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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
Eagles excuse Keelan Johnson from training camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:59 am ET) The Eagles announced Friday that safety Keelan Johnson was excused from training camp "for an undetermined amount of time" to attend to a personal matter in Arizona. Johnson was recently arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. 

Johnson will still count on the 90-man roster while he's away. 


Harbaugh: I'm very confident in Bernard Pierce
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:49 am ET) With Ray Rice suspended for the first two games of the season, the Ravens have to figure out who will start at running back in his absence, reports ESPN.

The top choice to fill in for Rice is Bernard Pierce. He was limited all offseason after having shoulder surgery, but he looked to be in good shape as the Ravens opened training camp this week. 

"I'm very confident in Bernard. I've always liked Bernard," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a heck of a player. He’s worked very hard, he’s 217 pounds, [and] he's in the best shape of his life. He looked good out here the last couple of days. We'll know more by Tuesday once we get the pads on and seeing him move with the pads on and how the shoulder holds up -- that'll be important."

Outside of Pierce, the Ravens have Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but Pierce is the likely starter with Rice out.

"I have a lot of confidence in all of our guys," Harbaugh said.


Brandon Bolden off to bad start in camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:44 am ET) The Boston Herald has noticed that Patriots running back Brandon Bolden has had two bad practices to begin training camp. He's fumbled twice and had a bad drop. Fumbles were a part of Bolden's rookie training camp as well. 

It's believed Bolden is in the running for the backup running downs job behind Stevan Ridley in camp, but if he keeps fumbling he could be released. 


White: Julio Jones will 'destroy the NFL'
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:40 am ET) Falcons receiver Roddy White is hoping teammate Julio Jones (foot) will be healthy all season because he's counting on a big year for Jones in 2014, reports ESPN.

"I'm worried about him in a sense that I just want him to play football," White said. "Being with Julio for the last few years, I know how great of a player he is. I know how great of a player he can be. And I just want him to be the best he can be. That's all I care about. If he's the best he can be, we're going to win. There's no doubt about it. 

"I don't have any other concerns with him because we're like brothers. I want to see him be on the field throughout the whole season and just watch him destroy the NFL."


Roddy White not expected to be limited in camp
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:34 am ET) Falcons receiver Roddy White, who dealt with a high ankle sprain and hamstring injury last year, isn't sure if he'll be limited at all during the early portion of training camp, reports ESPN. 

"I don't know," he said. "I haven't gone over the schedule or anything yet. But probably not, because I didn't do too many OTAs [organized team activities]. We've got to work on timing."


Saints expect Jairus Byrd back 'sooner than later'
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:33 am ET) Saints coach Sean Payton expects safety Jairus Byrd (back) to rejoin the team "sooner than later" but still put him on the PUP list to begin training camp.

"Clearly, before we leave here he'll be back on the roster," Payton told the media Friday. 


Belichick impressed with Kenbrell Thompkins
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:30 am ET) Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes what he sees from second-year receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.

"Hard working kid; one of our hardest workers," Belichick told the media Friday. "He really tries hard to do everything right. Very attentive, very coachable and he's very hard working."

Thompkins had a solid first day of training camp Thursday when he "caught nearly everything thrown his way." He has the chance to be a starter this year with Aaron Dobson (foot) out for the start of camp.


Kenny Stills sidelined by quad injury
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:29 am ET) Saints receiver Kenny Stills left practice early Friday with a quad injury but Sean Payton doesn't believe it's a big deal. 

"He had a tight quad two weeks ago when he was training and it's the same right quad," Payton told the media Friday morning. "I dont think it's real serious."


Raiders confident in Matt Schaub
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:17 am ET) The Raiders are expecting quarterback Matt Schaub to put his disaster of a 2013 season behind him this year, reports ESPN.

Schaub was benched in his final year with the Texans before being traded to Oakland this offseason.

"I don't have any problems with Matt Schaub's confidence," coach Dennis Allen said. "I think he's in a good frame of mind. I think he's very hungry. I think he's excited about the new opportunity."

Schaub should benefit from a change of scenery, Allen said.

"I think anytime you go into something new, there's a little bit of, maybe it's an increased focus, an increased intensity level, because it is new," Allen said. "You kind of force yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit. I think he's done that. I think he's been very focused and very driven this offseason and I don't think there's any question that he's got something that he wants to go out and prove."


Packers 'still open' to bringing Jermichael Finley back
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:14 am ET) Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that he's "still open" to Jermichael Finley coming back to the team. Speaking with the media, McCarthy said he still considers him a Packer and wouldn't put a deadline on bringing himback. He also hasn't consulted with the doctors on whether or not Finley is healthy enough to play after suffering a major neck injury last season. 

 
 
 
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