This is part 3 in a 10-part series on the best teams from which to draft your players
Since John Harbaugh took over Baltimore two years ago, the Ravens have been slowly morphing from a team that thought defense first, to an offensive threat. Besides its defense, this is a team that was often a stay-away in terms of fantasy; little production from WRs, lackluster QB play and a stop-and-start run game. But things are changing in Edgar Allen Poe’s hometown. The Ravens will have a number of stars on offense, while it’s defense is middle of the road.
Part of the reason is the maturation of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Both players make this offense go and will be fantasy studs this season.
Let’s start with Flacco. The third-year player out of Delaware game-managed the Ravens to the AFC championship game two years ago. Last year he was allowed to air it out (3,600+ yards and 21 TDs) as the Ravens had another successful campaign. This year, with the addition of Anquan Boldin, expect Flacco to make the leap.
Last year he had eight games under 200 yards passing and only six games with multiple touchdowns. This year expect his sub-200 games to be around four and his multiple TDs games to mushroom to about 10. That would likely translate into numbers close to 4,000/26. For a comparison, that would outproduce Kurt Warner’s numbers from last season.
As for Rice, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? The guy came to camp in amazing shape after a second-year campaign that saw him post 2,000+ total yards and 78 receptions. Of course the question is touchdowns, but Rice will likely see improvement in this area. There’s no way Willis McGahee runs for 12 touchdowns again, so you have to assume some of that will spill over to Rice. With the yardage numbers Rice puts up, though, 9-10 touchdowns makes him an elite back (Top 3 on my board).
The receivers are a little more of a mystery. Baltimore runs out Derrick Mason seemingly every year and the guy posts 1,000-yard seasons every year. He’s the kind of guy you can get in the ninth round and he’ll give you sixth round production. This year, though, that might not be the case with the addition of Boldin. Mason should still have an average season (800/6), but Boldin will likely steal catches and touchdowns from him.
As for the former Cardinal, expect a good season but not great. Boldin and Flacco will take time getting on the same page and injury risk is always a fear with a bruising receiver like Boldin. If he remains mostly healthy expect a slow start, but then production in the 1,000/9 range.
Tight end Todd Heap caught 53 balls, six of them for scores, last season, but he won’t repeat that. Boldin’s arrival and Flacco’s emergence mean less for Heap. Think more like 35/375/3.
Earlier I did say the defense is a little more “middle-of-the-road” now than in years’ past, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth picking. As with most good teams — and Baltimore will be good — the defense will post fantasy numbers. This unit will end the season in the top-10 of fantasy defenses, so act accordingly.