All of the off-season shenanigans are over. The (post-Ozzie Newsome) Baltimore front office finally got serious about building a winner and signed Lamar Jackson to a long-term contract. With that, they added a new offensive coordinator, and they’re ready to compete for a title after a 10-7 season. Let’s take a deep dive into the notable changes, and how you should view this season’s Ravens squad in fantasy.
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Key Subtractions and Additions
Subtractions: Desean Jackson (WR), Nick Boyle (TE)
Additions: Nelson Agholor (WR), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR), Zay Jones (WR), Laquon Treadwell (WR)
The QB1 to own on this roster is, unequivocally, Lamar Jackson. That’s both in real life and in the fantasy football realm. Last year, in 12-ish games, Jackson finished as the fantasy QB10 or better on the week five times. He threw for 2,200+ yards, 17 TDs, and 7 Ints. He also managed to run for 750+ yards and 3 TDs, in a season where he was pretty obviously holding back on taking additional hits as a result of contract negotiations. Now that his long-term deal is taken care of, I think we can expect him to be more of a free runner, and he’ll also have more power to run the offense to his liking through the air.
The Ravens hired Todd Monken as their new offensive coordinator. In one of Jackson’s quotes regarding how he likes the new offense, he said, “Just being able to throw the ball down the field. Running can only take you so far. I feel like with this new era of teams in the league, I feel like we need that…” He’s completely right. The Ravens have the ability to run the ball and control the clock vs. some of the most high-powered offenses in the league, but you need to be able to win a game when you don’t already have the lead. That was one of the key problems with the Ravens of old. They were built to keep a lead. Not to come from behind.
I have Lamar Jackson ranked as my QB3 on the season. Behind only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Will we see his numbers from his MVP season? Unlikely. I think it’s too much to ask for a repeat of a historic season. But I think he’s a lock for 1,000 yards rushing, and he’s a lock for 3,500 yards passing at the least. The big point swing will be whether he’s responsible for rushing TDs, or if he’ll hand it off to his backs. I’m expecting more of the former, as I believe they’ll be in more passing formations in the red zone this year, allowing him to take off when WRs are covered. Lamar is an elite QB. The question is whether or not he can stay healthy. I’m on the more optimistic side.
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I will admit, with a new offensive coordinator, the jury is still out on what the run game will look like vs. last year. But from everything we’ve heard thus far, the plan seems to be to feature Lamar Jackson as a passer more and bring this offense into the 2020s. That said, even if they kept the running game similar to what it was last year, Lamar Jackson is still the RB1 of this offense. JK Dobbins is the depth chart RB1, and last year, he finished with 520 yards. Choosing a running back in this offense is risky, as their value is likely to be touchdown dependent. I have no reason to think that JK Dobbins is going to be the go-to in the red zone any more than Lamar Jackson. On top of that, the Ravens still have Gus Edwards who is one of the most annoying touchdown vultures that fantasy football has to offer.
Again…the jury is still out on what this offense is going to look like in the running game, but JK Dobbins is currently the RB15 in consensus rankings, and that’s incredibly too high for my liking. I have Dobbins as the RB26 on the year. I can’t imagine a scenario where I end up drafting him. There is too big of a discrepancy between his talent and his role. There are other fish in the sea at running back.
Wide Receiver is the easiest place to find value in fantasy drafts, but it requires a lot of research and a lot of luck. This year, my biggest discrepancy with consensus rankings seems to be Odell Beckham Jr. I have him as my WR26, while consensus currently has him ranked at WR59. I get it. He hasn’t played in over 16 months, as he was recovering from a torn ACL. But let’s be honest. 16 months is longer than most everyone gets to come back from an ACL tear these days. I expect him to be at least 70% of himself (in his prime) in terms of production. That’s absolutely WR26 or better…and I’m probably being conservative. There’s a chance that he’s 100% of himself.
You may be saying to yourself: “He’s falling for the trap. He’s much older. Blah-Blah-Blah.” Well, I hear you. And I issue you this challenge: Name Lamar Jackson’s best receiver in college or the NFL. Your answer is probably Hollywood Brown. With all due respect, Hollywood Brown has yet to show he’s an excellent #2 receiver, let alone a go-to target. Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady…the list goes on. Those QBs all had a number one receiver to tip the scales and make them dangerous. Lamar Jackson has already won an MVP without a #1 WR. Now he has Odell Beckham Jr. A true deep threat. A true red-zone weapon. An excellent teammate. A Super Bowl Champion.
I haven’t even begun to talk about Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, or Zay Jones yet. This is a new and improved WR corp, and we will see the best version of Lamar Jackson as a passing threat, since his MVP season. Zay Jones has been hyped more than any other rookie WR in my opinion. That’s not good for his ADP. Odell Beckham is the WR to own of this group. If you can find Jones or Bateman at value, I would jump at them also.
Travis Kelce. George Kittle. T.J. Hockenson. Mark Andrews. These are the only four tight ends that are worth drafting early/reaching for. Everyone else will be fighting for week-to-week relevance in fantasy. Mark Andrews plays for the Ravens and is the TE1 to own on this roster. Andrews has been a security blanket for Lamar Jackson his entire career. I see no reason to expect a change in production from Andrews. If an injury occurs to Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely is a worthy replacement, as he has the combination of size and speed that can outrun a linebacker, and overpower a corner.
The Ravens are known for their defense, but don’t go out of your way to draft them. Spend your late round picks on speculative depth. The delta in points from the week’s top defense and the league’s top waiver wire defense is likely to be minimal most weeks. Don’t spend much time here.