5 Things to Know About Torrey Smith's Fit With the San Francisco 49ers
That new destination, according to multiple reports, is San Francisco -- a team that underachieved in 2014 after doing serious work in the playoffs in each of the three years prior. What does it mean for the 49ers? Has Smith's fantasy value taken a hit? Let's dive in and look at five key things surrounding this potential deal.
1. The 49ers have been the second run-heaviest team in the NFL over the last four years.
Anyone who watches the NFL is aware that the 49ers have had a run-first mentality for quite some time now. Over the last four years -- the four seasons Greg Roman was the 49ers offensive coordinator -- San Francisco has had a pass-to-run ratio of 1.00, which is only higher than Seattle's 0.97 ratio. The next closest team is Houston, who sits with a 1.12 ratio.
This could naturally spell disaster for a wide receiver, but that's not necessarily the case, as evidenced by the next item.
2. If Michael Crabtree is gone in San Francisco, which is likely, he leaves behind 108 targets.
Despite such a low pass-to-run ratio, the 49ers have still found ways to get their wide receivers the ball. Just last year, Michael Crabtree saw 108 targets. During his four years in the NFL, Torrey Smith has averaged 108.5 targets per season in Baltimore.
I mention this because the Smith signing means Crabtree is likely gone. In other words, he'll be taking over some or all of that volume, but said volume isn't far off from what Smith is used to seeing. That is, as long as the 49ers are a little more pass-heavy than they were from 2011-2013 -- last season, San Francisco jumped to a 1.15 ratio, which was seventh lowest in the NFL.
3. Torrey Smith has been much more efficient than Michael Crabtree though.
Smith should have no trouble doing more with his volume than what Crabtree did, too. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- read more about NEP in our glossary -- Smith has never finished a season with a per target Reception NEP lower than 0.70 (which is an above average rate), while Crabtree has accomplished this average in just one of his five NFL seasons where he saw at least 80 targets.
Much of this is due to Smith's ability to stretch the field, which has been missing in the 49ers offense. Get excited for that new dimension, San Francisco fans.
4. The quarterback change isn't significant.
The average quarterback season in terms of cumulative Passing NEP since 2000 is 42.00. Why not zero? Because passing is far more efficient than rushing.
Joe Flacco, over his seven-year career, has hit this mark three times, with last season being quite easily his best year in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick, Torrey Smith's new quarterback (I won't address the Kaepernick trade block talk, because that's not what we do here), has hit the average Passing NEP mark in two of his three significant NFL campaigns, with last year being the one season in which he didn't.
A positive for the shift with Smith to San Francisco is that Kaepernick is a strong-armed quarterback, as is Flacco. In general, the bigger change comes with scheme and offensive philosophy, not necessarily quarterback production.
5. The move will more than likely make a bigger real football impact than a fantasy football one.
In the end, this move makes more sense from a real football standpoint than a fantasy one. What I mean by that is Smith fills a void for San Francisco, but because of the team's general run-heavy approach, he may not see a spike in production as a 49er. This is especially true when you consider Kaepernick has thrown an average of 20 touchdowns per season over the last two years, while Flacco tossed 27 a year ago.
Another angle to this, too, is that there was hope that Smith's numbers would see a boost under Ravens' new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who's made multiple wideouts into fantasy football studs as a coordinator (and head coach of the Bears) in the past. That potential is now gone.
But Smith should complement former teammate Anquan Boldin -- who can play more of a possession game with his big body -- very well, as he did in Baltimore.
The 49ers finally have the piece to stretch the field, and that should really help the entire offense.