It was a lost year for Smith in San Francisco. He caught only 20 of 49 targets and ended up on IR in December with a concussion. Smith signed with the Eagles this offseason, where there's considerably more competition for targets, but the ones he does get will presumably be of higher quality. At 6-0, 205, Smith has average size, but he ran a 4.41 40 at the 2011 Combine and has always been a deep threat -- 25 catches of 40-plus yards from 2011-2015. The question is how he will fit in opposite the bigger, more dynamic Alshon Jeffery. While quarterback Carson Wentz should improve in Year 2, no one's going to mistake this offense for the Saints or Packers. Expect Smith to serve as a field-stretcher at a minimum, but if Jeffery misses time, Smith's role likely would grow considerably.
With Anquan Boldin gone, someone has to catch passes in San Francisco. Smith is the last man standing in arguably the league's worst offense. Oddly, Smith was massively efficient last year (20.1 YPC, 10.7 YPC - both of which would have led the NFL had he qualified), but on only 62 targets. At 6-0, 205, Smith has just average size, but with 4.41 speed has always been a playmaker. Even with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert throwing him the ball, he managed five catches of 40-plus yards, the same as Julio Jones on 141 fewer targets. This year, Smith will have to contend with the same low-end quarterback play, but with only Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and Vance McDonald with whom to compete for targets, it's likely he'll see a big uptick in opportunity.
Smith carved out a consistently productive, if unremarkable, first four years in Baltimore, averaging a little more than eight yards per target on modest volume, thriving mostly on big plays. But now all bets are off as he goes to a San Francisco team in transition. Over the last few seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers were one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, but new coach Jim Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst have such scant track records, it's hard to know what to expect. Moreover, the team's defense lost key players in Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland to retirement, so Colin Kaepernick, who has the arm to get the ball to Smith downfield, could find himself in more passing situations. At 6-0, 205, Smith has merely average size, but with good athleticism and 4.41 speed, and his primary competition for targets is only Anquan Boldin, who will turn 35 in October, and tight end Vernon Davis, who is 31 and coming off a down year.
Smith has been a good receiver since he entered the league three years ago, but to be a star in the Ravens system might require more. He did finish 16th in receiving yards last year, thanks to a career-high in targets and a 17.4 YPC average (3rd), but he posted a pedestrian 8.2 YPT (15th) because he caught only 47 percent of the balls thrown his way (dead last among the 37 100-target WR). Some of that is due to running routes farther down the field, but no receiver has particularly thrived in the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era. At 6-0, 205 and with 4.41 40 speed, Smith is a burner with above-average size for a receiver that fast. As such, he’s always been able to make plays down field (eight catches of 40-plus, T. 2nd). But even with Dennis Pitta out and the running game non-existent, Smith saw only four looks inside the 10 (T. 48th), two fewer than teammate Marlon Brown. In other words, Smith has to work for every score he gets. Moreover, regardless of what happens to Ray Rice (felony assault charge) the Ravens will almost certainly get more out of their abysmal running game in 2014, and the arrival of Steve Smith and return-to-health of Dennis Pitta should also dilute Torrey Smith’s role.
Talk about being the only game in town. With Anquan Boldin gone, Smith has virtually no established competition for targets unless you count Jacoby Jones, tight end Dennis Pitta or running back Ray Rice.
Smith actually took a small step back last year after a stellar rookie season, putting up the same numbers but on 14 more targets. The result was a decline in per-play efficiency from 8.8 to 7.8 YPT.
Nonetheless, Smith was still very much a big play threat with 16 catches for 20 plus (T-15th) and five of 40 or more yards (the same number as Calvin Johnson) on only 110 targets. At 6-0, 205, Smith has decent size, excellent speed and good ball skills. And he has steady hands, dropping only three passes all year.
There's little doubt Smith will see an uptick in targets this year, but his production is likely to hinge on red-zone looks. Last year, he saw only 10 (converting an impressive five into TDs). With Boldin (nine red-zone targets) gone, perhaps Smith moves into the 15-18 range, giving him a better chance at double-digit scores.
The Ravens employed too many old, slow receivers in 2010, so they drafted Smith and gave him a prominent role. And he delivered. Smith averaged 16.8 YPC and 8.8 YPT on 96 looks, with four catches of 40-plus yards and seven scores, despite playing through a sports hernia for part of the year. At 6-0, 205, Smith has decent size, excellent speed and plus ball skills. He’s not a great route runner, so Anquan Boldin should continue to see most of the targets underneath. But Smith is the team’s big-play weapon. Smith saw just 10 targets in the red zone last year, something that’s not likely to change with the bigger Boldin on the opposite side and two pass-catching tight ends.
The Ravens went into the playoffs with three old, slow guys in Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin last year. Apparently they wanted to get younger and a lot faster, something they accomplished by taking Smith with the 58th overall pick. At 6-1, 204 and with blazing speed, Smith will immediately provide Baltimore with a home run threat who should open up more room underneath. Smith is also dangerous in the open field and athletic enough to win jump balls over smaller corners. Smith will probably begin as the team’s third or fourth receiver, but with Derrick Mason moving onto the Jets, he could move up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.