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More Upside: Torrey Smith or Mike Williams?

6597950427_880e500d4f_zIn 10 team 2013 fantasy football drafts, Torrey Smith is being drafted as the 25th wide receiver at the third pick of the 6th round, while Mike Williams is left glaring down at his cell phone waiting for his selection to come three rounds later at pick 9.07 as the 41st wide out off of the board. There are three glaring reasons why Williams is a better value.

Reason 1: Past Production

Mike Williams finished the 2012 regular season strong, posting an average of 10.6 targets, 5.2 receptions, 66.2 yards, and 0.8 TD’s over his final five games. This was a large uptick from his average of 6.63 targets, 3.36 receptions, 56.8 yards, and 0.45 TD’s in the previous 11 games. Through week 16 here are how William’s number compared to Smith’s, who also played in 15 games:

Rec

Rush/Rec Yards

TDs

Standard Scoring Total

Mike Williams

57

931

8

142.22*

Torrey Smith

49

868

8

134.80

* Williams also threw 28 yards in 2012

If fantasy owners were drafting based on 2012 production, not only would the gap between Williams’ and Smith’s selections be smaller, but Williams would be drafted higher than Smith. This ADP discrepancy could be justified if Smith were in a better position to succeed in 2013. But he’s not.

Reason 2: 2013 Opportunities

The Buccaneers offense, for the most part, will remain the same as it was in 2012. Williams, who overcame a sophomore slump in 2012 and is only 25, will continue to improve in a familiar offense. Tampa Bay’s division has several high scoring offenses that will force Tampa Bay to pass early and often if they wish to compete. Doug Martin will continue to threaten teams on the ground, and Vincent Jackson will be demanding most of the secondary’s attention. This means Williams, who has never missed a game in his career, should face very favorable coverages in 2013. The same cannot be said for Torrey Smith. Last season, Anquan Boldin used his physical style of play and strong hands to demand attention on underneath routes, complementing Torrey Smith’s deep threat ability.  Boldin is now in San Francisco and can no longer keep safeties from focusing on the deep ball in zone schemes. For Baltimore in 2013, Jacoby Jones will likely step into the WR2 role. Jones’ style of play is much more similar to Smith’s than Boldin’s, and they do not complement each other nearly as well as Boldin-Smith did. Torrey Smith has played two games without Boldin in his NFL career. While both games were in 2011, they were both poor outings, as Smith posted a total of 7 receptions and 71 yards combined in the two Boldin-less games. Teams who game-planned to stop Smith rather than Boldin in 2012 were very successful at keeping Torrey from beating them through the air. In 2013 Torrey will be the target of every team Baltimore faces and will likely face very tough coverages. Television analysts praised Smith the entire 2012 season, speaking highly of his development as a player and more specifically his expanded route tree from the previous year. While this improvement could be true, his numbers certainly did not reflect that he was a more complete wide receiver. When running Smith’s 2012 season through RotoViz’s WR Similarity Score application, the most comparable season was Smith’s rookie campaign. Below are Smith’s 2011 and 2012 season stats:

Receptions Yards TDs
2011 50 841 7
2012 49 855 8

Looking at his statistics, Smith looks like a consistent deep threat, but not a receiver who  can pile up the receptions on short to intermediate routes.

Reason 3: Divisional Match-Ups

Teams inside of your fantasy player’s division play a huge role in their success because they see them so often during the season. While the NFL is a quickly changing league and predicting strength of schedule is not easy, here is how the Buccaneers’ division rivals stacked up against the pass compared to the AFC North teams the Ravens will be facing in 2012:

Rank vs. Pass

Pass Yards Allowed

Pass TDs Allowed

Steelers

1

2963

19

Bengals

7

3400

16

Browns

25

3923

27

Panthers

13

3568

22

Falcons

23

3878

14

Saints

31

4681

31

Torrey Smith plays in a much tougher division against the pass than Mike Williams, who will get four games against bottom 10 teams against the pass.

Predicting Williams’ 2013 Season

Using the WR Similarity Score App provided by RotoViz, Mike Williams’ 2012 campaign was much like that of Roy Williams’ in 2005. Roy and Mike are both large receivers with big frames. Coming out of Texas, Roy ran a 4.48 40-yard dash time while Mike, out of Syracuse, ran a 4.45. After Roy’s 2005 season he went on to catch 82 passes for 1,310 yards and 7 TDs for Detroit. Are these numbers guaranteed for Mike in 2013? No, but Mike’s 2012 season and Roy’s 2005 season are similar, as is their size and speed.

Also, even if Roy Williams is just one of Mike Williams’ comps, the Sim Score app projects Mike to have a better season than his current ADP would imply.

Summary

Drafting Mike Williams three rounds after Torrey Smith is a complete steal. Williams possesses the prior production, frame, and skill set to give him a considerably higher floor in 2013. Smith seems more likely to be a boom or bust performer next season. Let your friend be the one who drafts Torrey Smith in the 6th round, while you wait until the 9th to grab Williams.

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