Faceoff: Steve Smith
Jason Wood: Fantasy owners need to thank Steve Smith for poor judgment. Yes, you heard that right. The veteran star of the Panthers receiving corps broke his arm playing flag football in June, and will miss 8 to 10 weeks while recovering. Why is that good news for fantasy owners? Because it's going to knock his ADP down a few rounds and allow you to swoop in and grab a guy who could EASILY put up Top 10 numbers, yet you won't have to take him as anything higher than your WR2. At press time, his ADP had already fallen more than 1.5 rounds since his injury, which tells you how reactionary people can be without understanding the situation at hand. Yes, Smith broke his arm. Big deal. By all accounts it was a clean break and once it's healed, it will be a non factor. It's not something chronic, it's not weight bearing, and it isn't something that will impact his speed, cutting ability, or strength. If he broke his arm a month later? Then it would be cause for worry. But Smith is very likely to be ready for Week One, and that means he's offering great value.
Unless you're new to the sport, I shouldn't need to tell you about Steve Smith's elite abilities. He's fast. He's precise. He's smart. He's aggressive. Save for his diminutive size (5'9", 179 pounds), Smith is the total package. About the only thing that's kept him from being a Top 10 fantasy star in every season has been his supporting cast, or lack thereof. Last year, in particular, the rails came off with QB Jake Delhomme. Luckily Delhomme's performance was so poor late in the year, that the team parted ways and will now turn the reins over to Matt Moore.
Moore may not be a perennial Pro Bowler, but he doesn't have to be all that good to be more effective than Delhomme. Remember that Moore started the last five games of the 2009 season, and in the four games he played alongside Steve Smith, the numbers were startling: 19 receptions, 378 yards, 3 touchdowns. Pro rate those numbers over a full 16 games and you have: 76 receptions for 1,512 yards and 12 TDs. In other words, ELITE fantasy WR1 numbers.
It would be one thing if you had to draft Steve Smith with the expectations he would be a fantasy WR1, but that's no longer necessary. You will be able to take him as your WR2 or even WR3 in some leagues, and that presents astounding opportunity. Draft accordingly.