Last week, I began a series of pieces in which I pose the questions of when to buy low and when to sell high on some of the bigger names in fantasy football. My thoughts last week were regarding whether or not to sell high on Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, and whether or not to buy low on Chicago running back Matt Forte.
This week, my concerns surround another high profile receiver: Carolina's Steve Smith.
Smith stands at a similar crossroads as Johnson, but for different reasons. Johnson is an enormous physical specimen who demands the attention of any defense. His problem, though, is that defenses can key on him because Detroit is starting a rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and teams would prefer that the rest of Detroit's offense beats them than Johnson.
Smith has also become the central focus of the defensive game plans for Carolina's opponents. In his comments after Monday night's victory over the Panthers, Dallas head coach Wade Phillips was pretty blunt in saying the Cowboys were doubling Smith the entire night.
This worked out alright for Carolina at the end of the first half, when Jake Delhomme connected with Dante Rosario twice, with the second reception coming in the end zone. But the rest of the night, the Panthers struggled to move the ball.
Smith's problem, much like Johnson's, is that the Panthers' opponents don't respect his quarterback. Delhomme has struggled this year, prompting Carolina to bring in journeyman backup AJ Feeley as an insurance policy. But, even with the enormous fantasy season DeAngelo Williams had last year, teams are still focusing their attention on Smith.
And, just as the case has been with Johnson in Detroit, Smith has struggled statistically to being 2009. Through three games, he has just 15 receptions for 190 yards and no touchdowns. In fact, the longest catch of Smith's season has only been 28 yards, and he's been held under 40 yards in two of the three games.
Against the Cowboys, who allowed Eli Manning and the Giants to run all over them just eight days previous in Dallas, Delhomme turned the ball over three more times. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble; his second interception turned into seven points for the Cowboys as well, when Terence Newman jumped a pass intended for Smith and took it to the house.
Smith is an elite receiver, no question, but as long as Delhomme struggles with turnovers and the Panthers have issues on the ground, teams are going to be able to take Smith out of the game. Dallas did it this week, and that will be a blueprint for Carolina's opponents moving forward.
The recommendation on Smith is to sellwhile he still has fantasy value. The way Delhomme is playing, there will be more 40-yard games than 120-yard game breaking performances, and it's going to be hard for Smith to get into the end zone with secondaries focusing on him.