49ers Sign Torrey Smith
After allowing several key pieces from the Jim Harbaugh era to depart, the San Francisco 49ers were able to add some outside talent to their 2015 roster this week. On Tuesday, they locked up Torrey Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract that includes $22 million guaranteed.
Smith’s signing all but signals the end of Michael Crabtree’s run with the 49ers. Same as in Baltimore from 2011-12, Smith will team up with Anquan Boldin.
Entering the 2014 season, many analysts like myself expected a breakout season from Smith. He was, of course, entering a contract season, but more importantly he was entering Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme. During his tenure with the Texans, Kubiak targeted the X wide receiver – Torrey’s position – more heavily than almost any other offensive system.
Unfortunately, all of those targets seemed to work their way toward Steve Smith to start the season before eventually turning into a more even distribution to finish the season.
Smith finished with career lows in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in 2014. His 89 targets were 38 fewer than he saw in 2013. Of course, Smith’s fantasy football season was saved by what was easily a career-high 11 touchdowns – including seven over his final eight games.
Smith can at least partially be blamed for his career-low targets total. His 18.3 percent drop rate was next to last among 50 qualified wide receivers. Smith dropped 11 passes, which was fewer than only Mohamed Sanu.
In theory, Smith’s marriage with the 49ers should be an excellent fit from a fantasy football standpoint. Smith provides Colin Kaepernick with an outside X receiver with the speed to stretch the field and challenge the defense vertically. Kaepernick struggles with the touch passes, but no one has ever questioned his ability to throw the deep ball. In addition, new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst has already stressed that he wants to take more shots downfield.
In 2014, Smith turned 13 “catchable” deep targets into eight receptions for 250 yards and five touchdowns. More than 63 percent of Smith’s fantasy production in 2014 came on passes that traveled at least 20 yards through the air. He’s finished top 10 in the NFL in average depth of target each of his first four NFL seasons and has the league’s highest aDOT during the span. His 16.9 yards per reception during the span is sixth-highest at the position.
On the other hand, Smith is transitioning from one of the best deep passers in the NFL to an average one at best. On 13 fewer deep attempts, Joe Flacco completed just one fewer pass than Kaepernick despite the fact that he dealt with six more drops. Flacco also threw for seven more touchdown passes on deep attempts than Kaepernick, who only finished with four.
With Mike Iupati and Frank Gore no longer with the team, pass protection could further deteriorate and cause another snag in Kaepernick’s development as a quarterback. Smith will remain a boom-or-bust wide receiver play on a weekly basis in 2015.
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Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he also covers real football for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.