There's Fantasy Football Value to Be Had in Baltimore
Despite finishing as the 26th-rated offense -- 20th on the ground and 27th in passing -- according to numberFire’s metrics, the Baltimore Ravens felt good enough about their existing stables at running back, wide receiver, and tight end that they opted to not select any offensive skill players in the recent NFL Draft.
Coming into last year on the mend from a torn ACL, Joe Flacco nearly led the league with 672 pass attempts. Unfortunately, he also matched a career-worst 6.4 yards per attempt. Making matters worse, optimistic fantasy owners who were chasing after that extreme level of volume were only rewarded with 20 touchdown passes from Flacco. The career touchdown rate Flacco had posted over his first eight regular seasons was only 4.0 percent, but at least maintaining that figure would have given Flacco a very good chance to at least match his career high of 27 touchdowns.
OK, so Flacco can throw the ball a lot and still isn’t going to put up elite numbers. However, this isn’t all about Flacco -- at least not directly, anyway. However, it’s important to understand before we go any further that this offense appears to have a pretty firm ceiling on it. That said, there are a number of values on the Ravens offense that are going at very reasonable prices based on the most recent average draft position (ADP) figures coming from MFL10 Draft-Only Leagues.
While those leagues use a best-ball scoring format to give players their optimal weekly lineup and owners do not have access to the waiver wire or trades, I strongly prefer this data as opposed to aggregated mock draft ADP since everyone in these MFL10 drafts are playing for real money and are putting heavy thought into each pick. There’s also this excellent tool by Josh Hornsby that lets us really dig deep into the evolving MFL10 data.
Let’s do just that.
A New Toy
Danny Woodhead is the first player from the Ravens being drafted, and rightfully so. He’s currently a top-90 selection as the RB31.
Clearly very confident in the recovery status of a 32-year-old coming off an early season torn ACL, Baltimore signed Woodhead to a multi-year contract at the start of free agency. Woodhead has seen just one healthy season over the last three years; but what a season it was.
Back in 2015 -- coming off a broken ankle and fibula -- Woodhead saw 106 targets, recorded 81 receptions for 756 yards and scored 6 touchdowns as a receiver. On the ground, Woodhead scored three more times despite an average 3.5 yards per carry on fewer than 100 totes.
Something I just discovered while trying to rank Woodhead/Dixon. The Ravens rank second in running back targets over the last two seasons.
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) May 14, 2017
As you can see, targets are the very reason why we should be excited about Woodhead for fantasy purposes this season. Last year, fullback Kyle Juszczyk was targeted 49 times, leading rusher Terrance West saw 45 opportunities as a receiver, and rookie Kenneth Dixon was right behind him with 41 chances. Back in 2015, Javorius Allen recorded 62 targets, Juszczyk saw 56 targets, and Justin Forsett was targeted 41 times.
This all sets up an excellent opportunity for Woodhead to see the second 100-target season of his career. Heck, Juszczyk’s departure alone already gets Woodhead halfway there.
A Lot to Like About Mike
Now take a moment to get that heavy sigh out of the way, because the next value player in this Ravens offense is Mike Wallace.
Yes, he’s been very streaky at times. We’ve seen him drop big touchdowns, and he had a horrendous 2015 season in Minnesota. Yet in eight seasons, Wallace has finished outside the top-30 fantasy wide receivers just once. Last year with Baltimore, Wallace saw 116 targets, nearly set a career high with 72 receptions, and enjoyed his first 1,000-yard season since 2011. Wallace was also 18th in air yards, and he was 11th among wide receivers in yards gained after the catch.
There are 101 targets left behind by the retired Steve Smith. Ideally, many of those will go to Breshad Perriman. He was Baltimore’s 2015 first-round selection but couldn’t get on the field as a rookie due to a knee injury. The speedy Perriman made a few splash plays last year, but he barely averaged four targets a game.
Even though Wallace is the one that comes with a solid resume, MFL10 drafters value the veteran nearly equal to the still unproven Perriman. They are each fringe top-50 wide receivers, available well beyond pick 100.
Dennis the Menace
Finally, we’ll conclude at tight end. Only three tight ends saw more than 120 targets in 2016, and yes, Dennis Pitta was one of them. He scored just two touchdowns, and he only reached 729 receiving yards, but he led all tight ends with 86 receptions. Quite frankly, Pitta is a forgotten man in the MFL10 arena. He's TE28, going after pick 200.
It bears repeating that this offense is basically unchanged from a year ago. Even Marty Mornhinweg, who took over the team’s offensive coordinator in October, was retained in the offseason.
Juszczyk is on another team and Smith retired, but all that’s done is open up somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 targets. While it’s unlikely Baltimore wants to see Flacco among the league leaders in pass attempts for a second consecutive season, it’s clear that the likes of Woodhead, Wallace, and Pitta are all potential 100-plus target players on this Ravens roster that can be had for a bargain.