After spending his first 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Steve Smith was released and ultimately signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens in March. Ravens’ offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Smith has “brought an edge” to practice thus far, but the now 35-year old will likely have a complementary role on his new team.
Baltimore threw the ball 619 times last season (38.7 per game; eighth most in the league), compared to Carolina’s 473 pass attempts (29.6 per game; third-fewest in the league). With some uncertainty at running back Joe Flacco should be throwing the ball a lot again this year, so Smith’s target total (110; 7.3 per game in 2013) may not drop off much even with a move down the passing game pecking order.
Smith plays with a chip on his shoulder, so he’ll certainly be motivated to produce after a down 2013 season (64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns).
Leaving aside 2004, when he missed 15 games with a broken leg, Smith has played at least 14 games in each of his other 12 seasons. As a diminutive receiver (5’9″, 185 lbs.), that high level of durability is notable.
Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta are the top two targets for Flacco, and with Pitta healthy fantasy owners will have a hard time relying on consistent production from any other Ravens’ pass catcher.
Cam Newton’s arrival in Carolina drove a spike in Smith’s numbers in 2011 (79 catches for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns) and 2012 (73 receptions for 1,174 yards and four touchdowns), but he has less than 70 receptions in three of the last five seasons and less than 800 yards twice in those same five campaigns.
Smith’s average of 11.6 yards per catch in 2013 was the second-lowest of his career in a season he played more than one game. Signs of decline are present, and another step down in production would basically make Smith worthless to fantasy owners.
Most fantasy owners don’t need a reminder that Smith’s time as anything resembling a top fantasy wide receiver is over. That doesn’t mean he’s not worth having on a roster, but those that draft Smith expecting to start him often are asking for a let down.
Bye Week: Week 11
Projected Round: 12th Round (12-Team Leagues)
Auction Value: $4 (Fantasy Pros.com)