It is hard not to consider Joe Flacco the Ravens’ most important player.
However, is Flacco their best player? Not according to NFL Network’s "Top 100" player list for 2013 that was completed Thursday. No Ravens were among the top 10. The top-ranked Raven was running back Ray Rice at No. 13, followed by Flacco (No. 19), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (No. 42), linebacker Terrell Suggs (No. 56), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (No. 88), and tight end Dennis Pitta (No. 100). Neither guard Marshal Yanda nor linebacker Elvis Dumervil made the top 100.
Flacco probably doesn’t mind Rice being ranked ahead of him. In fact, the better Flacco’s teammates play in 2013, the better the Ravens’ chances to win another Super Bowl. However, Flacco will have more responsibility than ever in 2013. Rice probably won't. There has been much talk that Rice’s carries may go down next season, as he shares more of the workload with backup Bernard Pierce. Meanwhile, Flacco’s stellar play in the postseason showed what he is capable of. The Ravens will expect to see the best of Flacco more often. So will fans.
Owner Steve Bisciotti has already called Flacco the leader of the team now. Certainly, Bisciotti is paying Flacco like he’s the leader, after signing off on a six-year $120.6 million contract. With Ray Lewis around, Flacco only had to worry about leading the Ravens on the field. In 2013, there may be times when Flacco will have to lead more with his voice.
Imagine the Ravens without Flacco, who has never missed a start. With all due respect to backups Tyrod Taylor and Caleb Hanie, if Flacco goes down for an extended period, the Ravens’ season probably goes down with him. In Rice, Suggs, Ngata, Yanda, and Dumervil, the Ravens have a nucleus of former Pro Bowl players on both sides of the football. In Jones, they have a dynamic special teams player, even if he does not emerge as a consistent No. 2 receiver.
However, the key for the Ravens offensively in 2013 will be Flacco. Regardless of what the NFL Network’s list says, Flacco may have to be the Ravens’ best player for them to have a legitimate shot at winning another Super Bowl.