Expect improvement from Ravens WR Smith

Posted July 18, 2012 @ 1:03 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

As a rookie, Ravens WR Torrey Smith hauled in 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Those are good numbers, especially for a first-year wideout, but if you want to poke holes in his Year One résumé, you can.

For all intents and purposes, fantasy owners got 45 catches and 689 yards and four TDs out of him in the regular season; very few owners figure to have had the foresight to have played Smith in his first NFL start, when he torched the Rams for five catches, 152 yards and three scores, and fewer still even had him on the roster. Also, Smith had both less than 50 yards and no TDs in half of his 2011 starts.

Fantasy owners have to weigh whether Smith is just a speedster who will have a huge game here and there, thus making his total numbers look better than his actual fantasy impact. Meaning this: if you can't be sure when Smith's going to have a breakout game, why bother?

However, I like Smith's chances to show improvement this season, and I'm looking for more consistency. Having a full NFL season and offseason to his credit won't hurt. He finished the '11 campaign in good form, catching a TD pass in the AFC title game. He is exceptionally fast, which gives him a touch of extra value in leagues that award points for long TDs.

Adding to Smith's intrigue for me: I expect the Ravens' passing game to be better this season than it was in 2011. QB Joe Flacco, who throws a nice deep ball, has room and capability for growth as a passer, and this is the best group of pass catchers he has ever had. The continued progress of TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who each quietly had nice seasons in 2011, would help the offense even more. And don't overlook WR Anquan Boldin, a solid possession threat.

The Ravens' passing game doesn't garner a ton of respect, and it shouldn't until it starts putting up better results, but I'm going to try to get in on the ground floor and take Smith in a league or two. Smith has 1,000-yard potential — and the talent to single-handedly win a game or two for fantasy owners a season.