2013 Fantasy Football: Steve Smith and Josh Gordon Undervalued
Rare are the times in fantasy sports when you can draft a player who’s a certifiable stud, a clear No. 1 option on his team at what’s a clear value. Heading into the 2013 football season there are actually two players who fit this description: Steve Smith and Josh Gordon, with ADPs at 68 and 103, respectively, as of Friday evening.
Both players averaged 16.1 yards per catch last year, which was good enough to tie them for eighth among wide receivers in that category. Most of the players above them in yards per catch caught fewer than 55 passes in 2012, but Smith caught 73 passes, which puts only him and Megatron in the category of receivers who caught at least 73 passes for at least 16 yards a catch last year.
Let’s focus on Smith for now, and I’ll get to Gordon in just a little bit. The 5’9″ Panther is 34 now, but outside of 2009-10, when his production dipped thanks to Carolina’s quarterbacks, the Utah alum has been extremely consistent. That hasn’t changed since Cam Newton took over, either. Smith has averaged 76 catches and 1,284 yards the past two years with his yards per catch ranking second and third, respectively, out of his 10 full seasons. Worried about his age? Don’t be. While his numbers did drop a little bit in the second half of the season last year, his December yards per catch of 16.2 was the second best monthly split of his season.
The six receivers being directly selected in front of Smith, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, are Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Eric Decker. Besides Smith – and even he’s without Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta now – each one of those players has a recent injury history (Nicks, Garcon) or isn’t in the same situation he was in last year (Wallace, Brown, Decker).
To keep from going too long here I’ll compare Smith to Smith. Torrey’s ADP is 58, a full 10 spots ahead of Steve’s. Now, Torrey is 10 years younger than Steve, and it’d be silly to say he won’t improve as he matures. But even if he does improve his numbers a bit this year, I think he’ll still be a very inconsistent performer for your fantasy team. Even though he saw 15 more targets last year, Torrey caught one fewer pass and only had 14 more yards than his rookie season totals. In Torrey’s career, which consists of 29 games (I’m not counting 2012 Week 17 where most Baltimore starters barely played), he has 11 games of two or fewer receptions. Last year he caught two or fewer balls seven times in 15 games. In that same time span, Steve has just four games with two or fewer catches, including just one last year. Torrey’s registered fewer than 40 yards receiving in a game a whopping 13 times in the past two years compared to Steve’s four. Torrey’s great at what he does, but with how inconsistent he is and will probably continue to be there’s no reason to take him when you can take a guy who’s consistently performed at a high level like Steve.
Now, Gordon, a 2012 supplemental draft pick by Cleveland, is suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season. But this gives him even more value. A lot of players are going to miss time this year and you’re going to draft them anyway. So just since Gordon is going to miss two games you shouldn’t be scared away from him especially since he’s being drafted in the 11th round behind several defenses.
Gordon played in all 16 games last year, but he wasn’t on the field for more than 70 percent of Cleveland’s offensive snaps until Week 5, according to Football Outsiders. Week 5 just happened to be when Gordon caught the first two touchdowns of his career. Despite not being close to fully acclimated with the Cleveland offense until near the middle of the season, Gordon still led the team in targets, yards and catches of 20+ yards. Gordon averaged 59 yards a game from Week 5 through the end of the season, and that would equal 949 yards in a 16-game season. Gordon’s more Torrey than Steve, but his 6.2 yards after catch ranked seventh among all receivers with at least 50 catches. He also had an eight-game stretch where he caught at least one pass of 23 yards or more.
If Gordon had an ADP in the fifth round I wouldn’t be writing this about him. But since it’s so late and he’s probably going to be a WR5 for you there’s no harm in drafting him even with the two-game suspension.