The Ravens Are TOO Unpredictable

The Ravens Are TOO Unpredictable by Utter-Fantasy Football Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

I recently did a poll on Twitter asking the fantasy football community to fill in the blank…

In 2016, Baltimore’s waiver wire darling RB Buck Allen will _________________ .

(The four options were……)

1) be 2nd string to Forsett
2) spilt carries even
3) overtake Forsett early  
4) too many Qs to draft…………(which won overwhelmingly.)

Last year, RB Justin Forsett was unable to duplicate his impressive 2014 season when he finished as the #8 running back with over 1500 total yards and 8 touchdowns. His 2015 run abruptly ended in Week 11 when he broke both bones in his forearm while playing against the Rams. Rookie Buck Allen took over running back duties and became a waiver wire darling. Now in 2016, Forsett is battling Allen for carries, Allen is battling West for carries, and West is battling Dixon for carries. The Twitter community is right…too many question marks to draft.

But the running back situation in Baltimore isn’t the only position with uncertainty. Let’s start off with the man who needs to be the leader for the offense, quarterback Joe Flacco. The Raven QB was lost for the season back in Week 11 of 2015, with a torn ACL and MCL so his health is already in question. Since being drafted in 2008, Flacco has been a competent quarterback for Baltimore, but he has only bested the top 15 once for QBs at a season’s end, and that was 2014 when he finished as the #14 QB. He has also never averaged 2 touchdowns passes per game in any season, and usually ends a season averaging only 1.3 touchdown passes per game.

The wide receivers for the Ravens are filled with ambiguity and unpredictability, starting with Steve Smith. Although one of toughest competitors in the games, Smith is still recovering from a “double rupture” of his Achilles last November. His availability for the start of the season is an unknown. Another dubious candidate for 2016 is Breshad Perriman, who suffered a partially torn ACL in June after sitting out all of his rookie season with a PCL tear. Mike Wallace is now with the Ravens, and has worked with the first-team offense but flunked his conditioning test on the first day of camp. Wallace believes he is a better receiver today than when he left Pittsburgh, but I believe that he will disappoint, just like he has for the past 3 NFL seasons. Kamar Aiken came on strong at the end of the 2015 season, but let’s be clear…his best games came without QB Joe Flacco, and if not for a flukey 48 TD “hail Mary” in Week 15 vs Kansas City, Aiken would not have topped 80 receiving yards in any game. Will Aiken have chemistry with Flacco this year if he is forced to be the #1 wide out in Baltimore? That is unclear and yet to be determined.

The tight ends for the Ravens are also problematic for fantasy football owners. TE Ben Watson signed with Baltimore after an incredibly successful season in New Orleans. Watson ended 2015 as the #7 tight end in the NFL. Prior to 2015, he was the #50 tight end in 2014, and #45 in 2013. It’s extremely doubtful that Watson’s resurgence will continue. Add Watson’s situation to an already crowded tight end depth chart and you have another unresolved Baltimore player position.

It’s odd to see the precarious Baltimore defense dropping year after year into mediocracy. In 2011, the Ravens had the 4th best defense in the NFL. In 2014, they had the 9th best, but 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. Key losses for the Ravens in 2016 were LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Daryl Smith, S Will Hil, and DE Chris Canty.

Perhaps the most dependable fantasy football player on the Ravens team is Justin Tucker, who ended 2015 as the #7 place kicker. This fact gives me very little comfort in drafting Baltimore Ravens on any of my fantasy football teams this year, and I am reluctant, skeptical, hesitant, suspicious, unconvinced, unclear, dubious, hazy, leery and apprehensive as whether you can win with many of them as well.

Team Profiles- Baltimore Ravens

Team Profiles- Baltimore Ravens

by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Head Coach John Harbaugh is now the only Harbaugh still coaching in the NFL. John is considered one of the best head coaches and his 82 Raven wins (including playoffs) since 2008 is the second most in the NFL. Baltimore won the Superbowl in 2012. In 2014, he led the Ravens to their 6th post-season appearance in 7 years. The Ravens lost to the Patriots in Week 19-Round 2 of the NFL playoffs…31 to 35. The Ravens 1st year OC Gary Kubiak, has recently become the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. This means that QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will have their 4th offensive coordinator in as many years. Fired Chicago head coach Mark Trestman takes over OC duties for Baltimore.

2015 team outlook-
Baltimore battles in the AFC North Division, with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland. The Steelers are always going to make life difficult for Baltimore in their division every year, but the Bengals usually under-achieve and the Browns will be the Browns. Harbaugh will again bring his intense work ethic to the 2015 season and the Baltimore/Pittsburgh fight for the AFC North will likely be decided at the end of Week 17 of the regular season. Baltimore has a ton of free agents this year, which is a problem for them.
2015 Fantasy outlook-

Joe Flacco has my vote for the most under-appreciated QB in the NFL. Year after year, draft after fantasy draft, I continue to get this guy on my fantasy team, after others have drafted 20 other QBs, Thanks! In 2014, Flacco was the #8 ranked QB in the NFL. In 2013 he was ranked #16 and in 2012 (MVP of the Superbowl) he was the 6th ranked QB in the NFL. In this recent season, Flacco only had two games in which he didn’t throw at least 1 TD. (Even QB Peyton Manning had 2 games in which he didn’t.) Flacco threw for over 300 yards in 5 games in 2014, and against Tampa Bay Week 6, he had 306 yards and 5 TDs…0 INTs.

RBs- One has to think that OC Gary Kubiak (now DEN HC Gary Kubiak) could put any RB in his brilliant run-blocking schemes and they would be successful. He is the master at designing holes for running backs and in 2014, journeyman RB Justin Forsett was the benefactor. 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. He ended the season with 1266 yards and 8 TDs. Forsett is a free agent. Two factors hurt Forsett’s 2015 fantasy value. 1) If he re-signs with Baltimore, Kubiak isn’t there anymore and Mark Trestman is. Trestman got a lot out of RB Forte in Chicago, but Forsett isn’t Forte. 2) If he signs elsewhere, he will likely be thrown into a RBBC situation that he had to a lesser degree in Baltimore. Finally, Forsett isn’t a real factor in the passing game, so don’t go crazy drafting him too early.

Few teams have as many question marks at the wide receiver position as Baltimore does right now. #1 wide receiver Torrey Smith is a free agent. WR Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore for the 2014 season after Carolina refused to re-sign him, had a very productive season for the Ravens, but slowed in the 2nd half. (He only topped 100 yards once, after his week 11 bye.) Smith will be 36 this year. WRs Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown are young WRs on the Ravens roster and can be considered sleepers for the 2015 season.

Few teams have as many question marks at the tight end position as Baltimore does right now. Baltimore had two aging TEs playing for them in 2014, TE Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. Pitta hasn’t been medically cleared to play in 2015 as of yet and he hasn’t decided if he even wants to return for another season. Owen Daniels is a free agent. The Ravens need new TE blood in Baltimore because the TE position has always been an important component in the offense there.
K- Few teams have as few question marks at the kicker position as Baltimore does right now. Placekicker Justin Tucker ranked #6 among NFL kickers in 2014, #8 in 2013, and #3 in 2012. He connected with 33 of 38 FGs in 2014. Two reasons why Tucker is so successful… 1) he has a strong leg and is very accurate 2) QB Joe Flacco (unlike other QBs that I won’t mention…Jay Cutler) doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in the red-zone, so the Ravens score plenty of field goals if touchdowns aren’t made. Tucker is a free agent, but Baltimore will prioritize resigning him.

The Ravens are not the Ravens that won the Superbowl in 2000 (with Trent Dilfer was their starting quarterback) or even the Ravens that won the Superbowl in 2012. However, the mentality in Baltimore will always be “rough, intimidating defense”, and without Ray Lewis (retired), the Ravens still ranked #8 in Defense 2014. You’ll make money betting that the Baltimore’s Defense will be in the top 10 in 2015.

2014 Baltimore Fantasy Surprises-
The two veteran’s, WR Steve Smith and RB Justin Forsett, signing with the Ravens and succeeding as well as they did, could be called surprises. I will say that I had Steve Smith as one of my top sleepers prior to the 2014 season, because he is a fierce competitor and because he didn’t not like the way Carolina released him… i.e. chip on his shoulders. I will also say, I under-estimated Forsett with Kubiak.
2015 Free Agents that Baltimore need to address- QB Tyrod Tyler- RB Justin Forsett- WR Torrey Smith- TE Owen Daniels- G Will Rackley- OLB Pernell McPhee- S Jeremy Miles- K J Tucker

2015 NFL Draft-
The early needs of Baltimore are wide receivers, OLB help, corner back and running back. As I wrote before, the Falcons need to solidify their entire receiving corps (WRs and TEs), Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are hitting middle age in the NFL (OLB), Baltimore sorely needs shut down corner backs and safeties again (DB & S) and RB Forsett may sign elsewhere (RB).

Did you know- John Harbaugh’s father was as an assistant football coach under Bo Schembachler at the University of Michigan, where brother Jim is currently the new head coach?