Late For Work 4/16: Are Ravens Overestimating Joe Flacco?

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Are Ravens Overestimating Joe Flacco?

It's comes as little surprise that Ravens brass has greater trust than outsiders in Joe Flacco – one of the most hotly-debated quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ever since Owner Steve Bisciotti said he's "not desperate" for a wideout and Assistant GM Eric DeCosta said the Ravens have "tremendous confidence" in Flacco's ability to develop receivers, everyone from national reporters to local bloggers have been expressing doubt.

Russell Street Report wonders whether the Ravens are "overestimating" Flacco and putting too much on his shoulders. And the peeps at NFL Media have their concerns,* *too.

"It's true that top-flight (dare I say elite?) quarterbacks can raise up mid-level receiving talent," wrote NFL.com's Kevin Patra. "Tom Brady has been the standard-bearer for this belief for years."

So the question becomes whether Flacco can actually do it. There is an argument for both schools of thought.

Ravens brass can point to what Flacco has done in recent years.

Flacco did help develop Torrey Smith, who cashed in on a reported $40 million contract with San Francisco last month. But Smith was a second-round receiver, so Flacco won't receive much credit. Steve Smith Sr. had a resurgent year with Flacco, going from 745 yards in 2013 to 1,065 in 2014. Marlon Brown, an undrafted rookie free agent, caught 49 passes and seven touchdowns from Flacco in Brown's first year. Journeyman Kamar Aiken caught 24 passes and three touchdowns last year, showing potential for production that he never showed with his previous three teams.

On top of all those individual cases, there is Flacco's overall record. He is one of the winningest quarterbacks since he entered the league, and you'd be hard pressed to find any analyst saying he's had elite wide receivers during his entire career.

There's something in the Ravens' formula that has worked.

"Okay— but jeez Louise, what could Flacco accomplish with some top-flight young talent added to the receiving equation?" wrote local blogger Thomas Jackson of Ravens Football Machine.

While there is plenty of evidence in Flacco's favor, all the doubters have to point to is the 2013 season, a few months after the Ravens traded Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin to San Francisco.

The weapons at Flacco's disposal that year: Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson. That was the only year the Ravens didn't make the playoffs, and Flacco threw a career-high 22 interceptions and his lowest number of touchdowns since his rookie year.

"I just don't know if the chemistry and what they're trying to do is going to be as productive as they were last year," said NFL AM analyst Terrell Davis in the video above. "So I'm going to say, no, they need more weapons for this Baltimore Ravens offense. Joe Flacco is there and you know he's always going to be on point. But I don't see it right now."

But General Manager Ozzie Newsome has got to have a plan, right Jamie Dukes?

"Well, he can have a plan all he wants. I'm going to double down on what [Davis] is talking about," Dukes said, adding his doubts that Marc Trestman's style and philosophy will work with Baltimore's personnel.

Regardless of what Dukes or anybody else thinks, the Ravens appear to be moving forward with their plan. They have not used free agency to bolster the receiver corps, allowing several marquee players to get big paydays elsewhere. The Ravens like to build their roster through the draft, however, and Patra thinks that will still happen with a receiver.

"Despite the Ravens' confidence in Flacco to milk production out of whatever talent he's given to start the season, we still expect Baltimore to use a pick on a receiver early in the draft – specifically a speedster to help stretch defenses," wrote Patra.

Did They Get It Right? Looking Back On 2014 Mock Drafts

At this time of the year, you couldn't escape mock drafts if you tried.

Everyone and their dogs try to predict how the NFL Draft will go down, but how often do the pundits get it right?

DeCosta likes to tell people how often he accurately predicts who will fall to the Ravens. He said he correctly forecasted the Ravens landing linebacker C.J. Mosley last year, and has nailed Baltimore's pick eight of the past 10 years.

CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka dug into mock drafts from last year and found two analysts that were like DeCosta and got it right: CSN's Ben Standig and ESPN's Todd McShay. There may have been more, but these are the two Smolka found.

Below is a list of high-profile NFL analysts who were off the mark:

  • Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
  • Peter King, Sports Illustrated/MMQB.com: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
  • Mel Kiper, ESPN: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
  • Jason La* *Canfora, CBSSports.com: T Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (taken at No. 30 after anticipating a trade with the 49ers)
  • Evan Silva, Rotoworld:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (taken at No. 30 after anticipating a trade with the 49ers)

Since McShay got it right last year, I was curious to see who he currently has projected to the Ravens at No. 26 this April. He could still change his final prediction before the draft, but his latest guess is Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong.

"The Ravens' priorities in this draft have to be upgrading at cornerback and safety, but they could also go with a wide receiver, running back or pass-rusher here depending on how the board shakes out," McShay wrote. "I have them taking Strong in this scenario as a big-play target to replace Torrey Smith opposite Steve Smith Sr. Strong isn't the burner Torrey Smith was and takes a little time to build up speed, but his 4.44 40 and 42-inch vertical leap are good numbers for a player his size (6-2, 217 pounds), and he shows the ability to separate when the ball is in the air and come down with contested catches."

Report: Strong Has Broken Wrist, Needs Surgery

The latest report on Strong could hurt his draft stock, and may change McShay's prediction.

Strong has a broken bone in his wrist and will likely need surgery, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. However, Strong told CSN Philly that he does not need surgery and he sustained the injury in November while playing at Arizona State.

Teams want to check out his injury themselves. Strong is one of the players headed for combine physical rechecks this weekend for clubs to get an update on his status, per Rapoport.

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Another Super Bowl Ring For Sale

Here's another chance for you to own a Ravens Super Bowl XLVII ring.

Former Ravens practice squad linebacker Nigel Carr sold his ring, and now it's being auctioned off by Goldin Auctions. That's the same company that auctioned off the rings of running backs Jamal Lewis and Damien Berry, which went for $50,000 and $43,000, respectively.

Seven bids have been made on Carr's ring, with the highest being $22,000.

The Ravens signed Carr as an undrafted free agent from Alabama State in 2012, and he was placed on the practice squad after training camp. He didn't appear in any games as a Raven, and hasn't played in the NFL since that time.

(Hat tip to the Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson for first reporting the ring for sale.)

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