QB Joe Flacco (Baltimore)
8/27/12: I’m moving Flacco up a little bit too with Smith breaking out as the legitimate #1 receiver he’s never really had. Flacco has enjoyed a strong preseason overall, completing 71.7% of his passes for 7.2 YPA and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception. He could have a career high year, but remains just a QB2 with upside because of the Ravens’ still conservative offense.
You always know what you’re getting from the best quarterback in the league. Over the past 3 seasons, he’s had 21, 25, and 20 touchdowns, 12, 10, and 10 interceptions, and 3613, 3622, and 3610 passing yards. He’ll be in that range once again this year which makes him a solid QB2.
Projection: 3700 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 80 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (228 pts standard, 272 pts 6 pt TD leagues)
RB Ray Rice (Baltimore)
7/1/12: When the Ravens used a 3rd round pick on Bernard Pierce, I thought it would be so that Pierce (27 touchdowns in 11 games last year) could play Willis McGahee’s old role as a short yardage back and vulture touchdowns. However, Pierce is reportedly not impressing in practice and has yet to even leap Anthony Allen on the depth chart. It sounds like whoever Rice’s backup is will be a pure backup this year, so you can feel free to take Rice early in the 1st round in fantasy leagues unless he holds out long into Training Camp. Franchise tagged players can’t sign long term deals after July 16th so there wouldn’t be much point in him doing so however.
Ray Rice went from a good fantasy back to a great one last year when touchdown vulture Willis McGahee signed in Denver. This year, he should make the opposite transition. The Ravens spent a 3rd round pick on Bernard Pierce, who scored 27 touchdowns in 11 games last year at Temple. He’ll vulture touchdowns away just like McGahee did. Rice also might not see the 307 carries he had in 2010 or the 291 carries he had in 2011 because they did spent a 3rd round pick on a backup. Pierce is more talented than Willis McGahee or Ricky Williams.
His 4.7 YPC from 2011 should also decrease with Ben Grubbs leaving town, as well as the potential that Rice holds out into Training Camp. We all saw how that affected Chris Johnson last year. He should still be a good fantasy back, especially in PPR leagues, but he’ll be limited by his touchdown totals. The 5 guys ahead of him on the running back list, as well as some below him on this list, should score more frequently than him.
Projection: 290 carries 1310 rushing yards 13 total touchdowns 70 catches 620 receiving yards (271 pts standard/341 pts PPR)
RB Bernard Pierce (Baltimore)
7/1/12: Pierce is a pure handcuff for Rice, if he can even win the job. Don’t bother.
There’s some value with Pierce because he’ll probably vulture touchdowns away from Ray Rice. Pierce rushed for 27 touchdowns in 11 games for Temple last year and Willis McGahee rushed for 20 touchdowns over 2 seasons as a touchdown vulture behind Ray Rice from 2009-2010. However, unless Ray Rice gets hurt or holds out into the season, Pierce won’t be anything more than a handcuff this season.
Projection: 80 carries 340 rushing yards 2 total touchdowns 10 catches 70 receiving yards (53 pts standard/63 pts PPR)
WR Torrey Smith (Baltimore)
8/27/12: Torrey Smith exploded for 8 catches for 103 yards in the Ravens’ 3rd preseason game in not even 3 full quarters worth of action. He might be even more likely to have a Mike Wallace type breakout year than I originally imagined.
Torrey Smith was excellent as a rookie, catching 50 balls for 841 yards and 7 touchdowns and he was even better in his last 7 games, catching 27 balls for 416 yards and 3 touchdowns. Over 16 games, that’s 62 catches for 951 yards and 7 touchdowns. Keep in mind he played all of last season with a double sports hernia. Now that he’s a year older and Anquan Boldin is a year older on the wrong side of 30, Smith should continue to improve as a receiver and establish himself as Baltimore’s clear #1 receiver.
We could even see a Mike Wallace/Hines Ward type situation here. As a rookie, Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns, while the veteran Ward caught 95 passes for 1167 yards and 6 touchdowns. However, in Wallace’s 2nd season, the tables turned and Wallace caught 60 passes for 1257 yards and 10 touchdowns, while an aging Ward caught 59 passes for 755 yards and 5 touchdowns. There’s definitely upside to be had with the speedy Smith in the mid rounds.
Projection: 70 catches 1100 receiving yards 9 receiving touchdowns (164 pts standard/234 pts PPR)
WR Anquan Boldin (Baltimore)
If Torrey Smith goes up, that must mean Anquan Boldin goes down. Boldin is entering his age 32 season and has really shown signs of aging in the past 2 years. I mentioned Smith’s last 7 games in his writeup, well in Boldin’s last 5 (he missed two with injury), he caught 14 balls for 236 yards and a score, good for 45 catches for 762 yards and 3 touchdowns over 16 games. Keep in mind, he’s now a year older on the wrong side of 30 and Smith is another year older and healthier. There’s clear downside here with not much upside.
Projection: 50 catches 700 receiving yards 4 receiving touchdowns (94 pts standard, 144 pts PPR)
TE Ed Dickson (Baltimore)
Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are both solid tight ends who essentially cancel other out for fantasy purposes. Dickson is the more productive of the two. He should replicate the 54 catches for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns he had last year, but neither he nor Pitta are TE1s.
Projections: 55 catches 550 receiving yards 5 receiving touchdowns (94 pts standard, 149 pts PPR)