2013 Team Outlook: Baltimore Ravens
WR Deonte Thompson, --- - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update (8-13): Already starving runway model thin at wide receiver, the Ravens took a hit, at least for a little bit, when Thompson suffered a sprained left foot. For now, it is significant enough for Baltimore to sit the sleeper option for Thursday's preseason game against the Falcons. Though he remains in the mix for significant work, sitting out for any significant length of time won't help the inexperienced Thompson salt away his role. He remains an intriguing, late round receiver worth monitoring
Another name to consider for the Ravens WR2/3 competition. Undrafted out of the University of Florida, the 6-foot Thompson made the team last year, though like many a backbencher, showed more potential in preseason than when the games turned real. Well, the latter had more to do with Baltimore having established option ahead of Thompson (who caught five passes for 51 yards) and that he lost his kick returner job to Jacoby Jones, which kept the rookie off the 53-man roster most weeks. Seeing as Jones previously lost an NFL WR2 job, it is conceivable that one of the Ravens sleeper candidates emerges. With his burst and route-running prowess, Thompson is indeed one to watch.
TE Ed Dickson, CAR - Deep-league Only
Update (8-14): Dickson's own body apparently won't let him take advantage of a good thing: Dennis Pitta's absence. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Tuesday that Dickson's hamstring injury could keep him out for at least the regular season opener. Baltimore recently signed veterans Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark. Perhaps that's an indication of the team's concern for Dickson. At this point, none of the three is draftable.
Update (7-27): Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocated hip during practice, ending the top-10 tight end's season. Obviously a huge blow for the Ravens, but an even bigger one for fantasy players considering the limited TE1 options. Dickson, who caught 54 passes in 2011, now takes over in Baltimore and moves into the middle of the TE2 range in part due minimal options at the position. Could become an interesting option considering Ravens WR2 job remains unsettled, meaning second pass receiver behind Torrey Smith remains undetermined.
Profile: After hauling in 54 receptions during the 2011 campaign, Ed Dickson was considered the Ravens' fantasy TE to own by many. Others talked up Dennis Pitta, a more natural pass-catcher. Well, Pitta indeed became the more productive option as Dickson finished with 21 catches for 225 yards. Heading into the upcoming season, Pitta is a top-10 fantasy option, while his tag-team partner is not a draftable option in standard leagues. However, Dickson is the better all-around TE option, sources say he's looked impressive during spring workouts and he should receive plenty of snaps considering the Ravens' issues at WR2. Should Pitta miss any games, Dickson could be a top-15 option, but a waiver wire play until then.
TE Dennis Pitta, BAL - Dynasty Only
Update (7-27): Pitta suffered a dislocated hip during practice, ending the top-10 tight end's season. Obviously a huge blow for the Ravens, but an even bigger one for fantasy players considering the limited TE1 options.Ed Dickson, who caught 54 passes in 2011, moves into TE2 range.
Preview: With a strong start and finish overshadowing a suspect middle, the pass catching Pitta had what amounts to a breakout season -- hauling in 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. Both a smooth route runner and possessor of quality hands, the 27-year-old had eight games with at least five receptions. Considering Anquan Boldin is no more in Baltimore, Pitta will have the opportunity for more and more grabs as Joe Flacco's primary target over the middle. With the fantasy tight end position in a transition stage - that's code for lack of quality depth - Pitta is firmly entrenched in the middle of the TE1 pack, though a tier below the Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis level.
TE Dallas Clark, --- - Deep-league Only
Dennis Pitta's season-ending injury and Ed Dickson's hamstring strain have the Ravens bringing in some old school tight ends. First came 33-year-old Visanthe Shiancoe, whose best days are way in the past. Then came ex-Colt Dallas Clark, who caught 47 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns for the Colts last season. Clark is nowhere near his previous Pro Bowl level and even if he became a starter, expectations are waiver wire low. However, since he's more receiver than blocker and we know the Ravens are seeking a possession target with no Pitta or Anquan Boldin, it is possible Clark gets a decent number of snaps. That is until Dickson returns. That is if he even makes the roster.
PK Justin Tucker, BAL - Solid/Safe Pick
As far as kickers go, the former Texas Longhorn was a revelation as a rookie for the Super Bowl champions. Tucker combined accuracy (30 for 33 field goal attempts), potency (seventh in points among NFL kickers), booming (made four of his tries from 50 and beyond) and clutch kicking (perfect on two attempts in the Super Bowl). We can nitpick and say without the drive-sustaining talents of Anquan Boldin, perhaps the Ravens offense stalls a touch more, but there is no reason to imagine Tucker cannot repeat his performance. Honestly, not sure there is more to add other than draft Tucker with confidence and plan starting him most if not all weeks.
Baltimore - Quality Backup
No Ray Lewis, no Ed Reed. Who are these guys? That's going to be a question for many casual fantasy players come draft prep time and a reasonable one considering those two future Hall of Famers (well, certainly Lewis is) defined the ball-hawking, turnover-generating unit for years. Without them, the Ravens still have studs (most notably pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who will receive help on the outside from former Bronco Elvis Dumerville). Nose tackle Haloti Ngata anchors the run defense, which slipped to 20th in the NFL last season. Baltimore drafted Florida safety Matt Elam to replace Reed and has a crew of capable veterans in the secondary including Ladarius Webb. Based on team name recognition, the Ravens likely will be drafted too high by some unknowing player, but even knowledgeable owners can consider Baltimore in the 12-14 range depending on league scoring systems.