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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
Bears QB Jay Cutler expected back in Chicago with new staff
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:42 am ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to be back in Chicago next season, likely with a new offensive staff, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Sunday.

Cutler has accounted for 30 touchdowns and a league-high 24 turnovers for the 5-9 Bears. He has the seventh-best completion percentage (66.1) among all quarterbacks this season. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract in January and is guaranteed to make $15.5 million next season.


Report: Falcons remain optimistic Julio Jones will play Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:33 am ET) The Falcons remain optimistic that wide receiver Julio Jones will be in the starting lineup Sunday against New Orleans, despite missing another week of practice because of a hip injury, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports.

Jones ran on Saturday and will test his injured hip hours before kickoff in order to see how it responds. According to Breer, Jones' hip is in "better shape" than last week, and if he warms up without any setbacks, he'll be cleared to play Sunday.

Jones is third among all receivers in receptions (93) and second in receiving yards (1,428) this season. Harry Douglas would get the start if Jones sits out a second straight game.

Atlanta has moved from 6-point to a 6 1/2-point underdog at New Orleans.


Reports: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton a 'long shot' to play Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who missed a week of practice due to a nagging hamstring injury, appears to be a "long shot" to play Week 16 against the Cowboys, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Hilton will test his injured hamstring during warmups, but will only play if he's at 100 percent and "can be himself," coach Chuck Pagano told Ed Werder of ESPN.

Hilton is tied for ninth in receptions (82) and fourth in receiving yards (1,345) this season. If he's unable to play, rookie Donte Moncrief will see a slight increase in playing time.

The Colts remain a 3 1/2-point underdog at Dallas.


Report: Cowboys' DeMarco Murray to play with protective pad Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is expected to play Sunday against the Colts, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports.

The plan is for Murray to play with a pad on his surgically-repaired hand, which he debuted during the team's final walkthru on Saturday. The Cowboys remain concerned with how his injury holds up on Sunday, and if they clinch a playoff spot in Week 16, Murray could be a candidate to sit out Week 17 in order to rest his injured hand.

Murray leads the league with 1,687 yards on 351 carries through 14 games, which is the most in franchise history. He also has 54 receptions for 395 yards.

The Cowboys remain a 3 1/2-point home favorite over Indianapolis.


49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


 
 
 
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