This is the time of year when you will quickly need to decide whether to sell high on some of players that you feel might be overachieving, or to stand pat and hope that they develop into the type of players that can help you on a weekly basis. Then there are the guys who have underperformed thus far in their careers and you are wondering if this might be the year they start to get it. That being said, let’s get to these two points!
Run Play: Kevin Smith
Is there any way that you start this guy in Week Two at San Francisco? If you drafted late in the first round and you ended up taking two elite WR's early, or one elite WR and either Graham or Gronk, you likely wound up with Smith as your RB2 a few rounds later. Don't panic. Although he is injury prone, you could have done a lot worse.
In his career Kevin Smith has been productive...when he's been on the field. Now in his 5th season, he has only started 30 games, appeared in 43 total and the only time he played in all 16 games was his rookie year (2008). In that limited time he has accumulated over 2,200 yards on the ground, 1,723 of it in 2008-2009 alone. A period in which Detroit posted 2 Wins and 30 Losses.
The key to this week's matchup is that he is a very good pass catcher. He has a career 117 receptions for 1,032 yards and 5 TD’s. So in his NFL journey for every 10 yards he has gained rushing, he’s gotten 5 yards in the passing game. And this week I would expect very pedestrian numbers from Smith in the running game, but pretty decent production through the air.
Calvin Johnson should start, but is nursing a sore foot. He should also continue to be double-teamed. I would expect the Niners to do an adequate job of minimizing the Lions’ big plays, both passing and running. But look for Smith to catch a half a dozen dump off passes for 40-50 yards, maybe even a score. If he does have another big week and avoids injury…SELL HIGH!
Pass Play: Michael Crabtree
The fourth-year wide out for the 49ers has been a bit of a disappointment for fantasy and real football. Apparently he missed the memo that 3rd year receivers are supposed to breakout. I will give him one more chance here in 2012 and here is why.
There finally seems to be a coaching vision that has taken this team in a very specific direction and given it some stability. Crabtree seems to be the type of player that performs just a little bit better each season. This new atmosphere should only help his development. Last year almost 550 of his 874 yards came over the last 7 weeks of the season. His numbers, although not gaudy, were serviceable and consistent. This is something he has never really shown before.
The same can be said of Alex Smith. And although it cannot be measured by statistics, you just get the sense that Jim Harbaugh is in the process of figuring out how to get these players to do what we all have expected them to do. Produce! Last week – and I know it was the Green Bay Packers – Crabtree caught 7 of 9 targets for 76 yards.
Seemingly picking up where he left off last year, and with a full off-season with Harbaugh, I expect to see Crabtree get, yes, at least a little bit better this year. And at the rate he’s been going, that should put him right at 1,000 yards and 8 TD’s. Against the Lion’s secondary I think he could catch 8 balls for 90 yards and maybe a touchdown. I can live with that.