Fantasy football team preview: Baltimore Ravens
Last year was a bit of a lost season for the Ravens, with injuries striking several of their key skill position players. This likely had something to do with their extremely unbalanced offense that was the most pass-heavy in the league. John Harbaugh returns for 10 tenth season at the helm, with Marty Mornhinweg back as offensive coordinator after taking the job over in October of last year following the firing of Marc Trestman. As an Andy Reid disciple, Mornhinweg runs a West Coast offense that stresses precision passing and stretching the field horizontally. But he also incorporates a vertical element, which is a plus for this offensive given Joe Flacco’s big arm and the speed they have on the outside at wide receiver.
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Flacco is only on the fringes of fantasy relevance, but his presence is important for the fantasy value of the rest of the team. He’s been dealing with a back injury throughout camp, but this isn’t expected to cause him to miss regular-season time. Flacco is has never finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback, and he managed just four top-10 weeks last season. From a productivity standpoint, his average of 6.42 yards per attempt last season was the second-lowest of his career. Outside of 2QB leagues, it’s unlikely Flacco will be anything more than an occasional DFS option this season.
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Throughout much of the offseason, Kenneth Dixon was receiving hype in fantasy circles as a potential breakout candidate. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next year for him, as the second-year man will miss the entire season following meniscus surgery last month. That leaves a backfield duo of Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. West figures to see a bulk of the early-down work. After flaming out in Cleveland, West set career highs in nearly every stat category last season. Though he wasn’t particularly efficient on a per-carry basis with an average of just 4.0 per attempt, his 2.6 yards after contact is a respectable number. Dixon’s absence opens the door for more work for West, but his role in the offense limits him to RB3 territory.
Woodhead comes over from San Diego after missing most of the 2016 season. Fantasy players might be surprised to learn that he’s entering his age-32 season. His age and the fact that he’s missed significant time in two of the last three seasons are certainly reasons to temper expectations for Woodhead this season. That said, he does figure to be a major part of the passing game if he stays on the field. Woodhead isn’t likely to see a ton of work as a runner, as he’s topped 100 carries just once in his career. But his target volume should be substantial enough to merit RB2 consideration in PPR formats. Those in standard leagues will want to view Woodhead as an RB3 option.
The Ravens also have Buck Allen and Bobby Rainey on their roster. Allen would be the likely replace for both West and Woodhead if either player went down with an injury. That being said, he isn’t worth of consideration in fantasy drafts this year.
Baltimore made a late move in the offseason to bolster their wide receiver corps with the addition of veteran Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off a lifeless 2016 campaign where he managed just 44 catches on 72 targets for 536 yards. He finished a lowly 73rd among wide receivers in fantasy scoring, providing a horrendous return on investment at his fourth-round ADP. But prior to last year, Maclin was a consistent producer who finished top-20 in 2015 and top-10 in 2014. Fantasy players shouldn’t write off Maclin just yet, as he’s still south of 30 years old and was allegedly struggling with injury last season. He figures to play outside in two-wide sets and kick to the slot with three receivers on the field. Maclin projects to see solid volume from Flacco this season and makes for a high-floor option in the back end of the WR3s.
After spending a year off the grid in Minnesota, Mike Wallace quietly returned to fantasy relevance last season. He managed a 24th-place fantasy finished among wide receivers and posted his third 1,000-yard season as a pro. It should be noted that Wallace’s season-long numbers were somewhat skewed by his performances in Weeks 1 and 2, when he finished in the top-10 both weeks. Wallace posted two more top-10 finishes, but none came after week 10. From that point on, his best fantasy finish was 32nd and his average finish was 47.9. While Wallace still has upside, his volatility makes him a flex option at best.
Maclin’s signing moves Breshad Perriman to the No. 3 spot, but he’s still worth fantasy consideration given his size and speed. Injuries sidelined him for his entire rookie season, but he managed to suit up for 15 games last season. However, he was largely a disappointment with just 33 catches on 64 targets. But there’s more opportunity for Perriman with Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken out of the picture. The Ravens are also expected to run more three-wide sets this season following the season-ending injury to Dennis Pitta. Perriman’s intriguing upside is worth a late-round dart in this year’s fantasy drafts.
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Pitta ranked third among tight ends in targets last year with 116. This year, his total will be zero after the veteran suffered yet another season-ending hip injury. Crockett Gillmore will also miss the season following MCL/meniscus surgery. That leaves the Ravens with a hodgepodge of tight ends, none of whom are likely to do much for fantasy purposes. Ben Watson is the favorite for lead duties, but he’s returning from an Achilles injury and entering his age-36 season. The perennially injured Maxx Williams is also returning from injury. The Ravens also have two Giants castoffs in Larry Donnell and Ryan Malleck. This isn’t the team you want to look to for fantasy value at the tight end position.
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