Three-Point Stance: Making sense of Baltimore's mess at RB, WR

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Brad Evans
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Believe it or not, Kamar Aiken may be Joe Flacco's most reliable weapon. (Getty)
Believe it or not, Kamar Aiken may be Joe Flacco’s most reliable weapon. (Getty)

Baltimore, thanks to Michael Phelps’ heroics, may be a sports-world center, but the Ravens aren’t exactly pushing papers. When Terrance West is the leading headline maker early on in training camp, that says it all. In this edition of ‘The Stance,’ Brad Evans and Liz Loza try their hardest to solve various puzzles in the Charm City.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now!]

Running back roulette. In the morass that is the Baltimore backfield, what number you plan to stack chips on will score owners a sizable payout?

Liz – No. 37, BUCK ALLEN. Given the number of bodies in this backfield, I can’t blame owners for fading the whole lot of ‘em. But there are fantasy points to mine here. While Forsett figures to be the starter, and Dixon possesses tantalizing upside, I’m digging the value that Buck presents.

Operating in a Marc Trestman run offense that heavily features the running back, each of these players have a shot to produce. I fear that Harbaugh will take a “hot hand” approach, making week-to-week usage frustratingly difficult to predict. Yet it seems to me that Allen has the best shot of not just getting on the field, but staying on the field.

After all, Forsett is a smaller back, who turns 31-years-old this October, and displayed his fragility upon breaking his arm in Week 11 of last year. That blow for the vet, obviously, allowed Allen to prove his mettle. From Weeks 12 through 17, Allen actually out-produced Forsett in the passing game, averaging two more catches and twice as many yards per contest. Of course had that been enough, the team probably wouldn’t have drafted Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round. And while the LA Tech product is an outstanding talent, he’s also a rookie… with a high odometer reading… who just sprained his MCL.

Given the disparity in price – with Forsett going in the seventh round, Dixon in the tenth, and Allen in the thirteenth – I’ll stash the cheapest option. There are too many question marks Baltimore to invest before the late rounds.

Brad – No. 48, KENNETH DIXON. Speaking candidly, West’s ascension up the ranks shouldn’t be taken lightly. A local product, the former Towson sensation has finally checked his ego at the door, dedicated himself in the classroom and gym and made serious strides, especially in pass-blocking. Because of his excellent cutting skills and aggressive downhill running he could wind up atop the depth chart come Week 1.

However, long-term, I’m stacking chips on Dixon. It wouldn’t floor me to see him overtake the top spot sometime mid-season. The rookie from LA Tech is brilliant in space, a phenomenal receiver and tough to tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced a defender whiff on 27.4 percent of his touches and posted a sterling 60.6 yards after contact percentage last year for the Bulldogs. He’s essentially a smaller Matt Forte, a rusher whose skill set meshes extraordinarily well with Marc Trestman’s system.

Sliding down cheat sheets the past couple weeks because of a tender knee, Dixon is a very attractive upside dice roll at his 144.8 ADP (RB51).

And if someone tells you Buck Allen is reputable give ’em the #PhelpsFace. The ONLY reason he was serviceable for a stint last season was volume. His No. 66 juke rate, 3.5 yards per carry and 2.0 YAC, in games he logged double-digit touches, were ghastly to say the least. He’s an incredibly average player overall.

Pick a player. Out of Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshard Perriman, Steve Smith Sr. or Wildcard, which WR will bear the highest fantasy yield?

Liz – AIKEN. He may not be the sexiest pick, but he is the most reliable option. A journeyman who flashed when subbing in for Torrey Smith in Week 14 of the 2014 season, Aiken came through for Baltimore in 2015 after the team’s pass-catching weapons were thinned due to injuries. Producing a 75-944-5 stat line, Aiken closed out the season as fantasy’s thirtieth best overall player at the position. The bulk of his production came over the final eight weeks of the season, after Steve Smith was sidelined. Between Weeks 10 and 17 Aiken drew 80 targets and averaged nearly 10 fantasy points per contest, proving to be a waiver wire gem for many owners.

Heading into 2016 plenty of question marks – from Smith’s health to Breshard Perriman’s readiness to Mike Wallace’s commitment – continue to plague the Ravens receiving corps. According to FF Calculator, Aiken is currently the fiftieth WR being selected in fantasy drafts. That’s solid value for a player who figures to see well over 100 targets by the year’s end.

Brad – AIKEN. The overlooked youngster is the Doug Martin of wide receivers. He doesn’t jump off the screen in any single category, but is simply balanced across the board. He possesses very reliable hands, plus versatility and converts targets on slants and curls at an impressive rate. Bottom line, the man has a knack for getting open and, once lined up in the crosshairs, usually executes. Recall from Week 8 on a season ago, he notched the 22nd-most valuable line among wide receivers (56-673-3).

Wallace, Perriman, Smith Sr. and Ben Watson will all vie for Joe Flacco’s affection, but Aiken has the best shot of leading the team in targets. If he lures some 125 or more looks, cracking the WR top-24 isn’t far fetched. That’s a plausible outcome. The Ravens D isn’t exactly the lock down unit of yesteryear. At Aiken’s near No. 100 overall ADP, he’s very undervalued.

Though paid roughly the GDP of Micronesia, Joe Flacco has NEVER thrown more than 28 touchdowns in a single season. OVER/UNDER 23.5 passing TDs for arguably the most overrated QB in the professional game.

Liz – OVER. Marc Trestman + three potential deep threats (Wallace, Perriman, and Chris Moore) + a shaky defense = A Still Average (but not totally awful) Joe.

He’s not going throw for 30 (or even 27) scores, but the aforementioned factors working in his favor should be enough to get him near 25 TDs.

Brad – UNDER. Trestman’s offenses are vertically aggressive and the Ravens D is unstable, but Flacco, undeniably the most overrated regular season QB on the planet, is as bland as they come. His passer rating, yards per attempt, air yards per attempt and fantasy points per dropback all ranked outside the position’s top-27 last year according to Player Profiler. Barf.

Smart money says he finishes with 22 or 23 TDs, nothing more. An all expenses paid January trip to Siberia offers more excitement.

Bull rush Brad @YahooNoise and Liz @LizLoza_FF on Twitter.