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Late for Work 6/27: Projecting Baltimore’s Depth Chart; Where Ravens’ New Offensive Weapons Rank

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Early Projection of Ravens Depth Chart

Training camp and preseason games will not only solidify the Ravens roster, but it will also help determine the depth chart.

But if the season started tomorrow, Press Box’s Bo Smolka put together what he called a “highly unofficial two-deep, with projected starters and top backups” depth chart.

Let’s look at his predictions on offense and defense.

Offense

QB: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
RB: Alex Collins, Buck Allen
WR: Michael Crabtree, John Brown
WR: Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore
TE: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle
LT: Ronnie Stanley, Andrew Donnal
LG: Alex Lewis, Jermaine Eluemunor
C: Matt Skura, Maurquice Shakir
RG: Marshal Yanda, Nico Siragusa
RT: James Hurst, Orlando Brown Jr.

Notes: This lineup only shows 10 players instead of 11, as it will change based on whether the Ravens use three receivers, two tight ends, two running backs, etc. Hurst appears ready to step in as the starting tight end right away, while Boyle would fill the blocking/H-back role. When the Ravens start with three receivers on the field, it appears the top guys are Crabtree, Brown and Snead. Says Smolka, “Crabtree and Brown would probably line up as the top two in a traditional set, but Snead and Moore were the most impressive during spring workouts and will be on the field a lot.”

The Ravens plan to make Jackson active each gameday, but Smolka correctly has Flacco as the starting quarterback. That’s not a debate. At running back, watch for Dixon to try to overtake Allen as the No. 2 and maybe even eat into Collins’ carries if Dixon stays healthy and continues to flash. Smolka rightly points out that not all the offensive linemen listed here will make the team as one person can act as a backup at multiple positions (see Hurst as an example). If Brown has a strong rookie training camp, that could push Hurst to left guard and create a domino effect along the line.

Defense

DE: Brent Urban, Chris Wormley
DT: Willie Henry, Michael Pierce
NT: Brandon Williams, Carl Davis
Rush: Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith
SLB: Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser
MLB: C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan
WLB: Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young
LCB: Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young
RCB: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr
FS: Eric Weddle, Chuck Clark
SS: Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine

Notes: While this defensive depth chart looks a lot like last year’s, there has been some reshuffling along the defensive line with Williams moving back to nose tackle, where he originally made a name for himself, and Henry overtaking Pierce for a starting role. There are no surprises at outside linebacker, inside linebacker or safety, essentially keeping the same lineup as last season. At cornerback, Smolka sees second-year Humphrey taking over the starting job opposite Smith with Carr, an 11-year veteran, moving into a backup role, even though he’ll likely see the field plenty.

Alex Collins a Legitimate Ravens Fantasy Option; Where Other Skill-Position Players Rank

The Ravens offense isn’t exactly known for pumping out high-producing fantasy football players because, well, fantasy football isn’t the goal of real football.

That said, the unit boasts a legitimate fantasy option this year in Collins, who’s expected to take the next step after a surprising breakout 2017 campaign in which he finished with the 11th-most rushing yards (973) in the league despite starting just 12 games.

Collins made the NFL Media’s Fantasy Top 50 list, coming in at No. 38, a very respectable place considering the hundreds of draftable players.

Collins’ ranking got me wondering where other skill-position players on the Ravens roster rank, including the three newly-acquired free-agent veteran receivers and two rookie tight ends.

FantasyPros.com’s Mike Tagliere put together early lists of his position rankings, then compared them to the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) from 85 websites, including Yahoo! Sports, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports.

Here’s where Ravens players fall on Tagliere’s list compared to the ECR:

Wide receivers (top 140)

No. 27: Michael Crabtree (-1 vs. ECR)
“After seeing 291 targets over a two-year period with the Raiders, Crabtree saw that number drop to just 101 targets in 2017. Fortunately for him, he was released and wound up as the No. 1 receiver on another team that should get him somewhere in the range of 110-120 targets.”

No. 81: John Brown (-1 vs. ECR)
“Needless to say, targets will be hard to come by and that’s not to mention his health problems he’s dealt with over the last few years.”

No. 95: Willie Snead (-3 vs. ECR)
“I’m not sure if even Snead realizes how good he had it with Drew Brees, but the targets are going to be even cloudier in Baltimore now that they’ve added Crabtree, Brown, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley this offseason.”

Tight ends (top 54)

No. 21: Hayden Hurst (+5 vs. ECR)
“While I'm typically against drafting rookie tight ends, Hurst may be an exception to the rule. He's already 25 years old, so it's unlikely the Ravens want to waste his prime athletically. Next, it's not an offense that favors the wide receivers. In fact, it's one that favors the tight end position, which is likely why the Ravens also added Mark Andrews in the third round. … Hurst's ball-tracking is on a different level than most rookies, so don't be shocked to see him walk into 80-plus targets in year-one.”

No. 36: Mark Andrews (+10 vs. ECR)
“The Ravens use their tight ends a lot, but knowing that Andrews was taken two rounds later than Hurst, he's clearly in a backup role.”

Quarterbacks (top 40)

No. 29: Joe Flacco (+1 vs. ECR)
“If there was ever one thing that Flacco had going for him, it was job stability. You knew that by drafting him as your No. 2 quarterback in a 2QB league, he wasn't going to get benched. Now that the Ravens have drafted Lamar Jackson, those days are over. Flacco did get some increased weaponry in Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Willie Snead, but is it too little, too late? He's now finished as the QB20 or worse in three straight seasons and it's hard to trust him as anything more than a streaming QB2.”

Running backs (top 105)

No. 26. Alex Collins (-8 vs. ECR)
“The only concern you'd have is Dixon, who was supposed to be the team's workhorse, but it's possible that they're going to simply move on from him. That built-in risk lowers [Collins] on my board just a tad, but I don't think the Ravens would've re-signed him if that were the case.”

No. 52: Kenneth Dixon (+17 vs. ECR)
“Don't forget about the guy that the Ravens were extremely high on coming into last year before he suffered a season-ending injury. I'm not projecting him to take the starting job back immediately, but it wouldn't surprise me if he worked his way back into fantasy relevance at some point. The one-year contract for Collins doesn't scream confidence.”

No. 67: Javorius Allen (+13 vs. ECR)
It's unlikely that Allen sees the field a whole lot in 2018, unless the Ravens have completely moved on from Dixon. … He's just a bench stash at this point.”

Watching Ravens Rookies Screaming on Roller Coasters Will Make Your Day

Football players are supposed to be rough and tough guys who don’t scare easily.

But don’t tell that to undrafted rookie defensive lineman Christian LaCouture, who was screaming at the top of his lungs while riding roller coasters at Hershey Park yesterday.

The rookies were rewarded by Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders after a summer’s worth of hard work, and Ryan Mink followed them up to the amusement park to get their reactions to a bunch of rides.

LaCouture and offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman seriously made my day, as LaCouture couldn’t stop screaming and Bozeman couldn’t stop laughing at the screaming. Props to LaCouture for being a good sport about us posting his reactions.

Quick Hits

  • Where the Ravens defense can improve next season: total defense (the team went from seventh to 12th in yards allowed per game), passing yards allowed (No. 10) and rushing yards per game (No. 15). “For a franchise that has been shaped by defensive pedigree, Baltimore has ranked outside of the top five in the majority of statistical categories over the last two seasons,” wrote Sage Morander. “While the Ravens offense justifiably receives the most scrutiny and examination, the defense will need to elevate their play as well to snap the playoff drought in 2018.” [Baltimore Beatdown]

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