The Ravens have been one of the most successful teams of this century, but don't get much fantasy love because they are known for their dominating defense and "just enough" offense. In terms of yardage, the Ravens have been a top 10 defense in 10 of the last 12 years. That's amazing consistency considering how many different players and coaches have come through Baltimore. As soon as they lose a defensive coordinator, or a pro bowl defensive player, they just bring in another and get right back to work.
Unfortunately, they've been almost just as consistent on offense. They haven't been top 10 in the league in offense since 1997. Last year they finished 22nd in yards and 16th in points, but they seem to have a plan to improve. They've lost Willis McGahee and Todd Heap, but they've added a veteran running back, a veteran wide receiver and two speedy rookie wideouts to join Anquan Boldin in his 2nd year in Baltimore.
How are the players looking for the fantasy season?
Imagine you could be magically transported to... Delaware. Hi, I'm in Delaware.
Flacco played school at Delaware, making him the most famous person in Delaware history, next to Valerie Bertinelli. He's much like Delaware in many ways: He's in the Northeast. Few people remember he exists. He's completely boring while still not giving us any reasons not to like him, like that guy New Jersey. He's just there.
But maybe he should get more credit. He's started every game for the Ravens in the 3 years since he was drafted, and won at least one playoff game each season. He's gradually improved each year and had 25 TD/10 INT last year with a 93.6 QB rating. Many people are probably expecting those to be peak numbers, but the truth is that we just don't know for sure until we see the results. Last year the Ravens added Anquan Boldin to help him, and this year they've added the talented but inconsistent Lee Evans. Flacco may have more weapons now than he's ever had, and he's a solid fantasy QB. I'd probably keep him near the top of that 2nd tier of QBs, but I think there's potential for him to jump into the next level.
Jump with me, wont you?
Taylor isn't a fantasy option and probably won't be this year. But he's an interesting player for sure. The Ravens took him in the 6th round and probably be the primary backup. He was 19 for 28 in the first preseason game with 2 interceptions, and he ran 6 times for 59 yards. He's a less accurate version of Michael Vick, which is kind of like being a slow version of David Ortiz. He could be interesting in 2 or 3 years.
I like Ray Rice a lot. He only averaged 4 yards per carry last season, when he got a bigger share of the carries after having a breakout 2009 season, but he is super talented. He scored just 6 total touchdowns and topped 100 yards rushing just twice, but he's an agile back that can catch balls in a hurry out of the backfield. Willis McGahee is gone and Ricky Williams is in as the new touchdown vulture, but I think Rice is capable of big things in 2011. I like Rice for 90 yards per game rushing, 70 catches, 10-15 touchdowns, and a few really big games that could carry you to a victory all by himself. He's a first round pick in my book for sure.
He's not your average 34 year old running back. 2 years ago he rushed for over 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns in Miami, and after barely playing for four years he's still got some pop left in him. He was effective when he got carries last year, and he could score a few touchdowns in Baltimore. If anything happens to Rice, Williams is a sneaky play to potentially be a solid RB2. At this point however, he's probably only draftable as a handcuff to Rice at the end of the draft.
If anything does happy to Rice, Williams would probably be next in line. But at 34 years old, you should keep an eye on the next guy in line. That's Parmele, a 6th round draft pick in 2008 that has gotten little playing time. He rushed 7 times for 35 yards in the first preseason game.
Always keep in mind for trivia questions in the future when people ask "Who was the wide receiver the Cardinals drafted first in 2003?" that the answer is Bryant Johnson. It's a good thing they took Boldin in the next round.
He's not quite the player he was in his first few seasons in Arizona, when he topped 100 catches twice in three years, but Boldin still has some skills left in him. He had a career low 52 YPG last year, but with Flacco a year older and Lee Evans stretching the field, he could be in line for a bounce-back season. He disappeared at the end of last season, so its easy to forget he had 700 yards and 7 scores in the first 12 games. He could find himself in good position for 80 catches and 1000 yards this year, which would make him a good WR2 and a great WR3.
He had 6 catches for 105 yards and 3 TDs against Baltimore last season, and did very little else for the rest of the year. Evans had high expectations when he was drafted 13th overall, and he seemed to start living up to those in his 3rd year, but instead he started to go backwards. He's getting in a better situation with the Ravens than what he had with the Bills, but these are still the Ravens and not exactly the 1999 Rams or anything. His goal will be to give the Ravens a true deep threat. While Boldin will rack up the catches, Evans will try to make the big play. I'd like him for something like 40-50 grabs, 700-800 yards, and a few scores. I wouldn't start him in my top 3, but I'd be happy to have him on my bench in case he does figure it out again.
Before the Ravens acquired Lee, they were in danger of having two rookies in their top 3 WR options. Smith was selected in the 2nd round out of Maryland as an exceptional kick returner and potential burner in the NFL. He seems very talented with lots of potential to breakout one day, but without much training camp, it did seem crazy that he would be starting week 1. The move to get Evans means Smith can relax and work on learning the playbook and being a third option for Flacco. He's not someone I'd draft, but someone to keep an eye on, as he's looked really good in camp.
The Ravens took Doss in the 4th round this year, and like Smith he's got a lot of potential. He caught 3 balls in the first preseason game and had a 26 yard kick return. As the #4 wideout in Baltimore, he's not much to consider in fantasy unless some injuries happen, or if you're in a crazy names league.
For the first time since 2000, the Ravens are going into the season without Todd Heap. I just realized as I typed that, that it means that Heap, who is one of the all-time great Ravens that will undoubtedly be a Ravens Hall of Famer, came on the team the year after they won the Super Bowl. So he probably thought "Wow, I'm going to a Super Bowl champion team! We are going to win championships!" and then he played there for 10 years and came away without ever making it to the big game. That's like being told that you are going to marry Jessica Alba and then after you carry Jessica under the threshold and into your new home she tells you "I took a vow of abstinence until the day I die"
Dickson is a good bet to take the lions share of tight end duties this season. He was a third round pick in last years draft and had 11 catches behind Heap. Dennis Pitta is the other tight end, and he led the team with 4 catches and 47 yards in the first preseason game. Neither are worth drafting, just someone to keep an eye on, since one of them could be the starting tight end and the Ravens had a good situation for Heap. It could be a good situation for the next guy. Maybe.
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