WR Steve Smith, Free agent
HT: 5-9, WT: 179, Born: 5-12-1979, College: Utah, Drafted: Round 3
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Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full ADP list]Overall: G Jennings (142), K Stills (143), Steve Smith (144), R Tannehill (145), A Gates (146)
Position: G Jennings (142-WR51), K Stills (143-WR52), Steve Smith (144 - WR53), M Wheaton (152-WR54), J Boykin (153-WR55)
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PPR Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full PPR ADP list]Overall: J Boykin (149), C Ivory (150), Steve Smith (151), K Britt (153)
Position: B Hartline (148-WR55), J Boykin (149-WR56), Steve Smith (151 - WR57), K Britt (153-WR58), M Lee (167-WR59)
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Steve Smith comes over to Baltimore after being released by Carolina. He has had a fantastic career, including a true renaissance that began in 2012 and continued last season. That career revival, however, is likely over – particularly from a production standpoint. Baltimore’s ideal philosophy isn’t that of a team that can support two dynamic wide receivers. This is a run-first team (and will attempt to remain one, even with a new offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak). When the team does pass, it has very viable pass-catchers outside the receiver position, leaving fewer targets for its secondary wideout than most teams.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - The 13-year veteran looked as sprightly and determined as ever against a feisty Seattle secondary. Smith, who led the Panthers in receptions, was moved all over the formation to maximize his effectiveness. Stacked alignments, whereby Smith would be allowed a free release behind another receiver, were particularly effective. There was an emphasis on getting him the football on crossing patterns, especially on third down. Smith and quarterback Cam Newton seemed to find a rhythm, as a patient Newton hit Smith on a beautiful comeback route and a well-placed bullet on a drag route. Smith fell just two yards short of a touchdown as Newton fired a quick out to his diminutive receiver. Smith dodged a would-be tackler and bulled into another, falling inches short. However, he would not be denied and hit pay dirt for Carolina's sole touchdown as Newton fired a laser to Smith on a shallow crossing pattern. The savvy Smith had only to find the soft spot among the Seattle linebackers and, with the play designed to draw a linebacker away on the backside of the formation, it was pitch and catch.
Week 2 - The first play from scrimmage came on a comeback route toward the left sideline to Smith, beating his man back to the football for nine yards. On second and ten from Carolina’s own 40 yard line, the Panthers ran play-action, Smith worked back to the football up the left sideline for nine, in a play that looked very similar to his first catch. Smith ran a fade route with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, which would have resulted in a big gain without CB Leodis McKelvin’s excellent coverage. Smith looked a tad banged up after this play, hitting the ground hard, and proceeding to sit out a few plays. Three consecutive targets to Smith resulted in one catch, and a first down, on third down. He ran ten yards upfield, broke out and sat in a vacant zone for Newton to deliver the football to. It was clear Smith was Newton’s favorite receiver of the first half, as his tenth target came on a thirteen yard gain toward the left sideline. Smith’s first target drew a defensive pass interference penalty, gaining nine yards and a fresh set of downs. Smith was able to beat McKelvin on a ten yard curl up the left sideline, working back to the football and providing Newton with a relatively easy throw. On third and goal from the nine, the pass to Steve Smith on an eight yard out route was incomplete, leading the Panthers to settle for a field goal off the Buffalo fumble. It was once again obvious that Smith was Newton’s go-to receiver, amassing eleven targets on the day. It really felt like more. Smith’s name was called out countless times, yet he only totaled 52 yards. He is still a very good football player, but won’t likely be the number one receiving threat on any championship team this late in his career.
Week 3 - Despite an early 15-yard dig route that was batted down by the Giants defender in coverage on Steve Smith, Cam Newton did not shy away from the Panthers' most targeted receiver. A lively Smith kept the attention of the Giants' defense despite only recording three catches. Newton attempted an end zone fade route to his pint-sized receiver in the first half, but the football was wide of the mark and, despite Smith's best efforts, he was unable to haul it in. Newton will have been kicking himself after missing Smith on a streak down the left sideline; the ball did not have sufficient air under it, but if Newton had placed it better, it would have been a walk-in touchdown. As the game script swung Carolina's way in the second half, the Panthers relied on the ground attack and Smith was not a focus of the game plan. However, the emphasis on getting Smith - who still plays with a massive chip on his shoulder and an unquenchable desire - the ball is a large part of offensive coordinator Mike Shula's game plan despite a quiet week statistically.
Week 5 - Drawing the top class coverage of All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson for the majority of the game, Steve Smith had his hands full. At one point Smith gave up an offensive pass interference penalty as he attempted a subtle push-off on Peterson, but the officials were wise to the veteran's old tricks. Cam Newton targeted Smith early and often, but his first target should have been an opening drive touchdown strike. Smith and LaFell ran a rub concept in the red zone, with Smith getting free on a quick slant. Newton zipped a perfect pass into Smith's midriff, but the receiver, in an uncharacteristic moment of sloppiness, could not hold on. Smith followed that error up with another, as another Newton pass thudded off his hands. The diminutive pass catcher settled into the game slowly but surely, notching a couple of catches in the two-minute drill. For the most part, Smith was stymied by a below average Panthers offensive performance. The Cardinals' front seven hunted in packs, and cut a lot of Carolina's drives short. Two of Cam Newton's three interceptions came on targets for Smith. One was another slant route in the red zone, with Daryl Washington dropping underneath to snag the football. The second was a deep shot down the right sideline that Newton underthrew, allowing Patrick Peterson, who had perfect coverage, to rise high and snag the ball. In an error-strewn performance, Smith was symptomatic of the Panthers' offensive woes.
Week 6 - The feisty receiver may not have made significant waves in the box score, but his early touchdown ń nearly a carbon copy of the one against Arizona last week that he dropped ń set the tone for his quarterback and the entire offense. On 4th-and-1 in the red zone, Smith was motioned across the formation in a four-wide set, creating a three-by-one alignment. Smith, at the base of the three-receiver bunch, ran a shallow cross, with the other receivers "picking" the defensive backs. Smith adjusted well to the football to reel in only his second touchdown of the season. Like the other receivers on the Panthers roster, Smith was the victim of a rather conservative game plan once the team got into a comfortable lead. Regardless, Cam Newton continued to look Smith's way and the two hooked up on a slant pattern late on as Smith laid out for a wonderful catch. Consider this the floor for Smith's production as it appears Newton and the Panthers are establishing the semblance of an offensive rhythm.
Week 7 - In a passionate display, Steve Smith became embroiled in a classic receiver versus defensive back battle with the equally feisty Janoris Jenkins. Tempers flared on occasion, leading to a mass brawl on the field in the third quarter. On the field of play, Smith continued to get open against Jenkins with some nice breaks out of his routes. Smith failed to reel in a pass from Newton on the back shoulder fade early on, but more than made up for it with some grabs in traffic. Smith reached pay dirt, beating Janoris Jenkins, after running a shallow cross in the red zone. Newton held on until the last second and delivered a pass in stride to the diminutive wide out. Smith dodged a poor tackle attempt by Jenkins and waltzed in to the end zone. Earlier, Newton hit Smith between the numbers on a slant route, but despite Smith's best efforts to reach out for the goal line, he fell just a few inches shy. It is evident based on the past few weeks that the Panthers are finding creative ways to get Smith the football, especially in the red zone.
Week 8 - Tampa Bay chose to match Darrelle Revis up with Steve Smith in man-to-man coverage on early downs, leading to some good tussles between the pair. However, on an early third down, Carolina motioned Smith to the slot and Tampa's defense went to a zone look, allowing Newton to connect with Smith on a 21-yard dig route. That completion triggered a change of strategy and Revis was subsequently asked to shadow Smith all over the field. Newton opted not to force the ball into his most dangerous receiver, instead spreading it around smartly. Revis managed to stick in Smith's back pocket and limit him to short gains, usually on quick-hitting passes over the middle.
Week 9 - Steve Smith will have been ruing what could have been in this game. Cam Newton, who didn't look the assured, accurate passer of the past few weeks, let some passes intended for his top target sail. Smith twice got open in the intermediate range of the field on the deep dig, but an antsy Newton was unable to deliver an accurate pass. Smith shone in his limited action, however, starting off strongly with good leg drive on a quick slant to move the chains. Smith did a tremendous job to stay with his quarterback when he was forced to escape to pocket, finding a soft spot to secure a first down. On one of Newton's two interceptions, there was a miscommunication on the route as confirmed by head coach Ron Rivera in his post-game press conference. Smith ran a 9-stop route, while Newton expected a 9-fade. The overthrown pass was intercepted, but it is not clear who made the error. As with the rest of the Carolina receiving corps, Smith continues to suffer due to the Panthers' successful rushing attack and the game scripts that accompany it, but his level of play is high and he would have had a more productive outing in the box score had Newton shown more accuracy.
Week 10 - After being blanked in the first half due to a combination of inaccurate Newton passes and mental errors on Smith's part, the diminutive receiver came to life after the interval. The Panthers' leading pass-catcher on the day, Smith expertly worked from both the slot and outside, using his veteran savvy to get open with subtle push-offs and quickness out of his breaks. His day started off poorly, however, with two uncharacteristic drops on straightforward completions. In the third quarter, on 3rd-and-12, Newton fizzed a ball down the seam to Smith, only for the pass to come loose of his grasp after he initially had it. A determined Smith, undeterred, responded with a nice play as he bailed Newton out on 3rd-and-7, coming back to the football along the sideline as his quarterback was flushed right. Smith came up with a crucial catch in the waning moments as well, keeping the drive alive as the Panthers looked to run out the clock. The veteran made some correctable errors, but was a key figure in the Panthers' victory.
Week 11 - In a typically ill-tempered battle with Aqib Talib, with whom Smith has a history dating back to Talib's days in Tampa Bay, the diminutive receiver seemed to gain an early edge. After an early target for Smith that was almost undercut by Talib, Smith rebounded with a 42-yard catch over Talib, gaining a step on the defensive back with a nice move at the line of scrimmage. Smith followed that up with an arguably more impressive catch, as he reeled in a high Newton pass on a shallow crossing pattern for a key first down. Smith was well covered by a feisty Talib for the majority of the game, but his contribution in drawing coverage underneath and, at times, over the top, helped other receivers find space which they capitalised on.
Week 12 - Feisty weapon Steve Smith led the Panthers' receivers in catches against Miami and looked spry and energetic throughout. Smith announced his intentions early with a beautiful spin move after the catch to gain first down yardage. Smith and Newton hooked up on a nice slant route against a Miami blitz as the game wore on, demonstrating the excellent timing and understanding between the pair. A solid Smith performance continued when he reeled in a 4th-and-10 shot from Newton over the middle, adding a few extra yards due to his outstanding effort on the play. While not targeted deep, Smith excelled once again in the short to intermediate range of the field.
Week 13 - Covered well for the majority of this divisional contest by Darrelle Revis, Steve Smith only came alive when Revis picked up a shoulder and chest injury that forced him out of the game. Cam Newton, smelling blood, went to Smith immediately and the pint-sized playmaker showed his skills on a shallow cross, battling for extra yardage at the tail end of the play. Newton connected with Smith earlier on timing patterns outside the numbers and a drilled quick slant, but this was not a game script that lent itself to a Smith 100+ yard performance, with Carolina controlling matters.
Week 14 - Working mostly as an underneath target in the Panthers' fairly conservative passing offense, Steve Smith showed veteran savvy to find the open spaces in the Saints' zone coverage, and showed good hand-fighting skill to get off press coverage. Smith was targeted on a wide receiver screen pass, but the play was blown up immediately by Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, who saw the danger and reacted fastest. In a game where the Panthers trailed early, Cam Newton tried to get the football to Smith, but in general he was covered well, even as he started to run deeper patterns in the closing stages. The patience of Newton and Smith paid off in the waning moments as Newton, rolling out of the pocket and away from pressure, found a waiting Smith in the end zone. Smith kept himself available to catch the pass by working hard and using a subtle push-off to gain a yard of separation.
Week 15 - It was a relatively quiet game for Steve Smith. Smith caught all three of his passes early in the second quarter. Smith made his biggest play on 3rd-and-3 where he outmuscled Antonio Cromartie off the line of scrimmage secured inside position for an 11-yard gain. Cam Newton had a lot of success throwing to Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen, so Smith basically became a moot point in the game plan.
Week 16 - Prior to his injury in the first quarter, later diagnosed as a sprained PCL, Smith looked at his best when he caught a looping Cam Newton deep pass down the seam for 44 yards. Smith used a nice move off the line of scrimmage to get inside leverage on the cornerback and protected himself as he waited for the ball to fall into his arms. It remains to be seen how long he will be out with his knee ligament sprain, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera calls it 'week to week'.
Week 19 - The return of the prodigal receiver looked to be on track early as a fired-up Steve Smith announced his presence on a six-yard catch in traffic, going low between two defenders. He and Newton seemed to have a rhythm going, as they hooked up soon after on a 28-yard completion that seemed to ignite the Panthers offense. Seemingly unaffected by his knee injury in the first half, Smith got on the receiving end of a beautifully placed Newton pass on a nine route as he lofted it over the trailing cornerback and into Smith's waiting hands. Smith set the route up perfectly, buying himself some space initially to get outside the defender before skirting the sideline and keep the defender at arm's length to look in the football. In the second half the tide turned, with the 49ers much more aggressive, allowing Smith fewer opportunities. The passing game stalled out and Smith became a non-factor, visibly limping on a couple of routes in the fourth quarter. It was a valiant effort by the number one option in the Panthers' passing attack.