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Five Things to Know: Raven Takes Flight, Finally

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 Chip Kelly, James Harrison and David Bowie.

1. Only the Desperate should Invest in Morris as a Starter

Redskins running back Alfred Morris seems to be generating as much discussion in the fantasy football world as anyone. As a (for now) starting running back for Mike Shanahan coming off a 28-carry, two-touchdown game in Week 1, it's easy to understand why heads are turning.

Morris doesn't have much speed at all, but he has plenty of power and hits the hole hard. With defenses stretched laterally due to Robert Griffin's ability to break containment as a runner, Morris' decisiveness and ability to push forward could translate into nice gains between the tackles.

The problem is Mike Shanahan is unstable as a backfield manager. That's not to say he's irrational - though that may be true - but above all else Shanahan just can't be trusted to do anything in particular. Any pattern in his behavior is almost certain to dissolve almost as soon as it's apparent. This is something that appears to be getting worse with time.

The reasoning behind the hope that Morris might stick as a starter basically seems to be, "He had nice numbers Sunday." You only need to look to last year, however, to find conclusive proof that this doesn't make Morris safe. For all the things he has going for him, it's not like Morris totaled 436 yards from scrimmage over three games or caught 14 passes in a single game like Roy Helu did last year, yet Helu finds himself on the bench. Evan Royster is in the same position despite posting 304 yards from scrimmage the last two games of 2011.

Of course, Shanahan's unpredictability could manifest itself as a self-negation this year, resulting in a period of reliability and thus a lasting commitment to Morris, but you shouldn't bet on that happening if it means parting ways with a player who's already a vaguely productive starter. Morris is more likely to be another Mike Bell than another Mike Anderson.

2. Ogletree could Produce, but not Close to Robinson's 2011 Level

Kevin Ogletree's breakout game Wednesday definitely solidified his role as Dallas' third wide receiver, and that makes him a player who should be owned in most formats. He's unlikely to provide anything more than No. 4 WR fantasy value, however.

The biggest problem for Ogletree is that he just isn't that good. He showed an ability to get open Wednesday - against backups - and he will continue to see a decent number of targets if he can keep it up. But he doesn't show body control or the ability to run after the catch. Barring blown coverage, he hits the deck almost immediately after he gets the ball. His athleticism in general probably isn't more than average, furthermore, and focus has been an issue for him throughout his career.

Laurent Robinson is the obvious comparison that comes to mind after Ogletree's 114-yard, two-touchdown game Wednesday, as Robinson made a mercurial rise to fantasy stardom as Dallas' third receiver last year, catching 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games. But Robinson has much better body control than Ogletree and is an exceptional athlete.

Ogletree just can't do what Robinson did. He probably isn't even as good as Patrick Crayton, who had 622 yards and five touchdowns with Dallas in 2009. Ogletree's circumstances are more favorable than Crayton's, however, as both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have had durability issues, and Tony Romo is playing better football than he did a few years ago.

3. Joe Flacco Looks Like a Weekly Starter

As a quarterback with a strong arm and an accuracy, the only thing that ever really held Joe Flacco back was either an inability or an unwillingness to throw aggressively through tight windows and to receivers who weren't obviously open.

The Cincinnati secondary might be among the least talented in the league with Leon Hall returning from an Achilles' tendon rupture and Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) out, but Flacco still deserves credit for looking like a totally different player against the Bengals on Monday. He repeatedly made All-Pro throws that simply could not be defended, even when under heavy pressure.

While there's no way to know whether Flacco will sustain this new level of play he showed Monday, the fact that he showed it at all after four years of little to no improvement as a quarterback is certainly significant. He made the throws that great quarterbacks make, and the Baltimore playcalling aggressively took advantage.

4. Improvement for Flacco Means a Reemergence for Boldin

Anquan Boldin previously was one of the scapegoats for Flacco's inability to move the ball downfield, but Flacco's progress Monday gives reason to believe Boldin will become a major asset to Flacco.

Boldin needs targets even when he isn't open to be effective, but Flacco couldn't or wouldn't make those throws in the past. Flacco made the throws Monday, however, and if it continues Boldin will step back into the spotlight this year after falling short of both 900 yards and eight touchdowns the last two years, pushing him back into WR3 status in most formats.

Boldin's straight-line speed never was good enough to consistently create obvious downfield separation, but his strength and ability to fight for contested passes allowed him to produce as a No. 1 receiver anyway - at least for quarterbacks who took a leap of faith and trusted Boldin to make those contested catches.

His athleticism has diminished some as he approaches 32, but Boldin is still capable of reeling in contested passes, with his 34-yard touchdown against Cincinnati serving as a prime example. He didn't badly beat Taylor Mays and Mays had safety help closing in fast, but Boldin hauled in the pass despite taking a sandwich hit from two safeties.

5. Blaine Gabbert is a Different Player

Playing with a group of receivers no better than average in an offense that generally lacks aggression probably limits him to No. 2 fantasy status at this point, but Blaine Gabbert is nonetheless in the discussion after Week 2 - a major step forward from where he left off as a rookie.

As he completed 23-of-39 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota on Sunday, Gabbert showed the ability to stand in the pocket and evaluate the defense, as well as the ability to anticipate openings on a consistent basis. Gabbert struggled with those aspects of the game going back to college, so perhaps a corner has been turned. The Vikings pass defense was remarkably bad in 2011, but the one Gabbert faced Sunday included starting corners Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook, players who combined to play just 11 games last year.

Although he hasn't shown it to this point, Gabbert could eventually aid his fantasy value with some decent rushing numbers. He ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and he ran effectively for Missouri, totaling 436 yards on the ground in two years despite the NCAA subtracting yardage for sacks.