In many ways, tonight’s Bengals-Ravens game was predicable. In a few others, it was surprising, with names both emerging and teasing.
The Ravens won, which was the least astonishing aspect of the evening. They’ve now won all three of their games against the Bengals during the Andy Dalton era, and over those three games they’ve posted 97 points on their division rivals. That was the surprise; the way in which the Ravens won, and their sheer dominance. Their 44-13 win handed Cincy its worst margin of defeat in Week 1 since 1991.
But in that win there was still discouragement for fantasy owners. Yes, Ray Rice did the kind of things that we’ve come to expect from Ray Rice, as he had 93 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. And yes, Joe Flacco looked like the effective, confident quarterback we saw most often last year, instead of the wayward and inaccurate one who emerged at times and frustrated.
The discouragement lied in Torrey Smith, though, and his continued existence as the epitome of the grand slam or strikeout receiver. He has blazing speed, and that was showcased when he beat the coverage downfield for a 52-yard reception early in the first quarter.
That was impressive. What was the opposite of impressive is what he did after that. Namely, nothing, or almost nothing.
Smith finished with 57 yards on just two receptions, and he was targeted only four times. Similar to Wes Welker yesterday, the instinct here is to assume that the lack of targets was due to the lopsided score. Then you scratch just a little beyond the surface of the boxscore, and realize that excuse is too easy. This game didn’t get truly out of hand until midway through the third quarter, and the Ravens led by only a touchdown at halftime.
What’s equally enticing and aggravating about Smith and his usage is that timing the explosion becomes the proverbial dice roll. He famously had a 152-yard game last year during his rookie season when he scored three times, but his 52-yard catch today beat his total yardage in eight games last year. Those were the valleys, and the other peaks were a 165-yard game, and three games with at least 70 yards.
His boom potential still makes Smith your ideal WR3, but he’s a frustrating one because nearly every week you’re teased, and left with the feeling that more is there.
If a deeper sleeper with the potential for more boom is your fancy, then look to the other sideline. In a losing cause Andrew Hawkins led all Bengals pass catchers with eight receptions for 86 yards. While we were all trying to learn his name, Hawkins was displaying his quick burst and short area speed on screens and swing passes, which included a 27-yard reception.
He went all Ogletree on us because Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden utilized his skillset perfectly. When Hawkins is given enough space to essentially act like a punt returner, yards accumulate.
Hawkins is currently owned in only two percent of Yahoo leagues, and in 12-team leagues where you’ve likely rostered at least five receivers, there’s little harm in taking a flier on him. Like the move many made to pick up Ogletree, at worst this was a one-week flash, and then Hawkins won’t be better than your other fifth wideout who was also flier fodder. Due to his style he could quickly become a volume receiver, and be far more valuable at a cheap price in point-per-reception leagues.
At best (at the very, very best), he’ll be the ever elusive next Victor Cruz who may or may not exist.