Spotlight: Steve Smith

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 8th


Jason Wood's thoughts

If I ever run into Steve Smith, I'm going to have to buy him a drink and shake the man's hand. That might surprise people who know what a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan I am, but fair is fair. While I don't want to see Smith's team rack up the wins on Sundays, I owe him a debt of gratitude for his phenomenal breakout season a year ago. Every now and then, you target a specific deep sleeper and it hits. And when that happens, it's magic. Without going back and auditing all of my rosters, I'm pretty sure I drafted him in at least a dozen leagues. He delivered to the tune of 107 receptions (2nd in NFL), 1,220 yards (8th) and 7 TDs on his way to an 11th place fantasy ranking. Smith was an even better value in leagues that reward points-per-reception, which thankfully most of my leagues do.

At 6'0", 195 pounds, Smith doesn't really stand out physically. He was a 2nd rounder out of USC mainly because scouts doubted his speed and explosiveness. Three years into his NFL career, his 10.8 yards per carry average backs that scouting report up. So what makes him special? How is he able to overcome the lack of elite size or speed and become a 100-catch machine? It's all about the skills and polish.

  • He runs laser-crisp precise routes
  • He has great hands
  • He's a beast in the film room
  • He knows how to use leverage to get off the line
  • Eli Manning trusts him

The little things. We sometimes can get overcome with worrying about who is the fastest, who is the strongest, who has the gaudiest contracts. But NFL receivers aren't great because they're fast. They don't succeed simply because they're big. They succeed because they channel every aspect of the game into a cohesive package. Smith personifies that in the same way Hines Ward does. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

2010 = Continued Success, But Not Necessarily Upside
Smith is being drafted 15th at his position this year, after finishing 11th last year. I'm not sure that leaves much wiggle room because the 2010 Giants aren't a carbon copy of the 2009 team. Hakeem Nicks is ready to ascend into the upper echelon at the position, and his talents are simply too compelling to ignore. Nicks should command as much attention from Manning as Smith does, if not more. Nicks has the game-breaking skills that could ultimately turn into Top 5 value someday. He's got that added dimension that Smith probably never will. The Giants also have plenty of other options, including Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden and TE Kevin Boss. This isn't a team that's going to fixate on one player, Eli Manning is too experienced and skilled not to go to the open man.

Positives

  • Smith is a great route runner, and attacks the ball
  • Eli Manning has emerged into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC
  • Smith isn't afraid to go over the middle, and should be involved even if the running game makes a resurgence

Negatives

  • Smith isn't a game breaker, he's not going to make many big plays on his own
  • Hakeem Nicks has the potential to soar past Smith as the Giants top receiver
  • Smith's ADP is now commensurate with his expected value

Final thoughts

Steve Smith seized his opportunity last year and became the Giants most reliable receiver in a year when they really needed it. 2010 is a year for the entire team to try to re-establish themselves as a contender, and Smith will be an important cog in that wheel. Eli Manning may not throw for 4,000 yards again, but don't think that he's going to go back to being a 3,200 yard passer either. This team has been reshaped to where the strength on offense is the receiving corps. I expect Smith will end the year as a Top 20 fantasy receiver, particularly in PPR leagues. I just wonder if he can crack the Top 10 so long as Hakeem Nicks stays healthy.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

A great route runner, one of the best in the league. Eli Manning trusts Steve Smith and knows right where he's going to be, especially on 3rd downs. If you give Eli Manning time, Steve Smith will kill you as you just can't stay with him that long. There is some concern that he's got 2 other young receivers on the team but the Giants should be passing a lot this season and Smith will be fantasy gold in PPR leagues.

fightingillini said:

Steve Smith NYG will be gold again in PPR leagues. He's the most reliable target for Eli, Nicks's emergence will help Smith get more room to operate. Smith's upside will be diminished somewhat with Nicks expecting decent amount of TD receptions. But it does seem that NYG will throw it more often than the past, so that should ensure a solid year for SS. Great #2 WR.

frogpond11 said:

Steve Smith posted 107 - 1,220 - 7 last year on 159 targets(3rd most targeted WR in the league behind Andre and R White).

With pretty much all of the same pieces in place for 2010, I expect much of the same from Steve Smith this year. I think Nicks might emerge as a nice redzone target and get more overall targets than he did last season(75), so I think Smith's targets may go down some, but I think coverages will have to account for Nicks more, so I think that will open things up for Smith to operate in the middle of the field. So I don't expect Smith's number of receptions to drop all that much.


Steve Smith projections

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Jason Wood901005500
Message board consensus931105700