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Fantasy Forecast: 2021 Baltimore Ravens

@ReflipeWThenuz provides a detailed breakdown of the Baltimore Ravens skill position players heading into the 2021 season.

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the most unique teams in the entire NFL. From an offensive standpoint, few teams look even remotely close to the Ravens. This has been an offensive team predicated around the rushing attack. Like bygone teams of yesteryear, this team has been content to play smash-mouth football. Control the clock, hit some big plays with the play-action, and allow their defense to set the tone.

Last season, the Ravens attempted the fewest pass plays in the entire league with 406. Heading into the 2021 season, the Ravens are seeking to add some new dimensions to their offensive scheme. The front office under Ozzie Newsome’s disciple Eric DeCosta has sought to surround their MVP QB with a plethora of new toys. With a new contract on the horizon, it will fall on Lamar Jackson to open the floodgates and show that he is a multidimensional playmaker. and not just the best rushing QB we have ever seen. Without further ado let us dive into the Baltimore offensive unit.

QUARTERBACK

Image courtesy of touchdownwire.usatoday.com

LAMAR JACKSON

The unicorn himself, Jackson is the best rushing QB we have ever seen in the history of the NFL. Never before have we seen a QB put up the type of rushing yards he has. The former Louisville Cardinal is the most unique and hard to judge NFL and dynasty QB on the market. Jackson’s rushing prowess comes with sometimes maddening inconsistency as a passer. However, this dynamic playmaker is an absolute stud QB1.

Coming out of college, there were many in the NFL world who questioned whether or not Jackson could actually play the QB position. There were numerous reports of NFL front offices asking Lamar to test as an RB, WR, or purely an athlete. Despite his amazing 2016 Heisman campaign, doubt still lingered as to if his style could work. Jackson stuck to his guns and refused. He even refused to run the 40-yard dash simply standing on his college film and production which you can see below. 

Since entering the NFL as a late first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Jackson has been an absolute stud. The Ravens have been a perennial playoff team with aspirations for much much more. The highlight of his early career thus far was his amazing 2019 MVP season. However, regular-season dynamics have thus far led to playoff disappointment. But we are not dealing with the NFL playoffs, are we? In the dynasty fantasy football world Jackson has been a winner. In the last two seasons as the full-time starter, Jackson has finished as the QB10 and QB1. During that time, he has routinely made highlight-reel plays over and over again. You can see a couple of examples below from his rookie season. Keep in mind that he has only gotten better over the two subsequent years.

2021 will be a big year for Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have seen brilliant plays with his legs. They have witnessed his MVP run in 2019. What they want now is to see some balance in the offensive attack. That desired balance will hopefully achieve the playoff success that has thus far eluded Lamar. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this offseason the front office has made a concerted effort to surround their franchise QB with numerous new weapons. They have bolstered his receiving corps, retained one of his quality RBs, and added some intriguing depth to the TE room. 

Moving forward, Jackson represents an excellent, if not risky QB play in dynasty. With a prior number one overall season under his belt and a bevy of new weapons at his disposal, the Ravens signal-caller can be a difference-maker. However, his penchant for running could also lead to injury. If he were to not use his legs as often, it is as yet unknown if he could turn in a QB1 season with his arm alone. I myself am an eternal optimist. I personally believe that barring injury, which can happen to any player at any time, Jackson will again be a high-end QB1. Judging by his stats below, you can draft him with a reasonable amount of confidence that he will provide the QB1 numbers you need to compete on any given week. 

RUNNING BACKS

Image courtesy of buckeyeswire.usatoday.com

J.K. DOBBINS

One of the most exciting young RBs in the NFL, Dobbins is set to take over as the lead RB in Charm City. The former Ohio State Buckeye was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, following a standout career at OSU. From start to finish Dobbins was a star at Columbus. He broke records held by program legends like Maurice Clarett, Eddie George, and Archie Griffin. In his final season of college ball, he became the first OSU RB to eclipse 2,000 yards, breaking Eddie George’s school record.

During his rookie season in Baltimore, Dobbins repeatedly flashed the big-play ability that garnered his lofty draft status. Playing in part of a three-man committee to begin the season, he garnered more and more of the work as the months passed. Eventually, he and Gus Edwards pushed Mark Ingram off the active roster. Dobbins averaged an incredible league-leading 6.0 ypc, throwing down a 134/805/9 stat line. His nine TDs were a Ravens rookie record. The 72-yard home run below sealed the record.

One area of his game that could use some work is his craft as a receiver out of the backfield. This has been a point of emphasis for Dobbins in the offseason. OC Greg Roman has gone as far as claiming getting the RBs involved in the passing game is a major point of emphasis this season. Dobbins has worked on his hands in the offseason, as you can see below. You can also see from last season just what he can do once the ball is in his hands.

Dobbins is one of the most exciting players on the team. His playing style meshes perfectly with Lamar Jackson and the read-option rushing attack. He has elite-level traits and in my humble estimation will be a nice low-end RB1 for the foreseeable future. Were it not for the presence of the next man I will cover. he would be much much higher in my rankings. The Ravens have run the ball more than any other team over the last couple of seasons. There is simply no reason not to be excited about the former Ohio State star. I highly recommend adding Dobbins to your dynasty squads wherever you can. 

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

GUS EDWARDS

The Gus-Bus, as he is affectionately called in the Charm City, has been a revelation since being brought in as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers. Edwards actually spent the majority of his college career in Miami before heading to Rutgers as a graduate transfer. He was lightly used in college due to competition and injury, leaving his legs relatively fresh at the outset of his NFL career. 

Since joining the Ravens, Gus has been a beast. While not being a big part of the passing game. he has been a hammer in the rushing attack. The Gus Bus has never averaged less than 5.0 ypc or 700 yards in a season. With little fanfare outside of Baltimore, he has put up extremely respectable numbers. 

Gus is a high motor effort player who has proven his worth to the front office and coaching staff. Despite having a rookie RB who led the league in YPC, the front office decided to reward Gus with a new deal following his best year to date in 2020. His two-year, nine-million dollar contract was a nice payday for a player who wasn’t even drafted.

With the departure of Mark Ingram, Gus is now the elder statesman in the RB room. He and Dobbins make up one of the best one-two punches in the league. The Ravens are sure to once again operate a run-heavy scheme that highlights their QB and RBs abilities as rushers. Much like Dobbins, Edwards has been working on his receiving skills in the offseason. Despite only having 18 catches over his first three seasons he made one of the best catches by an RB in 2020 with this dime below along the sideline. 

Edwards comes at a nice discount relative to his production. Despite his production, he is often drafted quite late. In our very own Dynasty Nerds PPR rankings he comes in at an absurd RB62!!! With the sheer number of rushing attempts in Baltimore, along with his already significant role on the team, makes him an extremely high-end flex option. Were anything to happen to Dobbins in front of him on the depth chart, Edwards would vault to a sure-fire RB1. Do yourself a favor and add this overlooked quality RB.

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

THE RB DEPTH CHART

With the departure of Mark Ingram, the Ravens are not as deep as they once were. They still have one of the few remaining true two-way players in the league with FB/DL Patrick Ricard. From a dynasty standpoint, the only true player worth considering outside of Dobbins and Edwards is former fourth-round pick Justice Hill. The former Oklahoma State standout showed some promise in his rookie season, before being essentially replaced last year with the addition of Dobbins. Were Dobbins to miss some time, it is likely that Hill would see an uptick in his playing time alongside Edwards. I do not personally believe Hill would benefit from an Edwards injury in the same manner as his skill set is far more similar to Dobbins. There is not much here but in deep roster leagues, Hill isn’t the worst end of bench stash in case of injury.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

RASHOD BATEMAN

For years, the Baltimore Ravens have been one of the best franchises in the entire league at hitting in the NFL draft. However, if there is one position they have whiffed on repeatedly. it has been the WR spot. From Devard Darling, Yamon Figures, Mark Clayton, Travis Taylor, Patrick Johnson, Breshad Perriman, and even Marquise Brown – the Ravens have made a terrible habit of striking out on highly drafted WRs. Outside of former second-round pick Torrey Smith, I hesitate to name even one other hit at the position. New GM DeCosta has again sought to reverse the curse with this year’s first-round pick Rashod Bateman. 

The former University of Minnesota star has been one of the top WRs in the Big10 for the last couple of seasons. His overall skill set led to him putting up some truly impressive numbers. Were it not for a Covid-19 shortened season in which Bateman himself contracted the virus, he may have actually gone higher on draft day.

In his sophomore campaign, Bateman showed all the tools necessary to become a true alpha number one at the NFL level. He has excellent speed, body control, route running, and hands. He does well at sinking his hips in and out of his breaks and runs routes displaying excellent fluidity. His game feels reminiscent of Reggie Wayne when I watch him. Aside from not being as big as the Golden Gophers listed him as, there is little to be critical about with his game. You can see from his Sophomore highlights below just what type of player he can be for the Ravens. 

From a stylistic standpoint, Bateman is exactly what the Baltimore Ravens need. As I mentioned earlier, the Ravens have been lacking a true number one option for Jackson. There is a dynamic TE with Mark Andrews. They have an excellent field-stretching speedster in Marquise Brown. There are nice depth options like Devin Duvernay and Miles Boykin. They even went out and signed a veteran mentor in Sammy Watkins to teach Bateman and company how it’s done properly in the NFL. The table has been set for Bateman to come right in and fill an immediate need with a ready-made squad. The only question is how hungry is he?

Due to being selected by the Ravens, Bateman is currently an excellent value in dynasty leagues. Prior to the NFL draft, he was ranked much higher on rookie lists. Based on talent alone, he is one of the best players in the 2021 class. He will certainly need former MVP Jackson to take a step forward in his development in order to reach his full potential, but the risk is baked into his current price. Do yourself a favor and grab some Bateman shares while his price is at its depreciated value. 

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

Marquise Brown

Brown is who we at Dynasty Nerds thought he was, a field-stretching speedster not adequately suited to being an NFL number one receiver. While not a positive, this does not mean he is without talent or usefulness to his NFL team. Brown has repeatedly flashed the big play potential that saw the Ravens jump up and make him the first WR taken in the 2019 NFL draft. The cousin of All-Pro Antonio Brown, Marquise has also been a TD maker as you can see from his numbers below.

Whether through his fault or that of his QB or coach, Brown has simply not received enough targets to put up elite numbers. If you extrapolate his numbers and add 20 to 50 targets, putting him in line with other NFL number one options, his numbers would look pretty nice. However, with his slight build, and his team’s penchant for rushing the ball, that was never in the cards. Now with the addition of Bateman and Watkins, it is fair to wonder how much Brown will be involved in the game plan. His speed will be incredibly valuable to the Ravens and their scheme. However, how many passes will he see come his way?

Now while Brown is not one of my favorite WRs in dynasty, he does still hold some nice value. The addition of Bateman has made him extremely affordable to acquire. In particular, I am interested in Brown in best-ball leagues, where his big-play ability can make him a gamechanger on weeks when he does hit paydirt. He will be going into his third season in the NFL, which has traditionally been a breakout year for WRs. He now has some legitimate help to take the focus off of him in the receiving game. It is certainly possible, that while his overall targets do not increase to WR1 status, his efficiency could go up making him a better weekly play. For my money, there is nothing wrong with having a guy like Brown on your squad as a WR4/WR5 for your bye weeks and desperation weeks, when you need to pray for a big game. 

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

THE WR DEPTH CHART

For a team that has not passed the ball very much over the past couple of seasons, the Ravens have some intriguing WR depth. Watkins, Duvernay, and Boykin all have some intriguing talent to offer. Being on the most run-heavy team in the league depreciates their value. However, that does not mean that Jackson and company are incapable of opening up the offense. Watkins, in particular, is a nice end-of-bench stash for win-now teams as he may end up being the most targeted WR on the team if his health holds out. Duvernay provides some intrigue, particularly in return yardage leagues, where his Kick and Punt return prowess gives some bonus points. The cupboard is certainly not bare in Baltimore. Any one of these players provides a nice bench stash.

TIGHT ENDS

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

MARK ANDREWS

The true star of the Ravens passing game, Andrews is one of the top dynasty TEs. Since being taken in the third round, all he has done is beat out a first-round pick and routinely finish as a top-five option at the position. Since his rookie year, he has finished as the TE17, TE5, and TE6 respectively. He has shown remarkable development and a solid rapport with his QB, as evidenced by his TD numbers which you can see below.

Despite his clear early career success, Andrews seems to be getting overlooked by the Dynasty community. Even with back-to-back TE1 seasons, Andrews is being passed over by the new flavors of the month; T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts. Heading into 2021, Andrews is due for another big target share. The Ravens have added a slew of new targets in the WR room but Andrews will remain the reliable man over the middle for Jackson. When you look over Andrews’ game it is hard to find any holes. He has excellent hands and routinely fights for yards after contact, all of which are highlighted below.  

Andrews combines the skill you see above with a well-established and defined role. The Ravens routinely target the TE position in their passing game. When you dive into the numbers, you find that Andrews is consistently targeted each and every game. According to FantasyPros, Andrews has been top-10 in targets per game at the TE position in the NFL. This means that he is far less likely to give you dud games.

As our founder, Rich Dotson, constantly stresses, the TE position is the best position to gain an advantage over your opponents. No position offers fewer elite options. I have Andrews ranked as my TE4 overall. At just 25 years old this season, he is by far the youngest of the proven elite options. Heading into a contract season in 2021, you can be assured that you will see the best Andrews has to offer. He has an established rapport with his QB, a defined high upside role in the offensive scheme, and has help this season. While some see the addition of Bateman, Watkins, and company as a negative, I personally believe it will help Andrews. Safeties will now be forced to pay far more attention to the WRs, opening space underneath and down the seam. Do yourself a favor and grab Mark Andrews wherever you can. 

Image courtesy of ravenswire.usatoday.com

THE TIGHT END DEPTH CHART

The Ravens have used 12 personnel as much as any team in the league over the last three seasons. They have consequently invested in the position, locking up and drafting players to stack the TE room. Behind Andrews, you have the blocking specialist and steady production of Nick Boyle. The team also went out and acquired former Jaguars’ third-round pick, Josh Oliver. Were something to happen to Andrews in season, each of these players would see an uptick in playing time. Neither is the worst end of the bench stash in TE premium leagues. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Baltimore Ravens offense is unique and the focus on rushing is a throwback in today’s NFL. They will hit you in the mouth over and over, and try to wear down defenses with power. It’s a different style, as more teams focus on throwing 50 times a game and throwing for 300 yards every game. However, as is often said, styles make matchups.

The Ravens routinely use their unique style and personnel to create mismatches and matriculate the ball down the field. Despite leading the NFL in rushing attempts and being in the bottom of the league in passing attempts the Ravens are top 10 in scoring. Points are the name of the game in the NFL and dynasty fantasy football. As such, the Ravens offer a number of elite players for your dynasty squads. I hope I have adequately highlighted some of them for you here in this article. As always, do your own scouting as well. I promise if you look deeply enough, you will find a lot to like with the Ravens’ offense. 

Thank you for reading this article! Please be sure to join the #Nerdherd so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing things we have to offer @Dynastynerds.com. You will get rankings, extra podcasts, and access to our rookie film room. For just a couple bucks more you can get access to our revolutionary DynastyGM tool. So much for so little, why miss out on all the fun. Also, do yourself a favor and check out our new mock draft tool. Follow me @ReflipeWThenuz for more dynasty content and other musings.

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