John Harbaugh returns for his 13th season as the Ravens head coach. He has a 129-74 record with nine playoff berths and one Super Bowl title. The Ravens went 35-13 over the last three seasons, with Lamar Jackson making 37 starts. Harbaugh has one losing season in his career (5-11 in 2015).
Last year Baltimore dropped to 19th in offensive yards (2nd in 2019) while scoring 468 points (7th – 531 in 2019). Before Jackson took over, the Ravens went 20 seasons without a top ten offense.
Greg Roman returns for his third year as the offensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons as the Ravens' offensive assistant and assistant head coach. He led the offenses of San Francisco and Buffalo over six seasons from 2011 to 2016. His strength is running the ball based on two top finishes in rushing yards for the Bills in 2015 and 2016 while ranking highly in his last three seasons with the 49ers (4th, 3rd, and 4th). Baltimore led in rushing in 2019 (3,296 yards) and 2020 (3,071 yards). Roman has never finished higher than 23rd in passing yards (32nd in 2020 – 2,919) while delivering about league average passing touchdowns in most years before his success over the past two seasons (36 and 27 touchdowns).
Over the last two years, Baltimore’s defense ranked in the top 10 in yards. They allowed 303 points (7th), 282 points (3rd) in 2019, and 287 points (2nd) in 2018.
The Ravens brought back Don Martindale for a fourth year after spending the previous five seasons as the linebackers coach. Martindale has 16 years of pro coaching experience highlighted by his 2010 season when he had his first shot at being a defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. The Ravens ranked in the top 12 in defensive yards allowed over the last eight seasons.
Baltimore added G Kevin Zeitler and T Alejandro Villanueva to upgrade their offensive line.
Zeitler had a down season for the Giants in 2020, but his resume has been impressive in run and pass blocking. Villanueva shined as a late bloomer for the Steelers. His best play slants to pass protection, but he did show better value in run blocking earlier in his career.
They lost C Matt Skura and T D.J. Fluker to the Dolphins.
Their defense lost DE Yannick Ngakoue and DE Matthew Judon. Both players delivered success in the pass rush while lacking the foundation to rank above the league average defending the run.
WR Sammy Watkins signed a one-deal after working at the WR2/WR3 for the Chiefs over the past three years. He continues to underachieve his expected upside with a fading value in yards per catch (11.4).
WR Rashod Bateman
Bateman has a good feel for setting up defenders off the line and the skill set to make plays at all three levels of the defense. His hands are assets while coming in at 6’ and 190 lbs. He lacks the quickness to create space in a deep route tree, and elite cornerbacks can shut him down.
DE Odafe Oweh
Oweh brings an explosive skill set to attack the quarterback. Power and speed are the keys to his success, but he still needs to improve his technique, vision and anticipation. Oweh should move into the starting lineup based on the Ravens’ losses in the pass rush in free agency.
G Ben Cleveland
Cleveland has the build and power to be an impact player, but he needs plenty of work to improve his foundation skill set and vision. Coaching will help him, and he'll need a better punch and more follow-through in his strength.
CB Brandon Stephens
Stephens converted from running back to cornerback two years ago, which puts him in development mode. From a physical point of view, he looks ready to go with the movements to excel. His weakness comes in his technique and understanding of play development. Stephens also trails in his short-area quickness.
WR Tylan Wallace
His route running separates him from the field while playing bigger than his size (5’11” and 195 lbs.). Wallace needs to develop a better release against top press corners, and he does have questions about his first-step quickness and acceleration out of some routes. His style of play should give the Ravens a possession wide receiver with the ability to make plays downfield and win in tight coverage.
CB Shaun Wade
Wade has a playmaker feel with his best qualities coming in press coverage and against the run. He lacks the wheels to handle top talent in the deep passing game, and his fundamentals need more work. Wade’s qualities paint him as a possible safety where his tools would offer more upside.
DE Daelin Hayes
Hayes earns his keep with hard work and leadership. He projects better rushing the quarterback than supporting the run. His ceiling isn’t high enough to become a full-time difference-maker.
FB Ben Mason
Mason plays hard with plenty of power. His experience comes at fullback, linebacker, and defensive line while not excelling at any position. Baltimore added him to help block on power and short-yardage plays.
Baltimore placed first in rushing yards (3,071) with 24 touchdowns. Their rushers gained 5.5 yards per carry for the second straight season thanks to having a high-volume running quarterback (159/1,005/7). They averaged 37.0 rushes per game.
The Ravens fell to last in passing yards (2,919) with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 32 sacks.
LT Ronnie Stanley
Stanley moved to elite status at his position in 2019. He dominated in pass blocking while playing at his highest level in the run game. Stanley has exceptional quickness with his feet leading to an edge in pass blocking. Last year he repeated his advantage in all areas, but missed 10 games with an ankle issue that required a pair of surgeries.
LG Ben Cleveland
The Ravens hope Cleveland is ready to seize a starting opportunity. He is a powerful blocker who will most immediately improve Baltimore's run game; however, he is still developing in multiple areas and will need to progress as a pass blocker to secure a full-time starting job.
C Bradley Bozeman
Bozeman made 32 starts over the past two seasons at left guard while failing to impact any area after getting drafted in the sixth round in 2018. This year his playing time could be at risk while possibly moving to center.
RG Kevin Zeitler
Zeitler has a successful nine-year resume. His calling card is his pass protection. Twice over the past four seasons, he played below expectation in run blocking. Zeitler gives Baltimore a second offensive lineman who has the talent to be a top-tier starter at his position.
RT Alejandro Villanueva
Over the past five seasons with the Steelers, Villanueva played well in pass blocking. Some of his success was helped by Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out quickly. He faded as a run blocker over the past two seasons.
Baltimore comes into 2021 with questions at left guard and center while they have one stud to protect Jackson’s blindside. The right side of the offensive line grades above average with plenty of experience. They should run the ball well, and the legs of Jackson limit the sacks allowed.
The style of this offense is all about running the ball. The Ravens led in rushing attempts (555), accounting for 57.8 percent of their offensive plays. Baltimore showed more explosiveness in the passing game in 2019, an area they need to improve to make a deeper postseason push.
After a sensational 2019 (4,333 combined yards with 43 touchdowns), Jackson lost value in almost all key stats last year. He did run for over 1,000 yards for the second straight year while delivering a solid season in combined touchdowns (33).
He passed for fewer than 200 yards in 12 of his 17 starts (including the playoffs), with seven of those coming over his final eight contests.
Jackson slipped to 10th in quarterback scoring (23.33 FPPG) in four-point passing touchdown leagues. He scored over 30 fantasy points in four starts. On the year, Jackson averaged 25 passes per game.
Fantasy Outlook: Every rushing yard counts twice as much as each passing yard in four-point passing touchdown leagues. Based on his last two seasons, Jackson’s run success translates to 2,000+ passing yards. In essence, he becomes almost a 300-yards passer game with winning value in touchdowns.
Baltimore has a top option at tight end, and their receiving core looks improved. Jackson only needs to average 225 pass yards per game paired with his rushing success over the past two seasons to regain a top-five quarterback status. In the early draft season, Jackson is the fourth quarterback drafted. My bet is on 4,500 combined yards and a floor of 35 touchdowns. His downside comes with an injury that affects his running ability.
Other Options: Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley, Kenji Bahar
The Ravens’ running backs gained 5.1 and 5.3 yards per rush over the previous two seasons. They’ve had a floor of 14 rushing scores since 2018. The change to Jackson behind center led to a bottom tier opportunity for their running backs in the passing game in 2019 (49/409/5) and 2020 (47/364/1).
Over the first six games, Dobbins only averaged six touches, leading to 228 combined yards with two touchdowns and 11 catches. His opportunity became fantasy relevant over the Ravens’ final 11 games (827 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 11 catches), which came to 12.88 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His highlight game came in Week 17 (13/160/2).
Fantasy Outlook: Baltimore will run the ball well again this year, and Jackson will steal one-third of the running show. Gus Edwards is a better player than most fantasy owners believe. Dobbins should be the top choice on third downs while looking to be on a path to receiver 250 combined touches. I expect a minimum of 1,200 combined yards with 12 touchdowns and 35+ catches. His mid-May ADP is 24 as the 14th running back off the board. He projects as a top 12 running back in 2021.
In his three seasons with the Ravens, Edwards gained over 5.0 yards per rush every year (5.2, 5.3, and 5.0). He has limited value in the passing game (18/194), but his play in this area flashed more explosiveness in 2020 (9/129 – three catches over 20 yards). Last year, he finished with a combined 852 combined yards with six scores and nine catches on 144 carries. Baltimore gave him over 10 touches in six of his 18 games played.
Fantasy Outlook: Edwards has a floor of 700 rushing yards. He plays with power while offering production upside when Baltimore plays from the lead. The Ravens will increase his role after losing the third wheel at the running back position. His next step is 180 combined touches for 950 yards with a half-dozen touchdowns and double-digit catches. Edwards has a 10th round ADP as the 44th running back drafted.
Hill was the fourth wheel in the Ravens’ running game in 2019 and 2020, which led to minimal touches in all games. He emerged as the change of pace back. Over two seasons of action, Hill gained 375 combined yards with two touchdowns and 13 catches.
Fantasy Outlook: The Ravens would like to tap into his big-play ability, but Hill is merely a handcuff. Don’t dismiss him while keeping an open eye on his progress over the summer.
Other Options: Ty’Son Williams, Nate McCrary
Baltimore’s wide receivers had the lowest opportunity in 2019 (115/1,419/17) and 2020 (137/1,729/16), which puts a low ceiling on their receiving core. The Ravens gave their wide receivers 41 more targets compared to last year, but their overall catch rate (62.6) finished below their 2019 rate (64.6).
Brown drew a WR3 price tag in the 2020 draft season. He finished as the 36th-highest scoring wide receiver in PPR leagues (183 fantasy points). His only game with over 100 yards receiving came in Week 1 (5/101). Brown finished with 58 catches for 769 yards and eight touchdowns on 100 targets with nine drops. Baltimore gave him five catches or more in six contests. His scoring picked up over his final six weeks (26/338/6 on 41 targets).
Fantasy Outlook: Brown ended last year with 45.7 percent of the wide receiver targets. He offers big-play and scoring ability, but his ceiling is limited to the growth of Baltimore’s passing game and his problem with drops. His natural progression should be 70 catches for 1,000+ yards and a chance at 10 scores. The Ravens added more competition at wide receiver, leading to more overall production from their wideouts. Brown has an ADP of 105 in the 12-team high-stakes market, creating some value in his price point.
Seven seasons into Watkins's career, he has 321 catches for 4,665 yards and 33 touchdowns over 86 games.
Over the past four years, he’s had the opportunity to play for two high-scoring teams (LAR and KC). Injuries cost him 15 games since 2017 while failing to produce WR2 stats (39/393/8, 40/519/3, 52/673/3, and 37/421/2). Watkins only made nine plays over 20 yards over his last 89 catches compared to 32 over 125 chances in 2014 and 2015.
Fantasy Outlook: Watkins still has something in the tank at age 29, and maybe a move to a schoolyard offense helps his value in the deep passing game. Jackson scrambles and looks for receivers to break free downfield frequently rather than relying on timing and play selection to move the ball in the air. Watkins has enough size to be a factor at the goal, but the passing pie in Baltimore has a low ceiling. He is an upgrade over their 2020 options at wide receiver. I expect between 40 and 55 catches with some scoring value depending on his health. Watkins can work as an explosive flash player at times, but he will be challenging to roster given his inconsistency.
In his sophomore season in 2019, Bateman caught 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns to move his name onto the NFL radar. He played in five games last season (36/472/2) before deciding to opt-out after a canceled game due to COVID-19. Bateman finished his college career with six impact games (7/175/2, 7/105/1, 6/177/2, 7/203/1, 6/147/1, and 10/139/1) over 31 starts.
There is a good player here despite needing to grow in a couple of crucial areas. Baltimore saw enough in his game to use a first-round pick on him in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fantasy Outlook: Bateman gives the Ravens a second big-play receiver with upside. His game will need some time, but his overall package should be a good fit for Jackson. He is a player to follow as his fantasy value should emerge over the second half of the season. If Bateman wins the WR2 job, he has the feel of a 50/750/5 player in his rookie year.
The Ravens had Boykin on the field for 32 games over the past two seasons after adding him in the third round in 2019. His production in 2020 (19/266/4 on 33 targets) was slightly better than his rookie season (13/198/3 on 22 chances). His size (6’4” and 220 lbs.) helps his value in the red zone, plus Boykin averaged 14.5 yards per catch to start his career.
Fantasy Outlook: His game should continue to blossom, but Boykin won’t see a significant bump in his opportunity with Watkins and Bateman added to the wide receiver core. He provides insurance to Baltimore’s depth chart
Duvernay worked as the Ravens’ top kickoff returner (578 yards with a touchdown) while seeing minimal chances in the passing game (20/201 on 26 targets) in his rookie season. Duvernay did make a couple of explosive plays in the run game (4/70).
Fantasy Outlook: Baltimore will use Duvernay in four-wide receiver sets, and his game should have growth in his second season. Baltimore needs to commit to him more frequently for gadget plays given his open-field talents
Other Options: James Proche, Tylan Wallace, Jaylon Moore, Deon Cain
The regression in passing last year came from defenses keying on Mark Andrews and the drop-off in supporting depth at the position. In 2019, tight ends accounted for 43.3 percent of the completions by Jackson and 45 percent of their passing yards (125/1,522/13 on 180 targets). Last season their tight ends only caught 73 balls for 826 yards and nine scores on 111 targets, which was about 28 percent of their pass game.
Andrews was on the field for 597 of Baltimore’s 1,027 plays (58.1 percent), which was well above his playing time in 2019 (41.2 percent). He finished with 10 fewer targets (88) and a setback in catches (58), yards (701), and touchdowns (7) compared to his breakout 2019 season (64/852/10). Andrews finished as the sixth-highest PPR scoring tight end (170.10 fantasy points) despite missing a pair of games.
Over his 16 games played (two in the postseason), he scored fewer than 10.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in half of his starts. Andrews gained over 65 yards in four matchups.
Fantasy Outlook: The Ravens won’t use him as a three-down tight end due to his lack of value in the blocking game. Andrews can stretch the field and be a factor at the goal line. A better wide receiver core will help him see better spacing in the secondary and improve Baltimore's overall passing offense. He projects to be the fourth/fifth tight end off the board in 2021. Andrews should push his output to 75 catches for 900+ yards with a run at double-digit touchdowns if he makes 17 starts.
Injuries led to Oliver playing in only four games over his first two seasons after getting drafted by the Jaguars in the third round in 2019.
Oliver caught 56 passes for 709 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year at San Jose State. He runs good pass routes along with the hands to develop into a high-volume receiver. His blocking skills are trailing even with a foundation of strength and power.
Fantasy Outlook: Baltimore traded for Oliver in mid-March. They want to find a second pass-catching option at tight end to regain the lost value from the position last season. Hayden Hurst (30/349/2) worked well off the bench in 2019. The Ravens hope Oliver can step in a similar role this year.
Other Options: Nick Boyle, Eric Tomlinson, Jacob Breeland, Eli Wolf
There is something to be said for a kicker that makes the most of his chances. Tucker continues to rank first in NFL history in field goal percentage (90.7) while being a beast from 50-yards or longer (42/60). His opportunity in field goals slipped in 2019 (28-for-29) and 2020 (26-for-29) due to the Ravens being much better at scoring touchdowns in the red zone via the best rushing offense in the league. Tucker missed four extra points over the past three years (140 chances) after making all 205 tries over his first six years.
In the 2020 postseason, his leg let him down (3-for-6 in field goal chances).
Fantasy Outlook: Typically, Tucker would help a fantasy owner win three to four matches a year when he scored over 15.00 fantasy points. Last year his scoring fell between eight and 10.50 fantasy points in 10 games in the regular season, with his best value coming in two matchups (17.80 and 17.70 fantasy points). Tucker ranked eighth in kicker scoring (153.80) in 2020 after placing third (170.90) and second (162.40) over the previous two years. Despite regression in field goal chances, he will be the first kicker drafted in many leagues this season.
Baltimore dropped to eighth defending the run (1,740 yards) and allowed 12 touchdowns and 4.6 yards per rush. Ball carriers had 12 runs over 20 yards, with three rushes gaining over 40 yards.
The Ravens finished sixth in passing yards allowed (3,536) with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained only 6.4 yards per pass attempt while being sacked 39 times.
DT Brandon Williams
Williams is a veteran player with only 6.5 career sacks over 100 games. His edge as a run defender lost momentum in 2019 and 2020. He finished as a league-average option after showing elite value against the run in four of his previous five seasons. Williams will start the year at age 32.
DE Derek Wolfe
Last year Wolfe struggled to pressure the quarterback (one sack), but the Ravens saw enough in his game to sign him to a $12 million contract for three seasons. Over eight seasons with the Broncos, he missed 20 of his possible 96 starts. Wolfe played well against the run after showing fade in 2019.
DE Calais Campbell
Campbell has been one of the best run defenders in the leagues, but his game took a hit in 2020. He slipped below the league average in run support and picked up only four sacks over 12 contests. Campbell played through a calf injury over the last two months while also dealing with a COVID-19 issue. He is on the back nine of his career while starting the season at age 34.
DE Jaylon Ferguson
In his first two seasons, Ferguson picked up 61 tackles with 4.5 sacks over 28 games. He fell short of the league average defending the run. Ferguson doesn’t have the size (6’5” and 271 lbs.) to anchor a defensive line vs. the run. His game is built on attacking the QB with the quickness and moves to deliver sacks.
LB Malik Harrison
Harrison should develop into an early-down run stopper. His game shows the most success when attacking the line of scrimmage with his strength. He creates space with his hands and offers the power to finish. Harrison will have risk in coverage, and his change of direction value takes a hit when asked to retreat. In his rookie season, he made 44 tackles with no sacks while making seven starts. The Ravens need Harrison to make a significant step forward this season.
LB Patrick Queen
Queen brings a dynamic presence to the linebacking position thanks to his speed, strength, and technique. He plays with vision and balance.
He made 17 starts leading to 106 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. Queen allowed too many touchdowns in coverage while giving up a high completion rate. His run defense came in well below the league average. He should be much better in his second dance in 2021.
LB Odafe Oweh
Baltimore would love Oweh to hit the ground running. He projects as a high upside pass rusher, but he’ll need time to improve his decision-making and technique. The Ravens will give him chances to attack the quarterback on passing downs while letting his development dictate my opportunity on early downs.
CB Marlon Humphrey
Humphrey set a career-high in tackles (82) for the second straight season while being productive in defended passes (51 over 61 career games). He has eight career interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns. Humphrey tends to hold receivers to a low catch rate. In 2020, quarterbacks were more willing to take him on in coverage leading to a rising completion rate against and repeated damage in touchdowns.
CB Marcus Peters
Peters remains a risk/reward player in coverage. He has 31 career interceptions in 91 matchups while scoring seven defensive touchdowns. Over his first two seasons with the Chiefs, Peters had 46 defended passes in his 31 starts. He has 23 defended passes over his past 30 games, showing his regression in coverage. His run support was a significant problem with the Ravens highlighted by many missed tackles.
CB Jimmy Smith
The addition of Marcus Peters in 2019 gave the Ravens’ insurance at cornerback while also increasing their depth. Smith slips to CB3 on the roster while owning plenty of concern about staying healthy. Over his last five seasons, he missed 25 of his possible 64 starts. Smith should be an edge in coverage in his new role when he’s on the field.
S DeShon Elliott
Elliott took advantage of his jump in playing time last year. He finished with 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four defended passes, and two forced fumbles over games. He supports the run while needing to clean up his missed tackles.
S Chuck Clark
In his fourth year, Clark improved in all areas. He set career-highs in tackles (96) and sacks (1.5). The sum of his parts resulted in a league-average player with improvement defending the run. Baltimore will give him chances to blitz the quarterback.
Fantasy Defense Snapshot
Baltimore does have risk defending the run over the first two levels of their defense. They make up for this shortfall with a blitzing style of defense, which also shortens the passing window for quarterbacks. Their secondary shows regression in coverage even with a pair of veteran cornerbacks with play-making ability. The Ravens look to be in transition at three of their linebacker spots.
In the fantasy market, the Ravens’ defense ranked sixth and fifth over the last two seasons. To repeat, Baltimore has to get after the quarterback. I see them as overpriced as good offenses will be able to move the ball on them.
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