EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27: (FILE PHOTO) Steve Smith #12 of the New York Giants runs past Richard Marshall #31 of the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. According to reports on August 10, 2011, Smith and the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a one year deal. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chances are you know who Steve Smith is. No, not that one, the other one. The one who you took with an early-round pick in your fantasy football draft in 2010, the guy who put up 1,220 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for the New York Giants in 2009. Now, the St. Louis Rams are hoping they have a sleeper breakout candidate in Smith, who they signed to a rebound free agent deal in the spring.
Smith led the Giants in 2009 in all receiving categories, including 107 receptions. He was targeted 150 times that year, catching more than 70 percent of the passes thrown his way. He was a quarterback's best friend, a possession receiver's possession receiver.
"Well, there's no indication that he's any place other than where he was before the injury," head coach Jeff Fisher said on Tuesday. "He had a great offseason. He's running well. His time in his condition test was excellent. He has no setbacks. He's not in the training room. He's in good shape."
Injuries wiped out Smith's 2010 and 2011 season. Smith had a nasty knee injury in 2010, requiring microfracture surgery. Some felt like he rushed back onto the field with the Eagles in 2011, where he hardly resembled in player he was in 2009.
The Rams signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract in March.
As a possession receiver, Smith is not only battling back from his injuries, he faces a list of potential possession receivers with guys like Greg Salas, Austin Pettis, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson vying for spots on the roster too.
So far, it's too early to get a good read on the receiver situation. Rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens have spots locked up, but have to work their way onto the first team. Givens, because of his status as the speedy field stretcher, has seen more work with the ones. Amendola is as close to a lock as it gets, which leaves three spots, probably, for Smith and the rest. Special teams could be a factor in those last spots as well.
If I had to venture a guess, I would offer this as my early prediction for how the receiver race shapes up at the moment: Amendola, Quick, Givens, Salas (who has seen bunches of playing time and impressed in those chances), Smith and Gibson. Pettis could easily make a case based on special teams play. Danario Alexander's chances dwindle every day that he watches practice from the sidelines, but he has enough talent to demand a second look once he gets on the field.
You can see how difficult this will be to fill those last three spots.