Player Profiles: Torrey Smith, Mike Williams, Justin Blackmon
The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
My inkling is that a Super Bowl victory should shoot Smith up draft boards. That makes a ton of sense to me, as public perception is often unfairly swayed by mainstream exposure. Smith was a hot commodity in drafts last year, but I think a few big (and they were big) games last year might make him overvalued. Smith scored 14 or more points in five games last year. In weeks 1-16 (the fantasy season) Smith scored five of fewer points in seven games. If you count Week 17, that’d be eight games with five or fewer points and three games in which Smith scored two or fewer points.
When you dig a little bit deeper, you start to see a lot of the issue – the targets were not quite there for Smith, who had 110 on the season. That put him behind Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Justin Blackmon, and even teammate Anquan Boldin. Further, Smith caught a mere 49 balls thrown his way, fewer receptions than TY Hilton, Josh Gordon, Jeremy Kerley, and the perpetually injured Hakeem Nicks. In fact, no player with more than 90 targets caught fewer passes than Torrey Smith except for Kenny Britt.
The positive thing is that Smith does not need a ton of catches to make a difference. Smith had the fourth best yards per catch in 2012, and of every player in the top 10 in yards per catch, Smith was tied for the most touchdowns with Vincent Jackson. But, again, in that top 10, Smith was tied for seventh amongst those players in receptions per game (3.1). That’s not a totally fair number, since that counts a zero for Week 17, but even discounting the zero in Week 17 Smith would only be tied for sixth.
My trepidation with Smith, especially if you play in a PPR format, is that the hype is going to outweigh reality. Reality is, in 2012, Smith was not the consistent threat he’s being drafted as. Currently Smith is the 21st wide receiver off the board, or a back-end WR2 in a 12-team league. Receiver is deep, but if you are taking a risk with Smith as your WR2 in a draft, I’d follow that pick up with probably two other wide receivers within the next three rounds. I just am not confident in Smith, and even if he replicates his value from last year, he’s simply not consistent enough. I definitely would not draft him as a middle-tier and certainly not as a higher-tier WR2.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Confession: I am probably the biggest Mike Williams apologist that is not a member of his family. That includes JJ, who wrote about how underrated Williams was in 2012. No, Williams is not a top wide receiver in real football, but with Vincent Jackson drawing some of the heat that got to Williams in 2011, Mike Williams was quietly a very good wide receiver in 2012. That largely has to do with his involvement in the offense. In 2012, Williams had more targets than PPR darling and fast-riser Eric Decker.
What was most amazing about Williams in 2012 was his touchdown receptions. Nine touchdowns came for Williams in nine different games. While you can’t rely on this season-to-season, Williams was able to frequently salvage bad-to-mediocre games, and at times turned good performances into great ones. And, as his targets suggest, his play was not a fluke. Williams received fewer than five targets in only two games this season.
I’ve pounded this idea over and over again, but fantasy football is essentially “(opportunity x talent) = value”. I believe that Williams has a decent amount of talent, and he may be a guy who continues to be more and more involved in the offense. Williams is currently going at the tail end of the sixth round and is the 30th wide receiver off the board, putting him in mid-to-low-end flex territory. For a guy that is this explosive, and potentially this involved, I can overlook a fair number of poor games with the lottery ticket for some good ones. If Williams remains around this spot in the draft, and if you can get him while you have some other flex and WR2 options on your roster, I think this is a guy you should get queued up and ready to draft.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Early into his rookie season, Blackmon looked absolutely terrible. He struggled to get involved in the offense over the first nine weeks. And during that time, Blackmon had only one game of more than 50 yards, just one touchdown, and exactly zero games with double-digit fantasy points.
The Jags seemed to finally figure out how to incorporate Blackmon over the next seven games, as he scored a touchdown in four different games and had 13 or more fantasy points in each of those four games. But, perhaps more importantly, Blackmon had five or more receptions in six of his last seven games, a number he reached only twice in his first nine games. Blackmon’s targets also shot up, as he had ten or more targets in five of his last seven games, a number he got to only once in his first nine.
I am somewhat concerned about the quarterback situation in Jacksonville, as they seem committed to getting Gabbert some experience. With no franchise quarterback in the draft for the Jags to take at number 2 overall, it seems like it’s Gabbert’s job to lose. That said, it’s not as if Chad Henne is a world beater, and Blackmon still had great numbers down the stretch.
I’d keep an eye on the quarterback situation in Jacksonville. Blackmon is currently the 40th wide receiver off the board, likely a team’s second bench WR. At that position, you could do a whole ton worse than him. The physical skill is there in spades, and when this guy gets an opportunity, he can make defenses pay. I very much like Blackmon that late in drafts in 2013.