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2023 Fantasy Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown: Baltimore Ravens

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(Welcome to the FTN Fantasy NFL Coaching & Coordinator Series. All summer, our Adam Pfeifer will be looking at every team’s coaching staff through a fantasy football lens, to see what means what and how a fantasy manager can capitalize on it. Today: The Baltimore Ravens.)

 

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach: John Harbaugh

Ravens head coach since 2008

2023 will be Harbaugh’s 16th season as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, who have consistently been one of the better teams in all of football. Injuries have slowed them down as of late, especially to star quarterback Lamar Jackson. With a career record of 147-95, Harbaugh has been a consistent and reliable presence on the sidelines for the Ravens and if this team can stop suffering so many brutal injuries, more playoff success could easily be on the horizon. 

John Harbaugh Baltimore Ravens 2023 Fantasy Football Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown

Ravens Offensive Coordinator: Todd Monken

Georgia OC 2020-2022, Browns OC 2019, Bucs OC 2018

For years, Baltimore has been known for crab cakes, The Wire and the Ravens running the absolute hell out of the football. From 2020 to 2022, no team in the NFL has called run in neutral gamescripts more than the Ravens’ whopping 50.7% of the time. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman deployed a pistol-based rushing attack that used 22 personnel (two running backs) more than any team in football. And for the most part, it worked, as the Ravens were one of the most efficient rushing offenses in the NFL. 

Things are changing in 2023.

The Ravens brought in Todd Monken as the team’s new offensive coordinator. He was last calling plays at the University of Georgia 2020-2022. While the Bulldogs weren’t exactly airing the ball out, Monken’s offenses have leaned much more toward the pass throughout his career in the NFL, which has many excited about what this Baltimore offense could look like this season. Georgia threw the ball just over 49% of the time, which was one of the lowest rates in college football last year. But we’ll talk more about what elements of that Georgia offense we could see in Baltimore later on. Before Monken went to help Georgia win two National Championships, he was calling plays in Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Let’s take a look at those offenses.

2019 Cleveland Browns

In 2019, Monken was calling plays for the Browns in Cleveland. And as you’ll see, Monken’s playcalling tendencies certainly differ from what we have seen from Roman and the Ravens. (“Roman and the Ravens” — sounds like a pretty good name for a band.) Anyway, the Browns ranked 12th in neutral-script pass rate during that season (60.3%), while their early down pass rate of 55.3% was the 10th highest in football. And that is going to be something to continue to think about — early-down pass rate. It’ll be one of the paramount differences between Monken’s offense and what we have seen from the Ravens. Monken wants to look for explosive plays in the passing game and force opposing defenses to have to worry about the entire field. Baker Mayfield ranked ninth in the league in average depth of target in 2019 (9.2 yards), while 14.2% of his pass attempts traveled 20-plus yards down the field, the eighth-highest rate in football. If there is more of an emphasis on explosive plays down the field, we’ll see if the Ravens target the middle of the field less, which has been a staple of their passing attack. From 2020-2022, the Ravens targeted the middle of the field 40% (first), 31% (second) and 27% (second) of the time. However, the Browns targeted the middle of the field just 20% of the time in 2019 under Monken, which ranked 23rd in the league. Of course, Cleveland’s passing game centered around Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, while getting minimal production from the tight end spot. 

Of course, we saw Monken alongside Odell Beckham in 2019, and Beckham of course joined the Ravens this offseason. 2019 was four years ago (I’m great at math), so Beckham isn’t the same player he was, especially coming off multiple serious injuries. But during that season, we saw a lot of RPO slant passes from Mayfield to Beckham. In fact, Mayfield ranked sixth in pass attempts (58) and plays (60) off RPO during that season. It’ll be interesting if Monken implements more RPOs into Baltimore’s offense, especially considering we are hearing he is giving Lamar Jackson a ton of control. 

2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Before joining the Browns in 2019, Monken spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. He once again leaned on the pass, as the Bucs posted the fourth-highest passing rate on early downs in the league during the 2018 season (59.9%). And during his entire tenure in Tampa Bay (2016-2018), the Bucs ranked seventh in early down pass rate at 55.3%. These Tampa Bay offenses, led by Jameis Winston, lived off taking shots down the field. In 2018, the Bucs easily led the NFL in aDOT (10.6 yards), while also ranking first in 2017 (10.3) and second in 2016 (10.1). And during that 2018 campaign, Winston ranked second in intended air yards per pass attempt (10.8), completed air yards per pass attempt (5.5) and completed air yards per completion (8.5). The only quarterback to rank ahead of him in the second and third metrics? That would be Ryan Fitzpatrick, who also started five games for Tampa Bay that season. The Bucs were aggressive and constantly attacked opposing defenses.

Early-Down Pass Rates
Team Early Down Pass Rate Rank
2019-2022 Baltimore Ravens 49.50% 25th
2019 Cleveland Browns 55.30% 10th
2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 59.90% 4th
2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55.90% 5th

So… What Will the Ravens Look Like?

From everything we are hearing out of Baltimore this offseason, it sure sounds like the Ravens will be playing with more pace and aggression on offense. Jackson, whose career-high in pass attempts is 401, should cruise past that mark in 2023 in this offense. In Greg Roman’s offense over the last three seasons, the Ravens ranked 32nd in all of football in neutral-script passing rate (49.2%), while Jackson only averaged about 28 pass attempts per game during that span. But between the change in offensive coordinator and added talent at wide receiver, the Ravens are primed to see a massive uptick in passing volume. This is going to be a serious change of pace for the Ravens, who sported an early-down pass rate of 49.5% in 2019-2022, 25th in football. Tight end Mark Andrews should continue to thrive over the middle of the field but overall, we might see more of an emphasis on throws to the perimeter and deep down the sideline. 

We should continue to see the Ravens operate out of the pistol/shotgun formation, which has been a staple of their offense. This past season, according to FTN Data, the Ravens lined up in the pistol set 25.5% of the time, the second-highest rate in football. Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, attempted 260 of his 326 passes from the shotgun (79.7%). Over the last two seasons, just over 20% of Jackson’s pass attempts have come under center. And dating back to Monken’s offense in Cleveland, 82.7% of Baker Mayfield’s pass attempts came out of the shotgun formation. Meanwhile, in 2018, 300 of Jameis Winston’s 378 pass attempts came from the shotgun (79.3%).

What about the rushing attack? The Ravens have been one of the elite rushing offenses in football over the past four seasons and it’ll be interesting to see how different it might look. In Roman’s offense, the Ravens would operate out of the pistol and almost exclusively run power and counter concepts. But Monken’s offenses ran mostly inside and outside zone when running the football, whether he was in Cleveland, Tampa Bay or Georgia. Of course, the Ravens have had such a unique offense over the years with Lamar Jackson’s ability to both throw and run the football, which has impacted their playbook. Baltimore would run a ton of read-option and QB power plays and over the last three seasons, 277 of Jackson’s 404 rushing attempts (68.5%) have been designed. A few months ago, Monken talked about wanting to lessen the burden on Jackson. “I think the more talented you are around your quarterback, the less he has to take on that burden, shoulder the load because you’re excited about getting others the football where they can utilize their skill set,” Monken said. It is possible the Ravens call fewer designed runs for Jackson this season, but it should still absolutely be part of their offense. 

Pace

While the uptick in passing volume has been the talking point surrounding the Baltimore offense this offseason, a lot of the players are excited about the change in pace of play.

Roman’s offenses have been pretty slow during his tenure in Baltimore. In fact, since the start of the 2020 campaign, the Ravens are sporting the third-slowest offense in the league, averaging 28.28 seconds per snap during that span. And in that stretch, Baltimore has run no-huddle just 4.7% of the time, the sixth-lowest rate in the league, but that appears to be a thing of the past. 

Harbaugh and Monken want to play with more tempo this season, but especially want to utilize more no-huddle. In 2018, Monken’s offense in Tampa Bay ran no-huddle a healthy 12% of the time, which was the sixth-highest rate in the league during that season. And in 2017, the Bucs ran no-huddle 11.8% of the time, the fifth-highest rate in football. Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, has just 32 plays out of no-huddle over the last four seasons, so this will quite literally be a change of pace for the All-Pro quarterback. 

Personnel

Baltimore’s base personnel lately has been pistol formation out of 21 personnel (two running backs). This past season, for instance, the Ravens ran 21 personnel 25% of the time, the third-highest rate in the league. And as we discussed earlier, they operated out of the pistol about 26% of the time. It’ll be interesting to see how much of that changes in 2023. Fullback Patrick Ricard has been an underrated part of this offense, playing 429 and 314 snaps over the last two years, easily the most at his position. He’s been a key part of the power run game for the Ravens but if they aren’t running the ball as much, his playing time could drop … especially considering the Ravens actually have wide receiver talent in 2023.

If Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham and Zay Flowers can stay healthy, it’ll be the best trio if wideouts the Ravens have had in quite some time, which could lead to more 11 personnel. This past season, the Ravens had three wide receivers on the field just 22.6% of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in football. They have been bottom-three in 11 personnel usage during Roman’s tenure in Baltimore but between the improved wide receiver room and presence of Monken, that rate could easily climb. His offense in Tampa Bay ranked top-12 in 11 personnel usage, while his two most used formations were 11 and 12 personnel at Georgia. During his final year at Georgia, we saw that passing offense run through two tight ends in Brock Bowers (63-942-7) and Darnell Washington (28-454-2). I think we could see the Ravens run more 12 personnel this season, especially in the red zone. We know Mark Andrews will be the focal point of this passing attack, but sophomore tight end Isaiah Likely showed serious flashes last season. Look for Monken to create plenty of mismatches with Baltimore’s deep tight end room, led by Andrews and Likely.

 

Defensive Coordinator: Mike Macdonald

Ravens DC since 2022

Last season was Macdonald’s first season as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator. Don Martindale ran the Ravens’ defense 2018-2021, implementing his blitz-heavy scheme. After flirting with the league-lead in blitz rate during Martindale’s tenure, the Ravens dropped to just 21st in blitz rate at 21.3%. 

Fantasy Football Takeaways

Injuries have limited Lamar Jackson to 12 games each of the past two seasons. But the fact remains that when healthy, Jackson is still one of the best quarterbacks in all of football. And the fantasy upside is as high as anyone. In the three seasons since his MVP year, Jackson has averaged 0.76, 0.54 and 0.65 fantasy points per dropback, ranking first, seventh and third during that span. Only Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields averaged more fantasy points per dropback than Jackson this past season, as Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing yards per game (63.9). Of course, Jackson is always going to provide huge rushing totals, rushing for at least 700 yards in all four seasons, while eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark twice. Since becoming Baltimore’s starting quarterback in Week 11 of the 2018 season, Jackson has rushed for at least 40 yards in 50-of-62 games, which is right around 81%. Entering the 2023 campaign, Jackson should set career-highs in pass attempts and yards, while still providing a high weekly floor. And with the best group of wideouts of his career, Jackson may have the best chance of any quarterback outside the top-three to finish as the QB1 in fantasy.

J.K. Dobbins Baltimore Ravens 2023 Fantasy Football Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown

Speaking of injuries, J.K. Dobbins has played in just 23 games through his first three NFL seasons. He missed the first two weeks of last season after recovering from an ACL and MCL tear but then would also go on to miss Weeks 7-13. Dobbins returned in Week 14 and, per usual, was efficient, averaging 99 rushing yards on 14.2 attempts per game. During that span, only Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Jerick McKinnon averaged more fantasy points per touch than Dobbins (0.48), while 44.3% of his rushing yards came off breakaway runs (15-plus yards). Gus Edwards is still in town but in the final two games of the season where both running backs were active, Dobbins logged 50% and 49% of the snaps, compared to just 17% and 30% for Edwards. Dobbins isn’t going to suddenly become a running back that plays 70% of the snaps but it is very possible he starts to separate himself from Edwards more in year three.

Efficiency should continue to be there for Dobbins, especially if Lamar Jackson is healthy. The presence of Jackson in Baltimore’s run game keeps defenses honest, which tends to present plenty of yards before contact for the running backs in this offense. Through his first two seasons, Dobbins has ranked first and second in yards before contact per attempt, averaging 3.5 and 3.1. And in the 2021 campaign when he was sidelined, veteran Baltimore backs Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray ranked fifth and 16th in that department. I also think there is a nonzero chance Dobbins contends for the league-lead in rushing touchdowns because the Ravens don’t really call designed runs for Jackson in the red zone. In fact, over the last three seasons, Jackson has just 11 rushing attempts from inside the 5-yard line. Dobbins scored nine touchdowns as a rookie back in 2020. 

It is difficult to project Baltimore’s wideouts in 2023. Rashod Bateman should be the WR1, but he has only played 18 games through his first two years in the league. He got off to a very strong start last season, scoring touchdowns in each of the first two games and ranking sixth in the league in yards per route run through the first four weeks. Unfortunately, a foot injury ended his season in Week 8. Bateman is still a young, talented wideout and could lead the Ravens wideouts in targets. Draft him as a WR4 with WR3 upside.

Meanwhile, Beckham and Flowers join the Ravens this season. Once an absolute star in the league, Beckham has played in just 53 games over the last six seasons. Beckham has familiarity with Todd Monken’s offense, one that should feature more passing, but it is tough to rely on the 31-year-old for consistent fantasy production. Flowers, meanwhile, was selected in the first round of April’s draft. He is unbelievably sudden and was moved all over the formation during his time at Boston College. Flowers is a fine late-round target in drafts.

Of course, Mark Andrews should remain the focal point of this passing attack. Lamar Jackson missing time over the last two years has hurt Andrews’ production a bit, as he averaged around five more fantasy points per game with Jackson active last season. Andrews was targeted on 28% of his routes this past season, the third-highest rate among tight ends, while his 29% target share comfortably paced the tight end position. That volume is likely to come down a little bit but Andrews, but he remains very efficient, ranking top-thee in yards per route run in three of the last four seasons. If anyone has a chance at dethroning Travis Kelce as the top tight end in fantasy, it is obviously Andrews, who was the TE1 back in 2021.

 
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