Five Questions Heading into Baltimore Ravens Camp:
The NFL season is upon us, finally. Teams have added impact free agents as well as rookies from the draft, yet only speculative conjecture can be made from samples of prior years. Not until training camp can we finally get a sense of how 53-man rosters and depth charts will shake out. What that means for fantasy football depends by situation and team. Here, I’ll be discussing the upcoming Baltimore Ravens Training Camp and five things to watch for.
Which Ravens running back has the best chance at winning you a fantasy championship this year?
So, clearly the Ravens running back to own this year is Kenne … oh. Scratch that. Kenneth Dixon is out for the year and Week 1 is still more than a month away. That’s sad for him, but great for the potential fantasy value of the remaining running backs in Baltimore this year. The Ravens could seriously be an incredibly intriguing team for fantasy football overall, not just in the backfield. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Last season Terrance West was the best fantasy asset in Baltimore, leading the team in carries, rushing yards, touchdowns and total touches. He even added 34 catches. Dixon and Kyle Juszczyk were used pretty heavily in the passing game as well, but one thing was still very clear in 2016. Terrance West was the head of the Baltimore Ravens backfield.
Heading into this season, it looked like Terrance may again be the lead back supplemented by Dixon and the newly acquired Danny Woodhead. Now that it’s really just Terrance West and Danny Woodhead, the opportunities look pretty stunning for them both. Last season, the Ravens targeted running backs 156 times. With Dixon, Justin Forsett, and Juszczyk all gone that leaves a gaping 104-target hole in that backfield. It’s possible that Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro see a slight uptick in usage from last year’s putrid totals, but 2017 may be the West & Woodhead show.
Which one should you target? That answer is still almost definitely Terrance West. He’ll have the guaranteed snaps, touches, and touchdown opportunities. He may not have the PPR ceiling that you want to see from a feature back, but that’s why Woodhead is there. Given that Woodhead is coming off of a torn ACL at age 32, it’s probably safe to tame any lofty expectations. However, 60 catches is definitely not out of the question give the opportunity in the Ravens’ scheme.
Which tight end do the Ravens want to target 121 times this year?
Why will the Ravens target their lead tight end 121 times? The truth is that they probably won’t, but that’s how many targets Dennis Pitta saw last year. Yes, the remaining tight ends in Baltimore may not be as talented as Pitta, but Joe Flacco likes targeting his TEs. If any of the Ravens seemingly dozens of tight ends takes over that lead spot in 2017, the upside could be league-winning. The hard part is choosing the right one. Even with Pitta retiring and Darren Waller serving a suspension the Ravens still have Crockett Gilmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Ben Watson to potentially lead the charge at a very taxing position.
Crockett Gilmore could very well take the lead early on. His natural receiving ability was relied upon for a solid ten-game stretch in 2015 with 33 catches for 412 yards and four touchdowns. And even in 2016 Gilmore was actually second in snaps at the TE position for the Ravens, behind Dennis Pitta. He’ll need to stay healthy though.
Maxx Williams is a former second-round pick that has struggled staying healthy as well. Before going down for the year after Week 4 in 2016 he was only averaging 13.5 snaps per game. Regardless of the fact that he is actually healthy and available right now, it might be a stretch to assume he would start in 2017.
Ben Watson and Nick Boyle played a combined 114 offensive snaps last year and 100% of those were Nick Boyle’s. Ben Watson is truly a relic at his ripe old age now. Boyle is probably the third tight end of the bunch.
Long story short, unless training camp reps dictate something completely different, expect Crockett Gilmore to see a healthy target share as long as he can avoid another season-ending injury.
Will there be any Ravens wide receivers that you can trust this season?
The tight end and running back positions aren’t the only ones missing a ton of targets from last season. Steve Smith’s 101 targets left for retirement. Kamar Aiken’s 50 left for Indianapolis. Any time there are 151 targets available in an offense, fantasy football owners might want to pay attention.
Yes, Jeremy Maclin is now on the team. He’s definitely no slouch. In fact, Maclin will definitely warrant a healthy target share this season. But is he truly the presumptive number one wide receiver on the team? Mike Wallace actually led all Ravens wide receivers last year with 116 targets. And yeah, it might be fun to hate on Mike Wallace like the majority of fantasy football land. That seems to be pretty popular. But why do people do that? Outside of his one bad year in Minnesota (where receiver production goes to die), Mike Wallace has had a pretty consistently serviceable fantasy football career. He has had at least eight touchdowns or 930 yards in all but two seasons for his entire career. Why should that change this year?
Obviously dynasty Twitter and some deep-digging fantasy football fanatics love Breshad Perriman. He ran a 4.25-second forty-yard dash two years ago at his pro day. He’s big, strong and looks the part for a real WR1 in the NFL. But the truth is Perriman played in all 16 games last year and only garnered 33 receptions. Unless something drastic changes he’ll be the WR3 on a team that primarily feeds their running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end. Breshad may find himself as the odd man out yet again with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace leading the charge.
Is Joe Flacco actually a decent late round QB target in deeper formats or Superflex?
The short answer to this question is no. Joe Flacco is already out for three to six weeks with a back injury. Who knows if he’ll be himself early on in part because of that alone? However, if you go deep enough Joe Flacco could present some value as the QB20-24 option, given the weapons around him. If Maclin, Wallace, Perriman, West, Woodhead and Gilmore all stay healthy the Ravens offense should hum along pretty nicely. If that’s the case, Joe Flacco’s touchdown upside may be greater than we have seen in recent memory. He is still not #elite, but Flacco offers a decent weekly floor with back-end QB1 upside (format depending).
Who is the sleeper worth targeting on the Ravens in deeper leagues?
The name to know for the worst case injury scenario for the Ravens would have to be Javorius “Buck” Allen. Javorius was actually asked to carry the load for a brief period in 2015. It seemed that every possible starting offensive weapon for the Ravens went down that year. Javorius had a tough time carrying the offense by himself and was never really given another chance. Should Terrance West or Danny Woodhead miss any time, Buck Allen could easily be plugged into the early or later down role right away. He offers a balanced skill set that many depth running backs do not.
For more updated news, notes and analysis on the Ravens training camp, check out BaltimoreRavens.com and follow the team writers as they break down the above issues and many others.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @FF_TravisM. I’m always down to chat football, ultimate frisbee, or how bad of a dancer I am. Thanks for reading, and good luck this year in all of your fantasy football endeavors!