-route running Smith to ratchet up his numbers tremendously, a percentage in the 57-60% range seems attainable. That would project him right in the neighborhood of 64-67 receptions. Word has it that Smith has been working on building more routes into his repertoire, which means the "go deep" stretch patterns will not be the only facet of his 2012 season. That likely means a drop in his yards per catch for 2012, but I would not expect a huge downswing. Even moving from 16.8 down to 16.0 would put him above 1,000 yards for the year, which drives me right towards my 65-1,050-7 projection.

Positives

  • Smith enters 2012 as a true starting wide receiver for Baltimore, a change in both outlook and perception of how much he is expected to contribute
  • He will now have the full benefit of a complete offseason prior to his second year in the NFL, a major assistance for him to come up to speed and allow the game to slow down for him
  • Smith averaged seven targets per week in the last 10 regular season weeks, showing both consistency and involvement in the offense as a starter
  • Working with Flacco and the rest of the team, Smith has improved his knowledge of the playbook and the route tree, rather than just "going deep"
  • Other capable receivers for the Ravens (Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice and tight ends Dickson and Pitta) will keep defenses more honest
  • Smith's speed is a major factor, and with one quick burst he can get deep where his big-armed quarterback can reach him for big plays
  • Smith is a relatively cheap wide receiver based on his WR27 ADP

Negatives

  • Smith is a very hit or miss player, with big yards per catch but not many receptions last season
  • His catch rate (50 of 95) reflects both tougher targets (deep balls) and questionable hands at this stage of his career
  • The conservative Baltimore Raven offense (get the ball to Ray Rice, only throw to keep teams honest) limits the upside of Smith in the passing game
  • Although Joe Flacco claims otherwise, most would agree that he is not in the elite tier of fantasy quarterbacks

Final thoughts

Torrey Smith is poised to break out as a starting receiver for the Baltimore Ravens this year. Even though the Ravens have a reputation for conservatism on offense, Joe Flacco has a big chip on his shoulder and is aching to prove that he is deserving of elite status. His big arm has wanted a deep threat wide receiver for years, and now Smith is poised to be that weapon to stretch opposing defenses. Smith has been working all offseason to get his timing down with Flacco, improve his route running and become a more complete receiver with surer hands to make the most of his targets. Smith is a relative value as a receiver available in the WR25-30 range in most fantasy drafts who offers 1,000+ yards and 7-8 touchdown upside for 2012.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

mlball77 said:

Smith burst onto the scene with a huge game in Week 3 last season. He then followed that with a 1 catch for 1 yard performance in Week 4. His stats were a bit eratic from week-to-week, but that is not uncommon for many WRs, particular those that are primarily deep threats like Smith. Overall, he had a very nice rookie campaign, and with Boldin aging there may be more opportunity for receivers to step up in BAL in the near future. I just don't know if Smith is capable of a role where he is asked to be more than the primary deep threat. Only time will tell. -For now, I am projecting him to play largely the same role in 2012 as he did in 2011, but I do think he has a real shot at producing more.

fightingillini said:

Torrey Smith is a good #3WR to have in that he can post big games when he catches a deep TD. Problem is....BAL is a run first team with a good defense, which limits the opportunities he can get. At his current ADP (WR29) I would rather gamble on other WRs drafted around him, like Eric Decker or Reggie Wayne or Antonio Brown or Brandon Lloyd. All these WRs have much more upside either playing with better QBs in passing offenses or in Wayne's case, being the #1 option on a team is likely to have to throw the ball.

Badgers Fan said:

He is obviously much more valuable in non-ppr. It would seem he will be pretty inconsistent from week to week, but is the type of guy you can grab late and he still can propel you to 1 or 2 wins. With the way the Ravens are handling Flacco, he (Flacco) should be very focused on making the money he thinks he deserves, and thus he may have his best season yet. He has a strong arm and Torrey's speed matches well with that. I do think that while he is explosive, Torrey will get much more attention this year, and even be considered the #1 by many opponents. If that happens, he may be in some trouble because, while most of these cornerbacks won't shadow him, he will face: Joe Hayden (twice), Jonathan Joseph, Nnamdi, Brandon Flowers, the steelers defense (twice). He already only had 5 games of 70+ yards last year, and the possibility of facing very tough defenses in nearly half his games is bad for his fantasy outlook. I think at his FFC adp as the #29 wr is pretty reasonable. For 12 teams, that is pretty much a mid-tier wr3. Some people I think will overrate him and rely on him as a wr2, which I think is a bad idea. He's going to throw up a good amount of stinkers. As a wr3/flex play, he is a good guy to have because of his upside. I'm going to be a bit on the downside of his projection, but even with the negative things I said I do think he has the upside to outperform my projections by a decent amount, and finish a wr2 due to the random big games he has (like those two 150+ yard games last year).

FF Ninja said:

Smith is an interesting player this year. He is the 29th WR off the board right now which sounds about right if you expect 800-1000 yards and 4-7 TD. However, he's got quite a bit of upside considering he finished WR23 last year on just 14 starts (with the benefit of two huge games).

I'm not someone who thinks Boldin is done and I expect Boldin to still be Flacco's favorite target, but I think there are room for two WRs on this team. I can't say I'm a huge Flacco fan, but I think he's a good QB who had been stuck in sub-500 pass attempt purgatory. He finally got his chance last year, attempting 53 more passes than the year before but only completing 6 more passes for 12 less yards. Very strange considering the offense didn't change. His 6.7 ypa was the worst of his four year career. Should Baltimore run the same number of passing plays again next year and Flacco regain his 7.4 ypa form, he'll have 4000 yards to share amongst Boldin, Smith, Dickson, and Pitta. With Smith's performance as a rookie without the benefit of an offseason, I like him for 110-120 targets next year.

120 x .55 = 66 rec x 16 ypr = 1056 yds 7 TD

At WR29, I think he presents better value than most around him, but I can't say he's my preferred player in that range. I'd really like to get Lloyd at WR27 and I wouldn't mind waiting to WR36 to see how Rice can do with Flynn. I feel like Meachem at WR32 presents more upside, as well.


Torrey Smith projections

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Jeff Pasquino651050700
Message board consensus62984700