Kamar Aiken emerged as one of the biggest surprises in fantasy football last season. Of course, it didn’t register much in reality because most turned away from the Ravens after about their third season-ending injury.
But for those who owned Aiken, he delivered in a preposterous way when measured against his previous NFL work. He of 24 career catches in four NFL seasons coming into last year, Aiken became a low-budget hero for a team that lost nearly all of its offensive talents responsible for yard-gaining.
The Ravens’ offense suddenly funneling through Aiken resembled what might have happened if Marvel gave Jeremy Renner’s archer character his own movie featuring merely two- or three-scene cameos from the higher-profile superheroes and it being surprisingly well-received by critics — even if it bombed at the box office. But judging by his 2016 ADP, Aiken looks to be viewed as a fifth or sixth lead in Baltimore again as the higher-salaried cast has reassembled.
The sixth-year receiver is being drafted as the WR50 this season thus far in the process, but he’s at least worth a flier in the later rounds based on what he delivered on a skeleton-crew offense last season. With the Ravens full of question marks, Aiken (the WR31 last year despite finishing it with two quarterback not on the Week 1 roster) profiles as their most reliable option — and he’ll have a role in their offense, even if he’s devoid of star power.
Baltimore lost Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Justin Forsett, Joe Flacco, Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore in a mess of a season, one that also included Terrell Suggs being done after Week 1. Chris Givens and Ryan Mallett were starting by the end of this catastrophe.
Aiken, though, delivered an improbable 75-reception, 944-yard, five-touchdown season. He ranked ahead of several key names at wideout last year. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Stefon Diggs, Pierre Garcon and Michael Floyd all did not produce what Aiken did in 2015. Once Smith went down, Aiken did not crumble as the team’s No. 1 receiver in a corps lacking just about everything else.
Instead, he caught at least five passes in the Ravens’ final nine games, going for at least 60 yards in seven of those. He saw double-digit targets in five during that stretch and managed games of 128 and 90 yards without Flacco in December.
Now, the Ravens are tentatively set to feature Smith and Perriman, with the mercurial Mike Wallace now in town in what may be his last notable chance.
Smith is 37 and coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon, and despite him being one of the most competitive dudes ever to play the position, he won’t be what he was. It’s just a matter of how much of the his formerly electric self Smith will look like. Perriman hasn’t played and suffered another injury at minicamp this year. He’s incredibly far from reliable. Wallace’s skill set should complement Flacco’s cannon arm on paper, but he’s not going to be a volume player and was one of the worst per-dollar healthy players in the NFL last year this side of Dwayne Bowe.
Baltimore has a glut of tight ends, but 35-year-old Ben Watson may be a key factor thanks to many being either injury risks or unproven. That’s not a great selling point for that contingent.
The Ravens will still need an able player that can move the chains. Aiken should be stashed, although he doesn’t fit the typical stash profile being 27 and in the same type of role as last year. He’s the most reliable target the Ravens have, and they’re now replacing key run-blocking guard Kelechi Osemele, so running lanes might not be as prominent.
Aiken is also in a contract year in a prospective free agent class that saw top attractions Keenan Allen and Doug Baldwin sign extensions, with the Broncos trying consistently to keep Emmanuel Sanders in town. If the Cardinals also work something out with Michael Floyd, Aiken’s name could be surprisingly relevant next spring.
Do not draft Aiken in the middle rounds or anything crazy, but there’s value in being available and a chain-moving fixture for a team with a decent quarterback devoid of those targets at present.
Aiken doesn’t offer the highest of upsides, but he’s a player that — at the very least — will help on bye weeks. And that’s just if everyone on the Ravens stays healthy and is effective enough to keep him on the bench.
That being highly unlikely, Aiken should be queued up at the draft juncture when numerous high-risk guys are coming off the board. He’s the rare unsexy stash, but smart owners should gravitate to the low-risk, medium-reward player as it becomes known how the ’16 Ravens will look.