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Team Previews

Baltimore Ravens 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: June 28, 2021, 12:19 pm ET

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,810 (19)

Total Touchdowns: 55 (7th)

Offensive Plays: 993 (25th)

Pass Attempts: 406 (32nd)

Rush Attempts: 555 (1st)

Unaccounted for Targets: 70 (21st)

Unaccounted for Carries: 85 (19th)

 

Coaching Staff

Hired in 2008, John Harbaugh is the league’s fourth-longest-tenured head coach, behind only Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, and Mike Tomlin. The Ravens had made the playoffs each of the last three seasons under Harbaugh after missing the postseason the three years prior. But Harbaugh’s teams have fallen short in the playoffs of late with just one postseason win since 2015. Harbaugh’s teams have relied heavily on running the ball and playing defense, and that will be the plan again in 2021. Baltimore has called a running play at the league’s highest clip each of the past two seasons, running the ball on 55.04% of its offensive plays last season. OC Greg Roman enters his fifth year on Harbaugh’s staff and third as the play-caller. Roman has run the ball everywhere he’s been in the NFL, dating back to his 49ers days with Colin Kaepernick and two-year Bills stint with Tyrod Taylor under center. Roman says he wants to throw the ball down the field more after being too predictable and stale on offense in 2020 when the Ravens were 30th in pace and 25th in plays per game. Baltimore was third in plays per game under Roman in 2019 when Lamar Jackson was named MVP. The Ravens need to play quicker and be more efficient, and that starts with Roman and Jackson having better years. DC Don Martindale is entering his 10th season with the club and fourth as the defensive boss. Baltimore has been top-six in total defense the last two seasons under Martindale.

 

Passing Offense

QB: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

WR: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin

WR: Sammy Watkins, Tylan Wallace

WR: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay

TE: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Josh Oliver

 

After winning MVP the previous year, Jackson’s numbers as both a passer and runner dipped in 2020. Jackson attempted fewer passes and ran the ball less with the Ravens playing slower and averaging over five fewer plays per game than the year before. Jackson still threw 26 touchdowns with a sterling 6.9% TD rate, third-best in the league, and ran for over 1,000 yards with seven more scores as a rusher. He just needed more help around him in the form of pass-catchers. Even in the down year, Jackson still put up the overall QB8 numbers in fantasy. The Ravens are getting LT Ronnie Stanley back from a Week 8 broken ankle and signed veterans RG Kevin Zeitler and RT Ali Villanueva following the trade of RT Orlando Brown to the Chiefs. Baltimore also made it a point to try and upgrade Jackson’s supporting cast of receivers by signing Sammy Watkins in free agency before drafting WRs Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the first and fourth rounds. Adding them to Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews represents a significant boost to the offense. Jackson is a big-time bounce-back candidate with Roman saying he wants to expand the Ravens’ passing offense and attack down the field more this year. Jackson should also still be the favorite to lead all quarterbacks in rushing output. With a better receiver group and healthy Andrews, Jackson will be in the overall QB1 conversation.

Brown was mostly unusable for the first half of the 2020 season in fantasy, but he caught fire down the stretch to somewhat save his end-of-year stat line, finishing with a respectable 58-769-8 line on 100 targets. Brown was utilized downfield even more last season, which partially explains his streaky production with a work-in-progress downfield passer in Jackson. It's worth questioning if Brown profiles as a team's No. 1 receiver, and the Ravens made it an offseason priority to upgrade the supporting cast by adding several wideouts to take pressure off Brown. Hollywood’s elite straight-line speed will keep him alive as a fantasy FLEX option, but he faces far more competition for targets this year and is almost a lock to see fewer than the 100 looks he was funneled last season. He’s probably best viewed as a best-ball fantasy selection.

The 28-year-old Watkins is a significant upgrade on the likes of Willie Snead and Miles Boykin from last year in Baltimore, but he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year and face-planted with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City last season with just 37-421-2 across 10 games. He knows OC Roman’s offense from their time together in Buffalo, but that’s really about all he has going for him. The Ravens will be at or near the top of the league in rushing, leaving very little upside for this wideout group where Watkins will be the third or fourth option. Watkins likely won’t come into week-to-week fantasy relevance unless there are injuries.

Baltimore’s first-round pick at No. 27 overall, Bateman led the country in yards per route from out wide as a 20-year-old sophomore (and Big Ten's Receiver of the Year) in 2019 before being moved into the slot for 61% of his snaps in 2020 in order to see more schemed targets. His career marks of 36 broken tackles on 147 catches and 15.7 yards per catch are still pigeonhole-proof in the NFL since he succeeded across Minnesota's formation with at least one catch in all 31 collegiate games. An average athlete, Bateman's basketball background and production from anywhere on the field should earn him reps as the team's likely slot man between Brown and Watkins. Bateman has received rave reviews for his work this spring. He probably has the safest week-to-week floor among Ravens WRs if he nails down the slot job. But with only 70 available targets off last year’s Baltimore team, there may not be a high ceiling.

Andrews took a step back in 2020 after his 64-852-10 receiving line the previous season. Across 14 games, he turned 88 targets into 58 grabs for 701 yards and eight touchdowns, enough production to hang around the top-five tight end rankings for the entire year. Jackson's inconsistent accuracy and dominant rushing make Andrews a volatile fantasy asset on a week-to-week basis even though he is the Ravens' No. 1 or No. 2 passing-game option and top red-zone target. 25-year-old Andrews belongs in the second tier of the tight end rankings headed into summer fantasy drafts. Andrews is headed into a contract year.

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Running Game

RB: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill

OL (L-R): Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, Kevin Zeitler, Ali Villanueva

 

Dobbins was never able to break out of the Ravens' running back by committee last season despite averaging 6.0 yards per carry. He reached 100 rushing yards just twice and only averaged 12.1 carries in the nine games after the bye. With Mark Ingram gone, Dobbins' 2021 box scores should be improved, even with Gus Edwards still on the team via a new two-year contract. Lamar Jackson's lack of history targeting running backs and Dobbins' questionable hands leave his fantasy ceiling tied heavily to rushing production. It makes Dobbins a riskier RB2 in PPR-related formats. Dobbins projects for 1,000-plus rushing yards and should flirt with double-digit scores as the team’s 1A ahead of Edwards, but both Jackson and Edwards are going to steal some of the goal-line and inside-the-10 carries cand touchdowns. The Ravens are very high on Edwards’ punishing downhill traits and have touted this as a backfield committee.

Edwards was the Ravens' No. 2 back for the entire 2020 season. He earned the power back role over Mark Ingram in the second half of the season and is being brought back for the same role. Despite the power back label, Edwards has impressive elusiveness for a big back. He averaged 5.0 yards on his 144 carries last season. Edwards will max out as a fantasy RB3/4 if the Baltimore backfield is Edwards and J.K. Dobbins in 2021 because he's not a receiving threat and plays in an offense that doesn’t throw to the position. If Dobbins would ever get hurt and miss time, Edwards would be a weekly RB2 with touchdown upside.

Hill looks like the favorite for No. 3 duties in Baltimore, though the team has flirted with free agent Todd Gurley in recent weeks. The No. 3 job is notable in Baltimore because Hill could instantly find his way into double-digit touches should one of Dobbs or Edwards get hurt. Hill is a player to monitor at the back end of fantasy drafts in deeper leagues.

 

Win Total

Baltimore’s win total currently sits at a lofty 11, third-highest behind the Chiefs and Bucs, and just ahead of the Rams, Packers, Bills, and 49ers at 10.5 wins. Based on 2020 results, the Ravens will face the league’s second-toughest schedule. Baltimore has out-of-division home games against the Chiefs, Colts, Chargers, Vikings, Packers, and Rams, with road dates against Raiders, Lions, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bears. They also play in a tough division against a stingy Steelers Defense, tough ground-and-pound Browns, and up-and-coming Bengals. This offense should be able to run through most defenses, but Jackson has to be better with his arm. The defense remains really strong at all three levels, but they did lose top pass-rusher Matt Judon in free agency. This unit is relying heavily on experienced veterans. It’s a bit risky.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.