Are the Ravens a Playoff Caliber Team in 2017?
It was Christmas evening when the Ravens season came to a heart breaking halt. Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers stormed down the field to nullify the Ravens’ late score. Both the fans and the front office have the image of Antonio Brown stretching out across the goal line burned into their memory. There are few more emotionally draining ways to get knocked out of the playoffs. As a result, Baltimore ended up having one of its busiest offseasons in team history.
Record: 8-8 (4-2) in the AFC North
Scoring offense: 21.4 PPG (21 of 32)
Scoring defense: 20.1 PPG (9 of 32)
The Ravens missed the playoffs because their defense folded late in the season. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome addressed this by making large investments on defense. Making many moves many didn’t expect Baltimore to be able to make. The offense seemed forgotten until minicamp. Big signings on defense left the cap tight and big holes on offense. It looked as if an offense already lacking in talent the year before was going to be in for a long season. Before fans nightmares could come to fruition, the Ravens made a late signing after the draft. This signing changed the entire forecast of the offense. Although there is hope that the Ravens can return to the playoffs this year, there is plenty of doubt as well. Regardless of what moves they make leading up to the season, the Ravens will be relying on a lot of young talent.
Key Additions: Tony Jefferson (S), Brandon Carr (CB), Danny Woodhead (RB), Jeremy Maclin (WR) (Post Draft)
Arguably biggest move the Ravens made this offseason was signing Tony Jefferson. Pairing Jefferson with Eric Weddle creates one of the best safety duos in the league. They followed this signing with Brandon Carr the former Cowboy. The Ravens have historically had issues keeping corners healthy. Carr has never missed a start, one could say this is a perfect match. Danny Woodhead could be the most underrated move the Ravens made this offseason. If Woodhead can stay healthy the Ravens will use him on every pass play they can. The Ravens have not had a receiving threat out of the backfield since Ray Rice. Anyone who has played fantasy football for a few years remembers how productive Rice was. Woodhead is well past the doomed running back the age of 30 and is coming off a torn ACL. While the odds are against him the Ravens, who check down more than most in the league, believe he can return to form.
Last year Joe Flacco ranked 27th among quarterbacks in yards per attempt at 6.42. Flacco has said himself that he believes Woodhead will play a big role in the passing game. Finally the singing of Jeremy Maclin. After surprisingly being cut by the Chiefs Maclin found himself lured to the Ravens. This move changed the who landscape of the Ravens offense. Last year while attempting to play through a torn groin Maclin struggled to produce. The Ravens believe that now healthy, the still young Maclin can still be a top wide receiver. Having rejuvenated the careers of older wide outs in the past, Baltimore believes Maclin is still that 80 catch thousand yard guy.
Key losses: Rick Wagner (RT), Jeremy Zuttah ( C ), Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk (“j-use-check”) (FB), Kamar Aiken (WR), Lawrence Guy (DE), Timmy Jernigan (DE)
Retirement/Injury: Dennis Pitta (TE), Steve Smith (WR), Zach Orr (MLB), Tavon Young (CB)
The Ravens made Brandon Williams the highest paid nose tackle in the league. Partly as a result, the Ravens were unable to sign offensive tackle Rick Wagner. The Lions made Wagner the highest paid offensive tackle in the league. Their starting center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to the 49ners. Leaving Baltimore’s offensive line with a few holes. The Ravens expect these holes to be filled by young players already on the roster. Everyone in Baltimore is holding their breath about the offensive line. Kyle Juszczyk became the highest paid full back, but not by the Ravens. Usually, I wouldn’t mention the loss of the fullback, yet Juice played a significant role catching 30 passes last year. Kamar Aiken, one of two Ravens receivers to have caught more than 10 NFL passes left to join the Colts. Lawrence Guy, a defensive end, left to New England. Guy had a very active role on special teams being apart of many blocked kicks. He also had found his role growing on defense and one can expect the Patriots to use him to his potential. Before the draft, the Ravens traded Timmy Jernigan to the Eagles for an extra third round pick. Baltimore was unlikely to be able to resign Jernigan next year, so acquiring a draft pick wasn’t a bad move. This trade left Baltimore with a hole on either side of Brandon Williams. The Ravens expect a rotation of young players to fill these holes as long as Williams is there as an anchor. Dennis Pitta’s storied career to a sad ending during minicamp. Pitta came back from two dislocated hips to play a full season last year. He lead all NFL tight ends and the team with 86 receptions. Coming off a full season everyone thought Pitta was out of the woods. Not long after minicamp began Pitta’s hip came out again during non-contact practice. Future hall of fame wide receiver Steve Smith finally called it quits. Zach Orr, who lead the Ravens in tackles last season, announced a shocking retirement. Doctors discovered an issue in his neck that could threaten to kill him if he continued to play football. Since retiring Orr has attempted to come back to the NFL after getting a second opinion. Training camp begins July 19th for some rookies and as of this date, Orr is still not on a team. Finally, the Ravens lost Tavon Young to a torn ACL during minicamp. Young, an up and coming star will be back on the field next year. It is unfortunate for him and the team to have this happen but everyone expects him to make a full recovery.
The Raven’s are not in panic mode because they actually have depth at corner this year. The NFL Draft The Raven’s made their intentions clear with the first four picks in this draft. The Ravens selected a defensive player with each of these picks. With the 16th pick in the draft, the Ravens took Marlon Humphrey the corner out of Alabama. With their second pick, the Ravens took outside linebacker Tyus Bowser out of Houston. In the third round, the Ravens took Tim Williams the outside linebacker out of Alabama. Williams projected to be a first round pick before he had legal issues. Both of these young pass rushers are expected to step in and provide help to Terrell Suggs early on. Also in the third round, the Ravens took defensive end Chris Wormley out of Michigan. Wormley is among a group of young interior defensive linemen that will be filling in the voids on either side of Brandon Williams.
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The NFL Draft
The Raven’s made their intentions clear with the first four picks in this draft. With each, they selected a defensive player and each of those four will likely have a role in the defense this year. The Ravens went right back to taking care of a secondary they have long wished to dominate since the departure of Ed Reed. With the 16th pick in the draft, the Ravens took Marlon Humphrey the corner out of Alabama. With their second pick, the Ravens took outside linebacker Tyus Bowser out of Houston, a productive kid who is likely to play a role right away.
In the third round, the Ravens took Tim Williams the outside linebacker out of Alabama who was likely to be a first round pick before he had some legal issues. Williams will also be expected to play a role out of the gate as the Ravens need to get their young pass rushers giving Terrell Suggs much needed help. Also in the third round, the Ravens took defensive end Chris Wormley out of Michigan. Wormley is among a group of young interior defensive linemen that will be filling in the voids on either side of Brandon Williams. In the later rounds of the draft, the Ravens took a couple of offensive linemen that will likely be backups this year.
QB: Joe Flacco
Is Joe Flacco Elite? I won’t get into all that but what I can tell you is that Joe Flacco is by no means an elite fantasy quarterback. When it comes to numbers, well Joe just isn’t a numbers guy. He wins games, and he balls out in the playoffs. Besides that, you can expect mediocre numbers at best with a couple good games against bad teams. In the right matchup, he easily puts up 3x value on draftkings without asking you to overpay at quarterback. Looking back at last year, each time Flacco had a favorable matchup he managed over 20 points. Week 10 against Cleveland at $6200 on Draftkings and $7500 on fan duel he put up 24.14 points on both sides. For $5300 on DK he put up over 30 points against Miami last year. Flacco is not a good option on a weekly basis, but he can be a great streaming option.
|Pass Yds||Pass TD||Pass INT||Passer Rating||YPG||YPA||YPC||Adjust-YPA||Net YPA||Adjust-NYPA||Completion||Pass TD %|
For each position, I will give you the average draft position (ADP) of each player I discuss from the biggest fantasy sites. ADP is based on 12 team standard scoring leagues.
The sites used for each player were NFL.com, ESPN.com, Fantasy Football Calculator, and Yahoo.com
Joe Flacco’s ADP
NFL.com : 149.5 (24th QB)
ESPN: 151 (22nd QB)
FFC: 162 (23rd QB)
Yahoo: 128.5 (24th QB)
RB: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Kenneth Dixon
The Ravens come into this season with an interesting situation at running back. While Dixon has surely come with the most hype he is also suspended for the first four games of the season. He will likely start as the number three back on the depth chart. West, who was Baltimore’s work horse back last season will likely maintain a similar role. West is well liked in Baltimore and coaches hope that he comes into his own this season. One can’t get their hopes up given that he won’t have much of an offensive line to run behind. The most interesting back in my eyes is Danny Woodhead. Though he beyond his prime Woodhead provides a skill set the Ravens have not had in years. If Woodhead stays healthy, he may be the most valuable running back on this team. I like Woodhead as a week to week option playing DFS. In season long leagues if I can get him in the later rounds I would be happy with the value. There is a fair amount of risk in a season long investment in Woodhead. He has only played in 21 games over the last three seasons. I am much more confident using him in DFS formats.
|Games||Rush Yrd||Rush TD||Rush att/g||Rush yrd/g||targets||receptions||Receiving yards|
|Receiving TD||Tar/G||Rec/G||Rec Yrd/G||Catch %||Touches/g||Total yards/g|
NFL: 147.03 (52nd RB)
ESPN: 144.1 (53rd RB)
FFC: 108.1 (44th RB)
Yahoo: 128.4 (54th RB)
NFL: 103 (34th RB)
ESPN: 66.7 (24th RB)
FFC: 84.6 (35th RB)
Yahoo: 119.4 (49th RB)
NFL: 121.7 (42nd RB)
ESPN: 127.9 (47th RB)
FFC: 99 (41st RB)
Yahoo: 107.8 (42nd RB)
WR: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshard Perriman, Chris Moore
Maclin is being projected as Baltimore’s number one wide receiver. At the moment he is number two on the depth chart but he is likely to take the top spot. He is likely to do this because he can actually run the route tree. Why mention the route tree? Because nobody else in Baltimore has skills beyond streaks and slants. Maclin is the most complete receiver Flacco has had in a long time. Coming off a career low year where he tried to play through a torn groin. Jeremy Maclin will look to rebound his career in a city where the ball is actually thrown to wide outs. Before last years injury plagued year Maclin had back to back 80 plus catch seasons with over 1,000 yards. If Maclin can remain healthy these type of numbers could easily be replicated. Mike Wallace is a solid fantasy WR3. While he will get his share of targets he remains very touchdown dependent. You would have to have a good reason to play Wallace over Maclin this year. If Maclin gets hurt, Wallace becomes a strong WR2 for your fantasy teams. Breshard Perriman, a former first round pick is entering his most important season. Everyone from within the organization is expecting Perriman to take the next step this year. As a fantasy option, you should not expect the same. Perriman is a deep sleeper at best. Finally, Chris Moore, a mid round pick from a couple of years ago has flashed potential at times. Chris Moore is not somebody I think you should even consider on a weekly basis but remember the name. He could end up being a great contrarian play at some point this season with a super low salary. The $3,000 type players in DFS that score points can be all the difference. That is the role Moore could fill this year.
|Tar||Receptions||Catch %||Yrds||TD||Tar/g||Rec/G||RZ Tar||RZ Rec||RZ TD||RZ Catch %|
I made graphs comparing Maclin and Wallace last year. I charted their draft salary compared to their points output. I used Draftkings scoring to make the graphs. FanDuel came out looking quite similar. I’m not going to show you the same thing more than you need to see it to get the point. The first graph is Maclin’s stats from last year. The previous year’s stats are typically the most relevant stats for comparison purposes. Having played the season injured it was hard to compare him to Mike Wallace. Especially considering I expect Maclin’s numbers to see a significant uptick playing with Flacco. To better compare these two I also made a graph for Maclin using stats from the 2015 season. Why is the 2015 season relevant? It looked a lot like his 2014 season which would further indicate that last year was truly an off year for this talented wide out. Check it out.
Looking at these two guys what jumps out immediately is the boom or bust potential. Maclin has a higher floor. He also has a much higher ceiling. Keep in mind these numbers are a product of pairing him with Alex Smith. Having a quarterback that will actually use him to his potential is great for fantasy owners. I’m not predicting Maclin to be a top tier wide out but I do believe he will be a productive fantasy option. The addition of Maclin will also likely cause Mike Wallace’s numbers to be even more erratic. Knowing this impact I would be looking to stick with Maclin when using a Raven’s pass catcher.
NFL: 124.7 (WR 40)
ESPN: 113.9 (WR 47)
FFC: 87.9 (WR 36)
Yahoo: 126.7 (WR 69)
NFL: 135.04 (WR 45)
ESPN: 94.3 (WR 37)
FFC: 132.2 (WR 52)
Yahoo:126.6 (WR 68)
NFL: 150.06 (WR 68)
ESPN: 139.0 (WR 56)
FFC: 154.9 ( WR 60)
Yahoo: 130.8 (WR 75)
NFL: 150.98 (Undrafted)
ESPN: 170 (Undrafted) (WR 145)
Tight End: Ben Watson, Crockett Gilmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
This one is a true mess. It won’t be worth drafting any of these guys until we see what the Ravens are going to do with them. Even then, we may not want to touch a single one of them. After losing Pitta to retirement the Ravens are facedwith a lot of questions. They have many answers, but none of them clear. Darren Waller was the only completely healthy tight end on the team. He has been suspended for the entire season. Ben Watson, 36 is one of the oldest guys on the team and coming off an Achilles tear. Whether he will even be good enough to start is in question. Gilmore is coming off his own set of injuries. Williams off a knee surgery that has never been done before and not even the Ravens know what to expect of him. Nick Boyle may emerge as the Ravens best option based on health alone. Keep in mind the Ravens have liked Gilmore for this role before, if he can stay healthy he too has a chance to take the role. No matter who gets the nod there will be a rotation at this position. I want no part of this in any fantasy format unless somebody emerges as the go to threat.
Ravens Tight ends are undrafted on all sites.
Defense / Special Teams
The Ravens took a very good defense and made it even better. Young talent, though lacking experience will bring youth where it is much needed. Complimenting the veteran stars they already have in place. With this mix of talent and youth, the Ravens expect their defense to rank at the top of the league. Looking at the roster it is hard to disagree.
NFL: 147.20 (17th Defense)
ESPN: 147.9 (14th Defense)
FFC: 159.5 (10th Defense)
Yahoo: 128.4 (14th Defense)
|Tackles||Sacks||T Loss||Ints||Fumbles||Fumble Recover||TD||Block|
There are few players from Baltimore that will be of actual fantasy value. Maclin, the defense and Danny Woodhead if he can stay healthy are the only pieces I would trust on a week to week basis. Season long drafters beware of the ceiling on this offense. Having said that the general public does not like to play Ravens. With the right match ups, the Ravens will offer you lower cost players that also have low ownership.