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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Baltimore Ravens

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Torrey Smith is talking a big game this season, and that's something we like to hear from a player with his level of talent. He's expecting a breakout campaign, and Fantasy owners should plan to target him on Draft Day.

Smith told me at Anquan Boldin's charity event in April that his goal for 2012 is to gain at least 1,000 yards and score 10 touchdowns. He expects to improve on his productive rookie year in 2011.

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"Just being consistent," Smith said. "If I was consistent with my plays last year I would have had well over 1,000 yards. That's my goal. I just have to be more focused, become a better technician and be more consistent. Everything else will take care of itself."

Smith had 50 catches, 841 yards and seven touchdowns last year, and he's already working this offseason on improving. He wants to be a more complete receiver.

Of his seven scores last year, three came in one game (Week 3 at the Rams), and he scored in consecutive games once. His yardage was also wobbly as there was only one occasion where he had back-to-back games with at least 50 yards.

"I feel like I was able to have an OK season last year," Smith said. "That's pretty much as raw as it gets for me. I feel like I have nowhere to go but up. I'm far from a finished product. I just want to work this whole summer, try to get my technique down and go out and dominate next year."

We like Smith a lot heading into this year, and he has the chance to be a solid Fantasy contributor. His teammates agree.

Boldin told me he likes Smith's work ethic. Ray Rice said in an interview that Smith has "freakish talent" and is ready to become a star.

"For him, the sky's the limit," Boldin said. "He's one of those guys that's willing to learn and willing to get better."

Added Rice: "Now he has to just channel that talent into the fundamentals. But he's got it."

Smith should be viewed as a No. 3 Fantasy option coming into the season, but he could be a starter in all leagues if he continues to progress based on his rookie year. He should be drafted beginning in Round 5 in the majority of formats.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Joe Flacco 12
Running Backs
Ray Rice 1
Bernard Pierce ND
Anthony Allen ND
Damien Berry ND
Wide Receivers
Torrey Smith 5
Anquan Boldin 8
Jacoby Jones ND
Tandon Doss ND
Tight Ends
Ed Dickson ND
Dennis Pitta ND
Kickers/Defense
Billy Cundiff ND
Ravens DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Bust ... Anquan Boldin, wide receiver
Boldin is coming off a 2011 season where he actually set a career high with 15.6 yards per catch, but Fantasy owners will tell you he looked slow and old. The reality is Boldin is not the same receiver he was with the Cardinals for a variety of reasons. For starters, he is slower and older at 31 (32 in October) and entering his 10th year in the NFL. But the biggest reason for his decline in stats is his role has changed on a run-based team. He plays inside more with Baltimore than he did with Arizona, and he's not used as much in the red zone. Joe Flacco also isn't close to the quarterback Kurt Warner was, and Boldin's production will continue to decline this year. The addition of Jacoby Jones will force Boldin to play more in the slot, and he will also lose targets to tight end Ed Dickson over the middle. Based on his role in the offense, Boldin is still worth drafting as a No. 3 receiver with a mid-round pick. But if you think Boldin can still be a viable starter for you in the majority of leagues then you'll be sorry.

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Late-round flier ... Ed Dickson, tight end
I'm not big on telling Fantasy owners to draft two tight ends in the majority of standard leagues, but if you're so inclined then take a flier on Dickson. He will continue to share playing time with Dennis Pitta, and Boldin will take away targets over the middle. But Dickson had a productive year in 2011 with 54 catches for 528 yards and five touchdowns. He closed the season with two touchdowns in his final three games, and he finished just 15 Fantasy points outside the Top 12 tight ends in standard formats. If he can increase his production slightly in his third year then he could be a steal with a late-round pick. Remember, tight ends tend to surprise us on a yearly basis, and Dickson could be among the group of potential breakout options with Jermaine Gresham, Jared Cook and Jacob Tamme. He's definitely at the tail end of that group, but Dickson could end up as a quality target for Flacco this season.

Keeper-league target ... Bernard Pierce, running back
The Ravens are hopeful there won't be a problem with Rice's contract situation heading into training camp, but if he's a holdout then the No. 2 running back in Baltimore will be a popular player for Fantasy owners. The Ravens have three players competing for the job in Pierce, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry. We expect Pierce to win the role, and he is worth drafting as a handcuff option to Rice. In deep keeper leagues, Fantasy owners should take a flier on Pierce. He played well for Temple and finished his career ranked second in rushing yards (3,570) despite playing only three seasons. The 6-foot, 218-pounder scored 53 career touchdowns, including 21 as a senior, when he finished with 1,481 yards on the ground. Baltimore drafted Pierce in Round 3 of the NFL Draft, and he could be the backup to Rice for several years depending on what happens with Rice's contract.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
CIN @PHI NE CLE @KC DAL @HOU bye @CLE OAK @PIT @SD PIT @WAS DEN NYG @CIN
The Ravens will have their hands full in their first three games against the Bengals, Eagles and Patriots. A saving grace is that two of those games are at home, along with a matchup vs. the Browns in Week 4. They'll face a lot of potent offenses, actually, and that includes both Manning brothers in consecutive weeks starting in Week 15. Maybe the Ravens DST won't be quite as effective as we're used to, especially with Terrell Suggs (Achilles' tendon) out. And with the passing offense in mind, the schedule is mostly good. Fact is, if the Ravens are in a bunch of high-scoring games, they'll need more than Rice to compete. They also take on the Steelers twice in three weeks, which is odd.

Training camp topics

The Ravens have three major talking points worth monitoring during training camp which will have an impact on Draft Day. None is bigger than Rice, who hopefully will play out the season under the franchise tag or sign a long-term deal. We hope Rice does not hold out because he is a Top 3 overall selection in the majority of leagues. A lengthy holdout could ruin his value (see Chris Johnson circa 2011).

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Ray Rice 291 carries, 76 catches
Ricky Williams 108 carries, 13 catches
Anquan Boldin 57 catches
Torrey Smith 50 catches, 4 carries
Ed Dickson 54 catches

This is also a potential contract year for Flacco, and we want to see if he's ready to have a big season. For years, Fantasy owners have been cautiously optimistic about Flacco having a breakout season. And for years, owners have been disappointed. Flacco has been decidedly mediocre in his four seasons in Baltimore, never topping 3,622 passing yards or 25 touchdowns in a single year.

Flacco has the talent and weapons to succeed, but he has yet to put it all together. If he is playing for a new contract that could be the extra motivation he needs. We consider him a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback worth a late-round pick, but he could end up as a steal on Draft Day if this is his breakout campaign.

On defense, the Ravens lost a huge contributor when standout pass rusher Suggs suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in May. Replacing his 25 sacks over the past two years is impossible, but the Ravens are hopeful rookie Courtney Upshaw can help fill the role. Upshaw could be a great late-round flier in all IDP leagues.

Injury update

Smith (hernia; probable for the start of training camp) ... Suggs (Achilles' tendon; out for year)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Good luck with Michael Floyd
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:07 am ET) Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd caught two passes in Week 11, which at face value would give no one the impression he was back to form. But because both happened to go for touchdowns, including one of more than 40 yards, some of his owners couldn't be talked out of starting him Week 12 at Seattle. And those owners are filled with remorse right now.

That's because, with backup Drew Stanton again under center for the Cardinals, Floyd went without a single catch. He was targeted twice but failed to connect -- and with fellow wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald sidelined by a a sprained knee, no less.

That's the lowest of lows for him in what has been by and large a disappointing season. With this performance, he's averaging 2.1 catches for 28.9 yards over his last seven games. He's had a few touchdowns during that stretch to soften the blow, but ultimately, all they've done is given his owners false hope.

Unlike Fitzgerald, Floyd's production didn't improve for those five games when starting quarterback Carson Palmer was back from injury, and now Palmer is out for the year. Between Stanton's shortcomings and John Brown's emergence, you shouldn't be hoping for any sort of rebound from Floyd.


Giants K Josh Brown limited to extra points in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) Giants kicker Josh Brown didn't attempt a field goal in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12 but managed to successfully convert all four of his extra-point tries.

It's the fifth time this season Brown hasn't received a field-goal attempt, and he's managed multiple attempts just twice in his 11 games this year. Brown will square off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Keenan Allen turning over a new leaf?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:56 am ET) For the second time this season, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen topped 100 yards in a game Week 12 against St. Louis, and for the second time this season, he found the end zone, scoring on a 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter. It was the first time he did both in the same game, which was the kind of production Fantasy owners expected from him coming into the season.

So is he finally delivering on his potential? Oh, who knows?

Here are the positives for Allen: With another nine targets in Week 12, he has averaged 10.8 over his last five games, a clear improvement from his first six, and his primary competition for red-zone looks, tight end Antonio Gates, has been conspicuously absent the last three weeks.

Here are the negatives for Allen: Even with all those extra targets, he has still averaged just 69.0 yards over his last five games, and quarterback Philip Rivers has stopped throwing touchdown passes not just to Gates but in general.

I have enough confidence in Rivers and the Chargers offense as a whole to keep Allen on my roster, but I'm not activating him based on this performance.


Giants' Rueben Randle paces secondary targets in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle caught all three of his targets for 36 yards in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Eli Manning was locked in on rookie Odell Beckham (10 catches, 146 yards, two TDs) and running back Rashad Jennings (eight catches, 68 yards), and Randle was one of the quarterback's six other targeted receivers to split 11 catches. Tight end Daniel Fells also secured three receptions for 35 yards, while tight end Larry Donnell managed just two receptions for 24 yards. Wide receiver Preston Parker caught one of his three targets for 16 yards, while tight end Adrien Robinson caught his only target for a one-yard touchdown.

Randle, Parker and the team's TE corps should continue to play a complementary role behind Beckham moving forward. The Giants will take on the Jaguars in Week 13.


Giants RB Andre Williams scores touchdown in Week 12 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Giants running back Andre Williams rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown and added a 12-yard catch in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Williams was out-touched 27-11 by starter Rashad Jennings but managed to bounce a carry to the right side late in the first half for a three-yard score. The touchdown was his third in his last four games, but he's still hovering around 3.0 yards per carry for the season. Williams will square off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Giants RB Rashad Jennings totals 120 yards in Week 12 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:47 am ET) Giants running back Rashad Jennings rushed for just 52 yards on 19 carries but caught eight of his 10 targets for 68 yards in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Jennings drew the start and out-touched rookie Andre Williams 27-11 but watched his teammate score from three yards out in the second quarter. Despite averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, Williams was able to stay involved by being the second-most targeted receiver on the team. Though Jennings hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3, his total yardage represented his best performance since rushing for 176 yards in his third game of the year. Jennings is set to face the Jaguars in Week 13.


Ryan Mathews pulls away from Branden Oliver
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:45 am ET) Even though Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was more effective than Branden Oliver in his return from a shoulder injury, he split carries almost evenly with his replacement Week 11 against Oakland. That wasn't so much the case Week 12 against St. Louis, though, when Mathews took his first carry 11 yards and never looked back en route to 105. He also scored a touchdown on a 32-yard run in the third quarter.

He injured his shoulder on that play, which was a big reason why Oliver got the six carries he did, but Mathews returned and still finished with twice as many. Imagine how many yards he would have had if he had gotten 15-to-18 carries.

If Mathews had struggled to keep up with Oliver after the long layoff, the Chargers might continue to ease him in, but since he's been far and away the more effective of the two in two games back, he looks like he'll take the job and run with it, reducing Oliver to just a handcuff option in Fantasy.

Mathews falls a little short of must-start status with an especially tough matchup Week 13 at Baltimore, but for most owners, he's probably still worth running out there.


Giants QB Eli Manning tallies 338 yards, three TDs in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:42 am ET) Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed 29 of his 40 pass attempts for 338 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Manning hooked up with rookie Odell Beckham on a pair of touchdowns in the first half, including an outstanding one-handed, 43-yard catch that will certainly find its way on every Play of the Year list. The Giants took a 21-10 lead into halftime before the Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. Manning was able to bring his team back by connecting with Adrien Robinson from one-yard out with just three minutes remaining, but the Giants defense was unable to stop the Cowboys from responding one more time.

Manning's one interception came on an overthrow to a wide-open receiver who looked like he had a clear lane to the end zone with an on-target throw. Even with that mistake, it was an excellent rebound performance after throwing five interceptions in his previous game. He's set to face off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Cowboys K Dan Bailey scores seven points vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey kicked four extra points and made his only field-goal attempt in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Bailey put his team on the board with a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the Cowboys were able to reach the end zone four times thereafter and needed all four touchdowns in a high-scoring game against their division rivals. Bailey had missed field goals in each of his last two games coming into the Sunday night matchup. He's set to face the Eagles at home Thursday.


Cowboys WR Terrance Williams catches just one pass vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 am ET) Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams managed just one reception on two targets for 18 yards in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Williams has struggled to emerge of late, following up a targetless performance in Week 11 with just one catch Sunday. He's managed just 37 yards on three receptions over his last three games. Williams will look to get back on track Thursday against the Eagles.


 
 
 
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