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Jeremy Maclin could be a great fantasy football sleeper

It's been a long time since a member of the Ravens offense has been a reliable fantasy producer, but Jeremy Maclin might be able to buck the trend this year.

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For years now, fantasy football players have been wise to avoid rostering members of the Ravens offense on their fantasy teams. Hampered by high-profile injuries, (Flacco, Perriman, Pitta, etc.) a coaching staff carousel, and a lack of big names in the passing game, Baltimore has become a fantasy football graveyard of sorts. Over the past three seasons, Justin Forsett was the only Ravens player to post a top-25 fantasy performance, (among W/R/T in standard scoring) placing 15th with 189 points in 2014.The next best fantasy performance during that time came from Torrey Smith, who placed 38th in fantasy points scored that same year. Simply put, no one should be faulted for staying away from Baltimore players on draft day.

That same trend of stagnant offense seemed like it should've held true for at least another year, as the Ravens offense didn't seem much better on paper than it did last year. With the draft long gone and free agency activity slowing down, Baltimore's front office had failed to make any significant offensive acquisitions, which left the Ravens offense looking once again like a middle-of-the-road group devoid of any fantasy football talent. Until Jeremy Maclin came, that is.

With the signing of Maclin, a move which was celebrated almost universally by Ravens fans, the narrative surrounding Baltimore's offense might just change a little this year. Being the Ravens most significant receiver investment since Anquan Boldin in 2010, fans are hoping that he'll be the franchise's best pass catcher in recent memory. But less harped on is the fact that Maclin might also become one of the team's best fantasy assets to take the field in a long time.

In fantasy football, the recipe for greatness is composed of two key ingredients: opportunity and talent. Luck is usually liberally sprinkled in as well. For Maclin, it's safe to say that he's got those things going for him. There's no doubting his talent, and there's gobs of opportunity for a number one receiver in Baltimore. In fact, perhaps no other team could've increased Maclin's fantasy value like the Ravens did. By one account, the team lost 33.5 percent of its targets over the offseason with the departures of Kamar Aiken, Steve Smith, and others. After Dennis Pitta's hip injury, which ultimately forced the team to cut him, that number spiked to about 49.6 percent (according to my math). That's the third-highest amount of targets lost in the league. Without any other potential first-choice receivers on the roster, it seems that Maclin is set up to take that number one role (one that he has excelled at in the past), and with it, a lot of targets.

In 2014 and 2016, which were the last times current offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg led somewhat capable offenses, his lead receivers saw 114 and 116 targets. Right in line with those past numbers, NumberFire projects Maclin to receive 115 targets this year. The last time Maclin saw a workload like that was in 2010, when he saw 116 targets as a second-year member of the Eagles. He was able to turn those looks into 964 yards and 10 touchdowns on 76 catches while playing beside both DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. In Baltimore, the competition isn't nearly that good, and it's clear that Maclin is unquestionably going to be the one to get the lion's share of the targets. The aforementioned NumberFire projection is likely on the conservative side, as it assumes that Wallace keeps his lofty total of 116 targets from last year. History tells us that probably won't happen. In 2014, new addition Steve Smith took away over 30 targets from Torrey Smith, who saw 137 looks in 2013 but only 92 the next year. The same thing happened in 2010, when Derrick Mason lost 34 targets after Anquan Boldin came to town.

Even by NumberFire's less-than-generous projections, Maclin is still in for a good year. With 115 targets, Maclin is forecasted to put up 934 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 75 catches, and that's assuming that his production rate remains the same as it was during his tenure as a Chief, where he was an injured member of a somewhat anemic offense. A stat line like that would make Maclin the 22nd-best receiver in PPR leagues, which means he's currently a bargain as the 44th wide receiver going off the board. But for reasons chronicled above, I've got good faith that Maclin can do better than that. Definitely don't sleep on this Raven come draft day.