While everyone left Sunday's Panthers-Cardinals game slack-jawed over Cam Newton's dynamic rookie debut performance, his gifted veteran wide receiver Steve Smith had a huge game of his own. The veteran receiver struggled mightily in 2010 with his worst performance in a healthy season since his rookie year. However, he stepped into the rejuvenation machine prior to Sunday's 2011 opener and put together a vintage Steve Smith performance.
Thanks in part to an atrocious Cardinals secondary and in part to his still remaining slick moves, Smith finished the game with eight receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns. With Monday Night Football still to be played, Smith is easily the leading receiver for week one. I happened to have him on my bench, but thankfully I'm winning the week without him.
The real question is what do Steve Smith owners do in week two and beyond? The Panthers host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday and I'm guessing the Packers defense will not be quite so accommodating to Cam Newton and company. I suppose it's possible Newton could build on his strong debut and stun the Packers. I mention Newton specifically because much of Steve Smith's 2011 value could ride on what Newton can do moving forward.
In reality, one could make the argument that the most logical next step for Smith owners would be to trade him. The only way his value gets any higher is if he puts together two or three weeks of monster performances. At this point nobody is going to buy high on Smith since it's only one week. If you hold onto him and get another solid performance either this Sunday or next Sunday, maybe you can deal Smith.
You could hold onto him all season in hopes of more big performances, but in reality he is likely to mix in a lot more blah performances than 100+ receiving yards or multiple touchdown days. Everything surrounding Cam Newton and the Panthers passing attack is a question mark so you have to go with a bit of a gut reaction for now. Pending some consistency in this first month of the season, Smith is a gamble to start each week.