The Ravens are such a well-run organization from GM Ozzie Newsome down to head coach John Harhaugh, that it is always a forgone conclusion that they will be in the playoff hunt each year. 2014 was no exception. It is easy to forget how close they came to beating the Patriots on the road in the Divisional round of the playoffs -- but they blew 2-touchdown leads in both the first half as well as the second half.
As usual, the team enters the season as perennial playoff favorites. Of course, they have a rough row to hoe with the Steelers and Bengals also in their division. The team has experienced some turnover in the off-season, but they have have acquired some young talent that just may have an impact this year.
We might be able to call Joe Flacco's 2014 season a career year since he hit some personal highs (3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns), but the Ravens' sturdy signal-caller still has yet to attain significant stats (4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns) in a single season. Worse yet, Flacco's receiving corps is undergoing some change as touchdown monger Torrey Smith left for San Francisco via free agency, tight end Owen Daniels also skipped town and teammate Dennis Pitta is no sure thing to even play football again.
Rookies Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams will help fill those holes but it remains to be seen if they'll be very good. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has been known to make quarterbacks' numbers pop, but if the Ravens passing attack can't do Flacco any favors then we're looking at another mediocre season from the eight-year veteran. Track Flacco into the late rounds of Fantasy drafts as a potential No. 2 option in standard leagues. He'll go before the halfway point in leagues that start multiple quarterbacks.
One of the most welcome Fantasy surprises of 2015, Justin Forsett went from a journeyman rusher to the mainstay of the Ravens run game -- and a hero to Fantasy owners in 2014. Forsett smashed career highs to total over 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, notching nine games with 10-plus Fantasy points and another three with nine Fantasy points. Not bad at all for a guy who went undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues -- and was a waiver wire wonder after the Ray Rice saga unfolded.
Normally we'd dismiss a potential one-hit wonder like Forsett but there are some factors in his favor. For one, even though he'll turn 30 in October, he has less than 1,000 career touches, so he still has plenty of "tread on the tire." The Ravens also sport a solid offensive line and have a good quarterback who can help keep defenses balanced. But the biggest selling point is new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who is a kingmaker when it comes to Fantasy running backs. Trestman's running backs have been stat machines no matter where he's coached and Forsett is exactly the kind of rusher he likes. Aim for Forsett in Round 4 (Round 3 in PPR) as a No. 2 option that other owners in your league are sleeping on. Sounds nuts, but we're expecting another big year from him.
Bruising rusher Lorenzo Taliaferro had a couple of big-carry weeks early on last season and scored in each. But those games were rare and Taliaferro ended up relinquishing much of his workload to Justin Forsett, especially after he hurt his foot. Now the second-year back is expected to serve in a backup role behind Forsett this season, potentially competing with rookie Javorius Allen for playing time in training camp. We would give Taliaferro the nod over Allen as the best Ravens back to get if you wanted to have an insurance policy for Forsett, but it's not a must. Taliaferro is worth a late choice.
After delivering four big games in his first six weeks last season, Steve Smith cooled off and had just two more games with 10-plus Fantasy points in his remaining 10 games. Moreover, many of his big games came against opponents he was familiar with from playing in the NFC South. Now the 36-year-old receiver will be tasked with leading the Ravens receiving game against tougher opponents, including the dreaded NFC West. Smith should get close to landing the same amount of targets he had in 2014 (134, 13th best in the league) but would need to catch more than 59 percent of them in order to have a shot to match last season's 1,000-yard, six-score campaign. Maybe because he's the best veteran on the Ravens he has a chance, but no one wants to bank on him. He's a reserve receiver worth drafting if he falls into your lap in Rounds 10 or 11.
Considered by many a "project" receiver, the Ravens had no problem taking Central Florida's Breshad Perriman with their first-round choice. Perriman, the son of a former NFL receiver, fits perfectly into the Ravens offense, likely set to begin the year as a starter. In college, Perriman used his athleticism and size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) to dominate smaller defenders, but he did so with a shaky quarterback. He won't have that in Baltimore with Joe Flacco around, nor should he struggle finding targets with Marc Trestman calling plays. Where Perriman might struggle is adjusting to the pro game right away. He also has a rep for having "frying pan hands" but seemed to overcome his drops late in the year and on his Pro Day. If your projections for Perriman are similar to what Torrey Smith did in Baltimore, you'll be fine. Heck, he might even do better. Look for him with a pick in Round 8 or 9 as a low-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver in seasonal and PPR leagues. In dynasty/keeper formats, he would be worth a Round 7 pick while in rookie-only drafts he'd be a Top 12 pick.
The Ravens added Maxx Williams in the draft, fortifying their tight end depth for a long time. Williams is the prototypical do-it-all tight end -- he can contribute to the passing game and he can block to help protect the quarterback and pop open holes for running backs. While he should be in a position to help the Ravens out as soon as Week 1, Williams isn't expected to put up big stats from week to week. We'd consider him a good option when the matchup is right during the season, making him a very low priority on Draft Day. We probably wouldn't even draft him in seasonal leagues. But in dynasty/keeper leagues he'd be great as a middle- to late-round pick and in rookie-only drafts he'd be great as a third-round choice.
Justin Tucker took a small step back in 2014, but was still a very solid Fantasy option for the Ravens. Though he didn't lead the league in converted attempts like the previous season, Tucker still managed a top 10 Fantasy finish while connecting on at least 85 percent of his attempts for the third season in a row to begin his career. Tucker falls in that sweet spot of skill and opportunity, and should be one of the kickers selected before the end of the final round on Draft Day.
Gone are the days of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the most recent version of the Ravens' D proved more than capable of being a fantasy asset. In 2014, Baltimore was tied with New England as the No. 6 defense. The duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil had a lot to do with that, combining for 29 of the Ravens' 49 sacks. Baltimore also excelled against the run, with only Seattle and Detroit yielding fewer yards per carry (3.6). ILB C.J. Mosley started all 16 games in his impressive rookie campaign, finishing seventh in total tackles (133). With Mosley and ILB Daryl Smith anchoring the D, the Ravens will remain a solid fantasy play.