There’s currently a massive double-stink cloud surrounding all the San Francisco 49ers’ fantasy football prospects for 2016. The offense returns most of the same impact players (if you can even call them that) from last season, when they were among the worst offenses in the league. They also carry the stink surrounding former Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach and general manager Chip Kelly, whose personnel choices quickly made him the laughingstock of the NFL. Thanks to these two factors, everyone is forgetting about 49ers’ wide receiver Torrey Smith, and when the season is over, you’ll be the one laughing all the way to the fantasy championships thanks to his production. Torrey Smith may just be the biggest fantasy football sleeper of 2016.
First of all, Smith is a massive draft value. Smith is the forty-second wide receiver off the board. WR42. He’s behind Dorial Green-Beckham and Corey Coleman, who have proven exactly nothing in the NFL. Torrey Smith is obscenely undervalued in all fantasy football circles. Among teams with an unquestioned #1 wide receiver, like the 49ers, Torrey Smith holds the lowest draft slot by ADP. At WR42, only the Vikings, Ravens and Rams have a their first wide receiver crack the fantasy football ranks at a lower slot. In Minnesota, the #1 WR will be rookie Laquon Treadwell… or maybe Stefon Diggs? The Ravens situation is a mess and ends up slotting all of their receivers behind Smith, and the LA mess of Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt end up lower. Given that fantasy football is all about finding the confluence of talent and opportunity, why are we casting aside the opportunity to get a team’s top wide receiver?
Second, Torrey Smith has been a valuable fantasy football receiver before. In Baltimore, he was a boom-bust WR2 play, mostly given that he played second fiddle to Anquan Boldin, and then Steve Smith, for his Ravens’ tenure. He has never been the unquestioned WR1 on a team, but in his last season in Baltimore as a WR2, he went for 49 catches, 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was only seen as disappointing because of his 2013 campaign that saw him net 1128 yards. Both those seasons were useful, if not frustrating. Last season Smith again sat behind Anquan Boldin on the depth chart, and the 49ers’ offense was far too anemic to support two fantasy football relevant wide receivers. Now Smith has a chance to be the top wide receiver, with absolutely nothing behind him on the 49ers’ depth chart. I mean seriously, Quinton Patton is the #2 wide receiver. It’s a total wasteland.
Third is the production of the WR1 in a Chip Kelly offense. In his time in Philadelphia, Kelly’s top wide receiver had a minimum of 126 targets. Some will point out the boom-bust nature of Smith’s game making him an unreliable fantasy asset, but the deep threat DeSean Jackson carries the same boom-bust profile as Smith, and had his best fantasy season in 2013 under Chip Kelly. Don’t let the stink of Chip Kelly’s failures as a GM cloud your judgement. Kelly is a masterful play caller, and his offense will give Smith the room to flourish. Don’t worry about the Colin Kaepernick-Blaine Gabbert situation. Nick Foles is about to lose his roster spot to Case Keenum, and he was statistically one of the best quarterbacks under Kelly. He has a history of turning trash into gold, as long as he doesn’t make any roster moves.
Torrey Smith is the perfect confluence of fantasy football draft day value, opportunity, talent and coaching. Smith is the lowest drafted unquestioned top wide receiver. He carries that torch one season removed from an 11 touchdown campaign (which was a chaser to an 1128-yard campaign), and you can use that draft day disrespect to your benefit. Torrey Smith will win you your fantasy league, so ignore the Chip Kelly stink and ignore the 49ers stink. Pinch your nose if you must, because if you do so, you will be smelling the rarefied air of the fantasy football league champion come next January.