With their 34-14 trouncing of the New England Patriots in the opening round of the 2009 NFL Playoffs, the sixth-seeded Baltimore Ravens ensured that they would not be bet against for the remainder of the playoffs. After their untimely and unfortunate loss to the eventual Super Bowl losing Colts the next round, the Ravens wasted no time beefing up their roster to make sure they can make a deeper run this year. So which Ravens should you be targeting in this year's fantasy draft? Keep reading and you'll find out.
Baltimore Ravens Fantasy Targets
Below are the Baltimore Ravens whom you should be keeping tabs on in your upcoming fantasy football draft.
- Joe Flacco: After improving to 3,613 passing yards and 21 touchdowns on 315 completions last season, Flacco looks like an emerging fantasy star at the Quarterback position. Keep in mind, though, with match-ups against the Jets, Bengals (twice), Broncos, Patriots, Bills, Panthers, and Buccaneers; all top-15 pass defenses last year, it will be tough for Flacco to sustain those kind of numbers.
- Ray Rice: The former second round draft choice out of Rutgers broke out in a big way last season, rushing for 1,339 yards and 7 touchdowns (5.3 yards/carry), while also snagging 78 catches for 702 yards and one touchdown. Because of his explosiveness out of the backfield plus his ability to catch passes, look for Rice to be off the board by the middle of round two.
- Willis McGahee: The former University of Miami standout was able to re-establish his fantasy value last season after a down year in 2008. Despite a career low 109 carries, McGahee ran at a career best 5.0 yards per carry, while scoring a new career best 14 touchdowns (12 rushing, 2 receiving). McGahee is a red zone threat only, so plan accordingly in your draft.
- Anquan Boldin: Despite only hauling in four touchdowns last season, Boldin still maintained a healthy 84 catches for 1,024 yards, and remains a dynamic scoring threat on a very dangerous Baltimore offense. His potential to have a big season make him worthy of a third or fourth round pick.
- Derrick Mason: Last year, Mason was the go-to-guy on Baltimore's offense, collecting 1,028 yards and 7 touchdowns. Still, his old age and uncertain future with the team prompted the Ravens to acquire Boldin for draft picks, but assuming this grizzled vet stays around it gives the Ravens a nice two-headed monster to deal with in the passing attack.
- Todd Heap: After stringing a few poor seasons together in a row, Heap, a product of Arizona State, isn't regarded by many as a very reliable tight end, and taking him for your fantasy team would be more than a reach, as he doesn't rank within anyone's top 20 at tight end. However, newly drafted backup Ed Dickson may have some sleeper value at the position if he gets enough snaps.
Baltimore Ravens 2010 Schedule
Mon 9/13 @ New York Jets
Sun 9/19 @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sun 9/26 vs Cleveland Browns
Sun 10/3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun 10/10 vs Denver Broncos
Sun 10/17 @ New England Patriots
Sun 10/24 vs Buffalo Bills
Sun 11/7 vs Miami Dolphins
Thu 11/11 @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun 11/21 @ Carolina Panthers
Sun 11/28 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sun 12/5 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Mon 12/13 @ Houston Texans
Sun 12/19 vs New Orleans Saints
Sun 12/26 @ Cleveland Browns
Sun 1/2 vs Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens won't have a cakewalk this year, but that by no means suggests that they will be a bad team. Joe Flacco's development as a quarterback will be tested by facing seven of last season's top 15 pass-defending teams (eight games in all, as they play Cincinnati twice), while facing only six of the top 15 rush-defending teams. While some of these teams may offer some problems for Baltimore, the Ravens defense should have no trouble cutting through most of these defenses like butter.
In 2009, the Ravens were a good, but not outstanding offensive team. With the additions of Boldin and Dickson plus further improvement from Rice, look for the Ravens to make strides on the offensive leaderboards in 2010.
(UPDATE: Joe Flacco may be taking a lot of heat from opposing pass rushes this year in the wake of offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who has played at an outstanding level for the Ravens. While Gaither will not need surgery, he has been diagnosed with a slight tear in his back and has not practiced since August 5. Reports of the severity of the injury have varied, with some saying that he won't miss a significant amount of time, while others have said Gaither could miss all of the preseason and some of the regular season. Keeping track of Gaither's situation is a must for all Flacco and Ray Rice owners.
Coming in at ninth in the NFL in points per game (24.4), 13th in yards per game (351.2), and fourth with an outstanding +10 turnover margin, this team has nowhere to go but up on the offensive side of the ball after adding talent at wide receiver and tight end to complement incumbent starters Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. Boldin's arrival means Mark Clayton will no longer be starting, which will be a huge boost for this team as well.
With Derrick Mason serving as essentially the only real receiving threat on Baltimore's offense last year, the Ravens still ranked 15th in the league with 213.7 passing yards per game. Additionally, their 137.5 rushing yards per game were good for fifth in the NFL. This team ranked ninth in the league with 391 points scored last season and this year they only figure to get better. Watch out.
Any way you look at it, Baltimore's defense can best be described by one word—elite. They ranked third in both yards and points allowed per game ( 300.5 and 16.3, respectively), while committing 88 penalties, making them the tenth least penalized team in the league.
Their pass rush was surprisingly soft, registering just 32 sacks, good for 18th in the league. However, the Ravens addressed this area of weakness in the draft by selecting the explosive OLB Sergio Kindle out of Texas. Major health concerns transformed him from a sure-thing first round pick to a middle second round pick, but if Kindle is able to demonstrate a clean bill of health at the next level, he hands down could be the very best pass rusher in this draft class. He will likely push Jarret Johnson for playing time this year.
(UPDATE: Kindle, who fractured his skull when he fell down a flight of stairs in July, will not be ruled out for the 2010 season. While Kindle does remain unsigned to this point, the Ravens have been encouraged by his recovery, which to this point has been speedy. With his recovery ahead of schedule, Baltimore coach Jim Harbaugh is confident that Kindle will be able to play some time this season, though he was recently placed on the PuP (Physically unable to Perform) list, which means he will miss the Ravens' first six games.
Ed Reed, slowly recovering from reconstructive hip surgery, has been a cause for concern for the Ravens. As it appears now, Reed is likely to miss the season opener for the Ravens, which has prompted them to go out and sign the hard-hitting safety Ken Hamlin to replace Reed for the time being. Reed considered retiring, but ultimately decided he wants to come back. When he will physically be able to, however, is still unknown.
(UPDATE: Reed, who has been unable to practice with his teammates during training camp, was placed on the PuP list, which will ensure that he misses a decent chunk of the regular season. Even if he does return later in the year, the former Defensive Player of the Year will probably be very ineffective for his standards.
Lately, there has been some good news for the Baltimore defense, as the Ravens recently removed cornerback Lardarius Webb from the PuP list. Webb tore the ACL in his right knee last December, and coach Harbaugh hopes he can begin practicing with the Ravens very soon.
Because Baltimore has two cornerbacks coming off of recent ACL tears (Webb and Fabian Washington) and Ed Reed and Sergio Kindle out for the foreseeable future, I can not recommend the Ravens' defense as a weekly fantasy starter, although their unit should be a very useful spot starter in their games against Cleveland, Buffalo, and Tampa.