I love loading my fantasy teams with players on offenses that are going to score a lot of points. Even if the team doesn’t have much of a running game I figure if I can pick up that team’s starting back I am in good shape. These types of guys might only get 700 rushing yards or so for the year, but usually they are going to have a good number of receptions and enough red zone opportunities to punch in seven to ten touchdowns. Sometimes opportunities in fantasy football are more important than talent.
With that way of thinking I am trying to approach the Detroit Lions’ running back situation – specifically when it comes to Kevin Smith. Is Smith a sleeper or a waste of time? The Central Florida alumni has never been a marquee fantasy name. His best statistical year was in 2008 when he totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage with double digit touchdowns, but since then, injuries and ineffective play have made Smith a fantasy after thought.
Injuries and the team’s much publicized legal issues this off season have made the Lions’ running back bench short. Jahvid Best has injury issues and will not be ready for the start of the season. Mikel Leshoure has a suspension to deal with. As of right now that leaves Smith as the best on roster option for the start of the season. The question for fantasy owners is this: is Kevin Smith a sleeper worth taking a flier on in 2012?
There is little doubt Smith will be the Week One starter in Detroit and the Lions open the season against the St. Louis Rams. Points should come in bunches against one of the worst teams in the league making Smith a legitimate fantasy option out of the gate. Week Two against San Francisco would put most running backs on the bench, but Week Three and Four again has the Lions against – at least on paper – second tier defenses.
Even if Smith looks good two or even three out of the first four games, I don’t think he is going to win the outright starting job. The Lions will be getting two guys back that they have invested high draft picks on. They obviously don’t have faith in Smith or they would not have drafted Leshoure AND Best. The Lions’ running back situation looks like a classic case of a running back by committee situation. Even with the amount of points the offense looks like they will be putting up this year, the phrase running back by committee scares me off enough to trump my high powered offense argument.
Another reason to be leery of Smith as a long term option as a number two or three back is his history of injury. He has not played in all sixteen games since 2008. Health no doubt is one of the reasons the Lions have drafted running backs high the last few years. Health is something you still can’t count on with Smith.
With all the negatives surrounding him, there is one situation where Smith could help your team. If you need him for a month or less he has a chance to put up some nice numbers. If you have a guy like Maurice Jones-Drew – even though it appears he is back – or Ryan Matthews on your roster Smith might be the perfect fill-in to save the early part of your season. If you are counting on Smith to be a long term solution – you might want to keep looking.