Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Reactions to Torrey Smith, the Raven backfield, and others

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The 26-6 beatdown my Steelers endured on Thursday night was difficult to watch, but very teachable.  What fantasy football nuggets can we take away?

WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT THE RAVENS’ POST-RICE BACKFIELD?

The Raven backfield has been discussed widely this week, and I think we got some solid answers last night.  Against the Steelers, Bernard Pierce was the clear lead runner, dominating the ball early and handling most of the inside running.  Justin Forsett operated mainly as a change-of-pace back, catching swing passes and sprinkling in eight rushes.  That arrangement makes sense; Pierce is a 6’0 230 one-cut bowling ball who fits Gary Kubiak’s rushing scheme (in style if not talent), and Forsett is a journeyman scatback who has provided change-of-pace duties for four teams over the last four years.  This is the distribution we can probably expect going forward – but for how long?  The most intriguing takeaway from last night was the ineptitude of the two backs in short yardage.  Against the soft Steeler front seven, Pierce received three carries from inside the five and Forsett took two – and none produced touchdowns.  If only the Ravens had a promising back on roster who boasts Pierce’s bulk, led the NFL in rushing this preseason, and ran for 27 TDs in school last year.

(sarcasm beat)

Maybe we’ll soon see a shift in the Ravens’ inside running distribution.  Probably not, but it’s nice to dream.

Bernard PierceHold, but don’t start beyond a desperate FLEX play

Justin ForsettHold, but don’t start beyond a desperate FLEX play

Lorenzo TaliaferroScoop him up speculatively – he’s only 21% owned in MFL and 3% owned in Yahoo leagues – but don’t expect much usage barring an injury to Pierce or Forsett.

IS TORREY SMITH EVEN A PART OF THE RAVENS’ GAMEPLAN?

Torrey Smith was drafted 25th among wideouts according to Fantasy Football Calculator, and his owners are dealing with gurgling stomachs this morning.  He’s seen just ten targets thus far, and his 4-60-0 line through two weeks is certainly troubling for those owners’ WR2/3.  Last night, Smith was looked for just three times as he faced solid, physical coverage from up-and-down corner Cortez Allen; the Ravens simply adjusted their gameplan to feature their TEs (a Kubiak staple) and the sneaky Steve Smith.

So, should you sell your Torrey shares?  I’d recommend you do the opposite: right now, Smith is looking like a prime trade target.  He’s better than this, and increased opportunity is likely coming.  Consider that the Ravens threw the ball 619 times last season, but are on pace for just 496 in 2014.  Don’t you think that trend will even out a bit?  After all, this is a pretty mediocre team that won’t be winning many blowouts like this one.  And as much as we love Steve Smith and his stunning start to the season, he’s 35 years old; I’m betting on his high early usage and production coming down dramatically.

Anyone holding Steve Smith, Andrew Hawkins, or even Allen Hurns would be wise to float a one-for-one offer to a (probably panicky) Torrey owner.  The best is yet to come.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BELL/BLOUNT COMMITTEE?

I’m glad we’ve already put to bed the notion of LeGarrette Blount creating a timeshare in the Pittsburgh backfield.  We heard all offseason of the Steelers’ plans to balance snaps and touches between the two, but I never fully bought it; the talent and utility gaps between the two are simply too wide.  Blount is an inconsistent plodder whose short-yardage production has never matched his imposing size, and a comically poor figure in the passing game.  Le’Veon Bell is a dynamic runner, a great mix of power and agility with special open-field instincts, in addition to being a true weapon as a receiver.  As mixed up as the Steeler coaching staff is, give them credit for not trying to force a committee here: Bell is the mail-carrier and will dominate the backfield to a 75% tune, while Blount is a strict backup.

WHY DO THE STEELERS HATE ANTONIO BROWN?

The guy took a vicious shot to the noggin in the first quarter, went to the locker room, passed through the concussion protocol, and returned to the field.  The Steelers responded by keeping him on punt returns and sending him on a second-quarter reverse into traffic on the short side of the field.  This offense looks unwilling to use the deep quarters or the sideline; they seem okie-dokie with exclusively dumping the ball to their receivers in harm’s way.  RotoViz’s Justin Winn made a great case for floating Brown in trade offers after his red-hot start, and the threat of overuse and/or injury makes that look concept look even smarter.

 

Lead photo: “Antoine Cason, Torrey Smith” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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