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Five Things to Know: The Ravens are Legit

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.


1. Drop-off likely, but Newton looks for real

I've always been a Newton supporter and defender of Carolina taking him first overall, but I was still entirely caught off guard by his Week 1 performance.

Yes, Arizona's defense is bad. It might be the worst, actually. But 422 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 37 pass attempts are still superb numbers for a Week 1 rookie quarterback. That's especially true given that he played just one season at the Division I level, in an offense that in no way resembled the version he leads in Carolina.

Newton's debut proved he's a quick study at the least, which should be a bit frightening considering the unparalleled physical tools he possesses. If he can hold his own against the Packers in Week 2, it's time to turn the hype up to the maximum volume.

For now, though, he's still a guy with a QB1 ceiling and a waiver-wire floor. That makes him more than worth the gamble if you can spare the third roster spot at quarterback, but you might be asking for a bit of trouble if you make Newton your only insurance at the position.

2. Gronkowski and Hernandez can coexist as TE1s

The Patriots won't need to keep throwing it 48 times a game for it to happen, either.

The simple truth is that Gronk and Hernandez are just about tied as the team's second-best receivers behind Wes Welker, and only occasionally will Deion Branch or Chad Ochocinco get more targets. The duo is simply too good for New England not to keep on the field as often as practically possible.

Moreover, despite carrying the same position designation, it's not as if Gronkowski and Hernandez are competing for identical roles. Hernandez looks and runs like a receiver more than a tight end, so he doesn't really disrupt Gronkowski's role any more than a wideout typically would.

As long as the duo can hold off Branch and Ochocinco, they'll post numbers worthy of TE1 status in most scenarios. Given the matchup problems both players pose to any NFL defense, they can pull it off. Branch and Ochocinco just aren't as threatening.

3. Expect the Ravens to keep rolling

The Steelers are in their worst shape in quite a while, but the Ravens are also entirely legitimate. They earned their dominant Week 1 victory more than the Steelers gave it away.

Joe Flacco appears ready to take the next step at quarterback. Even if he isn't, the implementation of rising tight end talents Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta and additions of Lee Evans, Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss at receiver will make him look better, anyway. It also doesn't hurt that Ray Rice displayed his 2009 form in Week 1, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 10.5 yards per reception.

Flacco, Rice and Anquan Boldin appear to be the only especially reliable fantasy options on offense, but Evans and Dickson both have good potential as backups and/or matchup-type plays. While Rice was expected to be an elite fantasy running back all along, owners of Flacco and Boldin may have caught bargain QB1 and WR2 options, respectively.

4. Don't sell low on Giants

The Giants offense had one of the most uncharacteristic Week 1 showings league-wide Sunday, which means there might be a good trade opportunity or two to be had if Giants owners are looking to jump ship. Mario Manningham is one target I'm trying to snatch in my leagues, while owners of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs should also expect improvement.

With Steven Smith and Kevin Boss no longer around (not to mention Hakeem Nicks constantly catching nagging injuries), it's extremely likely that Manningham will step it up. Consistency has never been his strong suit, but his chances of posting WR2 numbers this year are good.

My optimism regarding Bradshaw and Jacobs is simple: neither got the ball enough Sunday, and the Giants must know this. Jacobs in particular will get more work after (ridiculously) receiving just six carries against the Redskins. I think Bradshaw will prove to be a decent RB2, while Jacobs will be the same as an RB3, at least in standard-scoring leagues. The team has too much of a hard-nosed philosophy, not to mention well-coached talent on the offensive line, for the running game to not become more of an emphasis.

5. Keep an eye on David Nelson

Particularly in PPR and deep leagues, Nelson is someone who could be surprisingly valuable this year. The big (6-foot-5) and athletic Florida product never developed his talent in college, but he had an impressive end to his rookie season and got his 2011 season off to a promising start against the Chiefs on Sunday, matching Steve Johnson's target, catch and yardage numbers, finishing with four catches for 66 yards on six targets.

Excluding a Week 16 game in which he left early with a rib injury, Nelson finished his final four games of 2010 with 14 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns on 15 targets. Donald Jones was named Buffalo's No. 2 receiver to start this year, but it's worth noting that Nelson has been far more efficient to this point in their careers. Jones has caught just 20 of the 46 (43.5 percent) NFL targets he's seen, while Nelson has caught 35 of 53 (66.0 percent).