A Look Inside: 2021 Baltimore Ravens

When it comes to offenses that I’m excited about for 2021, the Baltimore Ravens sit at the top of my list. When I look at redraft, I always look for high-powered offenses from the year before and what changes were made. Did they get any new offensive linemen? Did the coaching staff change? What about skill positions? All of these are important factors for fantasy. Today, we are going to be looking at a preview of what this team can do for us in the 2021 season.

Note: You can follow the entire Look Inside series with this link and you can watch the full No Punt Intended episode on Youtube below with special guest Josh Brickner, writer for Dyntasy League Football and host of the Cleveland Sports Collective!

Last year, they were primarily a run-first team. When I say “primarily”, I literally mean they were first in run attempts and 32nd in passing attempts. They had a 3-headed monster at running back, with old and young talent galore. While at wide receiver,  Hollywood Brown (speed of a demon, and body of an infant) led the way for the team. Mark Andrews, better known as MANdrews, led the group and finished as a top-5 TE for the second year in a row. And of course, the group is led by the man himself, Lamar Jackson. He continued his rushing dominance with the most rushing attempts and rushing yards of 2020. Enough about last year. Let’s get into the present and see what Baltimore has to offer.

Quarterbacks

As with all positions, the upside is the name of the game here and Lamar Jackson is full of it. Like I said before, he was the king of rushing again in 2020, going over 1000 rushing yards. He was the QB10 in overall scoring and seventh in fantasy points per game with 22.7. He killed it– and it only gets better. After dealing with injuries and Marshall Yanda’s retirement, Baltimore’s offensive line improves with the additions of Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva. Both are established veterans and both bring a lot of stability to a line that needs it. Ronnie Stanley is starting on the PUP, but he will be back later in the season, making this one of the better lines in the league.

Along with the line, Baltimore also added several weapons for Lamar Jackson to potentially throw to. After adding spot-holder and Week 1 king Sammy Watkins, they drafted one of the most talented wide receivers in the draft, alpha Rashod Bateman. That causes all kinds of problems for defenses with their attention having to be all over the place. With Bateman and Andrews dominating the short and mid-game, Hollywood might finally have his time to shine with the defense’s attention elsewhere. With all these improvements around him, and his constant finish in the Top 10 the past couple of years, you’d imagine he would be being drafted pretty early. Maybe around Patrick Mahomes prices? That’s where you’re wrong.

After several mock drafts in ESPN and Sleeper, as well as looking at FantasyPros data, we see the same thing across the board: He’s the QB4. He is going around the 4th Round in a single QB league. Some might think that is high, and by all means, do not reach past here for Lamar. However, if you find yourself with 3 studs from Rounds 1-3, I would absolutely pull the trigger on Lamar. His situation only improved from last year and his ADP lowered. The new line, new receivers, same coaching staff– that’s what we want, people. Consistency with upside. Pull the trigger on Jackson in the 4th but remember, don’t reach. Ever. 

Running Backs

Ah, yes. The moment we have all been waiting for. Now the real questions come out. Can we trust this backfield? If they pass it more, will they still run enough? Will there be enough TDs to go around? Short answer, yes. Long answer, also yes. I’m in love with the potential of this backfield for fantasy.

To start Mark Ingram leaving is a big deal. I know, he was dust his last couple of years he was here but he was more important than you think – and do you know why? He was a good-sized RB that was going to take carries away from JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards. His leaving puts them in charge of the greatest rushing attack in football, and I want a piece of it. Justice Hill will have a catch and carry here and there, but this is going to be the JK/Bus show.

First off, we shouldn’t look for a lot of passes to running backs – but if we do, we should look to JK Dobbins, and even then it won’t be a lot. The team was last in pass attempts in general last year. Over the past two years, they average just 51 targets to the RB position– that’s not exactly a PPR dream. The value here is the damage on the ground. The Ravens have led the league in rushing attempts three years in a row, but Jackson is part of the equation there. Still, there is plenty for the RBs to enjoy. Both Edwards and Dobbins will see work on the ground. I just expect Dobbins to get a bigger piece of the pie. The potential here is huge, but is it worth it at their ADPs?

Dobbins in the 3rd might be too pricey for me. While the upside is there, waiting until the 10th round for a guy that will see similar work is the more logical move, but Dobbins could be a killer if you can get him at RB2 prices. Around that range, you get either David Montgomery or Josh Jacobs. I’d go Monty over Dobbins but it’s Dobbins over Jacobs all day. Gus will see less work, but on a team that runs more. Mark Ingram finished as a top-8 RB in 2019 and I see a similar path for Dobbins. The same amount of competition, same staff, better line – it all comes down to price. 

Wide Receivers

I’m going to save everyone some time and let you know now, this is going to be about only two WRs: Rashod Bateman and Marquise Brown. I know the world wants Sammy Watkins and Devin Duvernay to be a thing but it’s not going to happen. It’s time to let go. Duvernay profiles as a special teams ace and random speed decoy, and Watkins is going to have four good games this year. When they will happen– I have no clue.

That brings us to the good stuff. This year, at the end of the first round of the NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens got a steal and the WR1 they have always wanted in Rashod Bateman. He’s a fantastic route runner and contested-catch maniac. He’s perfect to help Lamar Jackson take the next step in his game by being his number one target down the road. Right now, however, I think Bateman helps someone else.

Hollywood Brown came on last year around Week 12, scoring a touchdown in all but one game in that stretch. Even then, he finished with 16 fantasy points due to yardage. The addition of an actual WR1 helps someone like Brown. With rumors of the team wanting to throw more, along with his work with Jackson already, Brown could be of value.

His average draft position is in the 9th/10th round and that’s not bad for a possible WR2/3. I say “possible” for many reasons, because there are reasons that you should be worried about Hollywood. First, volume. In that great stretch last year, he was propped up by those TDs, never going over 100 yards. He also will have Bateman slowly, over the course of the season, taking over as the main target. We also have Mark Andrews waiting for us.

The truth is, both WRs are going to be dart throws, with just a two-round difference in ADP. I wouldn’t mind drafting them as long as I understood the risks. Bateman is cheaper and has higher potential, so I am waiting for him in my drafts at the end of the day. I think we have seen Brown’s ceiling, and that’s what you have to hope for with him because his floor is so awful and sporadic. 

Tight Ends

Finally, Mr. Trustworthy. Since his rookie year, he has not looked back. He’s finished as a top-5 TE the past 2 years. He is so good, I tried to hold back from just throwing up stats but I am going to do it with this guy. He was 9th in receptions, 5th in receiving yards, 6th in TDS, 4th in fantasy points per game, 6th in contested catch rate, and 15th in drops – Mark Andrews can play. On top of that, he commanded a 24.9% target share, 3rd at his position. Lamar loves him and no matter who is on the field, Andrews is getting his share.

Adding a big guy like Bateman will most likely affect his TDs, but he will make up for in catches and yards. Think Zach Ertz, but good. He took a dip in YAC this year down from 9th to 22nd in 2020, but make no mistake, this guy is a problem with the ball in his hands. Aside from all this though, there is a reason to be worried about Andrews. He is being drafted at his ceiling.

Right now, on Fantasy Pros, he is the TE4 and he is fighting with guys like TJ Hockenson and Kyle Pitts for that spot. I’d rather have Andrews for sure, especially with the jump this offense could make. In 2019, Andrews and Jackson were a league-winning combo for sure, but that was with a later ADP. If I am drafting, I am passing. Still so many RBs and WRs in the 4th that could help my team a little bit more. We really have to consider the competition that was added along with the fact there isn’t much room to grow from the ceiling you are drafting him with.