Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo
Maybe the Ravens learned a lesson all those years that Joe Flacco was their “franchise quarterback.” If you don’t surround your QB with weapons, there’s little room for error. After spending the last pick in the first round of the 2018 draft on QB Lamar Jackson, they spent this draft adding to their offensive arsenal. They snagged two starting-caliber tight ends last year (Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews), and this year selected two starting-caliber wide receivers (first rounder Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and third rounder Miles Boykin). They also spent a fourth round pick on the speedy Justice Hill, a pass-catching compliment to free agent Mark Ingram in the backfield. Not only is the Ravens offense young and able to grow with Jackson, but it is fast. Jackson, Brown, Boykin, and Hill all have a sub-4.5 40, and Andrews and Ingram are no slouches either. If these pieces mature, look out. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The offense will go only as far as QB Lamar Jackson will take them. The amount of designed runs will have to come down and he will have to throw the football with better accuracy than he did a year ago. Willie Snead is their de facto number one, and he finished outside the top 50 at the position in 2018. That’s a problem. Hollywood Brown is recovering from a foot injury, so who knows what (if anything) he’ll be able to contribute in 2019. This game is built to run, and their signing of Mark Ingram from the Saints reaffirms that belief. I have no problem drafting Ingram and taking a late round flyer on Jackson (for his rushing upside) as a backup, but I’m staying far away from their receiving corps. Jackson deflated the values of every single receiver on the team a year ago after he took over. One pass catcher I’m okay with is TE Mark Andrews. He took full advantage of Hayden Hurst’s injury and was the league’s most productive rookie TE last year. If he holds off Hurst, he has Jackson’s trust and I have no issue with Andrews as my TE1. – The Hudsonian, Joshua HudsonWhat do Vance McDonald, T.J Hockenson, Jimmy Graham, Noah Fant, and Jack Doyle all have in common? They are all being drafted over Mark Andrews. Andrews’ current ADP is TE22, which is very low for someone who managed to end the season on a strong note as TE6 through weeks 15 and 16. Andrews was the most productive rookie TE in 2018 and will most likely hold off Hayden Hurst as the starting TE in the offense. Andrews built a solid trust with Lamar Jackson over the second half of the season when Jackson ultimately ended up becoming the starter and forcing Joe Flacco out of Baltimore. Andrews was less than a point shy of scoring 100 points last season, which used to be the threshold of being a Top 10 TE, but the NFL has now changed. Don’t let that scare you from drafting him since he didn’t finish inside of that last season, but the cutoff for Top 10 last season was 130 points. I believe Andrews can easily do that with one year of the offense under his belt and over a year of trust building with Jackson. It would definitely be a little risky since there are more trustworthy TE1 options, but Andrews has an unbelievable amount of upside that can help you steal away some games. – Joe Zollo The Baltimore Ravens reworked their offense on the fly last season after Joe Flacco’s injury. When they transitioned to Lamar Jackson, they decided to just run, run, run. In fact, 65.7% of the plays From Week 11 to Week 17 were rushing attempts. By comparison, Weeks 1 through 9 saw the opposite approach — pass, pass, pass. 62.9% of the time, Flacco was chucking the ball to his receivers. Heading into 2019 with Flacco in Denver and Jackson the presumed quarterback of the future now at the helm, the Ravens will probably be running a lot and throwing, well, not a lot. Jackson’s passing has been an issue since his days at Louisville. Last season, he had less than a 60% completion percentage- the second lowest adjusted completion percentage in the league among qualified passers. To add insult to injury, he attempted only 13 passes more than 20 yards downfield. The quarterback with the lowest adjusted completion percentage last year? Josh Allen. And he had 63 attempts of 20 or more yards downfield, fourteenth most in the league. Jackson had a lower completion percentage when not under pressure than under pressure. The disturbing part? He was last among qualified passers in both categories. I bring up these statistics because they’re crucial to the production of quarterbacks. In fantasy, quarterbacks who can run have a great floor. Jackson led all non-running backs in rushing attempts last season. From Weeks 11 through 16, Jackson was QB12 as a result of his rushing output. Yet, only one of those weeks was Jackson a top 12 QB. Teams with athletic QBs know they can’t run their quarterbacks 200 times and be an efficient offense. Jackson will have to throw the ball to keep his team in games. If last year was the start of a trend, Jackson may not top 3,000 passing yards or even 20 passing touchdowns. He could easily deliver 800+ rushing yards, but so can Josh Allen who, despite his own issues with accuracy, has no issue throwing it deep and picking up chunk yards. Allen was QB5 from Weeks 12-16, while Jackson was QB12. I bring this up because both are being drafted as QB2s, while Jackson is currently going one spot ahead of Allen. Both have potential upside, and as much as I love Jackson (I own him in one of my Dynasty leagues), him needing to break in rookie receivers isn’t a recipe for a top 15 season. Better luck next year for the Ravens QB. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson Gus “The Bus” Edwards was the man for the Ravens down the stretch. He finished as RB16 from Weeks 11-16 when Lamar Jackson took over. But for Baltimore, it wasn’t enough. This offseason, they ventured into the free agent waters and brought in Mark Ingram from the Saints to handle the workload. For a team that ran the ball more than 65% of the time when Jackson was the starting quarterback, it’s easy to see why you can trust Ingram in 2019. Before last season — cut short due to a four-game suspension — Ingram had two straight years over 200 carries and over 1,000 rushing yards, and three straight years with over 46 receptions. For a 30-year old running back, he doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires. Over his career, Ingram has averaged only 4.5 yards per carry for 12.46 rushing attempts per game (though that number is higher over his last four seasons- 13.2), and has been used in multi-back backfields exclusively, which has helped keep him fresh and effective. He consistently breaks tackles with the best of them, tallying an Elusive rating over 50% in three of his last four seasons. Of course, all of this was with the Saints and the great Drew Brees at quarterback. I’m not here to compare Lamar Jackson to Drew Brees, but the Ravens have a great offensive line as well. The Saints ranked as the eighth best line by Pro Football Focus in 2018, and ninth best in 2017. The Ravens were hit with injuries in 2017, but bounced back in a big way in 2018- finishing as PFF’s 10th best offensive line. They have a strong set of bookend tackles in flourishing LT Ronnie Stanley and last year’s third round pick, RT Orlando Brown. Oh, and that guy named Marshall Yanda is still there and still elite. Mark Ingram will have plenty of running lanes, even if he has to split carries with Gus Edwards. And don’t forget, over his last five seasons, Ingram has 39 rushing touchdowns, and five more via receiving. I have no doubt that Ingram can be a top 15 running back in 2019 as a result, especially with the rushing threat of Lamar Jackson sharing a backfield with him. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
How, as a fan of football, are you not hyped about Marquise “Hollywood” Brown playing in the big leagues, especially when he landed on the Ravens? As one of the most electrifying players in college football last year, I’m expecting nothing less this season. During his two seasons at Oklahoma, he had back-to-back thousand yard seasons and 17 total touchdowns. Hollywood Brown might be a small guy at just 5’9’’ 166 pounds, but he has unbelievable game speed that causes mismatches all over the field. He did sustain a foot injury during championship week in college, but he’ll bounce back. Brown will also be Lamar Jackson’s safety valve, as this will be his first year as the full time starter for the Ravens. Brown has the potential to be a number one receiver, but for right now he’ll be a perfect WR2. – Chris Tyler
Finishing as WR51 last season and having an ADP of WR101 makes for an incredible sleeper pick in Willie Snead. Snead was third on the depth chart last season and now slots in as the WR1 with his competition being Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Snead lives for the underneath and mid-range routes, and that is where Lamar Jackson thrives in the passing game. Snead has not had a great season since 2016 in New Orleans, but that was also the last time he was considered a legit option in an offense- taking up over 100 targets from Drew Brees. Lamar Jackson is no Drew Brees, but Snead is one of the only veterans on the team who Jackson can rely on, and that will go a long way. Snead will be a solid fill in off your bench with the upside of giving you WR2 numbers when the match-up is in his favor. – Joe Zollo
The Ravens have always been known for their stellar defense ever since shutting down the Giants in the Super Bowl, but this is the first year where they don’t have someone by the name of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, or Terrell Suggs. There are definitely some solid names in the front seven, but the top notch names are in the secondary. Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, and Marlon Humphrey are all very good at their jobs, but none of them are great fantasy football options. The only solid option that is in the Ravens secondary is former Seahawk Earl Thomas.
Thomas is coming off a brutal injury he suffered in Week 4 of 2018 where, if you can recall, he flipped the bird to the entire Seattle Seahawks sideline, effectively sealing his career with the team. Thomas became a free agent this season and signed with Baltimore in hopes of joining a solid young core and pursuing another Super Bowl ring. I wouldn’t be racing to grab Earl Thomas like in years past, but he is capable of being a DB1 while having his draft stock fall due to last season’s injury and his rising age. – Joe Zollo