by Andrew Fossett (@HeyFossett)
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t exactly known for their prestige in the fantasy football world, but if you could assemble a lineup from the team’s entire NFL history, it would certainly do damage.
Although, I guess you could say that about any team in the league.
Anyway, when I started putting this list together, I thought it would be pretty obvious, and it might be for the most part. But the real surprises lie not in who makes the list, but where they’re placed. There are certainly interesting battles at some positions which couldn't be settled without thorough examination. Still, after much thought, I’ve managed to put something together that is 100% correct with no room for dispute whatsoever.
One rule. We’re evaluating players based on their time in Baltimore, not the entirety of their NFL careers. That should help make some of the names listed here to be less of a shock. Although, it also makes things a little difficult since we're looking at players with different amounts of playing time at different times in their careers. I’ve tried to take all of this into account as much as possible.
We’ll be putting together a lineup in the usual fantasy football format. QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, FLEX, K, DEF. I won’t specify whether we’re doing PPR or not, as I expect this lineup hold up over both types of scoring.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
QB - Vinny Testaverde
Since their inaugural year in 1996, the Baltimore Ravens have had two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. Vinny Testaverde was not one of them. However, when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to argue against the 1996 Ravens as the franchise’s most dynamic passing attack. In that year, Testaverde threw a franchise-record 33 touchdowns, and 4,177 yards. Of course, there were plenty of interceptions. Still, in fantasy football, you’re more willing to accept the gunslinging mentality with a quarterback just so long as he helps you more than he hurts you. The 1996 version of Vinny Testaverde helped more than he hurt. Make no mistake, I’d rather have Joe Flacco on my football team, but I’d rather have Vinny Testaverde (1996 version) on my fantasy football team.
RB1 - Ray Rice
Picking between Rice and Lewis was tough. Both played six seasons for the Ravens and accomplished feats that made them comparable to the best players at their position in their respective primes. Rice gains distinction for his superior numbers as a pass catcher as well as the fact that he edges out Lewis in total yards from scrimmage. That’s significant because Rice didn’t immediately become the starter at the beginning of his career. Most importantly, while Lewis fumbled 33 times throughout his career as a Raven, Rice only fumbled 9 times. I’m less dismissive with turnover issues in running backs than I am with quarterbacks for fantasy purposes. Typically, you want to avoid players with fumblitis. A running back who fumbles the ball will often spend some time on the bench during the next offensive series. Conversely, a quarterback throwing an interception is encouraged to have a short memory. Rice has a slight edge in standard leagues, with the gap widening significantly if you take PPR into consideration.
RB2 - Jamal Lewis
Lewis was a monstrosity on the field and no one watching football in Baltimore during the 2003 season will forget his pursuit of Eric Dickerson. Lewis came into the league and immediately contributed to a Super Bowl winning team. But in the world of fantasy sports, Lewis’ shortcomings in the passing game and struggles with ball security put him slightly below Ray Rice. Lewis actually has four more touchdowns, but having more than triple Rice’s amount of fumbles erases that margin in fantasy points. The even amount of playing time for these two players makes this comparison the most straightforward one we can make in terms of stats.
WR1 - Derrick Alexander
Not Steve Smith, not Derrick Mason, not Anquan Boldin. Derrick Alexander was the greatest threat to opposing secondaries in a Ravens uniform. Alexander the Great. No one’s ever said that. Remember, we’re talking about the 90’s. In 1996, Alexander had 62 receptions, 1099 yards, and 9 touchdowns. In yards and touchdowns, those numbers are still top five for a Ravens receiver in franchise history. Alexander spent only two years in Baltimore, but those years were in his mid-twenties.
WR2 - Derrick Mason
Mason came to Baltimore in his thirties, but he brought a combination of speed, tenacity, and crisp route-running that made him the Ravens’ single season leader in receptions. In 2007, he snagged 103 passes from from Joe Flacco. Yes, Mason beats Steve Smith. Again, we’re looking at contributions made by players in a Ravens’ uniform. Mason arrived in Baltimore at age 31, four years younger than Steve Smith was when he signed with the Ravens. His best statistical season was at age 33, still two years younger than Smith was in 2014. We’re picking between Baltimore Ravens’ Derrick Mason and Baltimore Ravens’ Steve Smith. The edge goes to Mason.
TE - Todd Heap
The Ravens have a decent short history of tight ends. Todd Heap showcased top-level ability in the prime of his career in Baltimore while catching passes from a variety pack of quarterbacks including Kyle Boller. The Ravens had Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe for two years, but he was in his early thirties with his best years behind him. Dennis Pitta enjoyed a good year in 2012 with the Ravens’ second Super Bowl-winning team. Still, it wasn't statistically equal to Heap’s best year in 2005 when he caught 75 passes for 855 yards and 7 touchdowns. This selection isn’t very difficult.
FLEX - WR - Michael Jackson
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Maybe you did. We’re back in the 90’s again, this time with the Ravens’ single season leader in receiving touchdowns. Jackson caught 14 touchdowns in 1996 to go along with 1201 yards. 1996! That amount of receiving touchdowns in a single season put Jackson at 6th in NFL history at the time. It remains probably the greatest performance by a Ravens’ wide receiver, the best ever in yards and touchdowns. Jackson falls to the flex position because he didn’t come close to those numbers again, making him less consistent than Derrick Alexander and Derrick Mason. However, he still edges out Steve Smith because we’re looking at a late-twenties Michael Jackson versus Smith in his mid-thirties.
K - Justin Tucker
It almost feels disrespectful to put Tucker ahead of Matt Stover, but a heavy value has to be placed on the hitting field goals from 50 yards or longer. Stover was 9-20 in that category during his 9 year career with the Ravens. Tucker is 18-30 in just 4 years. He also owns the better field goal percentage at 87.8% to Stover’s 84.7% in a Ravens’ uniform.
DEF/ST - 2006
Please don’t kill me. Remember we’re having a conversation about fantasy football.
Okay, so how could the 2000 Ravens lose this category? Let's begin with a look at personnel. First, the 2000 Ravens defense.
Here’s the 2006 defense:
Pretty even, right? I give the slight edge to the 2006 defense due to the presence of Ngata, Reed, and Suggs. That trio provides superiority in pass rushing on the defensive line and playmaking in the secondary. In fact, ‘06 almost doubled ‘00 in sacks; 60 to 35. ‘06 also had more interceptions and defensive scores. Although the '00 defense wins in points allowed, 10.3 to 12.6, that difference is negligible.
In regards to special teams, Jermaine Lewis was definitely better than BJ Sams. Still, Lewis' two returning touchdowns don't bridge the gap in scoring. '06 wins the scoring battle with a total of six touchdowns while the '00 version had four. Strictly from a fantasy football perspective, the 06’ defense was better.
In the end, although one defense was more historically significant, the numbers from both are pretty comparable. Also take into consideration how much the NFL changed in the years between these teams.
That completes the lineup. The selection was challenging, but I'm confidant that I got it right. It would be hard to argue for removing any player listed here but feel free to find me on Twitter and give it a shot.