2016 Fantasy Football Preview: Baltimore Ravens

2015 Fantasy Recap
Injuries ravaged the Baltimore Ravens season in 2015. Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett each missed 6 games. Steve Smith Sr missed 8 games and their prized WR from the 2015 draft Breshad Perriman missed the entire season after injuring his knee in practice last July. Leaving only Javorius Allen and Kamar Aiken the only viable fantasy starters for the second half of the season. It should be noted that even when the Ravens were playing with all weapons available they were still only 2 – 5. To matters worse the Ravens D which is usually very solid had a very off year. Last in interceptions and 17th in sacks are not the kind of numbers we are used to from a Ravens D. Between the Swiss cheese secondary, the injury-riddled skill players, and to be perfectly honest just poor execution on both sides of the ball, the Ravens, and their fans suffered a long 5 – 11 season and finished 3rd in their division.

Key Adds:
Mike Wallace
Eric Weddle
Benjamin Watson
Kenneth Dixon

Key Losses:
Chris Givens
Daryl Smith
Courtney Upshaw

Quarterback Fantasy Outlook

Full disclosure here, I have never been a Joe Flacco fan. He is not a bad QB for the NFL, but he is not a quality fantasy football QB. He normally sits between 15 and 20 and is very dependent on his supporting cast. Case in point his best years were 2010 – 2012 and in 2014. Those years he had Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith catching his passes, and they are arguably some of toughest receivers in the NFL. He also had excellent rushing help those seasons. His worst year by far was 2013 where his top receiver was Torrey Smith and he had no running support. So where does that leave him for this coming year? I think this could be one of his better years. The addition of Wallace and Watson and hopefully a healthy Smith and Forsett could mean good things for Flacco. Don’t get too excited though because I don’t think he cracks the top 10 or even close to it. I think he could be a low-end QB2 with the potential to be a mid-range QB2. One last thing to remember when considering Flacco is his fantasy playoff schedule @NE, PHI, @PIT. All three games are against teams with a weaker pass D and could be helpful if you QB1 is hurt or up against tough opponents.
Grade: C +

Running Back Fantasy Outlook

The Ravens have plenty of depth at running back this year. Great for the Ravens, bad for fantasy owners. They have Justin Forsett, the aging veteran, Javorius Allen, last year’s high hopes rookie, and Kenneth Dixon, this year’s high hopes rookie. Looks like Forestt is in line to be RB1A and Allen is RB2A. Forsett is coming off a broken arm, which cost him 6 games last year and in those games, Allen had every opportunity to run away with the job and failed to do so. It’s probably the reason why the Ravens went out and drafted Kenneth Dixon in the 4th round. As it stands today with no preseason games played I would have to give the nod to Forsett as the RB to own right now. Mostly because he has an existing relationship with Flacco and his ability to catch out of the backfield. Allen is my second choice only because he did not play badly when he had the chance, but he certainly did not play great either. As of right now Kenneth Dixon is my sleeper or dynasty stash of the trio. I consider this backfield very fluid and could easily change once preseason games get underway. No matter what happens though I do not see any of these guys cracking the top 15, in fact, any of these guys are prime candidates for zero running back rosters.
Grade: B in PPR, C in Standard

Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook

If the wide receivers for the Ravens can get healthy they will have a very solid group, and by healthy, I really mean get Steve Smith back. Smith in an animal. I am not sure anyone fights harder for a ball or a yard then he does. To help with the depth the Ravens went out and signed Mike Wallace. Wallace has not been very good in recent years, but I think he went to the one team that could revive his career. Flacco loves to throw the deep ball, just ask Torrey Smith, and that is right in Wallace’s wheel house, and I think that is exactly how the Ravens will use him. If Smith does not make it back I think the number 1 goes to Kamar Aiken. He is a big target and excelled without Smith. His slash line in 8 games after Smith went down was 50/614/3. Project that over a full season and you are looking at 100/1200/6. Those are some very good numbers. My only concern is most of those games were without Flacco. Breshad Perriman was supposed to replace Torrey Smith last year but never got on the field and now he is hurt again. At this point it is hard to predict what fantasy owners could get from him and if Smith makes it back full speed Perriman could end up number 4 on the depth chart and eased back in slowly. Aiken is the safest receiver to own here. A healthy Smith is also a must own. Wallace could be worth a spot start here and there, but I would not want to rely on him. Perriman with two knee injuries in two years had lead me to not even considering him at this point. Maybe if he gets healthy and some games under his belt we can revisit his value.
Grade: B

Tight End Fantasy Outlook

Seems like every skill position for the Ravens has plenty of depth and the tight ends are no exception. Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and you have to throw in Dennis Pitta right now. Coming off his best year Watson moves from the Saints over to the Ravens this offseason. The biggest concern here is his age, he will be turning 36 before the season is over. But outside of Pitta who has not played since Sept 2014, Watson is the most experienced and reliable tight end on the roster. Williams was a popular rookie pick last year, but never really put it all together, but there is hope he takes a step forward this year. Gillmore has shown flashes of talent, but injuries keep him from contributing on a regular basis. The biggest question here is if Pitta somehow gets back on the field does he rekindle his bromance with Flacco? There is way too much risk for me to even consider it. So who do you draft? In a redraft league I think I take Watson, he offers the most likely reliability at the position. In a dynasty format, I look to stash Williams, with another year or 2 of development he could become a productive tight end.
Grade: C –

Defensive Fantasy Outlook

The Ravens entered the league in 1996 and since then I cannot remember a time when the Ravens D was not good if not special. Well except for last year of course. They were not good last year period. Last in interceptions, 17th in sacks, and 21st in fumble recoveries. Good news is they can’t get much worse, right? I really like the signing of Eric Weddle, that secondary was embarrassing last year and they really need a guy that can get that unit to gel, and Eric can be that guy. The other problem this D has is age. While the Ravens have added a lot of youth to their D, the current starters are all long in the tooth. That suggests that the Ravens could be in for a transition year or two here as the old guys help usher in the young. The faster the young get up to speed to faster the D returns to relevancy. Until then I would not be looking to add the Ravens D this year.
Grade: D
Originally posted on Going For 2 on July 5th 2016

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