The San Francisco 49ers big free agency investment this offseason was wide receiver Torrey Smith. He brings the team their first significant speed threat in some time. If the 49ers offensive line can buy Colin Kaepernick some time, this could potentially open up the passing game.
While getting deep is great for catching passes, there are some additional benefits. The most notable is the chance for some pass interference calls. In the latest Football Outsiders Almanac, Torrey Smith's blurb discusses his ability to draw pass interference flags in recent years. I inquired with FO as to whether there was skill to that, or if there was some luck involved. We hear about fumble recovery being more luck-based, but what about other stuff? Vincent Verhei had this to say:
Smith drew 11 DPI flags last year for 229 yards. That's five more flags for 100 more yards than anyone else. Smith had six flags for 93 yards in 2013 and five for 78 in 2012, making the top 15 in both categories both seasons. He has been the best at this for a while now, but it's hard to say how much of that was Smith getting so wide-open that cornerbacks had to interfere with him, as opposed to the Ravens just constantly throwing up jump balls and hoping Smith got mugged. More importantly, that's still only 400 yards of field position in three seasons. This is not the kind of thing you want to be relying on for offensive success.
As with everything about the 49ers offense in 2015, it all comes down to the offensive line. If they can't hold up, Smith won't have nearly enough time to get downfield. But, if the offense can get going, this could be a nice little perk to add to the offense. Sure it might not be a huge addition in a given year, but every extra bit of yardage is a plus.