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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
Report: LB Desmond Bishop will visit 49ers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Linebacker Desmond Bishop will visit the 49ers on Monday, according to csnbayarea.com.

Bishop played in two games for the 49ers last season after beginning the year with the Cardinals. After losing both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, the team is looking for linebackers.

Over his eight-year NFL career, the 30-year-old has 299 total tackles, nine sacks, nine passes defensed, one interception and eight forced fumbles.


Packers want to keep RB Eddie Lacy fresh this season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is working on ways to keep running back Eddie Lacy fresh this season, reports the Journal Sentinel.

McCarthy had talks with Lacy at the end of the last two seasons talking about his number of snaps and what he expected of the running back.

"I really felt that last year's conversation was more important than this year's, the ability to make a huge jump from Year One to Two, being a three-down player, that was something we stressed from Day One, and I thought he delivered," McCarthy said at the NFL owners meetings this week.

The head coach liked the way that the team used Lacy last season, limiting his snaps early in the year before increasing them as the season wore on.

"Maybe not run attempts," McCarthy said of hitting the target he set. "But I thought we were really smart the way we used him....I thought his pass protection he made a huge jump, and his ability to play out of the backfield.

"Eddie has excellent hands, and just his understand and his feel with Aaron, he definitely made a step."

In his first two seasons in the NFL, the 24-year-old has 2,317 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He has also added 77 receptions for 684 yards and four touchdown catches. 


Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn working to earn starting spot
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Although Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn likes the addition of Terence Newman to the team, he believes that he will beat him out for a starting job, reports twincities.com.

“I’m ready for the competition,’’ Munnerlyn told the Pioneer Press on Saturday. “I’m an athlete, so I never feel like anyone can beat me out. I feel I can hold onto the job. I’m betting on myself.’’

Munnerlyn, a six-year veteran, seems to embrace the competition that will be had at the cornerback spot.

“I think it’s great,’’ said Munnerlyn, a six-year veteran. “He’s a veteran. It’s great for competition. It will bring out the best in me. I’m excited about the competition. I just know that I’ve got to play a lot better than I did last year.’’

There have been a lot of questions this offseason as to whether or not he will settle in as the team's nickel back. He wants to shed the label of being relegated to the nickel spot.

“I don’t want that to happen,’’ Munnerlyn said. “I’ve been labeled my whole career as just a nickel back but I’ve been able to show people I’m more than that. But I know that I’ve got to work hard this offseason."
The 26-year-old has registered 343 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 44 passes defensed, nine interceptions -- five of which were returned for touchdowns -- and three forced fumbles.

Packers still interested in signing FB John Kuhn
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) The Packers are still interested in signing fullback John Kuhn to the roster, reports the Journal Sentinel.

When head coach Mike McCarthy was asked if Kuhn still has value, he replied, "Absolutely."

"I've always looked at the fullback and tight end position as one. I feel you have to have flexibility and versatility within those two positions. It keeps you in and out of a number of different personnel groups."

Kuhn, 32, has spent eight of his nine seasons with the Packers, rushing for 591 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a receiving option, the fullback has 76 receptions for 516 yards and eight touchdowns.


CB Lardarius Webb wants to finish career with Ravens
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) After restructuring his contract with the Ravens, cornerback Lardarius Webb wants to finish his career with the team, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Webb recently agreed to a contract restructure that dropped his cap number from $12 million to $9.25 million.

"My goal is to retire a Raven and, while it wasn’t an easy decision, I wanted to put the team first," Webb told The Baltimore Sun. "I wanted to prove myself this year that the Ravens sticking with me was the right decision. The Ravens reached out to my agent, Marc Lillibridge, a few weeks before the scouting combine and they were talking and working hard together to get something done. I'm glad it's done."

Webb, 29, has spent his entire six-year career with the Ravens, posting 301 total tackles, two sacks, 71 passes defensed, 11 interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Patriots DT Sealver Siliga still in walking boot
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Patriots defensive tackle Sealver Siliga is still in a walking boot after undergoing surgery last season, per ESPN.

Siliga is considered to be one of the top-two options at defensive tackle for the team after the departure of Vince Wilfork. The 24-year-old started five of the seven games he played in 2014. He recorded 32 total tackles and 2.5 sacks last season.


LB Lance Briggs to visit with 49ers on Monday
(3/28/2015) Free-agent linebacker Lance Briggs said he will meet with the 49ers on Monday, reports ESPN.com.

Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has played all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Bears.

Briggs appeared in just 17 games during the last two seasons due to various injuries.

The 49ers are looking to replace linebacker Chris Borland, who recently announced his retirement.

Texans LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) walking without a limp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said his rehab from microfracture surgery in his knee is going well, according to the Houston Chronicle. Clowney, who is four months removed from the procedure, was spotted walking without a limp during a promotional event on Saturday.

"It's going good. I'm taking it one day at a time, having some fun hanging out with fans," said Clowney, who made his first public comments since Thanksgiving.

Clowney wouldn't comment on his status for training camp.

"I'm not going to speak on that, but I'm making progress, and I'm very encouraged," Clowney said. "I'm working hard, but we're not going to rush it."


Report: Vikings LB Chad Greenway agres to take paycut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has agreed to restructure his contract, reducing his $7 million base salary to $3.4 million, according to Field Yates of ESPN. The move created $3.2 million in cap room for the Vikings.

Greenway, 32, has spent all nine years of his career with the Vikings, recording 992 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, 30 passes defensed, nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles.


Cardinals coach Arians: I was not going to let Logan Thomas fail
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still believes in young quarterback Logan Thomas. Arians didn't want to ruin his confidence last season after being forced into action with multiple injuries to Arizona quarterbacks, reports the team's website.

"He's going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable," Arians said. "Just in decision-making, how fast you're getting it out of your hand, where you're going with it, where you're going when 'one' and 'two' are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find your outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps."

Arians still has a plan for the second-year pro.

"We drafted him for two years from now, not November," Arians said. "It just so happened his number got called (earlier.) I was not going to let him fail (in San Francisco) because once you fail those scars never go away.

"It's very hard to get the guys back in the locker room if you cost them the playoffs. I just wasn't going to put him in that situation. Right or wrong, it just was my decision."


 
 
 
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