There are a ton of questions with the Baltimore Ravens; their wide receiver corps is confusion, their running backs a jumbled mess. They spent an early pick on a tight end last year and went out and spent money on Ben Watson (also Dennis Pitta is still hanging around). Joe Flacco tore his ACL and MCL last year. There’s a lot up in the air with regards to the fantasy options in Baltimore. Unfortunately, fantasy football owners are coming down wrong on one very key component of this offense: the top wide receiver to own for fantasy football.
A quick look at FantasyPros average draft position showed me something alarming: there is one wide receiver that should be persona non grata in fantasy drafts, and he is going first among the corps. Here’s a quick look at the ADP rundown for the Ravens wide receivers, with another Ravens player thrown in there for kicks (literally).
|Steve Smith Sr, WR||98|
|Justin Tucker, K||149|
|Breshad Perriman, WR||158|
|Kamar Aiken, WR||174|
|Mike Wallace, WR||183|
I can understand taking a shot at the Baltimore receiving corps in your fantasy football draft. Smith was a monster when he played last year, Perriman is a highly touted prospect, Aiken showed numerous flashes of brilliance and Wallace is only a couple seasons (and a couple of quarterbacks without a deep ball away) from fantasy relevance. But folks, why is Steve Smith your number one target by 60+ picks?
Steve Smith is an all-timer. I won’t take that away from him. I can’t take that away from him. He has a shot at the Hall of Fame. Is Steve Smith gone? Okay, now that Steve Smith won’t come after me, I can tell you the deck is stacked against him for a productive 2016 campaign. First, his age. 37 is pretty dang old in NFL terms. There have only been 33 player seasons in which a wide receiver 37 or older even registered a catch (of those 33, Jerry Rice has six seasons). Expanding on that further, only thirteen wide receivers 37 or older played more than half the season (again, six of these are Jerry Rice).
Of the non-greatest wide receiver to ever play the game, here are the top fantasy points per game for wide receivers 37 or older:
Things get bleak pretty dang quickly. Smith could turn in an all-time season for a 37 or older wide receiver and still be completely useless for your fantasy football team.
What, then, of the torn Achilles tendon? Two prominent wide receivers have recently torn their Achilles and returned the next season: Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree. Thomas tore his Achilles in early February and returned to action in late October. Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles in late May and returned on December 1. Thomas took nine months, Crabtree took eight. Steve Smith will return ten months after the same injury. When scaling for the fact that the three players were 24, 25 and 36 when their injuries occurred, let’s say Smith is on the same spot in the recovery scale as Thomas and Crabtree week one. In their returns from Achilles tears, Thomas went 32 receptions on 70 targets for 55.1 yards per game in ten games and Crabtree had 19 receptions on 33 targets for just 56.8 yards per game. They combined for five touchdowns in fifteen games. Both were iffy in their returns and the rustiness and stiffness in their ankle from the Achilles injury clearly showed.
Steve Smith has a ton working against him. Age and recovering from an Achilles tear are both working against him. Yet, his ADP is top-100. The only Ravens receiver being drafted ahead of their kicker.
Whether your flavor is Aiken, Perriman or Wallace, stop drafting Steve Smith. There is little to show that Smith, who announced last season would be his last, and later quipped that he was only returning to get to 1,000 catches, will be fantasy viable this season.
Who to draft instead? I am a staunch non-believer in Breshad Perriman (two bad knees and two bad hands will do that), and Mike Wallace has become a punchline. While I believe Wallace will return to fantasy relevance, he will do so in the frustrating boom-bust Torrey Smith role of Ravens offenses past. My money is on Kamar Aiken. His ADP in twelve-team leagues is the fourteenth round, behind the Ravens’ own kicker, and many others, and several D/STs. He’s basically free at this point.
Last year Aiken turned in 944 yards and 5 TDs on 75 receptions. In the half-season after Smith went down last season, he turned in 50 receptions, 611 yards and three TD. That’s a heck of a pace. Over a full season, that’s 100 catches, 1222 yards and six touchdowns. While the touchdowns are light, those are definite WR2 numbers. The 100 catches last year would have put him as the eighth and his yards ninth (the six touchdowns are his downfall, as he would be tied for 24th). All that’s standing in his way is a broken, old Steve Smith and two questionable wide receivers. While he won’t get that pace again, his fourteenth-round ADP is a crime against fantasy football. Even if you don’t believe my Aiken hype, do not go chasing that Steve Smith waterfall.