The “Top Five” is an ongoing article breaking down every NFL team’s top 5 best fantasy football
Today’s team: Baltimore Ravens
1- Ray Rice- RB
With the off-season departure of Anquan Boldin and losing Dennis Pitta for the season (torn ACL). The Ravens seem to be once again prime to lean on their biggest playmaker Ray Rice this season. Arguably the best pass catching running back in the NFL, Rice once again headlines the Ravens as their top option on offense. This guy can hurt you in so many ways, running, catching dump passes, he can do it all. There is some talk about him losing time to Bernard Pierce this season, however I don’t see it.
The team seemed to check his carries late into last season but I believe that was due to keep him for their playoff run and to see what exactly they had in Pierce. Not to say Pierce won’t be a factor, he may be the best handcuff in fantasy and will see some carries (I’d say he gets 6-7 carries to Rice’s 20 carries a game).
At age 26, Rice has been the guy in Baltimore for a while now and he has shown no signs of wearing down (for as reliable as he is *knock on wood*). He’s still perfect for a top five RB, and is obviously a preseason favorite to finish there when the season is done.
2- Torrey Smith- WR
There’s no more excuses now. Anquan Boldin’s gone, Pitta’s down for the season, it’s his third season in the NFL and he’s the #1 WR in Baltimore. If Torrey Smith doesn’t breakout this season, I don’t know if he ever will. The speedster has never broken 50 plus catches in his NFL career, however has averaged 7-8 TD’s and over 800 yards a season since his arrival in 2011. However, that’s where the downside ends and nothing but blue skies and fantasy titles await.
The guy is one of the fastest WR’s in the game, and even though his receptions to targets ratio hasn’t been the greatest (2012- 49 catches, 110 targets), those targets are going to skyrocket this season. Granted due to the lack of depth on Baltimore’s WR/TE he’s going to be seeing a lot of double teams unless someone else steps up.
He does stands alone as the biggest receiving threat on the Baltimore roster, and after Baltimore threw all that money Joe Flacco’s way, regardless of the WR/TE situation, they sure as hell didn’t pay him that much to dump it off to Ray Rice all the time.
Consider Smith a major sleeper pick this season and will produce a WR 1 stats at WR 2 value.
3- Joe Flacco- QB
Speaking of Flacco, last season’s Superbowl MVP has slowly (understatement) grown to fantasy relevance. Since arriving in the NFL he’s started every game (knock on wood) and has steadily increased or maintained his stats. Lately he’s hovered around the 3,600-3,800 yards, 20-25 TD’S with low-end double-digit int’s. However, with this new contract of his, one has to wonder if coach Harbaugh plans on throwing more this season (even though his WR’s with the exception of Torrey Smith are unproven)?
The makeover on defense may also come into play with Baltimore throwing the football more, a weaker defense means more passes, and more likely Baltimore may be put into an offensive shootout. I would rate Flacco as one of the better fantasy backups in the league (easily around the 15th-20th best) and is best drafted if your starting QB falls within the bye weeks of 4,5,6, or 12.
4-Bernard Pierce- RB
To what I’ve heard, Pierce seems to be the talk of the fantasy community as the man who will eventually supplant Ray Rice this or next season. Now let me rephrase that to those who aren’t completely insane. Bernard Pierce is going to replace Rice this or next season. Rice, a guy who is consistent every year, averages nearly 1,700 total yards a season, is a great pass catching RB, and is only 26 years old. Is going to be replaced by Bernard Pierce.
You can quote all the end of season/playoff numbers you want. I don’t care. Pierce is a fantastic handcuff to Rice, don’t get me wrong, but to rely on him as one of your top 3 running backs is too far of a stretch. Will he steal a few carries from Rice, yeah.
Will he vulture a few touchdowns, absolutely.
But I’ve just described fellow handcuffs Michael Bush, Daniel Thomas, and Fred Jackson as well, and none of them should be high on anyone’s running back pecking order. For a handcuff running back to own for when Rice goes down, I’d rank Pierce in my top 3, other than that, draft him as a bench guy who may get more action as the season winds down.
5-Justin Tucker- K
I had originally had Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, the Baltimore D/ST, and Jacoby Jones on this list, however, due to the injuries of Pitta and Dickson, the many questions and yearly decline of the Ravens defense, and Jones questionable ability to be a legit #2 WR as well as the new signings of Dallas Clark and Visanthe Shiancoe, it leaves no other choice than Justin Tucker.
However, with the exception of Pitta, Tucker did outscore the other players mentioned last season, as well finishing fifth among kickers in points last season.
For a first year kicker, Tucker turned out to be a beast, going 4 for 4 from 50 plus yards as well as going 30 for 33 throughout the season (excluding extra points). From long-range, he appears to be as accurate as other kicking beasts Blair Walsh, Matt Bryant, S-Bass Janikowski, and Greg Zuerlein.
If the Ravens offense remains consistent this season, Tucker could easily get the chance to repeat or even surpass last year’s numbers.