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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
Dolphins OL Branden Albert not guaranteed for Week 1
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:55 pm ET) While Dolphins tackle Branden Albert avoided the PUP list at the start of training camp and has spent some time practicing with the team, the lineman is being brought along slowly and his status for Week 1 of the regular season remains in doubt, per the Palm Beach Post

Albert tore his ACL and MCL during Week 10 last season, and the team remains cautious about his recovery. 

"I don’t think surprised is the right term," Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton said about Albert's return for the regular season. "I'm a positive person so I'm sure expecting that to happen. At the same time, I understand it's a fairly serious injury he's recovering from."


RB Duke Johnson (hamstring) falling behind at Browns camp
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:46 pm ET) Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson missed practice again Tuesday with a hamstring injury, and the team's coaching staff is being to appear frustrated with his absence, per ESPNCleveland.com.

"It's just disappointing that a guy we're counting on being a big part of what we do, to lose him at this formative time of what we're getting done … he'll have a lot of catch-up work to do," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. 

Johnson, a third-round pick out of Miami, is expected to be a big part of the Browns' run-heavy offense and a part of their special teams - if he can get on the field. 


Browns WR Terrelle Pryor completes pass, hurts hamstring
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:32 pm ET) Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who is making the transition to that position from quarterback, got to show off some of his old skills Tuesday, completing a pass on an end-around in both offense-only and full-team drills before tweaking his hamstring and leaving the field, per Cleveland.com. 

Coach Mike Pettine said he didn't think the injury was serious, but that the team would take a closer look at the injury as a precaution. 


Patriots announce four signings to fill roster
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:15 pm ET) The Patriots announced they have signed four players Tuesday: linebackers L.J. Fort and Cameron Gordon, fullback Eric Kettani and defensive lineman A.J. Pataiali’l .

Gordon and Kettani have both previously spent time with the Patriots, while Fort was on the practice squads of the Seahawks and Bengals in 2014. Pataiali’l was on both the Ravens and Browns practice squads last season. 


Jaguars GM says WR Justin Blackmon 'unlikely' to return
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:47 pm ET) Wide receiver Justin Blackmon , who hasn't practiced or played since 2013 after being suspended for the third time for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, is unlikely to return to the Jaguars according to GM David Caldwell, per ESPN.com. 

Blackmon hasn't been in contact with the team and his time away from the game signals he is not prepared to hit the field anytime soon. 

"I don't know to expect but I would say common sense would probably be if you haven't played football in two-and-a-half years apparently that's not a priority for you," Caldwell said. 

The Jaguars have no plans to cut Blackmon, who would have to apply for reinstatement and go through a two-month vetting process before being allowed to play again. 


Packers RB Eddie Lacy leaves practice with foot issue
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:40 pm ET) Packers running back Eddie Lacy left practice Tuesday with what the team is labeling as a foot issue, per ESPN.com. 

"Eddie had some foot soreness," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "They just pulled him out there near the end."

The Packers had said they wanted to limit Lacy's workload, but during the first few days of camp, he had taken the majority of reps. Veteran James Starks is Lacy's backup. 


Report: Texans RB Arian Foster suffers groin injury
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:19 pm ET) Texans running back Arian Foster suffered a groin injury Monday during the team's first fully padded practice, per a report from ESPN.com. 

During last night's practice, Foster hobbled off the field during a pass play, and several sources, including the Houston Chronicle, have described the injury as serious enough to require surgery. 

Foster has battled a variety of injuries during his career, including a hamstring issue that knocked him out of the team's season finale last year. 

Foster finished 2014 with 1,246 yards and eight touchdowns on 255 rushing attempts. He also caught 37 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns


Browns DL Billy Winn (ankle) to miss week of practice
by Matt Rybaltowski | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) The Browns defensive line dodged a bullet when the ankle injury suffered by defensive lineman Billy Winn was not ruled to be that serious, per the Associated Press

Browns coach Mike Pettine said that Winn will miss at least a week; however, he didn't feel it was the kind of high ankle sprain that could keep Winn out of action for several months. 

Winn was carted off the field during last Saturday's practice. He appeared in 13 games last season and totaled 31 tackles with one interception.


Report: Patriots sign linebacker L.J. Fort
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:04 pm ET) After a tryout Monday, linebacker L.J. Fort signed with the Patriots on Tuesday, per the Boston Globe

Fort has played with four NFL teams, most recently the Bengals and Seahawks, for whom he appeared in one game last season. He has 20 career tackles and one interception, all of which came for the Browns in 2012. 


Report: Eagles, QB Sam Bradford working on extension
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:27 am ET) The Eagles have been working on a contract extension for quarterback Sam Bradford, with the hopes of gaining control of Bradford for beyond this season at a minimum, according to a report from ESPN's Ed Werder. 

Bradford has impressed coaches thus far in offseason workouts and despite his history of injuries, the former No. 1 draft pick has many of the traits in which Eagles coach Chip Kelly admires. 

"Peyton Manning switched teams because of an injury,'' Kelly said. "Drew Brees switched teams because of an injury. So we went down that path."

Bradford has one year left on his rookie contract, and is scheduled to make $12.9 million this season. He has not played in an NFL game since 2013. 


 
 
 
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