QB Joe Flacco
With Anquan Boldin in the mix at wide receiver, much was expected of Flacco in 2010. While he improved in his third year in the league, it’s safe to say the Ravens and his fantasy owners were a little underwhelmed by his overall production. He threw for a career-high 25 touchdown passes (four more than in 2009), but his yardage total increased by just nine yards to 3,622. With aging starters at wide receiver (Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason) and tight end (Todd Heap), improvement in the passing game will be placed squarely on Flacco’s shoulders. He remains a work-in-progress who displays poor mechanics and poor decision-making more often than the Ravens would like. For 2011, consider Flacco an upper-tier fantasy backup or a great option if you choose to play the matchups with a pair of decent, if unspectacular, quarterbacks.
RB Willis McGahee
At 29 years old and having spent most of the last three seasons as a backup, the chance of McGahee ever becoming the star running back many expected when he entered the league is remote. While his days as a starter are clearly over, he has proven to be a valuable backup who is capable of producing as a runner, particularly in short yardage situations. He has also been a nice change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield—although that is not his strong suit. Best of all for McGahee owners, over the past three years he has been a touchdown machine (as far as backups and handcuffs go), scoring 27 times over that span—production that many starters have failed to attain. He enters 2011 as a decent flex option in larger leagues, but one with little upside.
RB Le’Ron McClain
McClain has been a victim of circumstance during his four years with the Ravens, originally stuck behind Willis McGahee and then both Ray Rice and McGahee. With McGahee carrying a big salary while still being reasonably productive, the Ravens chose to stick with him despite the solid potential that McClain displayed in 2008 when he supplanted McGahee as the team’s lead back, rushing for 907 yards and ten touchdowns on 231 carries. He has been relegated to a fullback role for the past two years, but with the skills he’s shown in his limited opportunities and at just 26 years old, he remains an intriguing option. He’s clearly a deep, deep sleeper but worth stashing at the back end of your depth chart in leagues with large rosters.
WR Anquan Boldin
Boldin was traded to the Ravens with much fanfare during the 2010 offseason, the thought being that he would help lead the team on a deep playoff run and ignite a Baltimore passing attack that failed to produce big plays in 2009. Suffice it to say, Boldin didn’t produce as expected, and playoff success eluded the Ravens. While he wasn’t a bust in Baltimore, he had the worst year of his career in 2010 (not counting injury-shortened campaigns), catching just 64 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns. Removing a 142-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Browns in Week 3, Boldin averaged just 6.2 fantasy points per game, hardly justifying the upper-tier WR2 ranking he had upon entering the season. In fact, he barely produced more than Derrick Mason, scoring the same amount of touchdowns and gaining just 35 more yards. While Boldin’s drop in production can be partly blamed on the Ravens’ lack of game planning, the bottom line is that defenses can take him out of games when they don’t have to key in on a proven deep threat, which the Ravens don’t possess. Baltimore used a second-round pick on speedster Torrey Smith, but he is raw and unlikely to take much pressure off Boldin. Boldin ranks as a low-end WR2 entering 2011, but with some upside if the Ravens can find a way to better utilize his talents.
WR Derrick Mason
When the Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin during the 2010 offseason and added T.J. Houshmandzadeh just before opening day, Mason was expected to see a major drop in both his playing time and production. However, while his targets dropped dramatically from 134 to 100, he remained productive, catching 61 passes for 802 yards and seven touchdowns. With Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth out of the mix and rookie second-round pick Torrey Smith likely to win the backup role, there is a decent possibility that Mason can duplicate that production in 2011. He’s not a sexy pick, but he can likely be had as a low-end WR4. That should make him a bargain on draft day.
WR Torrey Smith
In 2010, the Ravens’ passing attack clearly suffered from the lack of a big-play threat, with Donte Stallworth suspended for eight games and then failing to earn significant playing time for the balance of the season. That allowed defenses to key in on Anquan Boldin, causing him to have the worst year of his career. Enter Smith, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. He is a speedster capable of forcing defenses to play with a safety deep, provided he can produce at a reasonable level. With Boldin and Derrick Mason both in their thirties, Smith is an excellent prospect in dynasty leagues; just don’t expect him to produce on a consistent basis in 2011.
TE Todd Heap
Heap looked good at times in 2010, displaying some big-play potential while averaging a career-high 15.0 yards per catch. Unfortunately, he missed most of one game and all of three others when he was injured in Week 13 against Pittsburgh, bringing back the injury concerns that plagued him earlier in his career. To be fair, he has played all 16 games in four of the past six seasons, so the injury issue isn’t as big as it’s made out to be. The bigger issue for Heap may be the presence of a pair of second-year players in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who are ready to challenge him for playing time. Of the two, Dickson is the bigger threat, thought to be Heap’s potential replacement when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Consider Heap a mid-tier fantasy option for the coming season.