Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith was, without question, the breakout performer of Week 11. Smith will be a wildly popular fantasy add in the days ahead, and for obvious reasons. He rushed for a career-high 140 yards on Sunday, he caught four passes for 61, and he crossed the goal line three times. He out-carried Maurice Morris 16-to-7 and out-gained him by 164 total yards. With Jahvid Best sidelined indefinitely, Smith now becomes a priority fantasy pickup.
"There's a lot of great stories in the NFL and I'm sure there's a lot of story-lines today," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz, following his team's 49-35 win. "But I think the NFL would be hard-pressed to find a better story than Kevin Smith."
No argument here. Smith was unemployed just three weeks ago, a guy with a serious injury history, working tirelessly to get back in the league. And now you're eyeing his name in the free-agent pool and contemplating a $70 FAAB bid.
Smith's rest-of-season schedule is friendly, so the acquisition should pay dividends. In the Lions' six remaining games, they'll only face one team that's held opposing rushers below 4.4 yards per carry (Minnesota, Week 14). Smith isn't likely to top 200 scrimmage yards again, but he can clearly deliver a few more useful fantasy lines.
But you shouldn't need a fantasy expert to tell you to go pick up the dude who just totaled 38.1 points. There's another takeaway from Smith's huge Week 11 performance, and it involves the defense that he was facing. The Carolina Panthers have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and by a wide margin — 2.1 more points per week than Tampa Bay, the league's second-friendliest D. The Panthers have somehow given up 16 total touchdowns and a ridiculous 1,814 total yards to running backs through just 10 games.
Let's take a look at the stats delivered against Carolina by featured RBs so far this year, week-by-week:
Week 1 - Beanie Wells, 102 scrimmage yards, TD (No. 7 fantasy RB)
Week 2 - James Starks, 115 yards (23)
Week 3 - Maurice Jones-Drew, 167 yards (8)
Week 4 - Matt Forte, 228 yards, TD (2)
Week 5 - Darren Sproles, 91 yards (24)
Week 6 - Michael Turner, 147 yards, 2 TDs (2)
Week 7 - Tim Hightower, 88 yards (22)
Week 8 - Adrian Peterson, 162 yards, 2 TDs (3)
Week 10 - Chris Johnson, 174 yards, TD (3)
Week 11 - Kevin Smith, 201 yards, 3 TDs (1)
So the average fantasy production by a lead back against this defense is 147.5 total yards and one TD. The Panthers have allowed an opposing back to finish among the top three at the position in five of their last seven games. They've already given up seven top-10 finishes.
And here's the most damning fact: Carolina's defense allowed Chris Johnson to be briefly not terrible.
For your convenience, here's a full list of the running backs who get to face the Panthers during the most important weeks of the fantasy season:
Week 12 - Donald Brown, Joseph Addai, Delone Carter
Week 13 - LeGarrette Blount, Kregg Lumpkin
Week 14 - Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Week 15 - Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Derrick Ward
Week 16 - LeGarrette Blount, Kregg Lumpkin
Week 17 - Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Christopher Ivory
Add where you can, perhaps consider a trade for Blount. If we had to release our Week 16 ranks today, his name would appear near the top.
Photo via US Presswire