By Corey Snyder (@csnyder128)
The July 4th weekend means three things for fantasy owners: burgers, beers and hoping that your first round pick still has ten fingers come July 5th. It also means that training camp is just about to get into full swing. Through a series of four articles I will look at the changes to each AFC North team’s rosters and who to have on your waiver wire speed dial.
The Baltimore Ravens open camp for vets July 26th with some new faces and more notably the absence of some old ones. The loss of Dennis Pitta not only leaves the Ravens without their number one pass catcher from a year ago but with a void at the tight end spot. This will be the biggest opportunity for a mostly free player to make a fantasy impact on your team this year. The Ravens’ depth chart at tight end starts with Ben Watson. Watson is an eleven year vet who had his best season with Drew Brees in 2015 catching a career high 74 passes but that was two years and one Achilles tear ago. At 36 it is fair to wonder what Watson might have left. The $1.75 million pay cut he took to stay with the team this off season seems to show that the team may have same concerns. After Watson on the depth chart is Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. All of them sit in various states of disrepair. Between the three of them they have 67 games played and 107 catches during their short careers with the Ravens. That is less than ten healthy starts a season between all three of them. Keeping an eye on the training camp battle could make picking the one that will win the job more than just a guessing game and lead to a big boon for your team for the year. The uncertainty that surrounds the position for the team at tight end has turned all four of them into low priority, low value assets for many fantasy owners right now. Watching how the first few weeks of camp play out at this position could pay big dividends for your team. Even with Watson most likely getting first crack at the starting role once training camp hits it is no sure thing that he will keep it. The tight end who is second in line could hold as much value this year as the starter for the Ravens and will cost little or nothing to add him. Keep a close eye on how this one plays out.
Another position to watch early in camp, though it has much less uncertainty, is the running back spot. The loss of Kyle Juszczyk to the 49ers leaves his (oddly enough) 49 pass targets out of the backfield open for disribution. It is easy to see Woodhead stepping into the pass catching role that Kyle left behind. The questions at TE could also open up the short passing game even more for Woodhead provided he finds himself back in 2014 form. The Ravens backfield should start the season as mix of Woodhead and Terrance West. With Kenneth Dixon starting the season on a four game suspension, West would be the one to keep an eye on in camp. There is no guarantee that the backfield mix of Woodhead and West will leave room for Dixon once he returns. If the two of them can stay healthy and productive Dixon could remain on the outside.
The wide receiver position is a bit more straight-forward for the Ravens. Provided Jeremy Maclin’s being cut by Kansas City has more to do with money than him running out of gas he should step into the void left by Steve Smith nicely. A healthy Maclin will probably pair with Mike Wallace as the Ravens outside threats leaving Perriman as the third guy. Being the third wide receiver on a Ravens team who attempted over 670 passes last year is far from a bad thing. How things play out at the tight end position will also go a long way in determining just how many of Pitta’s 121 targets will find themselves aimed at the wide receivers. Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro are probably the only two wide receivers outside of the top three that could even have a hope of providing much value this year but keeping an eye on both of them during camp, especially when the team starts running four wide receiver sets, could be helpful for a deeper roster.
Next week we will look at the Browns and try to make sense of that roster.