Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In Part 14 of the series, we head back to the AFC North and check out the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were 9-7 in 2009 and their offense continued to improve under quarterback Joe Flacco, scoring 24.4 ppg on offense (ninth among 32 teams). Meanwhile, they yielded just 16.3 ppg on defense (third best) behind the relentless Ray Lewis.
Joe Flacco - Flacco's ADP (Average Draft Position) has risen dramatically (141 in 2009 to 73 in early 2010) with the addition of wideout Anquan Boldin to the Ravens' receiving corps. Flacco also has Ray Rice in the backfield who led all back in receptions with 78. Still, I'd be wary of picking Flacco too high as the team's mentality is still run first and play tough defense. He should be a "low-end" fantasy starter to be used in a "salt and pepper strategy" with another quarterback depending on the opposition.
Ray Rice - Flacco isn't the only Ravens player to jump up in fantasy value (40 in 2009 to No.4 in 2010). Rice took over the primary running back role in Baltimore last season and put up fantastic numbers, particularly in PPR leagues. He totaled 2,041 yards from scrimmage (1,339 rushing, 702 receiving) and the only thing preventing him from joining Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson at the top of all draft boards is the fact that he lost out on 14 touchdown runs to Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain.
Willis McGahee - McGahee will be back in his role as backup to Rice and "touchdown maker." That's a tough role to count on throughout a season and depends a lot on whether the Ravens score from outside the 10-yard line or grind it out. I'd stay away from McGahee as a fantasy option except as insurance for Rice. He's got a current ADP of 130.
Le'Ron McClain - McClain had a good season in 2008 primarily due to injuries to the running backs in front of him on the depth chart. He's no longer a viable fantasy option unless the injury bug hits again.
Derrick Mason - Mason has been the team's leading receiving for the past three seasons and four of the past five years. That might change in 2010 as the Ravens traded for another tough, sure-handed wideout in Boldin. Mason has averaged 82 receptions for 995 yards and four touchdowns since moving to Baltimore in 2005. He might still hit those target numbers, but not be the team's leading receiver. He should be worth the late ninth-round pick it will take to get him (ADP 108).
Anquan Boldin - With the addition of Boldin, the Ravens' passing offense should become one of the five or six best. However, that doesn't mean that Baltimore will become the "Cardinals of the East." If Rice gets 70+ catches and Mason gets 80, Boldin will be limited to between 70-80 catches. That still might be worth 1,100 yards but be careful about overvaluing him. He's currently the 14th receiver off the board (ADP 39), down from 10th last year, so it appears that fantasy owners are taking a conservative approach to his 2010 totals.
Mark Clayton - With the addition of Boldin and to a lesser extent Donte Stallworth, it appears that Clayton won't get many opportunities in 2010. The same can be said for Kelley Washington, Demetrius Williams and Justin Harper. None should have any fantasy value.
Todd Heap - Traditionally Heap has been one of the better receiving tight ends in the league, but time and injuries have robbed him of his value. The addition of Boldin onto the roster might hurt Heap more than expected. The team also drafted two tight ends (Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta) as they look to a future that doesn't include the 30-year old Heap. I think there are better fantasy tight end options than Heap.
Shayne Graham - After seven seasons in Cincinnati, Graham signed with Baltimore. He should be a solid, if unspectacular, option in the improved Ravens' offense, however he hasn't kicked a field goal of 50-yards or more in three years, so bonus points are limited.
The Ravens' defense has been a fantasy staple since Ray Lewis arrived and things won't be any different in 2010. The defense finished sixth in fantasy points with 120 on 32 sacks, 10 fumbles, 22 interceptions while scoring four times on defense and special teams. The Ravens' secondary started to show signs of weakness last year it's not loaded with talent as in past seasons (this is not the 2000 backfield of Chris McAlister, Duane Starks, Kim Herring, Rod Woodson or even the 2008 backfield which included McAlister, Samari Rolle and Ed Reed). Fantasy owners have noticed, dropping them to sixth in early mock drafts from second last season. However, as long as Lewis is around and healthy, they are still worth starting.