For any team to be consistently successful, having a established identity is essential for any NFL franchise. For example, teams like the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots have become perennial playoff contenders because they recognize that their stable identities are based around their elite quarterbacks. Conversely, the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans have made a name for themselves as having some of the most physical and dynamic defenses in the league. So, it would stand to reason that a team like the Baltimore Ravens would be considered a fearless defensive juggernaut, given what they accomplished last year and in the past. Not according to some fantasy pundits.
In particular, ESPN.com has the Ravens defense (20.1 points against, 9th in NFL; 322.1 yards allowed per game, 7th in the NFL) ranked 15th on their fantasy board behind the likes of the Chargers (26.4 PA, 29th in the NFL; 347.1 YAPG, 16th in NFL) and the Titans (23.6 PA, Tied for 16th in NFL; 357.5 YAPG, 20th in NFL). While there was some understandable concern about the Ravens thin secondary by the end of the 2016 season, they alleviated much of this concern when they acquired cornerback Brandon Carr from the Cowboys and safety Tony Jefferson from the Cardinals in free agency. On top of that, the Ravens utilized their first four draft picks to further solidify their defense, the most notable of which was first round selection Marlon Humphrey, who was a tenacious tackling defensive back during his time at Alabama.
However, with all of that being said, it would unrealistic to say that the Ravens are unquestionably a top five defense. To be considered elite, Baltimore has to be better at stifling high octane passing offenses, especially during the final moments of tight games. Yet, when you look at all of the major defensive categories, the Ravens rank 9th or better in every one and are easily a top five defense against the run. All of this is to say that the Ravens should at the very least be considered a top 10 fantasy defense.
Most recently, the Ravens defense made an emphatic statement against the Washington Redskins in their preseason opener. The pass rush in particular was impressive as they held the Redskins passing attack to just under 100 yards. Overall, the Redskins only managed to score three points in a 23-3 beatdown, which was the lowest point total of any team on Thursday night. While this was just the first preseason game of the year, if nothing else it displayed that the Ravens starters and 2nd-tier defensive players are both aggressive and stingy when it comes to allowing the opposition the opportunity to string together big plays.
Although Defenses are the last priority when drafting a fantasy team, the Ravens should at least be on your radar as your fantasy draft comes to a close.