Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Alex Smith (ankle) suffered what appeared to be a nasty ankle injury during his team's 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. With his awkward bend backwards during a block and the entire Buccaneers bench coming onto the field to watch over him, the injury appeared serious. However, the next day during his press conference, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said x-rays were negative for fractures. Gruden also added, "We don't believe it's as serious as Mike Pittman's [ankle injury]. He has a chance to play this week." Gruden referred to Smith as "questionable" although he did not dress for the team's Week 7 game.
From a fantasy perspective, Smith made a splash in Week 5 with two touchdowns but otherwise has been unable to provide much value to fantasy owners so far this season. In point-per-reception leagues, he has not been reliable. Not including the game in which Smith left early due to injury, he has averaged just 2.6 receptions per game, with no more than four receptions in any week. Smith also doesn't gain much yardage. In his five games prior to his injury, Smith averaged only 23.6 yards. Even in his two-touchdown performance in Week 5, those were his only two catches on the day, as well as his only touchdowns this year. Smith has had only one other red zone look this season, so he has not been much of a red zone threat for Tampa Bay.
All of this inconsistent production is unfortunate, considering that Gruden runs the West Coast offense, which typically calls for the tight end to be involved. Gruden never has had much success enabling tight ends to be much of a factor in his version of the West Coast offense. This situation is also unfortunate because Smith has shown flashes of talent in his career, such as his rookie debut, where he caught four balls for 34 yards and two touchdowns and an eight-catch game late in his rookie season.
Even if Smith can play on his injured ankle, expect his production to be further limited. If Smith is unable to play, Tampa Bay also employs tight ends Jerramy Stevens and Anthony Becht, but considering how Gruden historically uses the tight end in his system, don't expect either to make much of a fantasy impact. Furthermore, the Bucs picked up running back Michael Bennett from the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade, so we may see fewer plays to the tight end as Gruden tries out his "new toy."
Even with Tampa Bay throwing a ton (45 attempts) in Week 7, Stevens and Becht only combined for five catches and 19 yards. If you need a Bye week fill-in, consider other available tight ends instead, such as the Chicago Bears' Greg Olsen or Green Bay Packers tight end Donald Lee. All three of them are widely available and could make solid contributions to your lineup.
About Robert Tong
Robert Tong has been a KFFL contributing writer since 2007.
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