Will Torrey Smith Play Andre Johnson's Role?
As Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak installs his tried and true offense in Baltimore, you start to envision which roles will be played by Ravens starters.
Will Joe Flacco put up 4,000 passing yards like Matt Schaub did for three years? How will Ray Rice look in Arian Foster's old role? Can fullback Kyle Juszczyk become a bona fide offensive weapon like James Casey?
And finally, can Torrey Smith play the Andre Johnson role, with a massive amount of targets coming his way?
That's the question CBSSports.com's Fantasy Football writer Larry Hartstein specifically explored Wednesday.
Of course, each of these Ravens has their personal skillsets and will do things their own unique way, but Kubiak has a very distinct vision for his system and will plug players into roles that have consistently proven to drive production.
And with Smith playing Johnson's former role at the X receiver slot, Hartstein believes Smith has an even higher ceiling than past years thanks to* *Kubiak's arrival.
"[Kubiak] brings a zone run scheme and a West Coast passing game that stresses play action, throws to tight ends and a No. 1 wideout," Harstein wrote. "This receiver plays the X, or split end position, in Kubiak's offense. Like Johnson, Smith is the X receiver.
"Torrey Smith is not Andre Johnson. He's three inches shorter, but he's not small at 6-foot, 205-pounds. He's not frail either: Smith has never missed a game in college or the NFL."
Johnson got a whopping 181 targets last year, which was the second-most in the league. He also got 88 more targets than Texans No. 2 receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Let's take a look at both receivers' targets in recent years and how they ranked among the league (excluding Johnson's seasons that he didn't go 16 games).
"Look at what Torrey Smith, who's just entering his prime at 25, has done with far fewer targets than Johnson," wrote Hartstein.
|*||Andre Johnson||Torrey Smith*|
|2013||181 targets (2nd), 1,407 yards||139 targets (19th tied), 1,128 yards|
|2012||164 targets (5th tied), 1,598 yards||110 targets (23rd), 855 yards|
|2011||missed 9 games||95 targets (23rd tied) , 841 yards|
|2010||missed 3 games|
|2009||172 targets (1st), 1,569 yards|
|2008||170 targets (2nd), 1,575 yards|
While the Ravens could spread the ball around more than the Texans did, seeing as Steve Smith Sr. is the No. 2 receiver and much more established than Hopkins, Hartstein recommends fantasy players take Smith higher than the No. 26 draft position he is ranked.
"It doesn't hurt that Smith is entering his contract year," Hartstein wrote. "I'd take him over DeSean Jackson, Emmanuel Sanders, Kendall Wright and Percy Harvin."
Below is Smith's practice highlights video, showing off a variety of routes in the offense despite being thought of by some as a one-trick pony going deep.
No Yates-Kubiak Reunion
The Ravens will not be adding quarterback T.J. Yates to their roster.
In fact, they didn't even have a chance of reuniting the former Houston quarterback with his first NFL head coach in Kubiak. That's because as soon as word got out that the Texans were going to cut him, teams starting inquiring about a trade, according to ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio.
Had Yates actually been released, as was reported Thursday evening but never officially happened, the Ravens had contemplated potentially putting in a waiver claim, reports The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
Instead, the Atlanta Falcons swooped in and traded linebacker Akeem Dent to ensure they got Yates. Now, he'll compete to win the backup role behind Matt Ryan instead of Joe Flacco. And the Ravens will continue with Tyrod Taylor and Keith Wenning.
"[I]t never reached that point where the Ravens would have to make that decision since the Texans didn't formally release Yates after announcing that they would cut him."
Flacco Turns In Sharpest Practice, But WRs Dropping Balls
As Flacco gets more and more practice with the new offense, he looks more and more impressive.
Yesterday, we talked about Flacco's foot speed looking impressive, and now ESPN's Jamison Hensley said that the seventh-year veteran's passes are also solid.
The same couldn't be said for his receiver's, however, who have been dropping too many balls.
"Of all the practices open to the media this offseason, this was the sharpest one for quarterback Joe Flacco," wrote Hensley. "There was a long stretch where the ball didn't hit the ground in full-team and seven-on-seven drills. His best throw was a deep one down the middle of the field to Steve Smith, who got behind safety Matt Elam. Flacco was spot-on with most of his throws.
"While Flacco excelled, the wide receivers stood out for the wrong reasons. There were too many drops for a second straight day. Marlon Brown, Torrey Smith, Jace Davis and Jacoby Jones all let passes go through their hands in a short period of team drills. Defensive players do push-ups on the field when they drop interceptions. Maybe the same rule should apply to the Ravens' wide receivers."
Two Undrafted Rookies Starting To Separate
The Ravens have a strong history of finding undrafted rookie gems, and the two who currently look to have the edge in adding to the pedigree are Deji Olatoye and wide receiver Jeremy Butler, per Hensley.
"[Olatoye] was rotated in with the first and second team defenses and can play a big role on special teams," the ESPN reporter wrote. "Olatoye is from North Carolina A&T, but his college career began at Colorado where he was teammates with Jimmy Smith."
"Butler continues to make plays this offseason," Hensley wrote in a separate piece. "The rookie from Tennessee-Martin is trying to become the latest undrafted success story for the Ravens. Butler is making more catches than the other players who are competing for one of the last receiver spots on the team such as Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams. Butler's path got easier when the Ravens waived Aaron Mellette, too."
- "Ravens safety Matt Elam set a perhaps unfair precedent by starting as a rookie last season," wrote Jon Meoli. "Terrence Brooks said Wednesday that transitioning from his previous role with the national champion Florida State Seminoles to a spot with the Ravens has proven difficult, though team activities this spring helped the rookie safety get familiar with his new home." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Now it's time for your free agent cornerback Brandon Flowers update after the Ravens were rumored to have contacted him after he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Flowers visited the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday, and the Falcons and Minnesota Vikings have also "displayed the most interest" in Flowers. The Ravens and New England Patriots "remain in the mix," according to Wilson. [The Baltimore Sun]
- These two looooove playing next to each other … @eugenemonroe60: Just going to work with @kosevendeuce. [Instagram]
- Kapron-Lewis Moore joined the list of players not practicing due to injury. The defensive end is nursing a hamstring injury. Nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery),* *offensive lineman Jah Reid (strained calf) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (strained lower leg) are also out. [The Baltimore Sun]
- @RavensInsider: Aaron Mellette and Adrian Hamilton went unclaimed off waivers [Twitter]
- @aqshipley: Guys i just found out im marrying a beautiful woman @cammiejfitness that has never seen RUDY! I dont know if i can go through with this! [Twitter]
- @TeamFlacco: Joe will be at the @padoniaalehouse on 6/24 at 8pm to help #JennStrong! @NestorAparicio [Twitter]
- @BamaOnline247: #tbt to Courtney Upshaw running back this touchdown against Florida, while a disappointed Will Muschamp looks on. [Twitter]