Baltimore Ravens Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
The Ravens finished with the sixth-worst record in the NFL last year. This John Harbaugh-coached team however, was simply decimated by injuries in 2015, most notably starting quarterback Joe Flacco. The QB tore both the ACL and MCL during the game Week 11. Other key loses in 2015 include Justin Forsett, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., and Eugene Monroe with season-ending injuries. Injuries and their inability to win close games early in the season led to the first losing season in the Harbaugh-Flacco era. This year the team added Leslie Frazier ( former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings) as the defensive backs coach and Joe Cullen the defensive line coach.
2015 team outlook- The AFC North Division, consists of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland. The Steelers and the Bengals both went into the playoffs in 2015, and head into 2016 with stability at the quarterback position and weapons galore. Cleveland is in disarray as usual, firing yet another coach ( Mike Pettine), the 8th man to lose his job in Cleveland since the year 2000. Baltimore has many holes to fill on offense and defense. They need players to come back healthy and they need a world class draft this April, if they have any hope of challenging Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the division title.
2015 Fantasy Football outlook-
QB- It’s no wonder that QB Joe Flacco sustained a major injury last season. Few quarterbacks have been under more pressure than Flacco, due to the porous Baltimore O-Line that has been in place for the past few years now. The left side of the offensive line is a particularly huge question mark right now, and just one of the many holes that needs filling. Despite his pressure and lack of weapons, Joe Flacco has a been a solid fantasy football asset year after year ( and he was still having a respectable fantasy season in 2015 before his Week 11 injury….throwing for 2791 yards-17 total touchdowns in only the 10 games played). In fantasy football drafts, I continue to get this guy on my fantasy team, while others draft 20+ other quarterbacks before him. Thanks! Because of his injury, Flacco’s stock will nose dive in 2016, making him a steal in the late rounds for your 2nd fantasy football QB.
RBs- OC Gary Kubiak (now DEN HC Gary Kubiak) made a star out of journeyman RB Justin Forsett in 2014 with Kubiak’s brilliant run-blocking schemes and master of designing holes for running backs. Forsett, had played for Seattle, Indianapolis, Houston and Jacksonville before joining Baltimore. His 5.39 yards per running attempt was the best in the NFL that season. Forsett entered the 2015 as a coveted workhorse back in a run-first offnse, and was drafted by fantasy football owners in the 2nd and early 3rd round of most fantasy drafts. With Kubiak gone, Forsett wasn’t the same, and his season ended in Week 11, when he broke both bones in his forearm ( from a Rams DT Aaron Donald body-slam.) Rookie running back Javorius “Buck” Allen ( 4th Round 2015 NFL Draft ) took over for RB Forsett, and became a waiver wire darling. Allen rushed for 353 yards, adding 299 receiving yards and 3 total touchdowns in the 6 games he started after Forsett’s injury. Despite having only those 6 starts, Allen was the 35th ranked running back for 2015. Justin Forsett expects to be back to 100% in 2016, but the Ravens’ expect Buck Allen to compete for a starting job next season. I’ll be drafting Allen.
WRs– With ol’ timer Steve Smith Sr coming back from a torn Achilles’ ( he announced in December that he’s going to play in 2016), and 2015 rookie WR Breshad Perriman (PCL) yet to see the field, few teams have as many question marks at the wide receiver position as Baltimore does. WR Kamar Aiken came on strong late last season, ranking 30th among wide receivers for 2015, but Aiken is a restricted free agent in 2016. It’s a very weak receiving corps and it will be interesting to see who Baltimore brings in to help. Currently, the 10 top wide receiver free agents are Alshon Jeffery, Travis Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Rishard Matthews, Rueben Randle, James Jones, Brian Quick, Mohamed Sanu ,and Jermaine Kearse……. ( All Free Agents-Rotoworld )
TEs– Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens have always loved themselves some tight ends! Like New England, Washington and Carolina, tight ends thrive in Baltimore offenses. The Ravens used their 2nd 2015 NFL Draft pick on TE Maxx Williams out of Minnesota, but it was Crockett Gillmore that got the bulk of the attention last season. Flacco’s injury hurt Gillmore stats overall, but he still managed to rank 24th among tight end s for 2015, with 412 receiving yards and 4 TDs. Despite being paced on IR late in December with a back injury, Gillmore should enter 2016 clearly ahead of Maxx Williams.
K- Justin Tucker is a free agent in 2016.
DEF- It’s odd to see the mighty Baltimore defense dropping year after year into mediocracy. In 2011, the Ravens had the 4th best defense in the NFL. 2012 & 2014, they had the 9th best. In 2015, they were ranked 24th. Terrell Suggs tearing his Achilles’ last fall was obviously a huge blow to the defense, but like the rest of this swiss-cheese team, there are many holes to fill on defense.
2015 Baltimore Fantasy Surprises- Waiver wire darlings late in the season ( RB Buck Allen and WR Kamar Aiken) are always fantasy football surprises. Neither was likely drafted in 8-10 team fantasy formats last September, but both assuredly will be this September. TE Crockett Gillmore could be a sleeper in 2016, if rookie TE Maxx Williams struggles in the offense, like he did in 2015.
2016 Free Agents that Baltimore need to address- QB Matt Schaub, WR Chris Givens, OLB Courtney Upshaw, WR Kamar Aiken (RFA), K Justin Tucker, T/G Kelechi Osemele, OLB Albert McClellan, CB Shareece Wright,
2016 NFL Draft- The early needs of Baltimore is almost everywhere. The Ravens need help on their O-Line, help at the wide receiver position, they need a legitimate starting-caliber cornerback, and need to upgrade an aging defense that has both OLB Courtney Upshaw and OLB Albert McClellan headed for free agency.
Did you know- The team’s first helmet logo, used from 1996 through 1998, featured raven wings outspread from a shield displaying a letter B framed by the word Ravens overhead and a cross bottony underneath. A security guard in Maryland, Frederick E. Bouchat, had submitted the design to the Raven’s organization and a Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict that the logo infringed on a copyright retained by the amateur artist. He was entitled to only “three dollars” in damages from the NFL!