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Smith Facing Suspension
by Ted Carlson - Senior Editor, Fanball.com
Friday, August 20, 2004
Vikings running back Onterrio Smith once dubbed himself the "S.O.D." A fourth-round pick in 2003, Smith meant that he was the Steal of the Draft – someone who was too talented to slip so far down the board. After a solid rookie campaign, the moniker appeared to be apt.
After the news of Thursday night, though, Smith may now be labeled "Suspended Over Drugs."
KFAN.com learned that Smith faces a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. A NFL player usually receives such a sentence with their third violation, although some players have received a four-game suspension after two violations if they entered the league with past abuse issues. FOX Sports believes that Smith incurred two "strikes" in the NFL's substance abuse policy over the past year. Smith will have the chance to appeal.
Smith's checkered past was the reason he slipped into the fourth round of the draft. The Oregon star actually began his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee. According to the Tennessean, head coach Philip Fullmer dismissed the talented sophomore runner in 2000 for "violating team rules." Sources told the newspaper that Smith tested positive multiple times for marijuana.
The Volunteer running back, then 19, also made headlines when he was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges for allegedly hitting the 18-year-old mother of his two-year-old daughter. Then, after transferring to Oregon, Smith found himself on the police blotter when he was arrested for drunken and reckless driving just a few weeks prior to the 2001 season. At the time, Smith was both under 21 and driving with a suspended license.
As such, it's not surprising that such a talented running back slipped all the way into the fourth round. It's also not too shocking to think that Smith would have violated the league's policy since entering the league.
Assuming the four-game suspension is upheld, the crowded Vikings backfield suddenly becomes less murky. Michael Bennett already held the starting job, but now he won't need to share carries with the second-year runner. Moe Williams is still around to potentially perform third down and short-yardage duties, but unlike 2002, head coach Mike Tice will not necessarily hand those roles to Williams.
When Smith does return, head coach Mike Tice will need to decide how much faith he wants to put into his young back. The next violation would presumably result in a one-year ban, so Tice may be shy about letting Smith take over much of Bennett's load or any short-yardage action.
So, what do fantasy owners do about Bennett, Williams, and Smith?
Last part first - we know for sure that drafting Smith is a wasted roster space for at least five weeks, as the Vikings have a bye in week four. He won't even be eligible to play until week six and then in week seven the Vikings face last year's number one run defense, the Titans, in yet another game that you would probably not start him in your fantasy lineup. More than likely, Smith will give fantasy teams nothing for the first half of the season, and we see no good reason to draft him unless you play in a very, very deep league.
We also know that Bennett will be a yardage stud for at least the first half of the season and likely the whole campaign. He could also be in charge of goal line situations, which would make him even more valuable in fantasy leagues.
Williams exists as a possible goal line back and the clear backup to Bennett. Fantasy owners should view him in a more standard handcuff role and draft Moe only as an injury-case scenario.
Updated on Friday, Aug 20, 2004 12:22 am EDT