The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Lamar Jackson era began in Baltimore in 2018, and the Ravens morphed into a run-you-into-the-ground offense. Now, in an age where the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck are airing it out with aplomb, one might think that this is backwards thinking on behalf of the Ravens.
Yet, for us fantasy players, a running quarterback — especially once as talented as Jackson — is a good thing. If he can continue to progress as a passer, Jackson’s fantasy value could skyrocket. That said, the rest of the Ravens depth chart isn’t exactly one to inspire much confidence.
PLAY THE ODDS
Imagine you’re a professional bookmaker at one of the many fine sportsbooks cropping up across the country. What are the odds (e.g., 1/3, 2/1, 10/1, etc.) Lamar Jackson finishes QB12 or better in standard scoring Yahoo leagues (4 pts/pass TD; 1 pt/25 pass yards, 1 pt/10 rush yds)?
Brad: 2/1. Yes, he’s +20000, same as Josh Allen and Case Keenum, to lead the NFL in passing yards according to Points Bet, but Jackson’s fantasy worth is housed in his legs. Any advancements the sophomore passer makes vertically is gravy. Still, as evidenced by his seven-game tryout as the starter last year, he doesn’t need to routinely race past 200 pass yards to command a QB1-level line in 12-teamers. Remember, from Weeks 11-17 in 2018, he finished QB9 in total fantasy points.
Jackson’s receiving corps is talented but raw. And, again, he’ll need to hit guys in stride (58.2 cmp% in ‘18), especially inside the red zone (37.5 RZ cmp%). Point blank, despite ownership’s desire to reduce his run reliance, he’s likely to register 230-250 rush attempts, 850-900 yards, and 5-7 ground TDs this season. Chip in an additional 3,200-3,300 pass yards along with 15-18 passing touchdowns and he’ll toe the RB12 line. He’s undervalued at his 144.1 ADP (QB17).
Liz: How about 4/1? I am all about Jackson’s potential. There is no denying his explosiveness and/or his athleticism. But this is a year of transition for the entire Ravens franchise and evolution TAKES TIME. Yes, Jackson is going to rack up points with his legs. However, he’s not going to run the ball twenty times per game. Not only has Steve Bisciotti said as much, but it’s also not sustainable.
The Ravens may want to lean on the run, but they also drafted both the best ball tracker in Hollywood Brown and also one of the best high-pointers in Miles Boykin. That tells me that the team is pushing Jackson to evolve as a passer. I’m also confident he’ll get there … eventually. Right now, however, he’s still struggling with his mechanics. Until he and his weapons gain some experience, there are going to be a lot of growing pains. Plus, given the change over on defense, there’s a solid chance that Jackson is forced to throw more frequently than he would like, which figures to result in an unfortunate number of turnovers.
In dynasty and 2QB formats, I’m all about the Louisville stand out. Heading into 2019 redraft, however, he’s my QB18.
FRIEND or FOE?
Will Mark Ingram, a significant contributor in one of the healthiest fantasy environments, New Orleans, for multiple seasons, be more fantasy FRIEND or FOE for the .5 PPR crowd at his RB22 (44.4 ADP) cost?
Brad: FRIEND. No, there aren’t any late-night text exchanges, bar karaoke sessions or golf outings in our near future, but Ingram is sure to earn holiday party invitation status, at a minimum. Though under the new direction of OC Greg Roman, Baltimore will again be one of the league’s most conservative offenses, a team that ran the rock nearly 50 percent of the time last year.
Even with Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and Justice Hill in the mix, Ingram should generate roughly 60 percent of the opportunity share. If his underlying New Orleans numbers transfer (No. 14 in yds created/carry; 3.20 YAC/att), he will reward backers with RB2 production. Jackson’s multidimensional talents will greatly assist the rusher in his quest for favorable numbers. The Ravens o-line, last year’s No. 10 ranked run-blocking unit, also remains unchanged. There’s much to like. If everything clicks, 1,250-1,300 total yards with 7-9 TDs are on the horizon.
Andy: Please. FRIEND. Good friend, in fact. Bestie, maybe. This one is so obvious as to not require explanation. Ingram remains a very good all-situation back, and he landed in a terrific situation. Baltimore is going to deliver the NFL’s most run-heavy offense in 2019, probably by a mile. Ingram is unchallenged at the top of the Ravens’ rushing hierarchy, plus he’s a capable receiver. If you can land him in Round 4 or 5, you have a potential RB1 at a favorable price. Justice Hill is a nice complement, but he’s not a rival.
MINING FOR GOLD
Every single receiving option donning the purple and black is available after pick No. 100 in early .5 PPR drafts, sometimes well after. Among Marquise Brown (180.9 ADP, WR69), Willie Snead (238.0, WR91), Miles Boykin (240.6, WR105), Mark Andrews (154.5, TE21) and Hayden Hurst (273.3, TE34) who is the shiniest hidden gem?
Andy: NO ONE. I like Lamar Jackson well enough as a fantasy asset, but that has zero to do with his passing. Perhaps I’d take a shot with Andrews in a two-TE format, but, um ... that’s it. Brown was one of my favorite receivers in the 2019 draft class, but his landing spot took him off the board in redraft.
Liz: WILLIE SNEAD. Every developing QB needs a security blanket and Snead figures to be chief among Jackson’s. Over the last four games of 2018, Snead caught 11 of Jackson’s 52 completions and managed a true catch rate of over 87.3 percent (WR22). With sure hands and technical savvy, the fifth year player figures to move the chains for Baltimore and rack PPR points for fantasy managers.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Brad: WILLIE SNEAD. Known Snead enthusiast Matt Harmon is obviously thrilled with this selection. Injuries have severely limited the receiver for the past couple years, but he’s an accomplished route runner and the most experienced weapon Jackson has. He did lure 5.2 targets per game in five games with Jackson as the starter in 2018.
Andy: Again I’ll go MARK ANDREWS, coming off an impressive rookie season in a low-yield passing game (34-552-3). I like his chances to find the end-zone five or six times, but I’ll make no promises about receptions or yardage.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Baltimore 8.5 wins OVER (+115) or UNDER (-135)
Brad: UNDER. The Ravens own the 10th-easiest schedule according to projected Vegas win totals, but its overhaul at linebacker is a significant worry. So is Jackson’s development as a passer. If he continues to throw poorly constructed paper airplanes, it will be tough for Baltimore to inch past the .500 threshold.
Liz: UNDER. There’s no way this team goes over eight wins. Yes, there’s a lot to be excited about in Baltimore. However, big moments from a transitioning offense and a reworked defense don’t often result in a winning record.
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