2021 Franchise Focus: Baltimore Ravens


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2021 Franchise Focus: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens’ 2020 season was underwhelming for a while, as plans to expand their rudimentary passing game hit a snag, in large part because the COVID-adjusted off-season just didn’t allow OC Greg Roman and QB Lamar Jackson to put in the work needed. Additionally, the Ravens’ lack of talent at the WR position was a hindrance. A shift to a more run-heavy approach late in the season paid off, and Jackson notched his first playoff victory as the Ravens’ starting QB.

The Ravens have attempted to address the latter concern about the passing game, adding Sammy Watkins in free agency and Rashod Bateman in the first round of the NFL Draft. The off-season is also more “normal,” which should benefit matters. However, a reshuffling of the offensive line could be a concern, with stud T Orlando Brown traded to Kansas City to fit his request of playing left tackle.

Still extremely talented with a ton of speed on offense, the Ravens have a lot going for them for fantasy, and odds have them as one of the AFC’s top Super Bowl contenders.

Baltimore Ravens Franchise Focus Companion Podcast

The Basics

2021 Season Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)10.5 (-154/+125)
AFC North+125
Playoffs (Y/N)-303/+235
AFC Championship+650
Super Bowl+1400
Season Prop Movement
  • Win Total: 11 (-125) in late March to 10.5 (-154)

  • Super Bowl: +1200 in early February to +1400

Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.

Key Offseason Moves

Sammy Watkins (WR)Rashod Bateman (WR)Orlando Brown (OT, KC)
Ali Villanueva (OT)Odafe Oweh (DE)Matt Judon (LB, NE)
Josh Oliver (TE)Ben Cleveland (OG)Yannick Ngakoue (DE, LV)
Kevin Zeitler (OG)Brandon Stephens (CB)Robert Griffin (QB)
Ja’Wuan James (OT)Tylan Wallace (WR)Mark Ingram (RB, Hou)
Shaun Wade (CB)Willie Snead (LV)
Matt Skura (C, Mia)
D.J. Fluker (OG, Mia)
Jihad Ward (DE, Jax)

Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule

Quarterback: 7th-toughest (-0.35)

Running Back: 14th-easiest (+0.31)

Wide Receivers: 7th-toughest (-0.86)

Tight Ends: 11th-easiest (+0.12)

Pace and Tendencies

Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.4 (31st)

Plays per game: 61.1 (28th)

When the game is within a score — Pass: 44.9% (32nd) | Run: 55.1% (1st)

When the team is ahead — Pass: 41.9% (29th) | Run: 58.1% (4th)

When the team is behind — Pass: 50.4% (32nd) | Run: 49.6% (1st)

OC Greg Roman isn’t hiding what the Ravens want to do, and that is run the damn ball. And who can blame him? Even though the league is trending more pass-heavy, the Ravens have a contrarian approach and they do it well because Lamar Jackson is a cheat code. Even in what was a “down” 2020 season for Lamar coming off of his MVP campaign, the Ravens still scored 29.3 points per game (7th-most) and led the league in both rushing yards (3,071) and YPC (5.5). The question for their run game in 2021 is how to split up the non-Lamar carries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Over the last two years, Ravens RBs have averaged a robust 23.6 carries per game — which projects out to 402 total attempts over the 17-game season. Even if Dobbins gets 55% of those carries, Edwards 35%, and Justice Hill gets the mop up 10%, you’re looking at 220 attempts as Dobbins’ floor. So, even though he’s sharing with Jackson and Edwards, Dobbins still has enough projectable volume to make him a borderline RB1 in the league’s most efficient rushing attack.

Key Statistics

  • For his career, Lamar Jackson is averaging a ridiculous 78.5 rushing yards per start and that leads the all-time record book by a significant margin. Tim Tebow ranks second in rushing yards per start (61.8) while Michael Vick (53.1) is third.

  • Last year, Jackson averaged 0.76 fantasy points per dropback. Aaron Rodgers (0.68) was second.

  • In 2019, Jackson put up 0.91 FP/dropback. That dusted the league. The next closest QB was Ryan Tannehill (0.70).

  • Despite what common consensus would have you believe, Jackson’s accuracy on intermediate/deep throws actually improved in 2020. Last year, 63% of Jackson’s throws of 10 or more air yards were on-target per SIS (which ranked 22nd out of 37 QBs).

  • In 2019, 57% of Lamar’s throws of 10+ yards were on-target (ranking second from last).

  • Mark Andrews actually saw a higher share of the Ravens red-zone targets last year (28%) compared to the 2019 season (22%), but he only scored 4 TDs on his 16 RZ looks. In 2019, Andrews scored 7 times on 14 RZ targets.

  • Among the 53 RBs that had 100 or more touches last season, Dobbins ranked 15th-best in missed tackles forced per touch while Edwards was 44th (per PFF).

Huber’s Scheme Notes


In his second season as the Ravens’ OC, Greg Roman was determined to bring balance to the offense … not that his first season on the job deserved any explanations. He was named the Assistant Coach of the Year, Lamar Jackson took home the MVP, and Baltimore set the NFL record with 3,296 team rushing yards. So it should come as zero surprise that in every completed season as an NFL OC, Roman offenses have rushed for at least 2,000 yards as a team. But it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that his QBs have generated a combined 149 passing TDs, to only 49 INTs. However, during that historic 2019 season, Jackson may have passed for 36 TDs, but he did so without a single WR topping 600 receiving yards. It did become immediately clear that Marquise Brown would be a vital piece to their future. But Brown couldn’t do it all by himself.

When Roman attempted to capitalize on Jackson’s insane 4.7-to-1 TD-to-INT career ratio while limiting his rushing volume last season, things didn't go as planned. Baltimore TEs accounted for 8-of-10 receiving TDs over the first six games, and Brown averaged all of 43.1 receiving yards over the first 10 games. Following their Week 7 bye, Roman reverted the offense to its heavy personnel approach from ‘19. After a brutal 1-4 stretch, Jackson ultimately led the Ravens to five consecutive victories, and a playoff berth. Baltimore still easily outpaced all teams with 3,071 combined rushing yards. When safety attention was forced to adjust to Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards eating up yardage on the ground, Brown emerged with an average line of 4.6/66.8/0.8 over the final eight games.

After leading the NFL by running the ball on 50% of all plays, the Ravens selected Rashod Bateman in the first round, Tylan Wallace in the fourth, signed Sammy Watkins, and Devin Duvernay will have a full season learning the offense under his belt. It’s entirely clear Roman will attempt to revitalize the passing attack. What should we expect? Plenty of three- and four-wide sets to take advantage of the new toys. With Watkins’ veteran presence, Brown could be in line for that breakout envisioned after his rookie season. But don’t expect Mark Andrews’ numbers to fall off since he ran just under 70% of his routes detached from the O-line. Providing increased rushing lane spacing for their gap-heavy schemes, an improved WR unit could turn Baltimore into a serious contender in 2021.


The biggest personnel concern for the offense is the health of LT Ronnie Stanley. Things are not as peachy for the defense, particularly along the D-line. The losses of Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and, after a mini-breakout season, Jihad Ward will be felt. DC Don Martindale will have his fingers crossed that Odafe (formerly Jayson) Oweh can be an impact weapon in their gaping hole at 3-4 rush LB. However, the Ravens were able to avoid any significant losses at CB, safety, and off-the-ball LB. They even bolstered their CB depth with the selections of Brandon Stephens in the third round, and Shaun Wade in the fifth.

As a part of the Baltimore coaching staff since 2012, Martindale has long been a proponent of a man coverage-heavy approach. The Ravens are one of only two teams (Miami in 2020) to average at least a 10% rate of Cover 0 and 30% of Cover 1 over the last three seasons. And they’ve done so in each of “Wink’s” three seasons as their DC. And that’s precisely where those D-line losses will be felt the most. No secondary in football can defend modern WRs in single coverage without their pass rush getting home in well under four seconds. That’s especially true when sending an all-out, Cover 0 blitz. Their offense may be forced to generate 30-plus PPG if the Baltimore pass rush is unable to assist their talented, man-specialist CB trio of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith.

Projected Fantasy Contributors

Lamar Jackson (Proj: QB3 | ADP: 48 | Pos ADP: QB5)

While Jackson was obviously excellent for fantasy last season on the cumulative — he led all QBs with 67.0 rushing yards per game — he didn’t pay off which was, at times, a 2nd-round ADP. Jackson was QB9 in total fantasy points and ranked QB7 in FPG among QBs who made 10 or more starts (he made 15, missing one with COVID-19). It appeared to us that the Ravens’ insistence of trying to expand their pass game — which was discussed often as a massive focus for their 2020 plans — hurt Jackson’s production. In fact, there was a point where Jackson was looking like one of the worst value picks in all of fantasy football. In his first 10 games of the season, he had just four games in which he scored 20 or more FP, and was 10th among QBs in FPG through that point. A late-season shift toward what worked better for Jackson in 2019, when he won league MVP, finally provided the production Lamar drafters expected. From Weeks 13 through 17, a five-game stretch, his worst output was 21.3 FP, and his 27.9 FPG ranked #2 to only Josh Allen (28.1) over that stretch, with two of his four top-5 QB finishes coming in that stretch as well. So if teams were able to weather some mediocrity from Lamar for 12 weeks, he was a league-winner. The question for 2021 is, with a more normal off-season and a further buttressed receiving group (Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Tylan Wallace), if the Ravens will again try to progress Lamar in the pocket. While the tape certainly leaves some things to be desired, Lamar is still a very efficient passer statistically. Even though Jackson’s passing touchdown rate regressed from 2019 (9%) to 2020 (6.9%), he still ranked tied for third with Ryan Tannehill. Only Aaron Rodgers (9.1%) and Russell Wilson (7.2%) had higher passing TD rates than Jackson this past season. And per SIS, Lamar was more accurate on deep passes than in 2019 — 63% of Jackson’s throws of 10 or more air yards were on-target in 2020. In 2019, 57% of his throws of 10+ yards were on-target. A few things held Jackson’s 2020 back, including a nonexistent off-season. While he’ll never be Peyton Manning as a pocket passer, he might be better in that area than you think, and obviously his rushing production is massive.

JK Dobbins (Proj: RB16 | ADP: 27 | Pos ADP: RB17)

The Ravens invested a second-round pick in Dobbins last season, and like some other rookie running backs — Cam Akers, Jonathan Taylor — it took him some time to really make a fantasy impact. Overall, Dobbins ranked as RB33 over the full season, with 11.2 FPG (he missed a game with COVID-19). But it might be unfair to blame Dobbins’ “struggles” on his being a rookie. The Ravens were trying to force a three-man backfield with Dobbins, Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards for the first half of the season. Eventually, the Ravens phased out Ingram, and Dobbins was unlocked. In his final nine games with Ingram riding the bench, Dobbins rushed for 101/593/8 and averaged 13.7 fantasy points per game. That 13.7 FPG would have made him the RB22 over the full season — tied with Kareem Hunt. Dobbins finished twice as a top-12 RB in 2020, with six more times as a top-24 RB. Both of his top-12 weeks and five of his six top-24 weeks came in that nine-game span. And with Ingram gone, there are plenty of reasons to be bullish on Dobbins. Per SIS, since the start of 2018, a total of 70 RBs have 150 or more carries. Among those backs, Dobbins is 2nd in EPA, 2nd in YPC, 3rd in 1st downs per carry, and 4th in success rate. Per PFF, among the 53 RBs that had 100 or more touches on the season, Dobbins ranked 15th-best in missed tackles forced per touch (Edwards was 44th). Dobbins is a much better receiver than Edwards, as well, which should keep him on the field more often. Edwards isn’t going away (he signed a multi-year extension), which might make Dobbins’ early-3rd-round ADP tough to swallow, but the Ravens have the NFL’s most explosive rushing offense, and Dobbins fits it like a glove.

Gus Edwards (Proj: RB50 | ADP: 110 | Pos ADP: RB41)

The Ravens — and Ravens fans — love Edwards. A classic downhill grinder with an excellent playing personality, Edwards signed a two-year contract extension through the 2023 season in June (though the guaranteed money is only through 2022). OC Greg Roman has made it well known that he plans to rotate Edwards in with JK Dobbins in a committee. Fortunately, there are plenty of carries to go around on a team that has easily led the NFL in rushing attempts per game for two straight seasons. Edwards’ mantra is “go forward.” In 2020, Edwards was stuffed on just 13.2% of his runs, per SIS, 7th-fewest among RBs with 100 or more carries (Dobbins was 9th). More impressively, per ESPN’s Field Yates, Edwards has had a positive gain on 89.1% of his runs since he entered the league in 2018, highest in the NFL. And last season, he paid off a dirt-cheap ADP with four top-24 RB weeks and five more top-36 RB weeks. The biggest issue for fantasy is that Edwards is an absolute zero as a receiver, catching just 18 passes in three seasons. So Edwards likely needs a TD run — he had a career-high 6 in 2020 — to pay off in a weekly league. Predicting those TDs will be fickle, so he stands to be a better best-ball pick at his 9th-round ADP than he is in roster management leagues. That said, he will approach 10 carries per game this year with Mark Ingram out of the picture, and if Dobbins were to go down, he’d have massive league-winning upside.

Marquise Brown (Proj: WR33 | ADP: 99 | Pos ADP: WR41)

“Hollywood” Brown was a disappointment in 2020, there’s no getting around it, but a slightly deeper dive suggests his season wasn’t as bad as we might think. Yes, on the full season, Brown’s rank of WR41 at 11.4 FPG among WRs with 10 or more games played (he was WR48 otherwise) was completely underwhelming. His 9 drops tied him for 4th-most in the NFL (per SIS), and his 12.5% drop rate was 4th-most among any receiver with 80 or more targets. However, it’s worth noting that the Raven offense was totally out of sync for the first two to three months of the season, as the abbreviated pandemic off-season ruined plans for OC Greg Roman to expand Lamar Jackson’s passing game. Over the first 10 games of the season — statistically, Jackson’s worst as well — Brown had just 32/431/2 on 59 targets (8.7 FPG). But counting playoffs, Brown cleared 80 yards and/or scored a touchdown in each of the final eight games of 2020, posting 37/534/6 on 57 targets. That was good enough for 15.8 FPG, which over the full season would have ranked him #16 at WR, between Bucs stars Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. There is much more competition for targets for Brown this year — first-round pick Rashod Bateman, fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace, vet Sammy Watkins — but he remains one of the game’s most explosive vertical threats. His weekly inconsistency could make him a headache in traditional leagues, but a 9th-round price on Brown in best-ball leagues is one of our favorite values on the board. We pushed him too much last year, but the markets have overcorrected too much as well.

Rashod Bateman (Proj: WR73 | ADP: 151 | Pos ADP: WR61)

The Ravens obviously needed help at wide receiver, and selecting the very gifted Bateman in the first round was a completely logical selection. Unfortunately, for our game, it’s a nasty fit. While the Ravens clearly had plans to expand their passing game last year, the pandemic-altered offseason had a different idea. The expectation from our perspective is that the team will be better through the air, but a tiger isn’t going to change its stripes — the Ravens easily led the NFL in rush attempts in each of the last two years, and it would be stunning if they fell off significantly in that department. The thing Bateman brings to the Ravens is exceptional versatility — he reminded our Greg Cosell of Allen Robinson coming out of Penn State, with the movability to play X, Z, or in the slot. But he also mentioned that “team and scheme will be important in determining the volume of production Bateman has early in his NFL career.” In that regard, we can’t expect a whole lot, given he’s battling Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, and Mark Andrews for targets … and he’s battling the Ravens’ run-heavy tendencies to boot. We have him falling short of his pretty low ADP of WR61, but betting on his talent at that price is more than fair.

Sammy Watkins (Proj: WR88 | ADP: 229 | Pos ADP: WR81)

Watkins signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this off-season, reuniting with OC Greg Roman, who coached him in Buffalo for Watkins’ most productive season in 2015. While we’re by no means expecting Sammy to come in and post his second career 1000-yard campaign, he’s still just 28 and his signing was a completely reasonable expense for a team that really struggled at the WR position last year, especially in terms of depth. Watkins is coming off a three-year stint with the best passing offense in the NFL, but he was rarely more than a “splash” player in Kansas City — most notably, he scored all 3 of his 2019 TDs in Week 1 alone. It’s obviously not great that he couldn’t top even 50 receiving yards per game in that offense the last two years, and injuries have been a constant issue, but Watkins always had that “wow” ability. So of course he’s buzzing in Ravens OTAs, with beat writer Jeff Zrebiec calling him Baltimore’s most outstanding player from the session. Sammy has fooled us dozens of times before, but he is an absolutely free stack with Lamar Jackson right now, which is somewhat appealing.

Mark Andrews (Proj: TE5 | ADP: 67 | Pos ADP: TE6)

Andrews had a rock-solid 2020 season, turning 88 targets into 58/701/7 receiving, finishing as the TE4 in FPG (12.2), pretty much exactly where he was being drafted. He played in 14 games, missing two with COVID-19, and also battling through a thigh injury. When active, Andrews and Marquise Brown essentially split the lion’s share of the Ravens’ targets, with both averaging roughly 6.25 per game. The question for Andrews now is if he has room to grow. Despite being the Ravens’ most effective receiver over the last two seasons, a funny note to Andrews’ career is that he’s actually “started” only 9 of 45 career games — that’s because the Ravens employ a heavy 2-TE attack, relying on the elite blocking of Nick Boyle to help their deadly run game. Overall, Andrews played just 65.5% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps when active — that ranked 22nd among TEs. A small boost there could go a long way. Moreover, some positive TD regression would be welcome. Andrews actually saw a higher share of the Ravens red-zone targets last year (28%) compared to the 2019 season (22%), but he only scored 4 TDs on his 16 RZ looks. Among the nine players that saw at least 25% of their team’s red-zone targets in 2020, seven of them scored at least 6 touchdowns. So with a small boost in red-zone efficiency, Andrews could produce more points. The Ravens now have much more at receiver with Sammy Watkins plus rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace, but Andrews has been Lamar Jackson’s go-to guy in big spots. At an affordable ADP in the 6th round, Andrews is a fine selection.

Nick Boyle (Proj: TE48 | ADP: 320 | Pos ADP: TE41)

Technically the Ravens’ “starting” TE, Boyle is known much more for his blocking than his receiving ability. He played in 9 games in 2020 before suffering a gruesome knee injury, and caught just 14 passes, including 2 for TDs. He has just 120 receptions in 73 career games, with 4 TDs total, all 4 of which have come in the last two seasons. Presuming Boyle is healthy, his role will continue to be massive for the Ravens’ offense, but for fantasy, he’s little more than a nuisance in all but the deepest of 2-TE leagues.

Hansen’s Final Points

This is something of a watershed season for Lamar Jackson, who was the NFL/fantasy MVP in 2019 and a relative fantasy buzz kill in 2020. The best bet is that he performs somewhere in between his last two seasons, which is fine because that should guarantee a top-5 finish. It is still a small leap of faith to assume Lamar will improve, but it’s also fair to be optimistic, given the more typical off-season the league’s enjoyed this year and the reinforcements made to his arsenal of weapons. If he fails again to expand his game with more efficient passing (he wasn’t that bad last year, honestly), Roman can always go back to basics and run Lamar 10+ times a game, which is also a path to a top-5 finish. And this year, he’s occasionally slipping into the 5th and even 6th rounds of drafts, making him one of our favorite targets on the entire board. If the vibes are good in August, he will likely end up as my top QB target, despite still being a little pricey.

He’s not a perfect fantasy prospect on a team with Lamar Jackson, and they definitely like Gus Edwards, who will get his, but the Ravens want JK Dobbins to take on a larger role in year two. He should see even more work than the final nine games of his rookie season, when he rushed for 101/593/8. But also in the passing game, which was worked on in their June OTAs. His ADP has actually been slipping in the weeks and months after the draft, and he’s easily one of the better RB values going off the board, even slipping into the fourth round, though rarely, in some July drafts.

Since he’s a big back, the Ravens run unique plays with him in their running game, and Gus Edwads executes them well, so the consistent touches will continue for Gus. The Ravens

led the NFL in rushing attempts the last two seasons, so there’s a lot to go around. Last year, Edwards was a nice value in deep leagues, but this year he’s overvalued. His ADP of around 115 and RB43 is rich for a RB with minimal upside in the passing game and who looks like their third option at the goal (behind Lamar and Dobbins). There may be some value in the Dobbins owner drafting him as protection, since Gus will have some standalone value and would be a league-winner if Dobbins missed time.

I’d have to call our strong endorsement of Marquise Brown last year a miss, but it wasn’t a total loss. It was bad for two months, but Brown was a consistent producer his final eight games (including playoffs) and his 15.8 FPG in that span was 15th among WRs with 10 or more games. Fantasy managers have taken his poor 2020 season and the additions of Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman as reasons to drop him down the board. His ADP is down 40-45 spots from last year in most leagues, and he’s a great target around 100 picks into a draft if you wait on adding your third receiver. He’d also be an excellent WR4. I can think of three missed big plays off the top of my head from last year with Lamar missing Hollywood. If they can get on the same page, fireworks may ensue.

I totally get why the Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round, since he’s a “professional” receiver with inside/outside versatility along with great hands and route-running. He does remind me of a volume type of receiver, like Keenan Allen, which is not great news, of course, since he will not be enjoying high volume in this offense, where Baltimore’s run-heavy approach places less of need on the passing game than almost every other team in the league. He’s a much better addition for the Ravens for football reasons, but we have him falling short of his pretty low ADP of WR61. But if you want to bet on his talent very late in the draft, we do believe that Bateman will be a quality pro and perhaps a future pro-bowler.

It feels like Sammy Watkins hasn’t been good at football for like 17 years, so it’s hard for me or any of us to back him as a fantasy pick, especially on this team. He did play for Roman in Buffalo, at least, and he’s still pretty darn young at 28. Watkins has basically been an “individual play” guy the last number of years, so we can’t even consider the likelihood that he’s a consistent producer. But he’ll probably still have two to three big games, at least giving him a high weekly ceiling. He’s also been off to a good start in the off-season. His ADP is 200+ overall and he’s 80+ at WR, so he’s essentially free. That’s nice, but when your best quality is price, it’s usually because you’re not reliable or particularly good. And we can forget about upside, since Watkins failed to top 50 yards a game in a potent passing attack in KC last year.

It looked to me like Mark Andrews simply had a down year in 2020 and was brought down a little by Lamar Jackson’s shaky play for most of the season. Andrews was also on the COVID list, and keep in mind he had a very personal decision to even play because he’s a diabetic. They may lean on him a little less, but Lamar still loves throwing to Andrews in the middle of the field and in the red zone, and that won’t change in 2021. Andrews actually saw a higher share of the Ravens red-zone targets last year (28%) compared to the 2019 season (22%), so we could see some positive TD regression. Ultimately, Andrews is a little less appealing than he was last year, but I still view him as a high-end starter, and his cost is down a little this year around 65-70 overall, which makes his appeal about equal to this time last year. He’s not a must-have, but he’s a very nice option who’s affordable compared to the other elite TEs.