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Offseason Primers: Baltimore Ravens

Senior Fantasy Writer
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A change in offensive coordinators combined with some incredible passes from Joe Flacco propelled the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2012.

A change in salary cap space because of Flacco's NFL-record extension meant changes across the roster. Along with five defensive starters leaving the team, the Ravens sent sure-handed receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers via trade in a move that saved some of their cap space. It's tough decisions like this that could keep the Ravens from being as successful in 2013.

The offense has some questions at receiver but none at running back, where Ray Rice is about as sure as things can be. Totaling over 1,500 yards for the fourth straight year and collecting 10 total touchdowns for the second straight season, Rice delivered over 100 total yards eight times and totaled 10-plus Fantasy points in standard leagues 11 times in the 15 games he legitimately played in. Down the stretch in 2012 we did see Bernard Pierce take some carries away from Rice, including 21 carries in the AFC title game and Super Bowl XLVII combined. Perhaps that was done to ease Rice's workload, a smart move considering he put on 318 total touches in the regular season and another 92 in the postseason.

2012 Touches Leaders
761 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Ray Rice 318 (257 car., 61 rec.) 41.8%
Bernard Pierce 115 (108 car., 7 rec.) 15.1%
Anquan Boldin 66 (65 rec., 1 car.) 8.7%
Dennis Pitta 61 rec. 8.0%
Torrey Smith 52 (49 rec., 3 car.) 6.8%
Jacoby Jones 31 (30 rec., 1 car.) 4.1%
All Others 118 15.5%

Could the Rice-Pierce dynamic bleed into 2013? Perhaps, though with Rice still continuing to be an effective weapon we doubt it will hurt his production much. In fact, if the Ravens determine that their passing attack isn't what it was when they won the title last year, we could see them lean on both backs more. Remember, they're down a viable starting receiver and finding a player to step up in place of Boldin, who led the team with 112 targets last year and has been the leading receiver the past three years, is vital if they want to keep averaging 24.9 points per game like they did last regular season. Rice is a nice Top 10 pick, though he'll have to fight the dreaded Super Bowl hangover to reach big numbers again. The smart move would then be to spend a Round 9 pick on Bernard Pierce as a handcuff to Rice in case he struggles.

But the onus of this team will fall on Flacco, who is now the highest-paid player in league history. With Ray Lewis retiring, the time has come for Flacco to lead this team. Plus, the Ravens tend to find ways to stay competitive -- they haven't had a losing season since John Harbaugh and Flacco came to town in 2008 -- but it could take some creative manuevering from play caller Jim Caldwell for them to stay elite. In the past we've been concerned with Caldwell's work, but after what he did with Flacco last season, not anymore.

As for the Ravens defense, a number of starters walked out the door, but the team diligently filled holes with the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Marcus Spears and Chris Canty. That leaves fewer holes than anticipated, but there's still the issue of replacing Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. But, if the Ravens are as smart as their track record suggests, they shouldn't have much of a problem there.

Torrey Smith -- Breakout

2012 Target Leaders
560 pass attempts
Anquan Boldin 112 20.1%
Torrey Smith 110 19.6%
Dennis Pitta 93 16.6%
Ray Rice 84 15.0%
Jacoby Jones 54 9.6%
All Others 107 19.1%

We're turning to Smith as a breakout candidate for the second season in a row, primarily because of the departure of Anquan Boldin along with the receiver maturing enough in his second season to translate into a gamebreaker in his third. His stats were consistent from 2011 to 2012 -- he scored one more touchdown and had 14 more yards receiving on one fewer catch. What wasn't consistent was how he delivered those stats; he had six games with 10 or more Fantasy points and nine with six Fantasy points or less. That boom-or-bust nature happened in part because of a lack of consistent targets (he had just 110) and a lack of consistent receiving skills (he caught just 44.5 pct. of those targets). But who else can step up in this offense? Joe Flacco needs Smith to have a big year for the Ravens to be effective. Getting him in Round 7 or Round 8 as a No. 3 receiver should pay off.

Jacoby Jones -- Bust

The Ravens figure to lean on their postseason hero a little more in 2013. You can ask the Texans how that worked out for them when they gave Jones an opportunity. Jones has never had more than even 600 yards receiving in a year and only once caught six touchdowns in a campaign (he had one regular-season receiving touchdown last year before hauling in two in the postseason). So while he's got some great speed and has gained some notoriety with his dancing skills, he's really never been a great option for Fantasy play. Even with a boost in playing time there's just too much risk in drafting Jones. If he proves us wrong at least you know to pick him up early off the waiver wire.

Joe Flacco -- Value proposition

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Joe Flacco 110-120 overall
Ray Rice 6-10 overall
Torrey Smith 85-95 overall
Jacoby Jones Undrafted
Dennis Pitta 90-100 overall
Justin Tucker Late-round pick
Ravens DST Final-round pick

You'd think after winning a Super Bowl that Flacco would get some respect in Fantasy circles, but it's not really happening. Flacco watched as young guys with fast legs racked up more Fantasy points last year and the mob mentality of following the hot players will push those names ahead of Flacco in drafts. But owners could pull off a sweet double dip and get one of those young runners and Flacco on Draft Day. After all, Flacco finished last season with 20 or more Fantasy points in seven of eight games including the postseason -- all games with new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. And if you remove his meaningless Week 17 game, Flacco averaged a precise 18.0 Fantasy points per game in the regular season. If you figure Flacco's floor is that 18-point average, he's a pretty safe bet with a pick in Round 9 or 10 as a backup quarterback and quasi-insurance policy if you take a young gun with an early- to middle-round pick.

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

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Player News
Cecil Shorts held without a grab in preseason debut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts wasn't much of a factor in his preseason debut Friday night against the Lions in Detroit. Shorts, injured his hamstring on the first day of training camp, returned to action and was limited to one target in one half while some starters played into the third quarter. Chad Henne threw a pass his way, which was broken up by Darius Slay in the second quarter. 

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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
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Chad Henne named Week 1 starter
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is sticking to his plan, at least for now. He has named Chad Henne the starting quarterback for Week 1 at Philadelphia, according to the Florida Times-Union. The announcement came following Friday's preseason game against Detroit.

Henne led his team to only one scoring drive (field goal), and took a backseat to rookie Blake Bortles late in the first half. The rookie worked with the first unit and orchestrated a scoring drive (field goal) before half time.

Bortles made an impressive throw to Allen Hurns for a 28-yard gain. He followed it up with a 30-yard completion to veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis. After halftime, he hooked up with Hurns for a 13-yard touchdown, his first touchdown of the preseason.

Bortles compiled 158 yards through the air while completing 10 of 16 passes. He added a touchdown and no interceptions, registering a 116.1 quarterback rating. He has 435 passing yards through his first three preseason games.

Henne completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 70 yards. He was sacked twice and finished with a 76.5 passer rating. Through three preseason games, Henne has passed for 230 yards.

Reggie Bush breaks free for 86-yard TD run
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Lions running back Reggie Bush showed a flash of dominance Friday night against the Jaguars in exhibition play.

Bush broke for a 24-yard run on the first drive, which was called back because of a penalty. But that didn't faze him. He made a nice cutback and ripped an 86-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter. He was limited to only one half of work. He finished with two carries for 95 yards and a touchdown and was not targeted in the passing game.

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(8/22/2014) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson made his preseason debut Friday night against Jacksonville. Johnson wore a protective splint on his finger and was limited two catches, both of which came in the opening quarter. He was targeted three times and finished with two grabs for 27 yards. 

Matthew Stafford picked off once in dress rehearsal game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was picked off once in an up-an-down outing Friday night against the Jaguars in exhibition play.

Stafford was intercepted by Andre Branch in the first quarter. He was limited to only one half of work with the first unit. He compiled 98 yards through the air while completing 10 of 16 passes. He had one interception and no touchdowns, registering 53.6 passer rating.

Greg Olsen does little in third preseason game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers tight end Greg Olsen did little Friday night against the Patriots in exhibition action. Olsen caught a short 5-yard pass on the opening drive and a 16-yard pass from Cam Newton late in the second quarter. He played the first two quarters and was targeted four times. He finished with two catches for 21 yards. 

Julian Edelman has flawless outing vs. Carolina
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(8/22/2014) Patriots receiver Julian Edelman made his presence felt Friday and nearly cracked the 100-yard mark in an exhibition game against the Panthers.

Edelman caught five passes in the first half, including one from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett in the first quarter. He caught passes for 8, 13 and 8 on the final drive of the night late in the third quarter. He caught all eight of his targets for 99 yards, averaging 12.4 yards per grab.

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(8/22/2014) Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams barely made any noise Friday night against the Patriots in Foxboro.

Stewart caught a short pass from Cam Newton and found an opening for a 20-yard gain in the first quarter. It was his only grab of the night. He took four handoffs for 11 yards. Williams was not targeted in the passing game and finished with nine rushing yards on five carries, averaging only 1.8 yards per attempt.

Kelvin Benjamin heavily targeted with first unit Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was heavily targeted with the first unit during Friday's preseason game against the Patriots. Benjamin made three early grabs through traffic in the opening quarter. He was targeted six times and finished with five grabs for a team-high 47 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

 
 
 
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