If there is one thing the Ravens are known for, it is reviving veteran wide receivers’ careers. As far back as 2005, Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome has brought in a litter of mid-career receivers to bolster his ranks.
The results, for fantasy, have been mostly positive, albeit unspectacular.
As far as historical comparisons go with the Ravens, there is a good deal of data to work with. From 2005-2010, former-Titan Derrick Mason finished as a top-24 receiver in 4-of-6 seasons in Baltimore. Former-Cardinal Anquan Boldin stayed in Baltimore for three years and posted WR25 (2010), WR34 (2011), and WR30 (2012) campaigns.
At ages 35-37, Steve Smith Sr. only played one full season with Joe Flacco and Co., but his 15.13 PPR Points/Game in his Raven career would have been good enough for a WR13 finish in 2016. And, obviously, Mike Wallace finished as WR24 last year at 30-years-old.
Now 29-years-old and on his third team in four years, Jeremy Maclin at least fits the bill for Ozzie Newsome’s status quo, veteran receiver signing. Even his deal – two years, $11 million – is virtually the same deal Mike Wallace signed one offseason ago (two years, $11.5 million).
Now, to be clear – the Ravens’ history with veteran receivers is not necessarily predictive in and of itself in Maclin’s case. Baltimore clearly has an eye for veteran pass catchers.
Luckily for us, though, finding opportunity and a role for Maclin is very easy.
With the losses of Dennis Pitta (hip, released), Steve Smith Sr. (retirement), and Kamar Aiken (free agency), the Ravens have the most open passing opportunity in the league.
Even with Mike Wallace’s 116 targets from 2016 accounted for, 47% of the Ravens targets are available for the taking. With over 320 targets unaccounted for, 45% of Air Yards up for grabs, and 49% of red-zone targets open – the Ravens should literally have zero issue fitting in Jeremy Maclin.
With all of the Ravens open passing looks, Maclin’s addition does very little to Wallace’s target floor, too. In 14 games with Steve Smith Sr. last year, Wallace averaged 6.80 targets per game (which works out to 109 targets in a full season).
What is interesting is how the Ravens may use Maclin in terms of alignment. Without Kamar Aiken (74% of routes from the slot in 2016) and Steve Smith Sr. (35%), the Ravens didn’t really have a slot receiver heading into the 2017 season. Luckily for them, Jeremy Maclin spent 40% of his snaps in the slot last year – the highest rate of his career, per PFF.
When Baltimore goes into 11-personnel (3WRs, 1RB, 1TE), the Ravens now have enough depth to kick Jeremy Maclin inside and let Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman run on the perimeter. Without Dennis Pitta, the Ravens will probably run three wide receivers a bit more in 2017. Baltimore ran 11-personnel on 56% of plays last year, slightly below league average (60%), per SharpFootballStats.
If Wallace stays near his pace of 7 targets/game and Maclin does indeed take over Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken’s vacant interior role that produced 79 slot targets in 2016, Maclin can thrive as a top-36 (WR3) receiver option in fantasy football. For reference, Smith and Aiken’s 79 combined slot targets would have been sixth most in the league last year. Only Jeremy Kerley (102), Sterling Shepard (92), Larry Fitzgerald and Julian Edelman (87), and Jarvis Landry (85) had more total targets from the slot last year, per PFF.
In reality, Maclin’s addition probably helps Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense as a whole the most. Baltimore couldn’t stroll into the season with their wide receiver depth chart in such shambles prior to signing Maclin.
Still, Flacco has not been a quarterback that supports massive fantasy ceilings for his receivers. In fact, the best finish a Raven receiver has ever had with Flacco is WR18 overall (Steve Smith, 2014; Derrick Mason, 2009).
Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are strong WR3’s with the Ravens wide-open competition for targets, but they don’t necessarily have high-end weekly upside.