Can Torrey Smith play the Andre Johnson role?

By Larry Hartstein | Senior Analyst

Torrey Smith has a high ceiling thanks to Gary Kubiak's arrival in Baltimore. (USATSI)
Torrey Smith has a high ceiling thanks to Gary Kubiak's arrival in Baltimore. (USATSI)

Before last season Gary Kubiak was asked if the Texans targeted Andre Johnson too much. Johnson had drawn 164 targets in 2012, 96 more than any other Houston wideout, while catching 112 passes for 1,598 yards.

"It's going to happen again," Kubiak told the Houston Chronicle.

So it did. Johnson got 181 targets last year, second-most in the league and 88 more than No. 2 receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Look at Johnson's last four 16-game seasons:

2013: 181 targets, 2nd

2012: 164 targets, tied for 5th

2009: 172 targets, 1st

2008: 170 targets, 2nd

Note: Johnson missed nine games in 2011, three in 2010

Now look at Houston's No. 2 receiver in those years:

2013: Hopkins, 93 targets

2012: Kevin Walter, 68 targets

2009: Kevin Walter, 70 targets

2008: Kevin Walter, 95 targets

Note: Kyle Shanahan was Houston's offensive coordinator in 2008-09, working under Kubiak.

Kubiak, of course, was fired as Texans coach and is now running the Ravens' offense. He brings a zone run scheme and a West Coast passing game that stresses play action, throws to tight ends and a No. 1 wideout. This receiver plays the X, or split end position, in Kubiak's offense. Like Johnson, Smith is the X receiver.

Torrey Smith is not Andre Johnson. He's three inches shorter, but he's not small at 6-foot, 205-pounds. He's not frail either: Smith has never missed a game in college or the NFL.

Let's also concede that Ravens No. 2 wideout Steve Smith is slightly better, even at age 35, than Hopkins or Walter.

But look at what Torrey Smith, who's just entering his prime at 25, has done with far fewer targets than Johnson.

2011: 95 targets, tied for No. 23 Fantasy WR

2012: 110 targets, No. 23 Fantasy WR

2013: 139 targets, tied for No. 19 Fantasy WR

He has yet to finish lower than a WR2. That's his floor. His ceiling? Low-end WR1.

Torrey Smith should be going higher than his current average draft position -- 25th WR on MyFantasyLeague.com, 26th WR on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. He offers great value as a Round 6 pick almost guaranteed to have his best year yet.

I'd take him over DeSean Jackson, Emmanuel Sanders, Kendall Wright and Percy Harvin.

Smith is excited about Kubiak's arrival. He's picking up the system quickly.

"I love it. Football is football, and there are a lot of concepts that we've had before that we understand, but it's kind of his way of going about it," Smith said after a recent practice.

"Even something as simple as the route running, he likes to break down a little bit more rather than speed cutting a lot, which is what we did last year. It's been working well. Guys have been working hard, we're getting it down, and that's really all we can ask for at this point."

Check out this practice video to see Smith, known for going deep, run a variety of routes in the new offense.

It doesn't hurt that Smith is entering his contract year.

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