The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
It was a rough season for Joe Flacco, whose 5.7 passing yards-per-attempt ranked dead last among NFL quarterbacks who played at least 10 games. Having eclipsed recorded 25 passing touchdowns or more in just two of his 10 NFL seasons, it’s fair to wonder if Flacco’s presence hinders the Baltimore offense rather than helps. That said, with Flacco under contract through the 2021 season, and Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti publicly stating he’s not looking to replace his franchise quarterback in the immediate future, it would appear Flacco’s job is safe for next season. Playing in an offense devoid of any game-breaking receiving talent, Flacco will again be nothing more than a bottom-of-the-barrel streaming option for 2018.
The Ravens opened the 2017 season with a three-headed monster at running back, consisting of Terrance West as their early-down hammer, Danny Woodhead as the receiving specialist, and Javorius Allen as the utility guy who could could contribute do a little of both. In Week 1, Woodhead showed why many fantasy experts considered him a valuable points-per-reception (PPR) league asset by catching three passes for 33 yards on the Ravens first drive of the game, though he unfortunately suffered a torn hamstring in that same contest, causing him to miss seven weeks of action. West’s tenure as the starter was also short-lived after rushing for 80 yards and a score in Week 1, as he saw his carries reduced each week thereafter until being removed from the backfield mix altogether from Week 6 onward due to a combination of injuries and coaching decisions. With Woodhead out, Javorius Allen seized control of the Ravens’ passing down back role over the first half of the season, catching 39 of his 46 receptions between Weeks 2 and 9. The void created by the phasing out of West opened the door for the emergence of Alex Collins, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft, who had signed with Baltimore last September after being cut by the Seahawks at the conclusion of training camp. Collins carried the ball just 62 times between Weeks 2 and 7, but his 5.9 yards-per-carry over that span made it clear Collins needed more touches. Beginning with his breakout 143 total yard effort in Week 8, Collins averaged 88 total yards on 19 touches per game per game, and scored six times from that point onward as the Ravens clear early-down lead back while Allen and Woodhead (once he returned from injury) were relegated to supplementary roles. Collins appears the favorite to return RB2 value in 2018 as the Ravens’ starter though the offensive issues outside of the backfield will continue hinder the team’s ability to score points. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Allen’s run as the Raven’s third-down back during the first half of 2017 will be enough to deem the now 33-year old Woodhead expendable this offseason.
As bad as Joe Flacco was in 2017, he got very little help from his ragtag group of receivers. Mike Wallace led the way with 748 receiving yards, and his 14.4 yards-per-reception was actually his highest mark since 2011 (with Pittsburgh). With Wallace’s contract set to expire this offseason, the best way for the soon-to-be 32-year old (in August) to retain his fringe WR3/4 status is remaining in Baltimore, as Wallace likely would not be a number one wide out on any other NFL team. Thought to be in a great position to revitalize his career after being cut by the Chiefs last June, Jeremy Maclin posted disappointing numbers for the second straight season, putting up over 56 receiving yards in just one of his 12 games played. Turning 30 this May, the injury-prone and ineffective Maclin is at risk to be released for the second time in less than a year. Breshad Perriman, the Ravens’ 26th overall choice in the 2015 Draft, took a huge step backwards after posting 499 receiving yards in 2016 (in what essentially amounted to his rookie season). Now having caught just a total of 43 passes for 576 yards across is first three NFL seasons, the Ravens are likely running out of patience with Perriman, and could choose to move on from the former first-round pick this offseason as well (which would be an especially poor look for Perriman considering how wideout-starved the Ravens are). Though the Ravens are widely expected to rebuild their receiving corps this offseason, keep an eye on 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore, who could find himself thrust into a larger role should the team not make any significant splashes in free agency or the draft.
Ben Watson made an impressive comeback after missing all of 2016 with an Achilles injury, finishing the season as the Ravens’ reception leader. With the two-year, $8 million contract Watson signed two offseasons ago set to expire this Spring, the 37-year old veteran may decide to retire rather than re-sign with a new team. Even if Watson does decide play for a 15th season, his 2018 fantasy value figures to be limited-to-none. Maxx Williams has oozed offensive upside since the Ravens chose him with the 55th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, though injuries have limited the young tight end to just 47 catches for 354 yards and two scores across his first three seasons. Ideally Williams would take over the starting tight end role if Watson chooses to hang it up or move on, though it’s far from a given based on Williams’ checkered health history and missed developmental time. Nick Boyle operated for most of the season as the Ravens no. 2 tight end, and has yet to flash any sort of fantasy upside, having caught a whopping zero scores through his first three NFL seasons. The Ravens tight end position has the looks of a fluid situation for 2018 fantasy purposes, so a wait-and-see approach is recommended going into Summer drafts.