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-
QB- 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.
WRs- 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.
TEs- 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.
DEF- 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?