Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Outlook

 
 
 
 
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Baltimore Ravens

By Shawn Childs, Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Ravens returned to the playoffs in 2014 for the sixth time in seven seasons with John Harbaugh as head coach. During this stretch, Baltimore has gone 72-40 with a Super Bowl title in 2012. Over the last 15 years, the Ravens have made the playoffs 10 times with two championship wins. Baltimore scored the most points (409) in the team's history, which was the eighth highest total in the league. They finished 12th in total yards (364.9 yards per game). Their defense bounced back after two down years to finish sixth in points allowed (302) and eighth in yards allowed (336.9 YPG). Harbaugh returns for his eighth season. Marc Trestman takes over as the offensive coordinator after struggling in his first stint in the league as a head coach with the Bears (13-19). Marc had 19 years of experience in the NFL. He enjoy his most success as a head coach in the Canadian Football League where he went 59-31 over five seasons with two Grey Cup titles. In Chicago, his offense threw a ton of balls to the RB thanks to the upside pass catcher in RB Matt Forte plus he attacked defenses down field with WR Brandon Marshall and WR Alshon Jeffery. Dean Pees will be back for his fifth season as the defensive coordinator. Pees has nine years of experience in the league as defensive coordinator.

Free Agency

Baltimore lost two important players in the offseason on defense. DT Haloti Ngata & S Darian Stewart was traded to the Lions for a seventh round pick. The Ravens lost interest in this former first round pick at age 31 plus Haloti is coming off a suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Last year he was an edge in run defense with some value in rushing the QB (two sacks). DE Pernell McPhee is coming off his best season with his highest value created by his ability to rush the QB (eight sacks, 21 QB hits, and 35 QB hurries). Pernell was rewarded with a five-year, $40fan million deal with the Bears. DE Casey Walker was brought in for depth on the defensive line.

Stewart left to play with the Raiders. He was a slight edge in run support. The Ravens replaced him with S Kendrick Lewis. Lewis has 59 games of experience in the NFL with almost the same skill set as Stewart.

On offense, QB Matt Schaub was brought in for QB depth. RB Bernard Pierce signed with Jacksonville. TE Owen Daniels moved on to the Lions. Their big loss was deep threat WR Torrey Smith who will earn his next check with the 49ers. Backup WR Jacoby Jones will fight for playing time with the Chargers.

Draft

In the first round of the draft, Baltimore immediately attacked the loss of WR Torrey Smith by selecting WR Breshad Perriman. Perriman has excellent size (6'2" and 212 lbs.) with elite speed (sub-4.3 forty in his pro day) and solid strength (18 bench press reps). His overall upside should be more valuable than Smith when he develops better route running skills.

The Ravens traded up to acquire TE Maxx Williams in the 2nd round. He flashed solid speed and quickness at this year's NFL Combine with very good athletic ability. He will add speed to the TE position with value on third downs and scoring ability in the red zone. His ability to run pass patterns needs to improve.

With their next two picks, Baltimore tried to upgrade the defensive line by drafting DT Carl Davis and DE Za'Darius Smith. Davis has upside talent as a run-clogger plus some moves to attack the QB. His only real strike is his lack of effort due a low motor, which led to him falling in the draft. Smith is a physical player who gets the most out of his limited upside. His lack of pass rushing skills will lead to him earning his playing time against the run.

RB Javorius "Buck" Allen was selected with the Ravens second pick in the fourth round. He is big back with quick-cutting ability and solid hands. Allen only lacks finishing power in his runs, which lead to him not breaking as many tackles as he should for his size.

Tray Walker was added also in the fourth. Tray has plus size (6'2") for a CB with mid-tier speed for his position with his ultimate upside being determined when he adds more strength and bulk.

The Ravens added a second TE in the 5th round - Nick Boyle. He lacks speed while flashing some short-area quickness. He needs to improve as a blocker with possibly some upside as a receiver as a No. 2 TE.

With their last two picks, Baltimore drafted G Robert Myers and WR Darren Waller. Myers has a solid foundation with above-average technique. His lack of speed hurts his upside plus he needs to tighten up his body. Walker doesn't have the pedigree to match the upside of WR Calvin Johnson or WR Demaryius Thomas, but he played at the same school (Georgia Tech) while offering similar size (6'6"). Darren will have value as the goal line with more speed than meets the eye. His lack of route-running skills will lead to him being a developmental project.


Baltimore Ravens WR Breshad Perriman

Offensive Line

RG Marshal Yanda was the league's best guard in 2014. He graded as the best run blocker at his position by a wide margin with solid value in pass protection. The Ravens finished eighth in the league in rushing yards (2019) while averaging 4.5 yards per rush with 16 rushing TDs. LG Kelechi Osemele played his best season in the NFL in his third year in the league. His strength was run blocking as well while allowing two sacks. C Jeremy Zuttah played well as a run blocker, but he did allow 29 QB hurries with only one sack. Baltimore's offensive line allowed the second lowest amount of sacks (19) in the league as they attempts about the league average in pass attempts (34.6). LT Eugene Monroe had a disappointing season in 2014 due to a knee injury that required surgery in September. He missed five games while playing poorly against the run. Monroe is a former number one draft pick. He's allowed 22 sacks over the last four years. 2013 fifth-round draft pick Ricky Wagner will return at right tackle. He played well in pass protection in his first year in the starting lineup with below league average value against the run. This line is strong up the middle in the run game with strength in pass protection. This group has more upside with a healthy Monroe.

Schedule: Offense

The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).

This information is based on 2014, which will work as our starting point for 2015. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2014 Average: The league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2014.

2014 Results: This is the results for each team in the NFL.

2015 Adjustment: Based on the 2014 league average and the 2014 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.

The Ravens should have two strong matchups against the run (CLE X 2) and two tough games (DEN and SEA). Their pass schedule ranks as the 3rd toughest as far as yards.

OFFENSE

Baltimore ran the ball 44.7 percent of the time with RBs and TEs having almost equal value in the passing game (22.1 percent completion rate). WRs caught 55.8 percent of Flacco's targets.

Flacco has the identical career record (72-40) as head coach John Harbaugh. Even with six playoff seasons in seven years in the league, Joe has never been a fantasy-relevant QB. Over the last six years, his low to high in passing yards has a gap of 373 yards with no seasons with more than 4,000 yards on his resume. Last year Flacco had growth in his completion rate (62.1) after falling in this area over the previous three seasons. His success led to a career high in passing yards (3,986) and passing TDs (27). In six of his seven seasons, Joe has thrown 12 INTs or less with his only outlier being 2013 (22). Over his first six seasons in the league, Flacco was sacked 222 times (40-plus per year). His improvement last year was due a huge step up in this area (19 sacks). His full offensive is returning, but he will be working with a new offensive coordinator. A big part of his success in 2014 was helped by the surprising running by RB Justin Forsett. His receiving core is in transition with his best deep threat no longer on the roster and his best option being old man WR Steve Smith (36). The Ravens added upside talent at WR and TE in the draft, but it will take for this core time to develop. The Ravens will run the ball a ton while playing solid defense. There is no need for Flacco to open up the offense other than a game or two when the game score gets out of line. Joe will be serviceable as a backup fantasy QB with limited upside in passing yards and passing TDs. Last year Flacco has five games with 300 yards or more and only two games with two TDs or more.


Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco

After being overlooked early in his career due his size (5'8" and 190 lbs.) and durability concerns, Forsett was gift-wrapped a starting job due to the Ray Rice incident last fall. Justin set career highs in rushing attempts (235), rushing yards (1,266), TDs (eight), and catches (44). His only negative was his six yards gained per catch. Over the last seven weeks of the season, Forsett had four 100-yard rushing games (three at home) with two games with two TDs. His best game was 190 combined yards against the Saints plus he delivered 146 combined yards in the playoffs against the Patriots. On the year, Justin averaged 5.4 yards per rush with five games with 20 or more touches. His 2014 success will draw interest in the fantasy market, but he still set isn't built to be a workhorse back plus Forsett will turn 30 this season. I expect him to get about 15 touches per game this year, which would be a 15 percent drop in opportunity. His experience and quickness are the keys to his upside again in 2015. Last year Justin was the 8th-highest scoring RB in the Fantasy Football World Championship leagues. His projected opportunity points to him being a steady RB2 in PPR leagues.


Baltimore Ravens RB Justin Forsett

He had a short resume as a one-year starter in 2013 at Coastal Carolina where he rushed for 1,729 yards on 276 carries, which led to 27 rushing TDs. He also caught 23 passes for 153 yards and a pair of TDs. He is a north-south runner with some speed, if he can break through to the second level of the defense. His acceleration and quickness appeared to be below average when attacking the line of scrimmage. Taliaferro showed willingness as a blocker, which will help him on third downs if given the opportunity. He may even develop into a fullback with some pass-catching ability. His downside may have been exposed when he only gained 21 yards on 10 carries against an elite Division I school - South Carolina. The Ravens gave him 68 rushes in 2014, which led to 292 yards and four rushing TDs. Lorenzo flashed some big-play ability in the passing game (eight catches for 114 yards). Baltimore took a chance on his legs in Weeks 3 and 4 when rushed for 149 yards and two TDs on 33 carries. Even with Rice out the picture and Bernard Pierce playing at a poor level, Taliaferro never had more than eight touches in any other game over the last 12 games of the year. His overall upside is appears to be less than RB Javorius 'Buck' Allen so Lorenzo may drop to 3rd on the depth chart at some point this year. His best scenario would be earning the short yardage carries and goal line touches with some value late in games as the hammer in the run game.


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I'm somewhat intrigued by Allen this season after watching some of his highlights from the last two seasons. He runs with patience while following his blockers. When he sees his opportunity, he cuts to daylight. At the second level of the defense, Javorius is very creative in how he sets up defenders while displaying vision in the open field. If he breaks free, he has enough speed to make long runs. At the goal line, he looks like a player that just has that feel for the end zone. Allen demonstrated great leaping ability when ask to over the top in short yardage and at the goal line. His hands will also be an asset. Over the last two years at USC, Javorius had 2,274 rushing yards on 411 carries with 25 rushing TDs. He flashed high upside in the passing game in his junior year when he caught 41 balls for 458 yards with a TD. His biggest concern for most scouts is his lack of strength (11 reps in the bench press at this year's NFL combine), which they believe leads to unfinished runs. In his highlights, there were times when he would drive through a tackler. I like his upside and he has enough talent and explosiveness to steal the starting job from Forsett. His biggest weakness will be addressed in the weight room. His key to success in 2015 will be his value in pass projection. For me, Allen is a must-handcuff for Forsett.

Smith was a very good add by the Ravens in 2014. His overall skill set was much higher than WR Torrey Smith, which ended up being a plus for both players. With Torrey being the deep threat in the passing game for Baltimore, Steve was allowed to run more crossing routes. This led to his eight 1,000-yard receiving season at age 35 with 79 catches and six TDs. Flacco used him a ton early, which led to four 100-yard receiving games over the first six weeks of the year. His value faded midseason when defenses started to take him away. Over a six week span, Smith only caught 18 passes for 246 yards with one TD on 39 targets. Baltimore made an effort to get him the ball over the last month of the year (40 targets), but Steve only caught 62.5-percent of his chances for 246 yards and one TD. Over his last 11 games of the regular season, Smith only had two TDs. He caught 59 percent of his targets on the year. Just like Forsett, his success in 2014 (18th-highest scoring WR in PPR leagues) will lead to him being drafted at full value. Steve has quickness, heart and he works hard to stay in shape. Football is a young man's game and it's tough investing in a player at his age. His resume of success is long and the Ravens will get him the ball when he is on the field. I would much rather have him as a WR3 than a WR2 so he needs to be discounted before I even look at his name.


Baltimore Ravens WR Steve Smith

Brown ended up having no value in 2014 after flashing upside talent in 2013 when he caught 49 passes for 524 yards with seven TDs on 82 targets. He suffered a pelvis injury in early October that led to him being inactive in a couple of games. He caught 24 of his 31 targets last year for 255 yards with no TDs. He had a stretch over seven games where Marlon caught every target (18 straight catches). In his career, Brown is only averaging 10.7 yards per catch. He has excellent size (6'5" and 216 lbs.), which gives him value at the goal line. His 2013 season suggests there is more in the tank, but his lack of playing time in 2013 paints a cloudier picture. His experience may lead to him starting early in the year, but his lack of explosiveness will limit his opportunity over the long haul.

With Torrey Smith no longer on the roster, the Ravens quickly address their need for deep speed by adding the explosive quick Perriman. At his Pro day, Breshad ran under 4.3 twice while showing some strength in the bench press (18 reps). His game has only improved slightly in each of the last two seasons at UCF (2012 - 26/388/3, 2013 - 39/811/4, and 2014 - 50/1044/9). Perriman will enter the NFL as a one-dimensional speed threat, which falls right in line with the early development of Torrey Smith. His route running needs a lot of work and his hands under fire could be an issue. Breshad showed solid hands in his highlights with a good feel for the ball while making great adjustments at the point of contact with the ball. He flashed the ability to get two feet down in the end zone. The Ravens will use him in a similar role as they did Smith early in his career. Flacco loves to throw deep jump balls so Perriman will have big-play ability in his first season. When he isn't catching the ball deep, it's important for Breshad to draw pass interference penalties. His ceiling is expected to be much higher than Torrey Smith and Perriman showed some ability to make plays in clutch situations. Baltimore will find ways to get him the ball at the line of scrimmage on WR screens and he will have value on quick hitting slants when Breshad only needs to beat one man for a long score. In a way, he has similar skills as WR Kelvin Benjamin with more dynamic speed.

At 6'6' and 238 lbs., Waller appears to be a beast when you add his sub 4.5-forty at the NFL combine. After a click over to his college resume at Georgia Tech, a fantasy owner is left scratching his head. Over three year in college in 36 games, Darren caught only 51 passes for 971 yards and nine TDs. His highlight game in 2014 was against Mississippi State when he caught five passes for 114 yards with a TD. In his last two games of his career, Waller had 10 catches for 187 yards and two TDs. Darren is a raw player who needs to improve his route running.

In two years at Minnesota in college, Williams caught 61 passes for 986 yards with 13 TDs. He value started to rise at this year's NFL combine when flashed solid speed and quickness while demonstrating very good athletic ability. The Ravens will use him as a moveable TE with limited value in blocking. Maxx will test defense deep down the middle of the field vs. zone defenses. Williams will have value in the open field especially when matched up with a slower linebacker. In his first season in the league, he'll be a situational player who will deliver the occasional big play with possible value at the goal line. The health of Pitta may lead to a better than expected opportunity.


Baltimore Ravens TE Maxx Williams

With TE Owen Daniels no longer on the Ravens roster, Gillmore is the TE who had the most playing time in 2014 (378 snaps). He only caught 10 of his 15 targets for 121 yards and a TD. Over three years at Colorado State, Crockett caught 111 passes for 1308 yards with eight TDs. He looks like the best blocker on the team with limited upside in speed. I don't expect him to offer any real upside in the fantasy market.

Last year, Pitta suffered a possible career-ending injury to his right hip in September. It was described as a dislocation, which required surgery. His doctors have stated he may never play football again. The reports on his progress have been positive and the early signs give him a chance to get back on the field this year. The toughest part about the injury is that it has happened in two straight years. In 2012, Dennis was starting to develop very good chemistry with Joe Flacco when he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven TDs. His hip injury invites high-failure risk and the Ravens have started looking to the future by adding two TEs in the 2015 draft.

Injury Status: Out - Hip

I have to admit Tucker is one of my favorite kickers in the league. Over his three years in the NFL, Justin has made 89.8 percent of field goal tries, which is the best in NFL history. In his three years in the league, Tucker has finished 3rd, 6th, and 11th in kicker scoring while averaging 32 made field goals per season on 36 attempts. He's made all 110 of his extra points while hitting on 14 of 20 kicks from 50 yards or beyond. Last year the Ravens gave him nine attempts from long range, but Tucker missed on five of those chances (no other misses on the year). The Ravens are a running team that tends to struggle running the ball in close and Flacco has never been elite throwing TDs. When paired with a solid defense, Justin has one of the better field goal opportunities in the game. I see him as a top-five option this year with his success from 50-plus yards improving.

Baltimore has four tough matchups against the run – the Seahawks, the 49ers and two games against the Bengals. Their best matchups are expected to be against Oakland, Arizona, and San Diego. They have the third easiest matchups in passing yards with 10 teams offering below NFL average passing games. The Ravens have three tough passing matchups -- one against the Broncos and two against the Steelers.

The strength of the Ravens defense in 2014 was their ability to stop the run. They allowed the fourth-lowest amount of rushing yards (1,412) while allowing 3.6 yards per rush and eight rushing TDs. Their best run stopper was NT Brandon Williams with LB Terrell Suggs and LB C.J. Mosley offering upside against the run. Mosley is recovering from minor wrist surgery.

Baltimore is hoping DE Timmy Jernigan can fill the void created by the loss of DT Haloti Ngata. In limited playing time as a rookie, Jernigan was just above the league average against the run while delivering four sacks.

The Ravens attacked the QB last year (49 sacks – second in the league). They allowed only 22 passing TDs (23rd), but they struggled to intercept the ball (11). LB Elvis Dumervil led the team in sacks (19) with Suggs added 14 sacks.

LB Daryl Smith and LB Courtney Shaw were above averaged defenders at their positions. Smith has the most downside risk due to age (33) plus they need to find an upgrade for the loss of LB Pernell McPhee.

Baltimore's biggest weakness was their secondary, which was somewhat masked by their pass rush. CB Jimmy Smith was playing well in pass coverage (20/39 for 163 yards with no TDs allowed and one Ints) over the first seven weeks of the year. His season ended after spraining his left foot mid-season, which required surgery. Smith was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

CB Lardarius Webb regressed in pass coverage (65.2 percent completion rate), but he only allowed three TDs with one INT. S Will Hill offers solid value in pass coverage for his position while chipping in run support.

The Ravens are an aggressive defense with solid value against the run and a high volume of sacks. They lost two strong players from last year's team, but Jernigan has enough talent to at least fill the gap against the run. Baltimore did add a couple of players in the draft that will help in run support. A healthy Smith will improve the pass defense. The only thing lacking is secondary playmakers to create turnovers. The Ravens have top-ten talent on defense with a favorable pass schedule.