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Steve Smith: Slot Machine

stevesmiff

From The Carolina Panthers official website:

“We can utilize him in the slot.”

In many ways, Smith is the ideal slot receiver. At 5-foot-9, he possesses explosion off the line, quickness in and out of his breaks and a toughness that’s required to both take and deliver the hits that are sure to come over the middle…
“I’m excited about working with him inside, between the hashes,” Proehl said. “He’s got all of the tools to do that, and it’s something that he wants to get better at. He’s already communicated that to me…”Steve will continue to be the deep threat,” Rivera stressed. “But you take that explosiveness, that quickness and you put it in the slot and he can really work the underneath. We know Steve can make plays in the slot for us, and it will save a couple extra reps for when he does need to go deep.”

It seems like every year, some star WR is projected to take more snaps in the slot as a way to free them up over the middle and get them the ball in space. As training camps pick up, Carolina Panther’s head coach Ron Rivera and new Wide Receivers Ricky Proehl coach have decided that Smith will get more rotations from the inside. Normally when elite wide receivers are moved around the formation, their fantasy points increase. This is a look at what some notable top fantasy WR’s last year did in the slot. (Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus)

Name Team Slot % Targets Yards TDs Drop Rate Catch Rate Slot Fantasy Points
 Victor Cruz NYG 69.7 93 867 8 12.12 62.4 134.7
 Michael Crabtree SF 33.7 49 542 5 9.52 77.6 84.2
 Marques Colston NO 55.7 65 563 5 8.89 63.1 86.3
 Eric Decker DEN 20.2 25 242 4 4.17 92 48.2
 Sidney Rice SEA 37.2 32 369 4 3.85 78.1 60.9
 Steve Johnson BUF 24.9 39 359 4 0 69.2 59.9
 Vincent Jackson TB 36.5 38 445 4 4.17 60.5 68.5
 DeSean Jackson PHI 17.3 12 179 2 0 75 29.9
 Josh Gordon CLV 11.9 16 271 2 0 75 39.1
 Torrey Smith BLT 7.7 11 131 2 11.11 72.7 25.1
 Brandon Marshall CHI 22 33 318 2 8.33 66.7 43.8

Takeaways

For a WR that is already undervalued (Smith’s ADP is WR26, per FootballGuys ADP ) this list is a pretty positive note for his value. All of these players recorded higher catch %’s than their normal rate, and the most physically comparable player on this list is also at the top of it: Victor Cruz. If Smiff is indeed utilized in the slot, that raises his week to week floor as he should be expected to get more catches, and raise his ceiling for the entire year.This is Smith’s score out of the ‘Viz’s great WR Similarity Scores App:

Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 5.1 6.7 8.4
Median 6.4 8.4 10.4
High 8.9 11.1 13.3

Those numbers are very good for a wide receiver you can get when everyone else is starting to handcuff their running backs. That sort of PPR ceiling and consistent weekly involvement in the offense is all that you can ask out of your WR3 in a standard 12-Team league.

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