By Ray Kuhn
Player: Kevin Smith
Team: Detroit Lions
Draft Range: 63-97 (All ADP data courtesy of www.mockdraftcentral.com)
I never thought that Smith would really be factoring much into the discussion as a mid round draft choice entering this season. However, the continued concussion issues for Jahvid Best (read the August 7 Detroit Free Press report here) leaving him in limbo and Mikel Leshoure’s health issues coupled with his 2 game suspension, there is a clear opportunity for Smith as the Lions starting running back.
- The main thing to keep in mind here is that Smith is still young, 25, and is a talented running back. He is entering his 5th NFL season, but in reality only has 2 real seasons of football (2008 and 2009) under his belt due to health issues.
- His rookie season is a source of optimism as he rushed for 976 yards and 8 touchdowns while also catching 39 passes for 286 yards. Keep in mind not only was he a rookie, but the Lions offense was not nearly as explosive as it is now and they were often in passing situations as they were usually trailing.
- In limited playing time last season, Smith appeared in 7 games, he rushed for 356 yards on 72 carries (4.9 yards per carry average) and he caught another 22 passes for 179 yards. With Smith carrying the load as the number one back, there is no reason not to expect him to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 50 passes for another 450 yards as a conservative projection.
- The issue with Smith all along was his health, never his talent. Now at 25, Smith is excited about his health telling the Detroit News, “This is the best I have ever felt, body-wise and mentally. I just love playing football, man, what can I say. I come to work with a smile on my face every day.” (click here for the article).
- Smith showed that he was in good shape at the end of last season, and based on this offseason he has done nothing to dispute that fact. Yes, he did have some trouble with an ankle sprain toward the end of last season, but he was able to at least play thru it. With most running backs having some sort of question mark, especially backs in this group as Smith is currently the 36th running back being taken, this is a risk I would feel comfortable with as it gets into the 9th or 10th round.
- The Lions are clearly a pass first team, and especially in PPR leagues, that is where Smith’s value lies. He is a good pass protector, which will keep in games on passing downs, and more importantly he is building crucial chemistry with Matthew Stafford as a receiver out of the backfield. In a Detroit Free Press article (click here for the article), Smith had this to say on the subject: “Me and Matt are pretty comfortable out there with ourselves. We have great communication. I kind of read off him and know the type of things he’s going to do. I really know and I’ve kind of got his time clock in my head when he’s going to release the ball, and if he’s in trouble I’ll try to be an outlet for him.”
At this point the Lions really don’t have any other options in their backfield other than Smith. He is healthy, knows the offense, has chemistry with Stafford and, most importantly to the Lions offense, is a weapon in the passing game both as a blocker and a safety valve. Smith has two things that are important when evaluating fantasy running backs, talent and opportunity. As long he is healthy, he is a solid RB3/flex option that could return RB2 value at least as a bye week replacement.
What are your thoughts about Smith? Is he somebody that is on your mid-round radar?
Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: