Fantasy Impact: Jeremy Maclin to the Ravens
After what seemed like the shortest stint in free agent history, Jeremy Maclin has agreed to a new two-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens. It was one of the more obvious landing spots for him, as he only visited with the Ravens and the Bills.
Once I wrapped up my projections for the Ravens this off-season, it was clear that they needed to add a proven pass-catcher to the offense as they lost 151 wide receiver targets this off-season with the losses of Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken. Not just that, but just last week Dennis Pitta suffered another injury to his hip, seemingly ending his career. When the news came out about the Chiefs letting Maclin go, it was only a matter of time before we heard that the Ravens were interested.
Not just that, though, as the Ravens are also reportedly in pursuit of recently released Jets wide receiver Eric Decker. If there’s one thing that seems clear, it’s that the Ravens did not feel comfortable walking into the season with Breshad Perriman starting. There is still a role for him to make an impact, but he won’t see the field in a base two-wide receiver set. The way I see it, Maclin and Mike Wallace will start on the perimeter, and Maclin will slide into the slot when they go three-wide. Fortunately, Maclin has experience there after playing 47 percent of his snaps out of the slot in 2016.
So, the object now is to find out just how much of a fantasy impact Maclin can have. Looking at the history of receivers under Joe Flacco, it’s not very promising for the trio of wide receivers. Flacco has been in the league now for nine years and do you know how many times he’s supported two top-25 options? Once, and it was back in 2014 when both Steve Smith and Torrey Smith finished inside the top-20. There has never been a wide receiver catching passes from Flacco who has finished higher than the No. 17 wide receiver, and that was Derrick Mason back in 2009. There has never been a time where Flacco has produced three wide receivers who’ve finished inside the top 70 at their position.
So we must select one wide receiver from this group to invest in and my pick goes to Maclin. When on the field, Maclin’s arguably been one of the top 20 wide receivers in the league. Prior to last season when he dealt with multiple injuries, Maclin had posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons with Alex Smith and a combination of Nick Foles/Mark Sanchez as his quarterbacks. I’ve been hard on Flacco over the course of his career, but he’s the best quarterback of the bunch.
Maclin also happens to be in the prime of his career, having just turned 29-years-old, while Wallace will turn 31 in August, and Perriman has just 66 unimpressive targets in his career. The interesting thing about Maclin is that nobody can really peg him for a certain type of wide receiver, because he’s played the possession role, slot role, as well as the deep role (evidenced by his 15.5 yards per reception in 2014. This is important, because we have always known Wallace to be a one-trick pony and Perriman also seems to be that burner on the perimeter.
While it’s safe to eliminate Perriman from the 100-target conversation, Wallace and Maclin remain in it. There have been three times where two Ravens receivers have totaled at least 100 targets with Flacco under center, and the highest target output in all of them was the 116 that Wallace had last year. Knowing that, it’s hard to see or project anything more than 120 for Maclin, which is the range he’s been in before. He saw 115 targets in 2010, 122 targets in 2012, and 124 targets in 2015. In those seasons, he averaged 75 receptions, 970 yards, and 8.3 touchdowns. Those numbers would have amounted to a top-15 wide receiver in 2016.
If the Ravens somehow sign Eric Decker as well, all of this is for nothing, as it would make them all extremely unreliable in fantasy. But as for right now, with Maclin’s injury history built-in and the fact that he hasn’t worked in this offense before, I’m comfortable projecting him for 110 targets, 67 receptions, 896 yards, and five touchdowns. That puts him right in the middle of my WR3 tier of receivers, though you likely won’t have to spend a top-36 wide receiver pick to get him. Wallace falls down into the WR4 tier, with lack of upside at his age.