For years the Baltimore Ravens have been a team known for their stout defense. 2014 was no different, as the Ravens ranked a very respectable eighth in the National Football League in total defense. There are some changes afoot for the Ravens in 2015, however – changes that could affect the Ravens from both an NFL and IDP perspective.
The biggest of those changes occurred on the defensive line, where Haloti Ngata was traded to the Detroit Lions. At 31 Ngata might not be the force he once was either on the football field or for fantasy owners, but his departure still left the Ravens with a hole to fill up front.
That hole will be filled by second-year pro Timmy Jernigan, who was a second-round pick of the Ravens a year ago. Jernigan played somewhat sparingly as a rookie, but he told Garrett Downing of the team’s website he has his sights set much higher in 2015. “I want to go to the Pro Bowl. I’m not even going to sit here and lie to you,” Jernigan said. “I definitely want to win more games. That’s first. You definitely want to win more games, help the defense get even better.” That may be pushing it, but if the former Florida State standout can wrap up a full-time role Jernigan could at the very least be worth a late look as IDP depth.
For many years, veteran Terrell Suggs was a stalwart on the defensive line for IDP owners, but over the past couple of years Suggs has been re-classified as a linebacker by many providers. It’s simple – Suggs, who tallied 61 tackles and 12 sacks in 2014, is an elite IDP option if he has eligibility up front. But, as his 39th-place ranking in fantasy scoring shows, much of the shine comes off if he slots at LB.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley performed as advertised for the Ravens in 2014, racking up 133 tackles and finishing sixth at his position in fantasy points. Mosley told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun that he’s only getting started. “For a rookie, I think I did pretty well,” Mosley said. “But I’m a rookie, so I’ve got a lot to work on and I can only go up from here.” The sky is the limit for Mosley, who is a rock-solid IDP LB1 capable of anchoring a defensive fantasy squad.
Mosley isn’t the only inside linebacker in Baltimore worth a relatively early look in IDP drafts. 12-year pro Daryl Smith has posted over 120 tackles in each of his two seasons with the Ravens, finishing inside the top 15 fantasy linebackers each of those years. Smith’s low solo numbers (almost half his tackles in Baltimore have been credited as assists) are a concern in some scoring systems, but the 33-year-old remains very much on the LB2 radar.
After a pair of disappointing NFL seasons, former first-round pick Matt Elam told Downing he knows it’s time for his production to meet his potential. “I’ve played two years and learned a lot and I just feel like it’s time. It’s past due.” Elam said. “I didn’t make the plays I was expected to make. They brought me here as a first-round pick, so they expect big things from me. I just feel like I have to take myself to the next level.”
That’s all well and good, but the fact remains that we heard much the same from Elam a year ago, and he wound up looking even worse than in his rookie season. Given that and a murky depth chart that includes the often-in-trouble Will Hill and uninspiring veteran Kendrick Lewis, the only defensive backs of much interest to IDP owners in Baltimore as things stand today are cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb – and that’s only in deeper IDP leagues that require their position.