Kevin Smith entered the 2009 season with high expectations following a rookie year in which he finished with 1,262 total yards and eight touchdowns. He caught the attention of the fantasy world by making an impact in playoff weeks 14-17, when he combined for 420 total yards, three touchdowns, and 11 receptions.
His climb up ADP charts throughout last summer was an indication of how fantasy players were beginning to get hyped over his potential, especially in PPR leagues where he was being drafted in the early-to-middle third round.
The 2009 season did not go as well for Smith as many had hoped. He battled through injuries to both shoulders during the season and ultimately ended up on injured reserve after tearing the ACL in his left knee against the Ravens in Week 14.
He finished the 2009 season with 1,156 total yards, five total touchdowns, and 40 receptions over 13 games. For a Top-30 overall fantasy selection, these are very disappointing totals, especially since he was sidelined with an injury for the playoff weeks.
Smith is very doubtful to be ready for the start of training camp, and his availability for the start of the 2010 season is also in question.
He had surgery to repair his knee in December and has been going through an intensive rehabilitation process to strengthen his legs, as well as his shoulders. Even if he is available for Week One, it is unlikely he will be playing at 100 percent.
It is being reported that Lions GM, Martin Mayhew, is intent on adding another running back to the roster, either through free agency, a trade, or the NFL Draft in April. It remains unclear as to what role a new player will have in the backfield, but many assume this means Kevin Smith’s days of being the featured running back are over.
All this negativity surrounding Smith could actually result in him being a sneaky value pick in 2010. While there will be a lot of risk surrounding him in 2010, it is good to remember what made him such a popular fantasy prospect prior to the 2009 season.
His elusive, one-cut running style is a perfect fit for offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan’s, zone blocking scheme. He also has excellent hands to contribute in the passing game, and at the time of injury last year, he was ranked fifth among all running backs in receiving yards. Overall, he averaged a solid 89 total yards per game in 2009.
Also, it should not be a foregone conclusion that the Lions are pursuing a running back in order to replace Smith.
Perhaps they are just seeking additional depth at the position as insurance against Smith having a longer-than-expected recovery process. Currently, they have 30-year-old Maurice Morris and second year player Aaron Brown, who has struggled with pass protection and blown assignments.
There have been no reports that the Lions are disheartened toward Smith.
A lot of Smith’s fantasy value will depend on how his knee holds up and which running back Detroit adds to the team. This will be a situation to monitor the entire offseason, and fantasy expectations should be adjusted according to the latest developments.
As things look now, if Smith starts falling to the middle rounds in re-draft leagues, he is definitely worth a gamble, especially in PPR formats.
He may start the season slowly, but he should get healthier as the season progresses and could become an asset to fantasy owners making a push for the playoffs. His totals may have been a disappointment last year, but keep in mind he still averaged 11 fantasy points per week (14 points in PPR leagues).
So if the price is right, don’t pass up on him.
Smith is certainly worth a roster spot in dynasty and keeper leagues. He is only 23 years old and is playing with young and talented players like Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, and Brandon Pettigrew.
The Lions have potential to become an explosive offense in the near future, which gives Smith a lot of upside—especially if he keeps his role as a featured back on the team.
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