The safest fantasy draft choices to pick throughout the Ray Lewis Era (1999-2010) of the Baltimore Ravens were (in this order):
- The defense in the fourth round or fifth round (basically when the run on defenses start for a given year);
- Running back in the late rounds to fill out your starting backfield, or to give you bench depth in the fifth or sixth round;
- Todd Heap at tight end for bench depth in the later rounds;
- Maybe the Ravens' best wide receiver in the later rounds for bench depth.
These are not your big brother's Ravens. Last season they ranked in the top half of the NFL with their 5,640 total yards (16th), 398 points (10th), 3,739 passing yards (14th), 17 rushing TDs, 1,901 total rushing yards (11th), 4.3 rushing yards per attempt (12th), and 22 receiving TDs (14th).
The Ravens finished in the botton half of the league in sacks (17th), points allowed (T20th), turnovers (18th), and defensive TDs (19th) -- stats they usually dominated during the the better part of the franchise's history.
Their offense averaged 27.2 points per game, and 400.6 yards per game after naming Jim Caldwell the offensive coordinator role, replacing Cam Cameron late in the season.
The AFC North will face the AFC East and the NFC North (not exactly the NFL defensive elite) in the bulk of their non-divisional schedule this season. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 7-4 versus these two divisions, passing for 23 TDs, and rushing for 21 TDs.
Opening the season with a rematch of last season's AFC Divisional Playoff thriller at Denver, and finishing the first half of their season hosting Green Bay. They travel to AFC North rival Pittsburgh before their bye in Week 8, expect the Ravens' play to ebb and flow with their competition. They host Houston and Cleveland, and travel to Buffalo and Miami in the middle of that stretch.
The Ravens begin and end the second half of their schedule in the Buckeye State, going to Cleveland after the bye week (Harbaugh and Flacco are 10-0 versus the Browns), and ending the season in Cincinnati.
There are more to meet the Ravens in the Fantasy Football Draft in 2013 than Ray Rice, the defense and the kicker.
Joe Flacco: 317 of 531 pass attempts (59 percent), 3,817 yards, 22 TDs, 10 TDs (87.7 QB rating):
Throwing 15 TDs, and one INT in the last seven games since Caldwell's OC promotion, Flacco is poised to be a breakout player this fantasy season.
Though not a top-tier QB, Flacco could be counted on for 3,500 yards, 20 TDs, and 10 INTs (he has never passed for 4,000 yards, or 25 TDs in a single season).
Flacco was the 14th rated fantasy QB last season. Dependeing on the size of your league, Flacco should come off the board in the early rounds.
With the overhaul to the defensive side of the roster, Flacco will be counted on to lead the Ravens with his arm, especially if the new defensive additions have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, which will probably bold well for the fantasy owners who roll the dice and draft him.
If you have Flacco on your bench, you should consider starting him the following weeks:
- Week 11 @ Chicago: Flacco passed for 234 yards on 21 of 29 attempts (72.4 percent), 4 TDs, 135.6 QB rating in a 31-7 Baltimore win over the Bears during Week 14 of 2009.
- Week 5 vs Miami: Flacco has completed 37 of 50 passes (74 percent), for 498 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 125.2 QB rating in two career starts against the Dolphins.
- Week 15 @ Detroit: Flacco completed 13 of 20 passes (65 percent), for 230 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 120.8 QB rating in a 48-3 Week 14 win over the Lions in 2009.
- Week 4 @ Buffalo: Flacco passed for 250 yards on 16 of 31 attempts (51.6 percent), 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 111 QB rating in a week seven 37-34 overtime win over the Bills in 2010.
- Week 14 vs. Minnesota: Flacco completed 28 of 43 attempts (65 percent), 385 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 109 QB rating in a 33-31 Week 7 loss at the Vikings in 2009.
If you have a better match up or option on the bench, you may want to consider sitting Flacco these weeks:
- Week 6 vs. Green Bay: Flacco completed 15 of 36 passes (41.6 percent), 137 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 27.2 QB rating in a week loss at Green Bay in 2009.
- Week 12 vs. New York Jets: Flacco has completed 30 of 69 passes (43.4 percent), 411 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 51.1 QB rating in two career starts versus the Jets.
Ray Rice: 1,143 yards on 257 carries (4.4), 9 TDs; 61 receptions for 478 yards (7.8 YPR), 1 TD:
Rice accumulated 222 fantasy points last season, which dropped him from the No. 1 running back in 2011 to No. 6 last season.
The emmergence of Bernard Pierce aside, Rice continues to be the sole MVP fantasy choice on the Ravens' roster, will continue to be a top-five fantasy draft choice in 2013.
The bigger concern for Rice fantasy owners could very well be the loss of fullback Vonta Leach in a salary cap purge for the Ravens.
However, Rice's value is the yardage he gains in the passing game (whose 61 receptions ranked second, and his 478 receiving yards ranked fourth on the Ravens).
In addition, the trade of Anquan Boldin to San Francisco increases the likelihood Flacco will continue to look for Rice in the passing game.
You want to make sure Rice is in your line up these weeks based on his career statistics versus these teams:
- Week 15 @ Detroit: Rice has rushed 13 times for 166 yards (12.77 YPC), one TD, and add four receptions for 53 yards in his lone career start against the Lions.
- Week 14 vs. Minnesota: Rice gained 77 yards on 10 carries (7.7 YPC), two TDs, and 117 receiving yards in one career start versus the Vikings.
- Week 16 vs. New England: Rice averages 97.3 rusing yards per game, and 45.3 receiving (YPG), with one TD, in three career starts against the Patriots.
- Week 2 vs. Cleveland; Week 9 @ Cleveland: Rice averages 92.2 rushing YPG, with 4 TDs, and 19.1 receiving YPG, with 1 TD in 10 career starts against the Browns.
You may want to consider other matchup options on your bench based on Rice's career statistics versus these teams:
- Week 6 vs. Green Bay: In his one start versus the Packers, Rice gained 54 yards on 14 rushes (3.86 ypc), and added a paltry 17 yards on three receptions (5.67 ypc).
- Week 3 vs. Houston: In four career starts versus the Texans , Rice rushed for 214 yards on 58 rushes (3.60 ypc, 53.3 ypg), and 20 receptions for 140 yards (7 ypc, and 35 ypg) versus the Texans. More important, Rice has yet to score against them.
- Week 12 vs. New York Jets: In two starts versus the Jets, Rice rushed for 109 yards on 46 carries (2.37 ypc, and 53 ypg), 1 TD; and added 4 passes for 83 yards (41.5 ypg).
Bernard Pierce: 579 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD (64 fantasy points in 2012):
Piece established himself as a change-of-pace back to Rice with his 85 carries for 410 yards (4.8 ypc) in November and december last season. Pierce could be a breakout player this season with the jettison of Boldin and Leach from the Ravens' offense, and the coaching staff's need to keep Rice fresh for another potential playoff run in 2013.
Torrey Smith: 49 receptions for 855 yards (17.YPC), 8 TDs (134 fantasy points in 2012):
Smith has been a fantasy hit-or-miss player in his two-year career. He scored five or fewer fantasy points in eight games last season, but scored double-digit fantasy points in six games last season.
His inconsistency aside, Smith will be a breakout player this season as he will be counted on to replace Boldin's production as the No. 1 WR.
Jacoby Jones: 30 receptions for 406 yards (13.5 YPC), 1 TD; 37 punt returns for 341 yards, 1 TD; 38 kick return for 1,167 yards, 2 TDs (47 fantasy points):
The Ravens are currently set up for Jones to step up as the No. 2 WR. But veteran fantasy owners have seen this movie before with Jones.
The Houston Texans were poised to make Jones the No. 2 WR going into the 2011 season after he posted 75 fantasy points in 2010. Jones' production dropped producing 10 fewer fantasy points than the previous season.
Jones has one reception for 31 yards in his career versus the NFC North, the Ravens' cross-conference opponents this season.
Buy the Jacoby Jones koo-aid at your peril; he will be a fantasy bust in 2013.
Dennis Pitta: 61 receptions for 669 yards (11 YPC), 7 TDs, (109 Fantasy Points in 2012)
After finishing second on the Ravens in receiving yards, and TDs last season as Flacco's third or fourth option, Pitta is poised for a breakout seaosn as Flacco look to supplement the loss of Boldin. Pitta established himself as a Flacco's go-to guy on third downs during their Super Bowl run.
Ed Dickson: 21 receptions for 225 yards, 23 Fantasy Points in 2012; 54 receptions for 524 yards, 5 TDs, 83 fantasy points in 2011:
Dickson enters the 2013 with motivation to regain his starting TE spot from Pitta, and to earn a new contract. Though all signs point to Dickson having a breakout season, it will be hard for him to upseed Pitta.
Overall, the Ravens' offensive players mentioned are worth draft consideration, or to keep on your free agent radar throughout the season.