Fantasy Football: Steve Smith, The ‘Complementary Dude’

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve found a way to quantify the size and impact of a chip on one’s shoulder, please tweet me @CDCarter13.

It’s glib and a little haughty, I know, but I think people who over-draft Steve Smith, who signed last week with the Baltimore Ravens, will factor in the proverbial chip on his proverbial shoulder in their valuation of the 35-year-old.

It’s a huge mistake, and I look forward to sneaking into leagues in which Smith will be drafted like an unquestioned every-week fantasy starter.

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Even Smith knows his day as a high-end fantasy producer are over, dubbing himself a “complementary dude” in Gary Kubiak‘s offense. Smith said he’ll be happy to take the Kevin Walter role to Torrey Smith‘s Andre Johnson role in Kubiak’s scheme. Did you ever covet Kevin Walter? Did you? No, you didn’t.

For all the intangible benefits Smith will bring to a Ravens locker room that has suffered through some sort of a leadership crisis after the departure of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, he will not be a resurgent — or reliable — fantasy option in 2014.

Smith’s numbers tell the tale. Note that Smith’s 2008 campaign ended thanks to injury after seven games. Hence, the absurd fantasy points per route run (FPPRR).

Player Year Fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) Fantasy points per snap
Steve Smith 2008 .82 .40
Steve Smith 2009 .51 .32
Steve Smith 2012 .41 .25
Steve Smith 2013 .36 .22

 

Smith’s 2013 fantasy points per snap are in line with Doug Baldwin and Jarius Wright, and his FPPRR is comparable to Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem, and former teammate Ted Ginn. Smith’s fantasy football story is not a fun one to tell.

Smith, we should remember, has been trapped in one of the run heaviest offenses that NFL has to offer. The Panthers in 2013 threw the ball just 473 times — only the 49ers and Seahawks compiled fewer passes. Peyton Manning had almost as many completions last season as Cam Newton had attempts.

Even so, Smith’s declining point per snap and FPPRR numbers are clear signs that the wily veteran has never done less with more.

Film watchers and those familiar with Kubiak’s offense say Smith could be adept at running comeback routes and shallow crossing patterns while Dennis Pitta works the middle of the field and Torrey Smith runs deeper routes in a more complex route tree.

I think this bodes well for Pitta and Torrey, who were so easy to take away after Anquan Boldin‘s departure from Baltimore after the 2012 season. Neither Pitta nor Torrey are dominant forces who can rack up yardage no matter the coverage scheme. They can be taken away with defensive focus, and I think Smith’s presence will make that a little less likely this year.

Smith’s current average draft position (ADP) is a little on the jarring side. He’s being drafted as the 72nd wide receiver off of draft boards, after guys like Da’Rick Rogers — who has no clear role in the Colts’ offense — and a spate of rookies including Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin.

Markus Wheaton, a small receiver with no discernible place in the Steelers’ offense (yet), is going a full four rounds ahead of Smith.

I doubt Smith will stay there for very long, but if he does, he’ll be well worth a flier as an occasional matchup play as he avoids top cornerbacks. Just beware the talk of chips on shoulders in the coming months.

C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.