2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens bounced back from an 8-8 record in 2013 to clinch a playoff spot in 2014 with a win over the Brown in Week 17. The path to the playoffs is not going to be any easier for the Ravens in 2015. The AFC North matches up on the schedule against two of the stronger conferences top to bottom in the NFL, the AFC West and NFC West. The Ravens out of division schedule is highlighted by home matchups against Seattle and Kansas City in December and road matchups against Denver, San Francisco and Arizona in the first seven weeks of the season. The Ravens’ offseason was highlighted by key departures on offense and defense which leaves their roster looking fairly bleak and heavily reliant on rookies coming into the 2015 season. However, the arrival of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman could potentially change the offensive outlook. It should be great for anyone who is interested in the top betting site and have their bets up and ready to go.
While not considered in the top echelon of fantasy quarterbacks, you will not find too many people who can argue against Joe Flacco’s consistency. Since 2008, Flacco has played in all 16 games every year. For the last three years, he has come up just shy of 4,000 yards totaling over 3,900 yards in each season. Last year, Flacco had his best TD/INT ratio of his career throwing 27 TDs with only 12 picks. With the addition of pass-happy Trestman, Flacco’s fantasy outlook could be better than his ADP as the 15th QB. However, to reach this conclusion, you would have to look past the fact that Flacco lost one of his favorite targets in Torrey Smith and will be looking to break in a rookie wide receiver, Breshard Perriman, and a rookie tight end, Maxx Williams. Baltimore signed Matt Schaub in the offseason as backup to Flacco, but Schaub will obviously not be challenging Flacco for first team reps in training camp.
In 2014, Justin Forsett rushed for over 1,200 yards including five games of 100-plus yards and eight touchdowns. The Ravens, as a team, ranked No. 8 in the NFL in rushing offense last season and return all five starters on the offensive line. Coming off a breakout season, Forsett’s role will likely change in Marc Trestman’s offense. Forsett, considered a very good receiving running back, had 44 catches in 2014, but his total is likely to rise with his new offensive coordinator’s history of designing plays for the running back to catch the ball out of the backfield. By all reports, the Ravens will also be keeping their zone scheme that they implored under outgoing offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Lorenzo Taliaferro and fourth-round pick Buck Allen will battle it out for No. 2 duties behind Forsett. Taliaferro will likely be called on for short-yardage duties for the Ravens in the beginning of the year.
The Ravens offensive success will likely hinge on their new and old receivers. Steve Smith, Sr., now age 36, returns for another season with the Ravens after surpassing 1,000 yards and catching six touchdowns last year in his first year with Baltimore. Smith will be called upon to mentor rookie Breshad Perriman throughout the year. Perriman is being looked at as the Torrey Smith replacement for the Ravens. After a 2014 season that saw a number of rookie wide receivers help win fantasy championships, the no. 26 overall pick Perriman might be highly sought after early in 2015 drafts. However, those who take the risk may be rewarded as many draft analysts compared his size and speed to Josh Gordon. He will likely be a boom-or-bust pick for teams this year, but his size and speed cannot be denied at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds and a sub-4.3 40-yard dash. Marlon Brown will likely slot in as the no. 3 wide receiver behind Smith and Perriman.
The Ravens will also look to break in a rookie tight end after Ozzie Newcomb traded up in the second round to draft Maxx Williams. Williams was the 2014 Big Ten Tight End of the Year and should be a reliable, all-around tight end for Baltimore. Williams may fly under the radar in a lot of drafts and could be a good mid-to-late round pick at a thin position. For now, Williams tops the Ravens’ depth chart at tight end because Dennis Pitta is uncertain whether he’ll play in 2015 as he recovers from hip surgery. To open camp, the Ravens are expected to place Dennis Pitta on the physically unable to perform list. Should Pitta not return this season, Crockett Gillmore will be the no. 2 tight end behind Williams but will likely not be fantasy relevant and will be turned to as more of a blocking tight end.
BUY. The Ravens once again finished in the top 10 in scoring defense in the NFL last year. Baltimore’s defense continued to be formidable up front during their 2014 campaign as they only surrendered 88.3 rushing yards per game. However, Baltimore’s biggest loss in free agency came on their defensive line by the loss of DT Haloti Ngata. Baltimore is hoping DE Timmy Jernigan can fill the void after delivering four sacks in a solid rookie season. The key to their defense this year will be how well CB Jimmy Smith returns from injury and if CB Ladarius Webb can help shore up their secondary.
Player to Watch
Fourth-round RB Javorious “Buck” Allen could emerge as a force in the passing game for the Ravens, especially if Forsett does not stay healthy. Coach Harbaugh has already commented positively about Allen’s ability to pass-protect which is always key for a rookie looking to stay on the field. Over the last two years at USC, Allen had 2,274 rushing yards with 25 rushing TDs. In his junior season, he also caught the ball 41 times for 458 yards. Allen will be an interesting flier going into drafts especially in PPR formats.
Over the last three seasons, Torrey Smith had 49 catches of 20 yards or more. For the Ravens to have success on offense this season, they will be looking to Perriman to replace this kind of production after Smith’s departure to the 49ers in the offseason. Perriman will hopefully be an immediate deep threat come Week 1 that Flacco can rely on, or else the Ravens offense will likely struggle to stay on the field as teams key on the run.