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Ravens News 6/22: Flacco’s audition, cornerback spotlight and more

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Early Running Back Rankings (Fantasy Football) - Mike Tagliere

26. Alex Collins RB - BAL (10), -8 vs. ECR

A lot of people talk about how good Kenyan Drake was to close out the season, but did you know that Collins was the RB8 in standard formats from Week 8 through Week 17? He was better for a longer stretch, and the offense improved significantly around him this offseason. The only concern you’d have is Kenneth 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 him on my board just a tad, but I don’t think the Ravens would’ve re-signed him if that were the case.

52. Kenneth Dixon RB - BAL (10), +7 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 Alex Collins doesn’t scream confidence.

67. Javorius Allen RB - BAL (10), +1 vs. ECR

It’s unlikely that Allen sees the field a whole lot in 2018, unless the Ravens have completely moved on from Kenneth Dixon. Going back to the 2016 season, Allen touched the ball just 12 times. The Danny Woodhead injury at the start of 2017 definitely meant he needed to get more involved, but there are no guarantees this season. He’s just a bench stash at this point.

It is quite questionable to rank Alex Collins as the 26th running back after his strong finish last season. The battle for touches behind him should be interesting.

Is Flacco ready for his year-long NFL audition? - Dan Hanzus

Here’s the ideal scenario for the Ravens: All the offseason chatter about Lamar Jackson’s arrival “motivating” Flacco turns out to be true (which feels like a classic offseason trope, but you never know) and Flacco enjoys a turn-back-the-clock season that a) gets Baltimore back to the playoffs and b) pumps up Flacco’s value before the inevitable trade to make way for the kid. You know how everyone keeps talking (and talking and talking) about how the Bears are following the Rams’ model for successthis offseason? Well, the Ravens want to follow the path of the Chiefs, who managed to get value for Alex Smith and open up a spot for Patrick Mahomes with one well-timed move.

Of course, it’s important to contextualize what a “turn-back-the-clock season” constitutes for the now 33-year-old Flacco -- and whether or not that type of performance is even possible at this point. His best statistical year was probably 2014, when he set career highs in yards (3,986), touchdowns (27) and QBR (68.2), and posted near career-highs in interception percentage (2.2) and yards per attempt (7.2) for a 10-6 Ravens team that beat the Steelers in the wild-card round, then nearly took out the Pats in Foxborough in a game in which Flacco played like the 2012 playoffs version of himself. That version of Flacco as trade bait could easily approach what K.C. got for Alex Smith (a third-round pick plus a bona fide starting cornerback in Kendall Fuller).

Unfortunately, Flacco blew out his knee the year after his career-best effort, and he hasn’t been close to the same quarterback since. The Ravens need Flacco to return to pre-knee injury heights or his trade value could be minimized to the point where they’ll simply to decide to cut their former Super Bowl hero loose and take the $10.5 million in cap space. Either way, this season feels like a league-wide audition for Flacco, who is likely to be playing elsewhere in 2019.

The Ravens would be on the hook for $16 million in dead cap if they decide to move on from Joe Flacco after 2018.

Cornerback Spotlight - top five in PFF signature statistics - Austin Gayle

PASSER RATING ALLOWED WHEN TARGETED

Rounding out the top five list, Baltimore Ravens teammates Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey shined while in coverage, respectively. Both Smith and Humphrey allowed low passer ratings into their coverage, however, Smith played fewer than 10 snaps in six games last season due to various injuries.

Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens | 49.2

Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens | 53.5

Marlon Humphrey appears to be Ozzie Newsome’s latest hit on a first round cornerback. Baltimore’s general manager has selected corners Duane Starks, Chris McAlister and Jimmy Smith in the first round.