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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
Vikings' Adrian Peterson to begin probation on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will begin his probation on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson will begin community service, and will undergo counseling to determine whether he has a drug problem. Peterson will report to a probation officer once a month in order to take a drug test. The strict drug testing stems from an Oct. 8 pre-trail urinalysis. Peterson admitted to "smoking a little weed," though the results from the test were never disclosed. 

Probation officials will also determine whether Peterson needs to attend parenting classes. 

Per his plea agreement, Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He's required to perform at least 16 hours per month, which would allow him to complete to program prior to training camp.

Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million. The team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension. 


Austin Collie signs with CFL's BC Lions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Free-agent receiver Austin Collie has signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, the team announced Thursday.

"I’m excited to be joining the Lions and very much look forward to playing in the CFL," said Collie. "The wide-open play of the Canadian game and the passion of fans across the league is going to be a lot of fun to experience."

Collie played four seasons with the Colts and one with the Patriots. In his last NFL action, he caught four passes for 57 yards in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.


Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: 'I don't want to take less money'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reiterated Thursday that while he'd be willing to restructure his contract if asked, he would not accept a pay cut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don't want to take less money," McCoy said. "I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we're all together."

McCoy, who is due to count $11.95 million against the cap in 2015, turned in his fourth 1,000-yard season in the last five years in 2014, finishing with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions. All five of his touchdowns came on the ground.


Bills' Rex Ryan won't commit to EJ Manuel as starting QB
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) When asked about who his starting quarterback would be in 2015, Bills coach Rex Ryan said the team would look at every available option, reports The Buffalo News.

"We're going to exhaust every resource we can," Ryan said. "We'll look at free agents. We'll look at the draft. We'll look at anything."

The Bills have former first-round pick EJ Manuel on their roster, but Ryan said he would not commit to Manuel as his starting quarterback at this time.

"To say that he's definitely going to be the guy, it's way too early to say that," Ryan said.


Bills RB Fred Jackson excited to play for new coach Rex Ryan
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Bills veteran running back Fred Jackson said he hasn't had the opportunity to meet with new coach Rex Ryan, but that didn't stop him from expressing his excitement about the new coaching regime in Buffalo.

"I can't wait to play for him. I've heard nothing but good things," Jackson said Wednesday of Ryan during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "I'm looking forward to that [first] conversation when I sit down and talk to him."

The Bills finished 9-7 in 2014, which was their best record since 2004. While Jackson believes Ryan is going to "be that catalyst that comes in and pushes us over that hump," he didn't have many bad things to say about coach Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract New Year's Eve.

"I thought he was a tremendous coach," Jackson said. "He showed up, he worked hard, he pushed players to give their best effort. He got us to a 9-7 record -- we hadn't won nine games in 10 years. There's definitely some things about him that made him a great coach. It's just the way he exited. I don't think anybody expected that. 

"Players, the way we found out is we got a generic text from him, saying that he was moving on and he had chosen to opt out of his contract." 


Justin Tuck: Raider Nation would appluad signing Ndamukong Suh
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) If defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh doesn't sign a long-term deal with the Lions, then he will become a free agent March 10 and there will be plenty of teams interested in the Pro Bowl lineman. 

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck indicated if Suh wanted to sign with Oakland, then he would be welcomed in Raider Nation.

"(He's) Raider-ish," Tuck said, per the Detroit Free Press. "And that's one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he's an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of ... the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders."

It is speculated Suh will receive a contract worth at least $100 million. Tuck believes the three-time All-Pro deserves such a lucrative deal.

"The thing about him, you know what you're getting every day. Some of the tactics, you could probably do without, but he's a hell of a football player," Tuck said. "I would love to have the opportunity to line up beside of him and let him take all the double teams that I normally take."


Nick Foles: 'I plan on being in Philly' in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) There has been a lot of talk about quarterback Nick Foles' future with the Eagles, especially since Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's former pupil at Oregon -- Marcus Mariota -- will be part of this year's draft class.

On Thursday, Foles addressed the rumors and stated he is expecting to be back on the Eagles' roster in 2015.

"Yeah you hear about it," Foles said in between doing paid appearances at Super Bowl XLIX, per NJ.com. "You are going to hear about it every single year. That's just part of it. The main word is 'rumor.' You can't put too much into it....I plan on being in Philly.

"I only listen to (head coach) Chip Kelly. That's what is most important. He is the one that will make the decision. Right now all I am going to do is work because I plan on being back in Philadelphia and playing with my team. That's all I ever thought. So that is what I plan on doing and I'm not looking at it any other way."

Foles added he hasn't talked with Kelly since the end of the season.

"We haven't talked a lot. He has a lot going on," Foles said. "This time of year you really just get away from everything. He is busy looking at the draft, doing all that. I saw he is more of the decision maker. Haven't really talked to him too much, but I'm sure I'll hear from him soon."


Dwyer pleads guilty in domestic violence case, gets probation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer pleaded guilty Thursday in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court to a single count of disorderly conduct pertaining to his domestic violence case, according to The Arizona Republic.

Dwyer was sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service following the plea, according to a court spokesman.

The 25-year-old Dwyer was arrested Sept. 17 for a July 21 incident in which he allegedly head-butted his wife in the face and broke her nose after she refused his sexual advances and bit his lip, according to reports taken at the time.

Dwyer's wife told police she reported the incident in September because she feared for their child's safety after seeing reports of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child-abuse charges.

The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football injury list after his September arrest. He did not play again during the 2014 season.


Tom Brady on Peyton Manning: 'I certainly hope he comes back'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) While the football world anxiously awaits official word from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning about his playing status for the 2015 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and longtime Manning rival -- said Thursday he hopes the five-time NFL MVP will continue his career.

"What a great player he's been for this league," Brady said Thursday, per NFL.com. "He's a great competitor, and I've been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back, 'cause the league will miss him if he doesn't. But those decisions are up to him. I'm sure it's up to whether he's mentally and physically -- that's what he wants to do. But I certainly hope he's back."

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told NFL Network on Thursday that his son hasn't made a decision yet.

"Well, Peyton evaluates things; he's pretty good at that," he said. "I can't tell him what to do, and he hasn't told me what he's going to do. But I do know that he's really giving a lot of things a lot of thought. He's thinking about where he is physically, he wants to see how he can do this some more, trying to get over an injury."

Archie added starting over with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will not be an issue for Peyton, if he decides to return next season.

"Yeah, but he loves Gary. He likes Gary," Archie Manning said. "He liked John Fox. He liked Adam Gase. All those things, I think, are considered with. But my deal is he's always made good decisions; he's pretty thorough. He's going to evaluate a lot of things, and I think he'll make a good decision."


RG3: 'I could've sat out the rest of last year' after hurting ankle
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) During a radio interview Wednesday night, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III indicated the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against the Jaguars hindered him the rest of the season. He missed six games due to the injury.

“I had never suffered an ankle injury of that severity before, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Griffin said, per The Washington Times. “It just became more and more tough the more games that we lost, because you know how hard your guys work, and you want to get out there and help them win games.

“I could’ve sat out the rest of last year, with how bad the ankle was, but I felt like I could play, and I wanted to get out there and play with my guys and help them win games. And that didn’t happen when I got back out there. Then coach made a decision [to bench me]. That was an unfortunate decision, and something we all had to go with because that was coach’s choice.”

Griffin will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2015. The Redskins have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract for 2016. 

Griffin added his focus this offseason will simply be on getting healthy.

“Last year, I wasn’t healthy, and it sucked,” Griffin told ESPN 980. “There’s no other way to say it other than that. When you dislocate your ankle in the second week of the season, when you and your team had big things in mind. So I guess it’s just getting healthy, getting a mental break, getting a chance to spend time with family, and then formulate my plan going forward from this year so we can go out there and win games.”


 
 
 
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