Coming off a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, the Baltimore Ravens seemed to lose their identity last year. With the retirement of their heartbeat on defense, Ray Lewis, the loss of pass-catchers Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, and a garbage year from Ray Rice, it’s no wonder the Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Key players will look to rebound in 2014, both in real life and in the world of fantasy football.
Coming off his Super Bowl triumph, Joe Flacco got paid big. He certainly didn’t earn that paycheck in 2013 though. A large part of that was due to his loss of weapons with Boldin leaving for San Francisco and Pitta out for nearly the whole season with a hip injury. Even if Flacco regains his 2013 playoff form, he’s never been much of a fantasy asset. He’ll be a low QB2 option, but you’d be better off taking a chance with a guy who has more upside.
Ray Rice was a huge fantasy letdown last season. He produced only 660 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per carry with four touchdowns and 321 receiving yards. With his two game suspension to start 2014, the outlook for Rice isn’t that much brighter this year. He will still be the Ravens biggest fantasy asset, but he’s a far cry from the former unanimous first rounder he was for years. Rice projects to be a mid-low RB2 and should be drafted around the same time as guys like Trent Richardson and Chris Johnson.
If you’re in a bind, grab Rice’s backup, Bernard Pierce, during the two game suspension, but don’t expect much. Pierce had his opportunity to shine last year with Rice’s struggles, but failed to do so. I see no reason to expect more from him this year.
I expect the Ravens top receiver, Torrey Smith, to be a low WR1 in 2014. Smith’s 17.4 yards per catch in 2013 trailed only Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson. The problem was that he was essentially all Flacco had to work with, leading to constant double teams. The Ravens added Steve Smith in the offseason which should help give Torrey more room to work with. S. Smith is getting up there in age and isn’t the same deep threat he used to be, but he’ll help Baltimore in the passing game with his veteran craftiness. Steve Smith is a solid WR3 option in 2014.
The return of Dennis Pitta will be huge for the Ravens’ offense. However, in fantasy terms, I think he’s being drafted too high. Baltimore brought in two former Texans in the offseason: Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and fellow tight end, Owen Daniels. The latter is sure to poach some redzone targets, and thus touchdowns, from Pitta. Daniels is not worth a roster spot in most leagues unless Pitta goes down with an injury again. Pitta is being drafted ahead of guys like Kyle Rudolph and Jordan Reed, but I’d prefer both of them to Pitta this year simply due to his timeshare situation.
The Ravens defense is not worthy of a starting spot on your 2014 fantasy roster in most leagues. They’ll be better than they were in 2013 when they struggled mightily with the departures of stalwarts, Lewis and Ed Reed, but they’re still trying to bring along young defenders who just aren’t quite there yet. Against a favorable matchup, maybe they’re worth a pickup for a week, but there will probably be better options on the waiver wire.
Their kicker, Justin Tucker, is one of the league’s best, however. If his offense was better, he might be the best kicker in the NFL, but with his team’s current construction, he’ll probably be the third best kicker fantasy wise this year.
Last year was tough for the Ravens, but expect just about all of their fantasy assets to have bounce-back years in 2014. No stars exists to lift you to fantasy glory, but the Ravens have steady producers who are crucial to your team’s success.
*Photo Credit – Keith Allison via wiki commons.