|By Shawn Childs, Monday, July 31, 2023
John Harbaugh returns for his 16th season as head coach for the Ravens. He has a 147-95 record with 10 playoff berths and one Super Bowl title (2012). In 2021, the Ravens finished with a losing record (8-9) for the first time since 2007. Lamar Jackson missed nine of the team's final 10 games over the past two years, leading to a 1-8 record with an additional loss in the postseason in 2022. Baltimore made the playoffs four times in five seasons, with Jackson behind center (45-16).
The Ravens named Todd Monken as their offensive coordinator over the winter. Over the previous three seasons, he held the same position for the Georgia Bulldogs. Monken has eight years of experience in the NFL, with two other brief offensive coordinator jobs (Tampa Bay – 2018 and Cleveland – 2019).
After leading the NFL in scoring in 2019 (531 points), Baltimore slipped to 7th (468), 17th (387), and 19th (350). They finished 16th in offensive yards last season.
Mike MacDonald returns for his second season as the Ravens' defensive coordinator. He worked in Baltimore's coaching tree from 2014 to 2020 before moving to Michigan to run their defense. His highest-ranking previous coaching job in the NFL has been as a linebacking coach.
Baltimore climbed to third in points allowed (315), an improvement of 77 points from 2021 (392). They had a top 10 defense in yards allowed seven times over the past nine years (9th in 2022).
After battling with Lamar Jackson over his contract in 2022, the Ravens ponied up $260 million to lock him up for the next five seasons. Jackson received $135 million in guaranteed money, compared to $32.8 million in earnings over his first five seasons in the NFL.
Baltimore added Odell Beckham and Nelson Agholor for wide receiver depth. They didn't resign CB Marcus Peters and LB Justin Houston, who remain free agents. The Vikings snatched up backup tight end Josh Oliver, and G Ben Powers found a new home in Denver. The Ravens took a flier on CB Rock Ya-Sin to help their secondary.
The wide receiver position was also Baltimore's focus, with the first selection in the 2023 NFL Draft (Zay Flowers – 22nd). He is an undersized player (5'9" and 182 lbs.) with excellent speed (4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL combine) and quickness. His release and foundation of his route running create an early edge, but Flowers does need to fine-tune his precision on some patterns to stay in rhythm with his quarterback. He'll have many chances to make significant plays after the catch, but his hands and strength can be liabilities when asked to win in tight coverage.
The Ravens shifted to their defense with their next three draft picks – LB Trenton Simpson, DE Tavius Robinson, and CB Kyu Blue Kelly.
Simpson plays with high intensity and speed, but his aggression can sometimes get him trapped by the big bodies at the line of scrimmage. His vision must improve to let the developing play come to him where Simpson can excel with his attacking style. He projects well in coverage and has the wheels to get to the quarterback on blitzes.
The future looks bright for Robinson based on his ability to support the run and get to the quarterback. He hasn't reached his peak frame, which will be needed to win more close-contact battles. In addition, his strength must improve to increase his chances of finishing off plays and holding his ground when attacked in the run game. Robinson has a pass-rushing plan, but his overall speed isn't enough of an edge to consistently win when forced to take a long route to the quarterback.
Kelly feels like a cornerback who will have more success as the field shortens. He shows quickness and can handle wideouts in press coverage, but quarterbacks will look to test him on more extended patterns. Kelly doesn't have the overall speed to make up ground vs. top wide receivers once beaten early in pass patterns. His pretty boy style hinders his tackling and value against the run.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, the Ravens added two offensive linemen (T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and G Andrew Vorhees). Aumavae-Laulu brings power run blocking to the NFL, but his lumbering style has more risk than reward at this point of his career in pass protection. He must improve his footwork and technique to earn starting snaps. Vorhees is another player who relies on his power to create wins. His experience and technique give him a chance to help an offensive line early in his career once he recovers from his torn ACL.
Baltimore finished in the top four in rushing in 2019 (3,296 yards – 1st), 2020 (3,071 yards – 1st), 2021 (2,479 yards – 3rd), and 2022 (2,720 – 2nd). The injuries to Lamar Jackson over the past two seasons cost the Ravens a chance of leading the NFL in rushing yards in those years. They gained 5.2 yards per rush in 2022 with 14 touchdowns and eight runs of 20 yards or more.
Their passing game fell to 30th in 3,202 passing yards while losing momentum in passing touchdowns (19). Baltimore's quarterbacks tossed 18 interceptions while 38 sacks (19 fewer than in 2021). Jackson gained a career-low 6.9 yards per pass attempt.
Over the past three seasons, Ronnie Stanley missed 32 of his potential 49 starts. When at his best, he projects as a top pass protector with plenty of help in run blocking.
Left guard remains a questionable slot in the starting lineup until someone emerges. Ben Cleveland is the early favorite until Andrew Vorhees returns to full strength.
C Tyler Linderbaum handled himself well in run blocking in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round in 2022. He allowed too much pressure on the quarterback, which must improve this year.
RG Kevin Zeitler remains a top player for his potential, with high grades in all areas. Baltimore hopes to squeeze another competitive season out of Morgan Moses. If not, Daniel Faalele should be the next man up.
The Ravens have strength at three offensive line positions. They should continue to run the ball well, and the mobility of Lamar Jackson tends to limit the damage in sacks. The key to their success is a healthy Stanley.
QB Lamar Jackson - Stud (low risk)
After gaining over 1,000 yards rushing in 2019 (1,206) and 2020 (1,005) with an edge in rushing touchdowns (14), Jackson missed five games in back-to-back years. He was on pace for 1,087 and 1,082 rushing yards if he played 17 games in 2021 and 2022. In his career, Jackson has averaged 63 rushing yards over 70 contests.
His peak total in pass attempts (401 – 26.7 per game) came in 2019 over 15 starts. In 2021, he was on pace to throw 541 passes (31.8 per game). Jackson struggled to deliver rushing touchdowns in 2021 (2) and 2022 (3), lowering his ceiling in fantasy points. He only needs 1,673 more rushing yards to pass Michael Vick (6,109 – 143 games) for the most in NFL history.
Jackson busted out of the gate over the first three weeks last season with 992 combined yards (749/10 passing) with a dozen scores. Over his next eight complete games, he averaged only 185 passing yards on 29.3 attempts, leading to 6.3 yards per pass attempt. Jackson scored only once on the ground over this span.
Fantasy Outlook: Jackson's success and fantasy value start with impact yards on the ground. He must regain his lost momentum in rushing touchdowns to push higher in the quarterback rankings. The Ravens look to have the most receiving depth since Jackson arrived on the scene, pointing to a career-high in his passing output. He ranks eighth at quarterback in the early draft season in the high-stakes market. His ceiling looks to be 4,500 combined yards with 35 scores, and I view Jackson as reasonably priced. My only advice is to add a second quarterback of value to protect against a season-ending knee injury.
Other Options: Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown, Nolan Henderson
RB J.K. Dobbins - Solid/Safe Pick
Baltimore stole Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He brings a fighter's mentality to the ground game with strength in his runs. He aims to drive the ball forward with quickness and vision, with against-the-grain cuts. He'll take a hit and lose his balance, but Dobbins finds a way to stay upright on many plays while offering a stiff arm.
While playing in a great system at Ohio State, Dobbins looked elite in his freshman year (1,538 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 22 catches on 216 touches), seeing about 55% of the running back opportunity. His game regressed in 2018 (1,316 combined yards with 12 touchdowns and 26 catches) due to Mike Weber (172/954/5) outplaying Dobbins on many days. In 2019, Dobbins regained his bounce in his step, which led to a high volume opportunity (301/2,003/21 plus 23 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns).
Over the first six games in 2020, Dobbins only averaged six touches per game, leading to 228 combined yards with two touchdowns and 11 catches. His opportunity became fantasy relevant over the Ravens' final 11 matchups (827 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 11 catches), resulting in 12.88 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His highlight game came in Week 17 (13/160/2).
In 2021, Dobbins suffered a torn ACL in his left knee before the start of the year, leading to a lost season. He didn't look healthy last year, resulting in eight more missed starts (a clean-up knee surgery midseason) over the first 12 games (35/123/1 with six catches for 39 yards and one score). Dobbins ran the ball much better over his final five contests (70/459/1 – 6.6 yards per rush) while picking up five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Fantasy Outlook: With an entire offseason to get his knee in shape and work on his strength, Dobbins should be ready to rock and roll in Week 1. He won't make an impact in the passing, and Baltimore will rotate in a second runner on early downs. Dobbins also takes a hit from Lamar Jackson sniping goal-line carries and scores. I see about 250 touches for 1,300 yards, double-digit scoring, and 25 catches. At best, a mid-tier RB2 in PPR formats with a limited ceiling and outcome of impact games.
Jody Smith - Shawn's projection of 1,300 rushing yards and double-digit scores is right on. Dobbins showcased breakaway ability last year even though running backs are typically limited in their first season of action following reconstructive knee surgery. I think Dobbins is a darkhorse candidate to approach top-10 fantasy numbers. He's one of my favorte mid-round values and an ideal Zero-RB target.
RB Gus Edwards - Fantasy Handcuff
In his four seasons with the Ravens, Edwards gained at least 5.0 yards per rush every year (5.2, 5.3, 5.0, and 5.0). He has limited value in the passing game (18/194 – no catches in 2022), but his play in this area flashed more explosiveness in 2020 (9/129 – three catches over 20 yards) while finishing with 852 combined yards with six scores and nine catches on 144 carries). Baltimore gave him more than 10 touches in six of his 18 games (including playoffs).
Edwards also blew out his left knee before Week 1 in 2021, leading to no touches. His slow recovery led to him missing the first six games last season. After two helpful games (16/66/2 and 11/65), Edwards was back on the sidelines for the following three weeks with a hamstring issue. Over his final seven appearances, he gained 354 combined yards with one touchdown and one catch.
Fantasy Outlook: Edwards posted a floor of 700 rushing yards in his first three years with the Ravens. He plays with power while offering a closing mentality when Baltimore plays from the lead. Edwards should be back to full strength at the start of the year while resuming his RB2 role for Baltimore. I expect him to go undrafted in most 12-team leagues in 2023.
RB Justice Hill - Low Potential
Hill was the fourth wheel in the Ravens' rushing offense in 2019 and 2020, which led to minimal touches in all games. He ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2018 while showing plenty of strength (21 bench press reps). Justice runs with a quick tempo, giving him a chance to make big plays. His vision, power, and shake help him make defenders miss in the open field. Hill wants to run outside, which may hurt his value in some games vs. top-run defenses. His next step is improving in pass protection to help earn more snaps on passing downs.
Over three seasons of action, Hill gained 795 combined yards with two touchdowns and 25 catches on 144 touches. He missed all of 2021 with a torn Achilles while failing to capitalize on his opportunity last season.
Fantasy Outlook: The Ravens would like to tap into his big-play ability, but Hill doesn't even have a handcuff feel at this point of his career. He has a lot to prove this summer to keep a roster spot.
RB Keaton Mitchell - Dynasty Only
The Ravens added Mitchell as an undrafted free agent of the 2023 NFL Draft. He played well over his final two seasons at East Carolina, leading to 375 rushes for 2,584 yards and 23 touchdowns with help in the passing game (22/253/1 and 27/252/1). Mitchell is undersized (5'8" and 180 lbs.) with electric speed (4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL combine).
Fantasy Outlook: Baltimore may use him in the return game, where his speed and open-field running gain an edge. He doesn't have the tools or foundation to excel in pass protection, hurting his ability to seize a third-down role. His first step is passing Justice Hill on the depth chart, giving Mitchell a better chance to strut his stuff as a change-of-pace runner.
Other Options: Owen Wright
WR Rashod Bateman - Gamble (high risk)
In his sophomore season with the Golden Gophers, Bateman had 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns to move his name onto the NFL radar. He played in five games in 2020 (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.
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 6'0" and 190 lbs. However, he lacks the quickness to create space in a deep route tree, and elite cornerbacks can shut him down.
Bateman missed the first five games in his rookie season with a groin issue. He finished the season with WR2 snaps for Baltimore. His best value came in six starts (3/80, 5/52, 6/80, 7/103, 4/26/1, and 7/58) while averaging 5.7 targets per game.
Last year the fantasy world had high hopes for him after Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. After two progression games (2/59/1 and 4/108/1), Bateman finished the season with only nine more catches for 118 yards due to a left sprained foot that required surgery in early November.
Fantasy Outlook: After 18 games with Baltimore, Bateman has 61 catches for 800 yards and three touchdowns on 96 targets. He'll remain the number two option in the passing game behind Mark Andrews, pointing to 70 catches for 900 yards with five to seven scores. His late WR4 price points to a buying opportunity while needing to prove he can stay healthy for 17 games. Bateman will have a wide range of outcomes from week to week, making him challenging to time. I consider him a backend WR3 in 2023 in PPR formats.
WR Odell Beckham - Gamble (high risk)
Beckham lost the bounce in his step over his last 53 games (243/3,368/22) after an explosive start to his career over three years for the New York Giants (288/4,122/35 on 457 targets).
His catch rate (54.7) over his last three seasons was well below his rookie campaign (70.0%). Beckham posted competitive years in 2018 (77/1,052/6) and 2019 (74/1,035/4), but he only suited up for 21 games over the past three seasons. A torn ACL in his left knee ended his year in Week 7 in 2020, and he missed all of 2022 with a second torn ACL in the same knee.
Fantasy Outlook: Baltimore saw enough in his game to sign Beckham to a one-year deal for $18 million in April. He has a chance to steal their WR1 role, but his injuries have to steal away his previous explosiveness. Beckham will start the season at age 30, with his name drawing more value than his recent production. He's gained more than 100 yards in only one of his last 35 games. I won't chase him unless his price point is in the free zone and his production, opportunity, and scouting report are trending in a positive direction.
WR Zay Flowers - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over four seasons at Boston College, Flowers caught 200 of his 361 targets for 3,056 yards and 29 touchdowns over 48 games. He chipped in with 57 rushes for 345 yards and two scores. BC featured him more in the deep passing games based on his yards per catch (15.3) and lower catch rate (55.4). Flowers finished his senior season with 78 catches for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Fantasy Outlook: I don't know how many catches Flowers will have in his rookie season, but he will be an electric player with the ball in his hands. His open-field running should work well when Lamar Jackson has a long passing window. I expect Flowers to get better as he gets stronger and improves his route running. I see traits of Antonio Brown, so pay attention to his progress this summer. His ADP is WR48 being drafted around the 10th round.
WR Nelson Agholor - Over the Hill (decreased production)
The Eagles used Agholor close to the line of scrimmage over five seasons, which led to him gaining only 11.2 yards per catch. His best two years in Philly came in 2017 (62/768/8) and 2018 (64/736/4). After signing with the Raiders, Las Vegas featured him as a deep threat in 2020. Agholor finished with 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns over 82 targets (18.7 yards per catch). He had 15 catches over 20 yards, with five of those plays gaining over 40 yards.
In his first year with New England, Agholor failed to live up to expectations, leading to 37 catches for 473 yards and three touchdowns on 64 targets. His season ended with only 16 catches for 156 yards and one score over eight games. In 2022, his opportunity (53 targets) regressed even more, resulting in no impact games and 31 catches for 362 yards and two touchdowns.
Fantasy Outlook: Agholor gives Baltimore a big play wideout on the outside that may work well when Lamar Jackson breaks the pockets with his eyes downfield. I don't expect many chances without an injury to one of the Ravens' top wide receivers. At this point, Agholor only offers veteran experience.
Other Options: James Proche, Tylan Wallace, Andy Isabella, Mike Thomas
WR Devin Duvernay - Low Potential
After a relatively quiet first three seasons in college (70 catches for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns over 118 targets), Duvernay impressed in his senior year (106/1,386/10 on 130 chances). He gained over 100 yards in seven of his 13 games in 2019, highlighted by four games (12/154/1, 8/110/2, 8/173/1, and 6/199/1). Duvernay also had eight catches or more in nine contests.
Duvernay came to the NFL with an enticing blend of hands, speed, and open-field ability, but his pieces don't necessarily add up to an impact player. He falls short in route running while lacking the quickness to win out of the slot consistently. In the Ravens' offense, his game should work well, especially with the freelancing style of QB Lamar Jackson.
Over his first three seasons, he worked as the Ravens' top kickoff returner (2,233 yards with two touchdowns). In 2021, Duverney finished with 33 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns on 47 targets. He failed to gain over 45 yards in any game with a ceiling of six targets. His role progressed slightly last season (37/407/3 on 49 targets) while missing three games. Duvernay offered only three games (4/54/2, 5/78, and 4/64/1) of value.
Fantasy Outlook: Last year, he broke a bone in his right foot, putting him on a slow recovery track this spring. Duvernay may surprise at times, but there are more receivers in front of him on the depth chart in 2023.
TE Mark Andrews - Stud (low risk)
In 2021, the loss of Lamar Jackson led to Andrews finishing with a better-than-expected opportunity over his final five games (11/115/1, 10/136/2, 8/125/1, 6/89, and 5/85). His success helped many fantasy teams win leagues and overall championships. Over his final 10 starts, Andrews averaged 10.2 targets. He ended the year with 301.10 fantasy points (1st for tight ends) in PPR leagues. Only eight running backs and wide receivers scored more than him in 2021. Andrews averaged only 7.3 targets over his first seven starts, with strength in two games (5/109 and 11/147/2).
His value remained high over his first six games last season (39/455/5 on 57 targets). Unfortunately, the Browns held him to no catches in Week 7 on two targets. The following game, Andrews left after 10 snaps (3/33), leading to a seat on the bench the next week with knee and shoulder injuries that lingered over the rest of the season. He caught 36 of his 59 targets over his final eight starts (including the postseason) for 432 yards and no scores. The downgrade at quarterback didn't help him after Lamar Jackson sat out the last six games.
Fantasy Outlook: Andrews has the talent to lead the league in tight end scoring again this year, but the Ravens also have two other viable options on the roster to steal away some chances when Baltimore rolls out two tight end sets. The gap between him and Travis Kelce is almost three complete rounds in the early draft season. My starting point will be 80 catches for 1,000 yards while expecting Andrews to score between eight and 10 touchdowns.
TE Isaiah Likely - Bye Week Fill-in
Last year I lost track of Likely in the early draft season due to Sports Illustrated wanting me to bypass the scouting reports of the incoming rookie class for each team. The Ravens added him in the fourth round in the 2022 NFL Draft after progressing over four seasons in college (12/106/5, 32/431/5, 30/601/5, and 59/912/12).
Likely shined last preseason (4/44 and 8/100/1), showcasing his potential. Baltimore gave him limited snaps over the first seven weeks (10/104 on 18 targets). He flashed in Week 8 (6/77/1) after Mark Andrews left with an injury. His next shining moment came in Week 18 (8/103 on 13 targets) when Baltimore rested Andrews to prepare him for the postseason. In between, Likely had 12 catches for 89 yards and two scores on 22 targets.
Fantasy Outlook: There is no doubt that Likely can play in the NFL, giving the Ravens more high-end insurance at tight end. His success in 2022 should put him in front of Charlie Kolar in drafts, but that may change when both players get on the field in the preseason. Either way, the top handcuff to Mark Andrew is worth a bench spot on fantasy teams.
TE Charlie Kolar - Not Draft Worthy
Kolar had an active role in Iowa State's offense over three seasons (51/6977, 44/591/6, and 62/756/6), setting the stage for further growth in the NFL. He had one game with 100 receiving yards in each of his past three years (6/100, 6/131, and 12/152/1). In 2021, Kolar had four catches or more in 11 of his 12 starts.
When reviewing some highlights of Kolar, my first thought was: what did Travis Kelce look like coming out of college? In his senior year at Cincinnati, he had 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns with minimal chances over his first two seasons (1/3 and 13/150/2). Kolar offers similar size (6'6" and 260 lbs.) while owning plus hands. He matches up well vs. man coverage with an understanding of how to find soft spots in zones. Kolar does his pregame work and wants to improve as a player. I expect him to be a threat all over the field with the strength to break tackles. His next step is improving as a blocker.
Kolar only saw action in two games (4/49) in his rookie season due to a summer sports hernia, putting him behind Isaiah Likely in the tight end rotation.
Fantasy Outlook: Kolar was my top-ranked rookie tight end before the 2022 NFL Draft while drawing the third rookie rating in the early fantasy draft season in the high-stakes market. In 2023, he'll fly under the radar until he moves to second on the Ravens' depth chart at tight end.
Other options: Travis Vokolek, Brian Walker
PK Justin Tucker - Stud (low risk)
Tucker continues to rank first in NFL history in field goal percentage (90.5) while being elite from 50 yards or longer (57/80). His opportunity in field goals (37-for-43) was the best of his career in 2022. The Ravens gave him 14 chances of 50 yards or more (made nine). Tucker missed five extra points over the past five years (213 chances) after making all 205 tries over his first six years. Despite his impressive season, Daniel Carlson edged him out in kicker scoring (173.10 to 171.20) in fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Outlook: Tucker would help a fantasy manager win three to four matches a year when he scores more than 15.00 fantasy points. Last year Tucker made three field goals or more in six games. As a result, he'll be the first kicker off the board in most fantasy leagues again this year.
Baltimore - Solid/Safe Pick
Baltimore slipped to 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,566), with ball carriers gaining 3.9 yards per carry. They allowed 11 touchdowns. Some of their success in yards was helped by offenses averaging 23.9 rushes per game.
The Ravens climbed to 26th in the league in passing yards allowed (3,947) with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 6.7 yards per net pass attempt while delivering 48 sacks.
Their defensive line lacks star power while having one potential young player (DT Travis Jones – 3rd round in 2022) with a higher ceiling. Baltimore relies on a strong linebacking corps to support the run and attack the quarterback.
LB Odafe Oweh has yet to develop into an impact player after getting drafted in the first round in 2021. He'll attack the quarterback while trailing in his development in run support. LB Roquan Smith is a tackling machine, highlighted by over 150 tackles in back-to-back seasons. The Ravens acquired him mid-season in 2022 via a trade with the Bears. LB Patrick Queen adds value to the pass rush while showing some growth against the run. Baltimore hopes LB David Ojabo improves their defense after missing most of his rookie season with a torn Achilles.
CB Marlon Humphrey remains one of the better cornerbacks in the league. He even chipped with a career-high in sacks (3) last season. S Kyle Hamilton excelled in his rookie season after the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He upgrades their run defense while holding receivers to short yards per catch. Baltimore hopes Rock Ya-Sin can handle the other starting cornerback job. He missed 16 games over the past three seasons for the Colts and Raiders. Ya-Sin has starting experience, but he missed time last year with knee issues. The Ravens' free safety job appears to be up for grabs in 2023.
The improvement in the pass rush last year, and a high floor in run support bodes well for Baltimore having a top-10 fantasy defense this season. Offenses with stud wideouts will create coverage problems if their pass rush can't close the passing window. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, the Ravens are the eighth defense selected.
Jody Smith: The Ravens consitency is what makes them a solid value pick. They don't dominate like they used to, but Baltimore's heady front office continues to find quality defendrs. Look for the Ravens to once again flirt with top-10 numbers and return a solid value on their ADP.