Ravens Fantasy News
Monday, July 21, 2014, 11:28am
Ravens beat writer Jeff Zrebiec:
The guy to watch is running back Bernard Pierce, who had offseason shoulder surgery. Pierce was limited during the various offseason minicamps, though he looked in good shape and raring to go. If he has been cleared for contact, it will be a nice development for the Ravens, especially with Ray Rice’s suspension announcement looming.
I was going to write “with Rice’s suspension imminent,” but that’s what I’ve been thinking for about three weeks now. It has been exactly five weeks since Rice and his wife met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York. Goodell has plenty of other disciplinary issues on his plate, so I have no idea what the holdup is in making the decision on Rice. I would have guaranteed you earlier this month that the Ravens would know how long Rice would be sidelined before the start of training camp. Now, I’m not so sure.
At just 26 years old, it was surprising to see Rice's production fall off the way it did, but he was dealing with hip and quad injuries throughout the season. He was also coming off of a Super Bowl run the previous year, which likely wore him down. GM Ozzie Newsome said he expects Rice to return to Pro Bowl form, but HC John Harbaugh said after the season that the team could take more of a committee approach at running back, which would limit Rice's upside. Still, assuming his offseason legal issues don't impact his availability (too much), he is a bounceback candidate in Gary Kubiak's offense.
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Previewing the Browns' QB competition
Saturday, July 19, 2014, 12:13pm
Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich...
I’m picking Brian Hoyer to win job, even though 11-of-16 quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2008 have started right away.
How long he’d keep it would depend on wins and losses, but I don’t think the leash would be long. For example, if the Browns start the season 0-3 after visiting the Steelers and hosting the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, it would be convenient for Mike Pettine to promote Johnny Manziel during the Week 4 bye and have him ready to face the Tennessee Titans on the road Oct. 5.
But even if Hoyer becomes the starter and wins like he did last season, it wouldn’t necessarily preclude Manziel from playing as a rookie. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of OC Kyle Shanahan featuring Manziel in certain packages.
And remember, the backup always seems to find himself in the lineup in Cleveland. No Browns quarterback has started all 16 regular-season games since Tim Couch in 2001.
If Manziel wins the starting job this summer, he'll be an intriguing QB2 who should be available in the 10th-12th rounds given all the depth at quarterback. His rushing yards will drive his fantasy value, especially since the team is likely to be without Josh Gordon for most (if not all) of the season.
Panthers are 'better' at receiver
Thursday, July 17, 2014, 12:10pm
The Panthers are better at receiver than they were a year ago. Nothing against Steve L Smith, but at 35 he was no better than a No. 2 receiver and at the end of his career. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon really weren't big losses when you look at it closely. Hixon wouldn't have been a loss at all were it not for the game-winning touchdown against New Orleans. The key here will be chemistry, but first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin looks like a red zone beast at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Free agent signees Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are solid possession receivers, and more dependable than the players they replaced. Who steps up as the fourth receiver will be the biggest question, whether it's free agent Tiquan Underwood or one of the young receivers. The Panthers plan to run a lot more two tight-end sets makes that less critical.
We project Cotchery and Benjamin to start but believe that Greg Olsen will once again lead the team in catches. Benjamin has upside, but Cotchery is a dirt cheap WR5/WR6 option available in the final rounds.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 9:58am
There doesn’t figure to be a whole lot of drama for the Ravens running backs.
Ray Rice’s expected suspension probably will lead to the Ravens keeping an extra running back early in the season. That would benefit Justin Forsett, who has looked elusive and quick in offseason practices and could have a role in the offense early.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, a rookie fourth-round pick, also could work his way into the rotation. At 230 pounds, Taliaferro is a good candidate for short-yardage duties, a major issue with the Ravens last year. Kyle Juszczyk wasn’t used on offense last season, but that figures to change with new coordinator Gary Kubiak calling the plays.
It looks like Bernard Pierce should be given every chance to fill in while Rice serves his suspension, which has yet to be determined. It sounds like Taliaferro could steal some short TDs, however. Once the suspension is announced, it will give the Ravens a better plan for reps at camp, and should also give a better clue for fantasy owners.
Sunday, July 13, 2014, 12:33pm
The Ravens surrounded Flacco with more weapons this offseason, and having two pass-catching tight ends at his disposal could lead to impressive results for the offense. Kubiak has a history of using two tight end sets, and that is expected to be the case again this season.
Crockett Gillmore is also a virtual lock to make the team, likely as the No. 3 tight end. The third tight end has traditionally played more of a blocking role for the Ravens, which fits Gillmore’s style. He’s the biggest tight end on the roster, giving him the size to go up against defensive ends and outside linebackers that he would have to block to clear holes in the running game.
Dennis Pitta lined up everywhere in OTAs
Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 12:17pm
With Pitta healthy again after missing the first dozen games of last season after having his dislocated, fractured right hip surgically repaired, he figures to have a featured role in the Ravens' offense this fall working in tandem with former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels.
Pitta missed most of 2013 due to a hip injury and he was sorely missed in the Ravens’ passing game. Upon his return, he saw 33 targets in four games, putting him on pace to finish with the 3rd-most targets in the league. It’s not a solid sample size, but it’s still an indicator of what may come. (He finished with the 12th-most targets in 2012.) The big plus for Pitta heading into 2014 is the arrival of new OC Gary Kubiak who has been very TE-friendly throughout his career, specifically with the development of both Shannon Sharpe in Denver and Owen Daniels in Houston.
Monday, July 7, 2014, 4:09pm
The NFL needs to make a decision soon because the league shouldn't punish the Ravens along with Rice, who is expected to receive a multi-game suspension for allegedly striking his fiancée unconscious in February. The Ravens' workload at running back will be based on the length of Rice's absence.
Why is the NFL taking so long to announce its decision? Rice's legal situation was wrapped up on May 20, when he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program to avoid trial on aggravated assault charges. That was 48 days ago.
Rice met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16. That was three weeks ago.
If Rice is going to miss a major chunk of the season, the Ravens would give Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro more snaps this summer, especially later in the preseason. If Rice is only going to be suspended for a couple of games, the Ravens' rotation at running back may not change significantly.
Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12:32pm
In his third season, Smith cracked the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time, generating 1,128 yards on a career-high 65 catches. That puts Smith at No. 17 among all pass-catchers, and it creates a potential conundrum regarding his worth.
On one hand, Smith had a great year given the lack of complementary weapons. On the other hand, a high-end wideout should have had even better numbers, especially without players like Anquan Boldin (who was traded in the 2013 offseason) and tight end Dennis Pitta (who missed most of the year with a dislocated hip) not siphoning off throws.
This year Smith will battle with Pitta, newly signed WR Steve Smith, newly signed TE Owen Daniels and even WR Jacoby Jones for catches. We rank Torrey Smith 26th among WRs with an ADP of the 7th round. We think he'll break the 1,100-yard receiving mark, however, his projected 4.4 TDs is second lowest to only Kendall Wright among our top-30 WRs.
Flacco: Ray Rice showing 'explosion'
Friday, July 4, 2014, 4:10pm
Rice had regained much of his old quickness, displaying an ability to run away from defenders that all but disappeared during the worst season of his NFL career last year.
Rice has lost roughly 20 pounds since last season, when he weighed as much as 225 pounds while struggling with hip and quadriceps injuries that robbed him of his ability to elude pursuit or break tackles.
"I think we’ve looked really good, and [Rice] has done a great job of pressing, cutting, getting in there and having the explosion afterward," said Flacco. "He’s shown a lot."
At just 26 years old, it was surprising to see Rice's production fall off the way it did, but he was dealing with hip and quad injuries throughout the season. He was also coming off of a Super Bowl run the previous year, which likely wore him down. GM Ozzie Newsome said he expects Rice to return to Pro Bowl form, but HC John Harbaugh said after the season that the team could take more of a committee approach at running back, which would limit Rice's upside. Still, assuming his offseason legal issues don't impact his availability, he is a bounceback candidate in Gary Kubiak's offense.
Ravens may rely 'heavily' on two-TE sets
Saturday, June 28, 2014, 2:08pm
According to Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has pondered the prospect of “relying heavily” on formations using two tight ends because of Daniels’ encouraging offseason after missing most of 2013 with a broken fibula.
Pitta missed most of 2013 due to a hip injury and he was sorely missed in the Ravens’ passing game. Upon his return, he saw 33 targets in four games, putting him on pace to finish with the 3rd-most targets in the league. It’s not a solid sample size, but it’s still an indicator of what may come. (He finished with the 12th-most targets in 2012.) The big plus for Pitta heading into 2014 is the arrival of new OC Gary Kubiak who has been very TE-friendly throughout his career, specifically with the development of both Shannon Sharpe in Denver and Owen Daniels in Houston. There are those that are worried about Daniels' arrival stunting Pitta's upside, but if Baltimore plays a lot of 12 (two-TE) formation, it shouldn't impact Pitta negatively. If there are two tight ends on the field, there won't be a lot of snaps for a third WR, so Marlon Brown stock continues to sink. He'll fight with Jacoby Jones for limited snaps as the Ravens' WR3.
Ravens' deep passing game should improve in 2014
Friday, June 27, 2014, 9:17am
Why did Baltimore's deep passing game struggle in 2013?
For one, Ravens QB Joe Flacco never appeared to consistently be on the same page with his receivers. The quarterback had far too many ill-advised decisions or imprecise throws and his receivers also dropped their fair share of balls.
Two, the offensive line’s struggles often made Flacco get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted, preventing deep routes from developing. And three, the departure of Anquan Boldin and the injury to Dennis Pitta took away the Ravens’ two primary underneath threats who work the middle of the field. With them not on the field, the defense could roll a safety and focus on not allowing Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to get free deep.
“It is definitely [about how you] get the ball out of your hands, because there’s always a route somewhere that you can get the ball out to, and as a quarterback, you have to know when you have a problem and when you have to get it out,” Flacco said last week. “I think that’s the biggest thing with going through your progressions and having a set progression for this, for that. There’s no real guess work, there’s no real gray area, and that allows you to get the ball out real quick.”
Whether it also leads to Flacco reviving his team’s deep passing game remains to be seen but the pieces certainly appear to be in place for the Ravens to improve in that area.
Losing Anquan Boldin to free agency and Dennis Pitta to injury certainly hurt Flacco, who finished #19 after three straight top 14 finishes. Pitta is back, but Boldin is still gone, though the team acquired Steve L Smith to replace him. Expect more low-end QB2 numbers given all the depth at QB. Flacco is a bounce back candidate if things break his way.
Ray Rice looks 'noticeably leaner,' showing 'quickness and a burst'
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 8:19am
Ravens RB Ray Rice looks noticeably leaner and exhibits quickness and a burst, all good signs, but the big question with him is whether he can make defenders miss him again. It's a skill that eluded him in 2013, and I don't know that training camp or the preseason will provide an answer. We won't know until the fall, when defenders are bringing their "A" games.
At just 26 years old, it was surprising to see Rice's production fall off the way it did, but he was dealing with hip and quad injuries throughout the season. He was also coming off of a Super Bowl run the previous year, which likely wore him down. GM Ozzie Newsome said he expects Rice to return to Pro Bowl form, but HC John Harbaugh said after the season that the team could take more of a committee approach at running back, which would limit Rice's upside. Still, pending discipline from the league due to his off the field issues, he is a bounceback candidate in Gary Kubiak's offense.
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 8:15am
Ravens OC Gary Kubiak's unit looked fast-paced and sure of itself in practice. Joe Flacco's command of the new system was apparent. His passing was decisive and sharp. "I think we look pretty good," Flacco said. It was hard to argue. But looking good against an opposing defense is the next challenge.
Joe Flacco is 'really, really comfortable' in new offense
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 6:45pm
When the mandatory minicamp ended Thursday, Flacco was decidedly upbeat about how things have progressed, both individually and collectively.
“Throughout the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get really, really comfortable, get back there, go through my reads and have a lot of fun,” Flacco said in a session with reporters. “I feel great. Everything is fresh, new. It’s been enjoyable.”
Losing Anquan Boldin to free agency and Dennis Pitta to injury certainly hurt Flacco, who finished #19 after three straight top 14 finishes. Pitta is back, but Boldin is still gone, though the team acquired Steve L Smith to replace him. Expect more low-end QB2 numbers given all the depth at QB.
Ray Rice looking 'much lighter on his feet'
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 6:34pm
Ravens RB Ray Rice is much lighter on his feet, the result of not carrying as much weight. There were a couple of times when he showed off elusiveness in between the tackles. It was a rare sight to see Rice fake out tacklers in the open field last year.
Rice is a bounceback candidate in Gary Kubiak's offense, but is facing suspension.