1) First of all, congratulations on a Super Bowl victory! I know this isn’t a fantasy question – but how do you feel about a repeat campaign? I’ll use that to segue into my first fantasy question: will Joe Flacco perform at the level he showed in the playoffs during the regular season this year? Or will he be continue to be off the fantasy radar for most 10-team leagues?
Appreciate the love, what a magical season that was for the City of Baltimore. I always think this team has what it takes to win the Superbowl every year, that is the mentality you have to come into each season with. And when you have a team that has shown it can have continued success like we have, you have to like your chances at repeating this year.
I don’t think we will ever see Flacco be the top fantasy option that people seek. Now, that isn’t to say he can’t be, he is fully capable of doing so if need be and we saw this in that playoff stretch. The reason is because of our system. When you have workhorses like Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce back there, you give those guys the ball. Flacco takes advantage of the opportunities he has, and it has paid off for us. While I do expect Flacco to eclipse the 4,000 yard mark for this year, I would be surprised if he passes for 30 TD’s. It just isn’t our style, and we don’t really care. We like winning Superbowl Championships over Fantasy Championships.
2) Ray Rice only topped 107 yards on the ground once last year and he posted the lowest receiving yards and receptions in his career since his rookie season. Are things starting to wear down for Rice, or will his numbers bounce back up to the 2009-2011 range?
Ray Rice is in no way wearing down, I think it just goes to show you how good he is that people would think putting up 1,600+ yards of total offense is somehow a “down year” for him. Rice is only 26 years old and never showed any signs of being injury prone. I think we can expect a slight drop in numbers this year mainly because Baltimore has a young RB named Bernard Pierce behind Rice who is an absolute stud. Many think he may be a better pure runner than Rice, so we expect Pierce to see an increase in carries this year. But expect Rice to give you 1,100 yards rushing and 50+ catches this year for another 500 yards or so. He is still the best play maker on this team.
3) A guy I absolutely loved heading into last season was Torrey Smith, who struggled mightily to get on a consistent page with Joe Flacco, catching only 49 balls on a whopping 110 targets. Given a lot of those were shots deep, but what are the Ravens doing to make that connection more efficient and will Smith emerge as a breakout WR in his third season?
I think they are just bringing him along at their own pace. Smith came in as a one trick pony (granted, he is REALLY good at that one trick) and he has slowly developed the rest of his game over the last 2 years. You can also attribute his lack of stats to Flacco spreading the ball around so nicely to his TE, RB and other WR. But now Torrey is the man in Baltimore, he is the clear cut #1 passing option in our offense, and I fully expect a huge year from him this season. I see 70+ catches for around 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s this year.
4) Our head writer Sky absolutely loves Dennis Pitta this year with Anquan Boldin heading to Super Bowl rival San Francisco, opening up the middle of the field. For a guy that only topped 73 yards once last year, I’m not fully buying. But he was much more consistent with his best friend Flacco, hauling in 61 catches on 94 targets to compare to Smith’s horrible rate. Do you think Pitta has a big breakout in offensive production this year [editor’s note – obviously asked pre-injury]?
Well I am glad I answered this question now, because as we know Pitta is done for the year. And what a shame, because this guy was on the verge of dominating the NFL and becoming one of the most lethal Tight Ends in the league. What a big loss it is for the Ravens and for Flacco, but we will overcome it.
Now the focus shifts to Ed Dickson, who was actually taken 1 round ahead of Pitta in the 2010 draft. Not many people know his name, but Dickson was a very productive TE in 2011 where he posted 54 catches for 528 yards and 5 TD’s, which is not far off from Pitta’s numbers last year. I think Dickson is fully capable of putting up numbers similar to those or even better this year. He was fighting some injuries last year, so that is the reason for his drop off in most areas. However, when Dickson is on his game, he is as dynamic of a TE as you will find.
5) With the aforementioned Boldin heading to the 49ers, it opens up playoffs darling Jacoby Jones for a starting WR2 role. He’s never put together a season worthwhile for fantasy – do you see that changing this season?
This is a tough one, for multiple reasons. First, Jacoby is a specialist at WR. He is a long strider who can take the top off any defense, so a lot of his yards will come from big plays rather than consistent catch after catch. Second, he is arguably the best return man in the NFL right now and I would think John Harbaugh wants to keep a weapon like Jones back there on Punts and Kicks this year, so that would mean a little less time at WR.
The #2 WR spot is currently up for grabs in Baltimore, although Jones seems to have the stronghold on it. However, young guys Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson are well liked by the coaches and will definitely be seeing some significant playing time this year. I would expect a collective effort from the #2-4 WR’s for the Ravens this year.