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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
Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson sitting on Monday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will not play on Monday against the Dolphins, according to ESPN.

Wilkerson said he won't need surgery on his injured toe, but he would still need time to recover. It's the first time in his career that Wilkerson will miss a game. "It’s a little weird, but I’m going to do my best to support my teammates," Wilkerson said. 


Raiders active RB George Atkinson for Week 13
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) The Raiders have activated running back George Atkinson for Week 13 against the Rams.

The team will be without Latavius Murray for the contest. Murray was unable to pass the proper concussion tests. Atkinson will have to battle for carries, as the team is expected to have Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew for the game. 


Raiders carries will be determined by 'flow' of the game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) The Raiders will distribute their carries based on the "flow" of the game on Sunday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Latavius Murray has been ruled out due to a concussion, leaving Marcel Reece, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden in the backfield. Head coach Tony Sparano confirmed that carries would depend on both "flow" and the game situation. It's unclear which player will get the start. 


Seahawks place Kevin Pierre-Louis on IR, claim Loucheiz Purifoy
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) The Seahawks have claimed defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy off waivers from the Colts and placed linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis on injured reserve, ending his season, per KJR-950 AM in Seattle. Pierre-Louis injured his shoulder Week 11 against Kansas City. His season ends with 13 combined tackles and one fumble recovery in seven games played.

Patriots DT Siliga back at practice, but still on IR/DTR list
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Patriots defensive tackle Sealver Siliga has returned to practice, but he remains on the injured reserve/designated to return list as he continues his recovery from a foot injury that has limited him to three games this season.

Bears LB Lance Briggs lands on season-ending IR list
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Bears linebacker Lance Briggs may have played his last game in Chicago.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the Bears have placed him on the season-ending injured reserve list with a groin injury.

His season ends with one interception and one forced fumble, along with 35 combined tackles in eight games played. The 34-year-old will become a free agent at the end of the season.


Quartet of Raiders get red light for battle with Rams
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Four Raiders have been ruled out for their Sunday game in St. Louis, including running back Latavius Murray (concussion). The others are safety Jonathan Dowling (back) and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers (knee) and Neiko Thorpe (hand).

Listed as questionable is guard Gabe Jackson (knee) while safety Larry Asante (shoulder), cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) and tight end Brian Leonhardt (concussion) are probable.


Broncos rule out Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman for Week 13
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) The Broncos ruled out running backs Montee Ball (groin), Ronnie Hillman (foot) along with cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder) for Week 13 against Kansas City. Deemed questionable were cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring), tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) and safety Quinton Carter (ankle).

Meanwhile, the following players were ruled as probable for Sunday: Linebacker Brandon Marshall (concussion), defensive end Quanterus Smith (ankle), safety David Bruton (finger), tight end Virgil Green (calf) and backup running back Juwan Thompson (knee).


Broncos LB Brandon Marshall passes concussion tests
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall has passed the league-mandated concussion protocol and was back on the practice field as a full participant on Friday. The team has designated him as probable for Week 13 against Kansas City.

Marshall suffered the injury the previous week against Miami. He has totaled 94 tackles and one sack, along with two forced fumbles in 11 games.


Broncos' Aqib Talib returns to practice, questionable for Week 13
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/28/2014) Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib returned to the practice field on Friday after sitting out the previous two days of practice with a hamstring injury. The Broncos have officially listed him as questionable for Week 13 at Kansas City.

Talib suffered the injury Week 12 vs. Miami. He has registered two interceptions, one forced fumble and 43 total tackles through his first 11 games with the Broncos.


 
 
 
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