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Is Torrey Smith a fantasy football sleeper with Chip Kelly?

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The Philadelphia Eagles offense saw improvement from No. 1 receivers between 2013 and 2015. Torrey Smith could be the 49ers first beneficiary of Chip Kelly’s offense.

The San Francisco 49ers will enter the 2016 season with numerous questions about the offense. A miserable 2015 season resulted in the firing of Jim Tomsula, Geep Chryst, and many others. Chip Kelly took over, and is implementing his offensive philosophy. The team added Zane Beadles in free agency, and Joshua Garnett in the 2016 NFL Draft, but for the most part they will look to players added in recent years to develop this offense into something resembling decency.

It is safe to say that people will likely avoid most 49ers players in their upcoming fantasy drafts. Carlos Hyde and Torrey Smith are likely the first two 49ers off the board, and Phil Dawson is likely the only other 49er who will get drafted in general 12-team leagues. However, is it possible Smith in particular is going to be underrated in drafts?

ESPN recently posted their 2016 fantasy football draft kit, and it opened with fantasy guru Matt Berry pointing out 100 fantasy football facts for 2016. They cover a range of teams and players, but his facts related to Torrey Smith and Chip Kelly are rather interesting. I’ve posted the full list of facts at the bottom of the article.

Berry makes numerous comparisons to the Philadelphia Eagles, and it would seem to bode well for Smith in 2016. Over the course of Chip Kelly’s three seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles had a different leading receiver in each season, and each receiver set numerous career highs in their given year. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jordan Matthews, respectively, set career highs in targets, receptions, and yards, and matched a career high in touchdowns. If Smith were to match those performances, he would potentially finish with at least 66 receptions for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Smith has been the clear-cut No. 1 receiver once in his career. In 2013, he led the Ravens with 137 targets, 65 receptions, and 1,128 yards. In 2011, 2012, and 2015, Anquan Boldin was the No. 1 receiver, and in 2014, Steve Smith was the No. 1 receiver. Right now, it would seem like he is lined up to be that No. 1 guy. DeAndre Smelter, Eric Rogers, Quinton Patton, or others could certainly emerge as a big target for the 49ers quarterback, but for the time being, Smith is looking like the lead guy.

Even with the tight ends and running backs further involved in the offense, this could bode well if you are looking to draft a 49er at a bit of a discount this year. Smith is not guaranteed to put up huge numbers, but in this offense, he’ll seemingly get a lot more opportunities. Fantasy generally doesn’t provide bonus points for pass interference calls drawn, but Smith’s value should still grow in 2016.

Here are all of Matthew Berry’s Smith/Kelly facts:

  • 76. During the Chip Kelly era (2013-15), the Philadelphia Eagles ranked third in average yards per catch (12.13).
  • 76a. Chip Kelly is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers
  • 77. Since entering the NFL in 2011, 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith ranks third in yards per catch (17.29).
  • 78. Since 2011, no player has averaged more yards per catch AND scored more touchdowns than Smith.
  • 79. Smith has converted 70.8 percent of his career red zone catches into touchdowns.
  • 80. DeSean Jackson (2013), Jeremy Maclin (2014) and Jordan Matthews (2015) each had one season as the top target in Chip Kelly's offense.
  • 80a. In 2013, Jackson set career highs in targets, receptions, yards and tied his career high in touchdowns.
  • 80b. In 2014, Maclin set career highs in targets, receptions (to that point in his career), yards and tied his career high in touchdowns.
  • 80c. In 2015, Matthews set career highs in targets, receptions, yards and tied his career high in touchdowns.
  • 81. If Torrey Smith sets career highs this season in receptions, yards and ties for his career high in touchdowns, he'll have at least 66 receptions for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns, which last season would have made him the ninth-best WR in fantasy, just one point worse than A.J. Green.
  • 82. In a five-year NFL career, Smith has never missed a game.
  • 83. He is currently ranked outside of the top 40 at wide receiver; he's often going lower than that in early drafts.