Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
Yesterday, we talked about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerome Simpson and his chances of earning the No. 3 receiver role behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Today we're going to talk about ... Torrey Smith.
We haven't done this post sooner because I wanted to go back and watch some more film of Smith before doing a 90-in-90 on him and I have to say, I really like what he can bring to the table. Smith was used primarily as a "lob it up there and see what happens" guy in Baltimore, but that's primarily due to the fact that Joe Flacco is a "lob it up there and see what happens" kind of quarterback.
Smith's skillset is actually a lot greater than you might think. He's a deep threat for certain, but he also is a solid route-runner and I like his hands on top of that. Smith has pretty intense agility, and I think his athleticism makes him an ideal pairing with Boldin, one of the best possession receivers in the history of the NFL.
Last season, Smith caught 49 passes for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he also received his fewest-ever targets. Some people have suggested Smith had a bad case of the drops last season, but I went through and looked at a massive portion of incomplete passes thrown his way, including several that sites like Pro Football Focus attributed as drops, and I didn't see drops on all of them.
They credit him with a massive 11 drops, one more than Michael Crabtree in 2014. I certainly didn't see that many, but it is probably a concern with so many people who are probably smarter than me suggesting it is. That said, I noticed quite a few of those drops were on deep lobs with other players having the same opportunity as Smith to play the ball as it hung up in the air.
Maybe that just sounds like confirmation bias, but I really did go back and watch this stuff over again. Smith isn't perfect, and he is no guarantee at this stage, but I really like his skillset and what he brings, especially with Colin Kaepernick throwing him the ball. Kaepernick throws a great deep ball, and I think Smith will rise to this new challenge.
One other bit I'd like to mention is that Smith's level of success could depend a lot on what happens with Vernon Davis. If Davis comes out the gate looking like the threat he should be in the secondary, that could leave even more room for Smith to work. Just something to think about.
Why he could improve:
Smith did have a down year last season, putting up his lowest totals across the board, except for one area: touchdowns. I think Smith will get a lot more looks than he did with the Ravens and I personally think Kaepernick delivers a better ball than Flacco does. I think the offense will be designed around the running game, but Smith will get all the opportunities he needs. He's 26 years old and has plenty room to grow.
Why he could regress:
Or ... maybe his regression will continue, Kaepernick doesn't mesh well with him and defenders have figured him out. Maybe he is only good for deep balls and I'm just a talentless hack (this one is a smart bet) and Smith will only be good for a handful of 30-yard gains over the course of the season. Or maybe he just won't get any looks at all as Carlos Hyde establishes himself as an absolute superstar and the best running back to ever play the game. Who knows?
Odds of making the roster:
Smith isn't a guaranteed No. 1 receiver or anything, but he's a starter and the 49ers have invested a good bit of money in him. He's not at any risk of missing the roster cut, and won't be for some time. He's got a 100 percent chance of being the starter in Week 1, unless aliens.