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.

Mock Fantasy Drafts from 2015 and 2016

Mock Fantasy Drafts from 2015 and 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Oh, if we only knew then….what we now now!

Of course, that wouldn’t be fair, and that would take the fun out of fantasy football……( but if we all are being honest, we’d all probably win a bunch a championships first, then go back to not knowing!)

One of my favorite websites to see completed mock drafts and to participate in a mock draft is at http://fantasyfootballcalculator.com …8-10-12- even 14 team mock drafts are available.

Below are 9 Rounds of Mock Football Drafts from 2015 to 2016, one from September 2015, and one from mid-January, 2016.
Let’s look at the September 2015 first and see what brilliant picks were made, and some horrific mistakes as well. This fantasy football draft is an excellent example of who was being drafted where, back in the fall.

September fantasy Football Draft

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly-

The Good- The Top 5 Wide Receivers ( Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green…along with TE GRONK/MINN RB Adrian Peterson) were the safest bets. You have to figure that more running backs will have season ending injuries, than wide receivers, so maybe we learn from this.

The Bad- First, I warned about DeMarco Murray in August that he was a product of a great Dallas O-Line ( and he was splitting time in Philly w/ 3 other backs) – in my article “Caution Drafting These Fantasy Players” -LINK-    Second- Many running backs simply didn’t produce in 2015, like RBs WASH Alfred Morris, SD Melvin Gordon, JACK TJ Yeldon and DET Joique Bell, but doesn’t mean that they were terrible draft picks necessarily. That’s just how fantasy football runs. Third- Aging receivers however, like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Roddy White proved to be liabilities, and fantasy owners need to be better about drafting smart….rather than drafting big names.

The Ugly- 4 QBs were selected by Round 5 from this draft, and none of them even ending up ranking in the top 10 of 2015 fantasy football quarterbacks . Someday fantasy football owners will listen to me, and wait to draft a QB. If you weren’t able to draft TEs GRONK or Greg Olsen ( I warned about drafting TE Jimmy Graham too early in July of 2105- “My Peek At A Fantasy Mock Draft” -LINK- ) panicking and grabbing one too early was costly. Look at the players passed up for TEs Graham, Kelce and Bennett…..names like WRs E Sanders, B Cooks, B Marshall and Sammy Watkins!

Now the Fantasy Football Draft from mid-January, 2016…

Fantasy Football Draft January 2016

Clearly the biggest Fantasy Football Mover is STL RB Todd Gurley, and I agree. In the 2015 draft, 11 running backs were selected in the 1st 2 rounds. In the 2016 draft, only 8 were. These fantasy football owners put a premium on a few trustworthy RBs, then went straight for star wide receivers. ( I personally will be waiting a round or two longer before drafting RBs Doug Martin and  LeSean McCoy)

Guilty of being redundant, but in Sept. 2015….4 QBs were drafted by Round 5. In the later draft, 6 were. JACK Blake Bortles won’t go this high, and will be a steal in Rounds 6 and 7, as will QBs Drew Brees and Carson Palmer.

KC TE T Kelce’s stock dropped as he should, in the conservative KC offense (that won’t change either). The panic run on tight ends in Round 8 is a perfect opportunity to get quality players that went later and TEs Ertz, Barnidge or Witten are still available.

Finally, Round 7 is too early for a defense in my opinion and CHI WR rookie Kevin White ( the last selection in Round 9 ) would have to have had one spectacular pre-season before I ever drafted him before proven fantasy wide receivers that I already trust.

The 2015 NFL season isn’t even over yet, and can’t wait to starting draft again, (sadly a long 8-9 months away)….but it’s never too early to start studying!