Is it a myth? Do you believe in it, or is it an overrated coincidence?
What am I talking about? Why am I asking so many questions? Okay, okay. I’m talking about the hype surrounding third-year wide receivers. Many tend to find that a ton of wideouts take the biggest statistical leaps during their third season in the league. In the past, we have seen guys back this theory up, such as Dez Bryant last year, but we have also seen this fail, like promising talent Brandon LaFell. Quite frankly, I don’t really believe in the third-year receiver hype because every single player, in one way or another, is different. However, I wanted to introduce this theory before I highlight an intriguing third-year wideout from Baltimore.
The braids are gone, and Torrey Smith is ready to be “the guy” in Baltimore. Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin is no longer with the team, and without a proven number two receiver, Smith is expected by many to take a huge jump forward in his third season. During his first two seasons, Smith has been productive, catching 99 balls for 15 scores. However, it’s been his up-and-down nature that has driven fantasy owners mad. In 2012, Smith posted eight games with just two catches or less, and he only caught 49 balls on the entire season. Of course, with Boldin no longer being a major target in the middle of the field, Smith should get more looks, which will result in more catches (duh). Personally, I haven’t been a fan of owning Smith because I’m not someone who likes to own players who are dependent on one thing. For instance, if Smith didn’t make that big play with his 4.4 speed, he likely didn’t make fantasy owners too happy. I think Smith is more than just a deep threat guy, but the more polished route-runners tend to catch the ball more. If Smith is to make that leap in 2013, he needs to add different dimensions to his game. Whether it’s going over the middle more (36 of 479 routes operated out of slot in 2012) or whatever, Smith can’t expect to just run down the field and use his speed because due to the lack of receiving depth, opposing defenses will be targeting Smith often. Teammate Ray Rice believes that Smith has all the tools to be a true number one receiver.
“I’ve seen Torrey [Smith] get scouted as a guy that just goes deep,” Rice told the Baltimore Sun. “That’s what the scouting report was: ‘Let’s just defend the deep ball.’ But I’ve seen Smith run intermediate routes. I’ve seen Smith line up in the slot. That’s what you call a complete number one receiver.”
I hope Rice is right because I love this kid. He has a terrific head on his shoulders, has the work ethic and attitude to succeed, and is one of the most promising young wideouts in the game today. From a fantasy perspective, he has some serious top-10 upside, and considering he is currently being drafted as the number 22 wide receiver off of the board (Fantasy Calculator), fantasy owners could be getting him for a serious bargain if he hits. Guys going ahead of him are Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne. Clearly, if you ask me, Smith has much more upside than any of those guys. I think, barring injury, Smith will easily eclipse his 49 catches from last season. His true 2013 fantasy value will depend on how he reacts to being the number one in Baltimore. If he operates out of the slot more, fantasy owners will see more catches, but potentially less touchdowns. And if he continues to remain the Ravens deep threat, he’ll likely finish with just under 1,000 receiving yards. Still, the main aspect is the departure of Boldin. If Smith saw a healthy 110 targets last year, I’d imagine he’d see an uptick in looks without him this season. I still wouldn’t expect a ton of yardage from Smith, considering quarterback Joe Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards. However, I think if we see Smith develop into more of a complete wideout, fantasy owners could be in line for a breakout campaign from the third year player.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.