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Baltimore Ravens Writers
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The Baltimore Ravens had the most efficient offense in 2019 and followed that with the 11th most efficient offense in 2020. The 2021 season tells a different story, with the Ravens regressing to 17th in the NFL. The biggest reason for the inefficiency was injuries. They lost starting quarterback Lamar Jackson for five games, tackle Ronnie Stanley for sixteen games, starting running back J.K. Dobbinsfor the season, and backup running back Gus Edwards also for the season. On top of those injuries, rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman started the season on the injured reserve with a groin injury and never got comfortable within the offense. However, Baltimore still finished third in the NFL in rushing, and they haven't finished outside the top three in rushing since the 2017 season. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has shown time and time again to be able to utilize multiple runners and make them fantasy relevant. The most encouraging improvement was the Raven's passing game which jumped from dead last in 2020 to 13th in 2021. That improvement bodes well for Lamar Jackson fantasy managers and the Baltimore receiving corps as a whole. We could see a breakout season from Rashod Bateman with a healthy Jackson. Not to mention the team still has one of the best tight ends in football Mark Andrews. If you add in a healthy J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, this offense could be the best in the NFL, and many fantasy points will be scored in 2022. The question in 2020 was whether such a run-focused offense could succeed in such a pass-heavy league, and the early returns were negative. But by the end of the year, Baltimore had regained their stride, topping 3000 rushing yards for the second consecutive year. Baltimore runs with various players out of various fronts and relies heavily on the deep passing game to keep defenses on their heels.
Through the first thirteen weeks of the 2021 season, Lamar Jackson was the QB7 in fantasy. While that may have been a slight disappointment to fantasy managers considering the team's injuries, it could be considered an achievement. Jackson would have easily passed his career-high of 3,127 passing yards in a season had he stayed healthy and looked to have turned a corner as a passer in 2021. The Raven's offense will benefit from having Greg Roman for a fourth consecutive season. Assuming everyone is healthy, including their offensive line, the Ravens could have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Jackson could be in line for another MVP-caliber season.
Huntley stepped in for the injured Lamar Jackson last season and would go 1-3 as a starter. He won his first start leading a comeback against the Chicago Bears but failed to win any games after that due to the Ravens' shorthanded unit around him. However, Huntley showed that he was a competent backup. He would complete 65% of his passes and throw for 1,081 yards and three touchdowns. Huntley's real value comes from his legs, where he was a weapon in the Ravens' offensive scheme, rushing for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Huntley provides the Ravens security behind Lamar in the unfortunate event of an injury.
J.K. Dobbins's injury in the pre-season was a devastating blow for this offense. People forget just how great of a player Dobbins is. In three years at Ohio State, he amassed 4,459 yards rushing and 645 yards receiving. In 2020, his rookie season, Dobbins finished his rookie season strong as the lead back alongside Gus Edwards. Dobbins would finish the year with 805 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while adding eighteen receptions for 120 yards. He seemed primed for a breakout season early in the pre-season last year until he tore his ACL. Reports have been mixed out of Baltimore leading into camp, but Dobbins said he is ready to play. This is a situation worth monitoring heading into redraft season, but Dobbins is still in line for a heavy volume once fully cleared to play.
After the J.K. Dobbins injury, Gus Edwards seemed like one of the biggest values in fantasy in 2021. In 2020, he was the primary running back in the Redzone, receiving seventeen carries inside the 10-yard-line, converting five of those carries for touchdowns. He rushed for 723 yards on just 144 carries and looked just as good as Dobbins down the stretch. He was considered to have standalone value as an RB3 last year, and had he stayed healthy, the Ravens would have made the playoffs. Edwards has been placed on the PUP list in camp, which opens the door for other runners in this backfield. The Ravens signed former Falcon's running back Mike Davis. Davis struggled last season with the Falcons but found his way onto a team where he could see playing time. If both Dobbins and Edwards can't start the season, Davis could be an intriguing late-round addition in your drafts.
Justice Hill will be back for his third season in 2021, but he is coming from an Achilles injury. Hill has looked explosive at times for Baltimore, but he may not even make it out of camp. The Ravens added Missouri running back Tyler Badie in the sixth round of the NFL draft which many people pegged as a potential sleeper but he was recently cut by the team. The Ravens added Kenyan Drake this week. Drake gained 3,266 total yards and scored 27 touchdowns in the three seasons he spent with the Dolphins and Cardinals. He signed a free agent deal with the Raiders in 2021 but failed to live up to expectations leading to his release this off-season. Drake looks like he is just there to provide depth for the team.
Ricard came to the Ravens as an undrafted defensive lineman but has won a role as their starting fullback. Ricard has become a pivotal weapon in the Ravens' rushing attack and was recently given a three-year contract extension. He has scored five touchdowns as a receiver and gets a target about once every other game. His value comes as a blocking asset in their rushing attack.
The Ravens shocked the NFL during the draft by trading away Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for the 23rd overall pick. Last season, Brown became the first Baltimore receiver to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season since Mike Wallace did it in 2016. Leaving the Ravens with a sizable hole to fill at the position. It looks like that hole will be filled by second-year receiver Rashod Bateman. Bateman started off the season on the injured reserve with a groin injury but still earned sixty-eight targets in 2021. He could potentially be a WR2 in fantasy and serve as a redzone threat for Lamar in 2022. With Brown gone, it opens the door for Bateman to be a true number one option in that receiver room. He'll need to earn Redzone targets to be a consistent fantasy option, but he should serve as an essential piece in the Ravens offense that is looking to open it up more in the passing game. The current WR2 on the Ravens roster is Devin Duvernay. Duvernay was a third-round pick in 2020 and has excelled as a special teams player making the Pro Bowl last season. He's also shown flashes as a receiver, with 33 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns. By all accounts, the Ravens feel he can develop into a reliable option in their receiver room, providing big-play potential for their offense.
After Bateman, Duvernay, and Mark Andrews, there is very little fantasy relevance to be had with the backup receivers. They decided to move on from Sammy Watkins, who recently signed with the Green Bay Packers in free agency and released former third-round pick Miles Boykin. Boykin underperformed his entire career catching only 33 balls for 470 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons. The one player to watch could be James Proche. Proche was a former sixth-round pick in that same draft as Boykin but has failed to emerge as anything but a position filler. However, Ravens coaches have raved about his potential in the slot and could be ready to give him a chance to win that job. He's a player to keep an eye on. Tylan Wallace was another under-the-radar add in the draft last season with Bateman but could not capitalize on injuries in 2021 and looked like he didn't belong on the field last season.
Mark Andrews proved last season that he's essentially quarterback proof. Andrews would finish the year as TE1 in PPR formats and ended Travis Kelce's dominant run as the best tight end in football. He finished the season with 92 receptions for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. He led all tight ends in targets, receptions, and yardage in 2021 and proved to be the Raven's most reliable pass-catcher once again. Andrews is always a favorite to lead the team in targets, and his athletic profile makes him a difficult matchup for any opposing defense. Nick Boyle is still recovering from a brutal leg injury he suffered in 2020, where he tore his MCL, PCL, meniscus, and his hamstring came entirely off the bone - as well as a small fracture. He would come back midway through the 2021 season, where he showed his impact in the run game, but he's not a fantasy-relevant tight end. There was hope for Josh Oliver last season, given his opportunity while Boyle was recovering, but he didn't take advantage. The Ravens spent two draft picks on tight ends in the 2022 NFL draft. Selecting Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar and Coastal Carolina tight end Isaiah Likely. Kolar had to undergo a sports hernia surgery which has opened the door for Likely. Likely has had a great start to camp and the Ravens say they plan to use Likely in other roles on the field. He is an intriguing player to keep an eye on heading into the season and could become a playmaker in this offense.
- LT Ronnie Stanley
- LG Ben Powers
- C Tyler Linderbaum [R]
- RG Kevin Zeitler
- RT Morgan Moses
- OL Patrick Mekari, OL Trystan Colon, OL Tyre Phillips, OL Ben Cleveland, OL Ju'Wuan James
Ravens General manager Eric DeCosta has made it clear that the team is making the offensive line a point of emphasis this off-season They addressed the offensive line last off-season signing Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva, but Villanueva retired. Drafting Ben Cleveland and picking up Ja'Waun James from the Broncos after an achilles injury helped depth but they still struggled and finished 21st in the league according to PFF. Only one team allowed more sack than the Ravens in 2021 which is not a recipe for success. The Ravens are looking forward to getting LT Ronnie Stanley back after he missed all but one game last season after under going season-ending ankle surgery. Right guard Kevin Zeitler has been a veteran leader. New starters arrive at center (Tyler Linderbaum, First round, Iowa) and right tackle Morgan Moses (FA from NYJ). Left guard should be a battle between Tyre Phillips and Ben Powers. As of now Powers is winning that job. Overall, this is a decent group, much better with Stanley healthy.
After two consecutive - slightly - down years for Tucker as a fantasy kicker, he bounced back in 2021, finishing as a top-three fantasy kicker in the league. Tucker saw his made field goals and attempts go over 30 for the first time in three years. He made 35 of 37 field goals and made all 32 of his extra points. His record-breaking 66-yarder at the end of the Lions game will cement his legacy as one of the best kickers in NFL history. Fantasy managers should be comfortable drafting him as one of the first kickers off the board come this draft season.
- Devin Duvernay, James Proche
Baltimore returns all of its principal contributors on special teams, with speedy young receiver Devin Duvernay a safe bet to reprise his role as the team's top kickoff returner. He had 676 yards returning last season and is always a threat to take it to the endzone if given a chance.
- James Proche, Devin Duvernay
Devin Duvernay was given the reigns as the primary punt returner for Baltimore in 2021, and he did not disappoint. He had 360 return yards and showed off his explosiveness. He finished second in the league in punt return yards and led the NFL in punt returns of 20-or-more yards, with six on his way to earning a first-team All-Pro team selection as a punt returner.
The once vaunted Ravens defense was a dud for fantasy in 2021. They finished 30th in takeaways, ahead of only the Jets and Jaguars, and tied for 21st in sacks. No team gave up more passing yards as a strength of the defense in the good times quickly turned into a weakness. They responded to the problems by drafting elite safety Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame) with the 14th pick and signing Marcus Williams (New Orleans) to a five-year, $70 million deal in free agency to shore up the secondary. Marcus Peters will return from a preseason ACL tear, and Marlon Humphrey should be recovered from a season-ending pectoral muscle tear to help matters. Otherwise, the team will rely on new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to keep the strong run defense intact with the same front seven as last season, save for the return of nose tackle Michael Pierce after spending two years in Minnesota. They open with the Jets, Miami, and New England, making Baltimore a viable streamer to start the season, hoping for a bounce-back season.
For years Baltimore's defensive linemen have been responsible for eating up space and blockers while keeping the second-level players free to make plays. As a result, there has been relatively low statistical production from the Ravens' front three. In 2019, for example, Baltimore's defensive line produced four sacks. In 2020 the team added Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe with the intent to get more big plays from the defensive line. The result was an improvement but was not exactly what the organization was looking for. As a unit, the Ravens' defensive line accounted for nine sacks that season, with Campbell's four leading the way. Instead of building on that last year, they went the other way, dropping to five and a half. Considering the style of defense Baltimore plays, it is not fair to judge the quality of their front three by statistics. On the field, the trio of Michael Pierce, Calais Campbell, and Justin Madubuike are rock solid.
Baltimore has a good mixture of experienced veterans and youth behind their starters. Derek Wolfe has been a starter for most of his long career and might end up in that role again if he can stay healthy for a change. He projects to have at least a significant rotational role. Rookie third-round pick, Travis Jones, should replace Isaiah Mack as the primary backup to Michael Pierce at nose tackle. He could see an increased role if the team has Pierce log some snaps at defensive end.
The Ravens are all over the place at the second level. On the inside, they have Patrick Queen, who was supposed to be the next great inside linebacker for them, and journeyman Josh Bynes, who has traditionally been a stop-gap starter for teams that were addressing other positions of need first. In 2021 the team elected to rotate four players at the positions, with Queen seeing 81% of the snaps at one spot while the other three shared the rest of the time fairly evenly. With L.J. Fort and Chris Board gone, there is one less body in the mix, so maybe Queen will return to a full-time role. The organization needs to decide if he is their guy moving forward. Bynes starts wherever he lands and often has a three-down role, but he has never been more than a steady veteran placeholder. If the defense struggles this year, it will not be because of him.
On the other hand, if they have a great season, that will not be because of him either. It is not hard to see where the Ravens are going at outside linebacker where they are on a mission to get younger. Tyus Bowser is the grizzled veteran in the room at age 26, while the team has used first and second-round picks on Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, respectively, over the last two drafts. A year ago, Bowser and Oweh were one and two on the team's sack list with seven and five, respectively. Meanwhile, the team accounted for 34, far below their standard score. Fort played the second-most snaps among Baltimore's inside linebackers in 2020 and projects as the starter alongside Queen. He has played for three teams in three seasons as a pro but appears to have finally found a home as a situational contributor in Baltimore. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason, opening the door for Harrison to have a larger role this year.
The emphasis moved outside for this year's draft. Baltimore has been without a premier edge rusher for a few years now. Matt Judon led the team in sacks last year with six, and they let him leave in free agency. They then selected Odafe Oweh in round one. A player that failed to record a sack in seven games played with Penn State last year. Round-one picks are usually expected to contribute right away, and Oweh will get a chance to do so, but the Ravens have the luxury of some solid veteran options on the outside as well, so there should not be much pressure on the youngster right away. Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee will be part of the rotation on the edge. The chances that one of these guys will put up big sack numbers in small, but they have already shown the ability to get it done as a unit. The Ravens assessed their OLB group at the opening of camp and successfully signed Justin Houston to a one-year, four-million-dollar deal. He'll be their premier pass rusher and probably play most of his snaps on passing downs.
The team somewhat eliminated the log jam at the inside backer position by letting L.J. Fort and Chris Board walk. They left themselves with Malik Harrison as the only experienced backup in the process. It remains to be seen if Harrison will continue to have a significant rotational role but this could be a case of addition by subtraction if it forces them to keep their best inside linebacker (Queen) on the field full time. Ojabo should quickly take over the role of third man on the outside and should see a fair amount of action.
- CB Kyle Fuller, FS Brandon Stephens, SS Tony Jefferson, CB Kevon Seymour, CB Jalyn Armour-Davis [R], CB Damarion Williams, CB Iman Marshall
Baltimore had a talented group of starters in the secondary even before using a first-round pick on safety Kyle Hamilton. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are among the best corner tandems in the league. Both are fast and physical with the versatility to stick with any receiver type, and both are playmakers with the potential to turn a game around on any given snap. The versatility of Hamilton makes his role hard in pinpointing at this early stage. He has a rare skill set that will allow the coaching staff to put him anywhere in the back seven, including any linebacker spots on any given play. Marcus Williams also brings some versatility but is best suited for the deep/free safety role. The team entered the offseason in search of big-play threats that can run and cover. They found one in Williams. With Hamilton considered a natural best fit at strong safety by many scouts, the future of Chuck Clark is up in the air. Clark has been a quality contributor since taking over the starting job in 2019, but he lacks the versatility to move around as much. Unless the coaching staff plans to use a lot more nickel base packages, Clark could be the odd-man-out.
The organization also moved to get younger in the secondary, using three picks on defensive backs. Hamilton is expected to be a day-one starter, while fourth-round corners Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams will have a much longer road to playing time. The rookies will compete with Kevon Seymour and Iman Marshall to establish a pecking order behind the starters. Barring injury, they will be battling for sub-package snaps. Brandon Stephens and Tony Jefferson may be competing for a roster spot, with Stephens having the upper hand.