August 12, 2011
For the past several days whispers of an impending Lee Evans(notes) trade to either Arizona or Baltimore made the rounds. Friday afternoon a deal was finally consummated. The Ravens, apparently bothered by rookie Torrey Smith's(notes) unenlightened performance in Thursday's preseason opener versus Philadelphia and impressed with Evans' recent track-record against them — three of his four TDs last year were against Baltimore — acquired the deep threat in exchange for a fourth-round pick.
Just three short years ago, Evans was widely considered a dependable WR3 in 12-team formats. Though his TD total (3) lagged, he reeled in 63 receptions for 1,017 yards, a line good enough for a top-36 WR ranking in points per game. Since then, the cardboard-tasting wideout has been rather flavorless. His yards per target, which peaked at 10.1 in '08, bottomed out in '09 at 6.2, rebounding slightly to 7.0 last year.
Netting 15.6 yards per catch last season, Evans, though wildly inconsistent, showed he still has the wheels to stretch the field. But Ryan Fitzpatrick's(notes) love affair with more well-rounded target Stevie Johnson(notes) made the former first-round pick expendable.
In Black and Purple, Evans' fantasy attractiveness definitely increases. Joe Flacco(notes) throws a strong, accurate deep ball. Given the wideout's plus speed and Cam Cameron's desire to take more shots downfield, he should at least replicate the numbers he tallied in 2009 (44-612-7). However, with Anquan Boldin(notes) on roster and Flacco's occasional lapses picking up his second and third targets, especially when under duress, don't anticipate Evans to return to the 1,000-yard level. At best, he's a mid-to-low end WR3 in 12-team formats.
One other point to keep in mind, Evans' field-stretching presence should also help stimulate the Ravens' running game, enhancing Ray Rice's(notes) value. It's been quite the week for the popular first-round pick. Earlier this week Cameron announced the rusher will play "a major goal-line role" this year, easing worries Ricky Williams(notes) would turn into the new Willis McGahee(notes). With Friday's news, it's doubtful Rice lasts beyond pick No. 7 in any draft.
The former, a shifty, underrated slot machine, was favored by Fitzpatrick before succumbing to a wrist injury in Week 9. Recall from Weeks 7-9 he averaged 10.3 targets per game, hauling in 19 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown. Within Chan Gailey's spread-the-wealth offense, Parrish will likely emerge a viable WR3/flex option in deeper PPR formats. Unquestionably, he has 70-800-6 potential. Keep his name stashed.
Nelson, too, is an interesting late-round flier. Last year in his rookie campaign, he finished strong snagging three touchdowns in his final four games. At 6-foot-5, 220-pounds, the undrafted product out of Florida is an excellent combination of size and athleticism. He's one to watch during the exhibition slate. If he fills the No. 2 vacancy, he could develop into an occasionally useful WR4 in competitive formats. Keep in mind, the Bills' defensive shortcomings likely won't be resolved overnight. It's very likely they will again play from behind often, forcing Fitzpatrick skyward, a scenario that could benefit Parrish and Nelson. Last year, the Bills threw 54.4 percent of the time. Opportunities will definitely arise.
Your turn to sound off. What are your thoughts on Evans? Are you moving him up your cheat sheet? What's your Fearless Forecast? What about Flacco? Who do you like out of Parrish/Nelson? Are they rosterable in 12-team leagues? Discuss below.
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