The 2016 NFL season is almost upon us, and with regular football, comes fantasy football. Fantasy football has grown over the past five years, becoming almost an ‘e-sport’, and spawning other fantasy games, as well as week-to-week leagues online. Some people play for fun; some people play for money, but everybody that does play plays to win. In this Inscriber Magazine series, we will take a quick look at each NFL team, and break down five things to watch out for when it comes to fantasy football. Let’s begin with the Baltimore Ravens.
If You Play in a Standard League, Do Not Draft Ravens at Skill Positions
I say this not because the team went 5-11 last year, or because the skill positions are void of talent. Instead, there’s just too much competition at every position to make a solid draft choice, even in the later rounds. The Ravens have the potential to start either Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Moore, or Jeremy Butler at wide receiver. They could start Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, or Dennis Pitta at tight end. And they could start Justin Forsett, Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Trent Richardson, or Kenneth Dixon at running back.
You simply cannot make a solid choice in standard leagues when it comes to skill positions in Baltimore. If you’re in a PPR league, feel free to grab Smitty or Aiken in the later rounds, but that’s where it should end.
Tucker Should Be Drafted Without a Second Thought
This is the only ‘skill position’ that you should draft in Baltimore. If you’re in a standard league or a PPR league, the decision is easy. Justin Tucker is arguably the best kicker in the league, and has legitimately won games on his foot and his foot alone. (I love making Lions fans remember that game.) He actually pulls down a large amount of points for a kicker, and for those reasons, consider drafting him a bit earlier than you would draft a normal kicker. (Don’t draft him too early, but don’t wait until round 15, either.)
Drafting Tucker can save your week, or even your season. I speak from experience. Most people don’t put much stock into a kicker, just drafting anybody, but there is a group of 3 that you should consider taking earlier than normal.
Flacco Has the Potential to be a low-end QB1
This hasn’t been true any year since Joe Flacco entered the league. He has consistently been a low-end QB2, and even then, only used by skilled fantasy players in extreme situations (matchups against the Browns, any shoddy secondary). However, this year could potentially be different. Last year, before his injury, Joe was on pace for over 4,400 yards, which is a number that he has never come close to (39xx was his closest).
I advise caution, though. His YPG was great, but his touchdown to interception ratio left a lot to be desired, and that seems to be a recurring problem over the years. Joe is very hit or miss, and should only be drafted as a backup in standard leagues.
Don’t Draft the Defense Until You See the Defense
Once upon a time, the Baltimore defense was among the most fearsome in the league, and that trend continued for a long while. Since the departure of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Cary Williams, the secondary has been lackluster, while the front seven has been fairly stoic. They made some moves and upgrades during the off-season. Jimmy Smith (a top 5 CB when healthy) finally has the screws removed from his foot, and should enjoy a great year. Shareece Wright showed promise over the last ten games of the season, allowing just 225 yards. They added Jerraud Powers, an 8th-year slot CB with a lot of spunk. Matt Elam is not who the Ravens thought he would be, and so the Ravens signed Eric Weddle (a top tier safety) and moved Lardarius Webb to safety. All of this means that we should see a massive improvement from the secondary, and the front seven should be their standard terrifying selves, with the likes of Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, and Brandon Williams anchoring that line.
However, again, I advise caution. There are plenty of defenses to go around, that can hold your head above water, until we see how the new Ravens defense performs. Wait 3 to 4 weeks, and then snatch the underrated squad off of the waivers.
Do Not, Under Any Circumstance, Draft Steve Smith High
I know I’ve already covered this, generally speaking, by saying that you shouldn’t draft any skill positions. However, for whatever reason, every year since he came to Baltimore, people draft Steve Smith, Sr in the earlier rounds. While it has been a smart decision in the past (I myself roped somebody into a straight up trade for Michael Crabtree a couple years back), the same will not hold true this year. If you’re in a PPR league, Smitty is a solid mid-round pickup, being that he will be targeted on a lot of underneath routes, but that’s where it stops.
Smitty is 37 years old, almost elderly by NFL standards, and coming off of a season-ending injury to his Achilles. He was supposed to retire last year, but changed his mind during the off-season, quipping that he may just get in his car and go home once he caps off his career yards and career receptions. That alone should tell you that he will more than likely not get a lot of deep looks this season, but combined with his injury, disaster could strike at any time, making him a backup to a backup option, and nothing more. When you also add in that there are 8 WRs on the Baltimore roster at the moment, and there are plenty of much better options around the league, I implore you, do not draft him as anything other than a backup.