Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Baltimore Ravens

Image result for football offensive line image

Round 3 of our Offensive Line brings us to the first focus for an east coast team: the Baltimore Ravens.

For a look at the Arizona Cardinals or the Oakland Raiders, simply click on the links.

Baltimore Ravens

One of the more intriguing teams for the approaching 2019 season is the Baltimore Ravens. Officially Joe Flacco-less, officially Mark Ingram-full. We saw Lamar Jackson be a top 10 fantasy QB from weeks 11-16. We saw Alex Collins and Gus Edwards become decent fantasy options on a weekly basis. What we didn’t see was a fantasy relevant wide receiver; the best receiver on the Ravens was John Brown with 715 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Ravens offensive line remained mostly healthy throughout the 2018 campaign with only Alex Lewis missing any remarkable time with 3 games. They allowed 32 sacks which is an average amount. They also committed an average number of penalties.

What they didn’t do was excel.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley Ronnie Stanley One of the best LTs in 2018. Mostly healthy and consistent.
Left Guard Alex Lewis Alex Lewis Missed some games due to a neck injury. Was otherwise pretty bad.
Center Matt Skura Matt Skura A perennial practice squad player who lucked into the role. Likely to be replaced.
Right Guard Marshal Yanda Marshal Yanda One of the best RGs in the league in 2018. Returns after a largely healthy year.
Right Tackle James Hurst Orlando Brown Hurst and Brown swapped depth chart positions during the 2018 season. Currently is Brown’s role.
Tight End Nick Boyle Nick Boyle Was signed as a free agent in 2019. Boyle is effective at pass and run blocking but lives in a 4 headed monster Tight End position in Baltimore.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
Ronnie Stanley Left Tackle 9
Alex Lewis Left Guard 27
Matt Skura Center 20
Marshal Yanda Right Guard 4
Orlando Brown Right Tackle 18
Nick Boyle Tight End 9
Overall Team O-Line 14
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The Baltimore Ravens made a huge wave with their signing of Mark Ingram, but have made no changes to their offensive line through free agency. Nick Boyle was signed as a Free Agent but he was already on the team in 2018.

It’s conceivable that they wanted to make more free agency moves but were strapped by the amount of cap space that they have available in addition to a number of expiring contracts in 2020. They may be considering extending some of those and will need the money available to make those moves.

NFL Draft Thoughts

The Ravens currently have 8 picks at their disposal. They will have to use them carefully because they have 7 positions of need. On the O-Line, they have a need at Left Guard and at Center. Both Alex Lewis’ and Matt Skura’s contracts expire after the season ends. Based on their performance, I do not anticipate either of them being resigned unless it is a depth move. Replacements need to be found through the draft regardless of those decisions because of their performance.

We must consider what is a greater position of need. Unfortunately for the purposes of this article, I believe the Ravens will place Wide Receiver above the inside positions of the Offensive Line. They have Willie Snead (whose contract is also expiring at the end of the season) and then there are a bunch of names that I have never seen on a fantasy football roster. Multiple mock drafts have the Ravens selecting Parris Campbell from Ohio State. If they do, he will immediately move up my preseason draft board rankings.

Their first round pick is now behind us. The Ravens do not have a second round pick. They traded it to Philadelphia as part of a package deal to get Philly’s Round One pick in 2018 which the Ravens used to draft Lamar Jackson. Now we are in the third round. Do the Ravens have a need greater than Guard and Center? Let’s assume that they do not.

The likely targets for either of the Ravens 2 third round picks are:

  • Greg Little – Tackle – Mississippi
  • Mitch Hyatt – Tackle – Clemson
  • Tyler Roemer – Tackle – San Diego State
  • Lamont Gaillard – Center – Georgia
  • Michael Jordan – Guard (but can move to Center) – Ohio State

Look for those names to be called on day 2 of the NFL Draft. If they are drafted by the Ravens, they are instantly in the conversation of starting in week 1.

One name that might still be on the board in Round 3 or 4 is Connor McGovern out of Penn State. He is another one who, like Michael Jordan, is capable of playing Center or Guard. He was an essential piece to Saquon Barkley’s amazing 2017 season at Penn State. Considering the lack of receiving talent on the Ravens roster in addition to the signing of Mark Ingram AND the proclivity of Lamar Jackson running the ball, McGovern would be a perfect fit. If the Ravens draft McGovern AND if he lands the starting role, I will move Mark Ingram higher in my preseason rankings.

2019 Thoughts

The Baltimore Ravens are on the knife’s edge. A couple of right moves and they could find themselves the AFC North champions. The Bengals are rebuilding and the Steelers are on a downward trend. The Browns appear to be a juggarnaut this year, but they have turned disappointment into a habit. A couple of missed opportunities and the Ravens will quickly start moving pieces before the trade deadline in preparation for the 2020 season.

The Ravens have a Vegas over/under of 9 wins in their 2019 campaign. They will not be able to live up to that goal without some help on the offensive line. Look for the Ravens to strike late on day 2 or early on day 3 of the NFL Draft.

Conclusion

Let’s assume that the Ravens make the right choices. They know their way to the division championship and they found it with an arguably mediocre team in 2018. If the Ravens are able to utilize their defense as it should be used, they will be able to turn their focus to the run game.

Mark Ingram will have a good fantasy year. It will be even better if the Ravens make the right decisions for their offensive line.

Lamar Jackson will continue his life of fantasy relevance. It will be even more consistent with improvements to the offensive line.

The Ravens WILL draft a wide receiver on day 1 in April. Hot take: that rookie will lead the team in receiving.

They have the means to make a fantasy owner happy. A couple of steps towards improving their offensive line will turn that good year into a GREAT one. We will be watching the draft very closely. We cannot make any further assessments until then.

Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Oakland Raiders

Image result for football offensive line image

Round 2 of our Offensive Line focus brings us to Oakland and a review of the Raiders along with their hope for the 2019 season.

For a look at Round 1 and the Arizona Cardinals, please click here!

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were a fantasy wasteland in 2018. Derek Carr was the 18th QB after week 16 scoring a dismal 14.3 points per game according to FantasyPros.com.

The Running Backs were dreadful. Marshawn Lynch only played in 6 games averaging 10.7 0.5 PPR points per game. After the Raiders’ bye in week 7, Doug Martin took over the lead back role and continued the mediocrity. He averaged 9.3 points per game.

Finally, the Wide Receivers felt the pain of having an under-performing Quarterback. Amari Cooper was a disappointment until he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys during the Raiders bye week. That left Jordy Nelson, Dwayne Harris, and Seth Roberts to carry the load. None of them were up to the task.

A large chunk of the failures can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Jon Gruden. Whether the misery was part of his master plan or a spotlight on how out of touch he was with the NFL in 2018, the team failed, in part, because of him.  A second part of the offensive failures could also be placed with Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson, who has not had a successful campaign with any team in over a decade.

Regardless of coaching, the team would not have had a successful offense due to the poor play of their offensive line. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker combined for the most penalties by Tackles in the NFL. The line as a whole allowed Derek Carr to be sacked 51 times. That is not a typo. FIFTY ONE.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle Kolton Miller Trent Brown After a SB win with the Patriots in 2018, Brown moves to the Raiders and is currently the highest paid Lineman in the NFL.
Left Guard Kelechi Osemele Kolton Miller Osemele moves to the Jets. Miller was terribly ineffective at LT. Moves to LG. Committed many penalties in 2018.
Center Rodney Hudson Rodney Hudson One of the best Centers in the league in 2018.
Right Guard Gabe Jackson Gabe Jackson One of the best Right Guards in the league in 2018.
Right Tackle Brandon Parker Brandon Parker Tied for 10th in the NFL for penalties. Half of his were false starts.
Tight End Jared Cook Lee Smith Cook went to the Saints. Current depth chart lists Smith #1. Uncertain if that remains after the draft.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
Trent Brown Left Tackle 21
Kolton Miller Left Guard 30
Rodney Hudson Center 3
Gabe Jackson Right Guard 8
Brandon Parker Right Tackle 30
Lee Smith Tight End 3
Overall Team O-Line 19
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: One down, one to go

As mentioned above, the Tackle position for the Oakland Raiders was the weakest in the NFL in 2018. The Raiders made strides in the right direction. On March 13, the Raiders signed unrestricted free agent Trent Brown to the biggest contract for an NFL lineman. Trent Brown spent the 2018 season with the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots. He is a consistently healthy player that adds strength to the tackle. This will allow Kolton Miller to move to the Left Guard position. That loud noise you just heard was a sigh of relief from Derek Carr. When Miller wasn’t committing penalties, he was opening doors for the opposing defense. Removing him from the outside left is a smart move.

This was a necessary move to give Derek Carr time to throw the ball to his newest targets. It will also improve the possibilities for whomever starts at Running Back in 2019.

NFL Draft Thoughts

With consistency, strength, and leadership at the Left Tackle, Center, and Right Guard positions, the Raiders need to take a long hard look at their sophomore O-Line players (Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker). Their rookie seasons were awful. The Raiders spent some impressive draft capital on those two players in 2018. Kolton Miller was their first round pick (1.15) while Brandon Parker was the first pick in the 3rd round! They will not simply forget the talent that convinced the Raiders’ main office to commit those early picks.

The truth is that the coaching staff is going to have to spend time developing the skills of those 2nd year players. While it is true that the Raiders have 11 picks including 3 first round picks, it is also true that they have severe needs at many defensive positions and at running back.

One position of need which will have an impact on the offensive line is the Tight End. Lee Smith is great at pass and rush protection but in 8 full seasons in the NFL he has surpassed 10 targets in a season only 3 times. None were higher than 13 targets. The Raiders need an offensive presence at the Tight End position.

Look no further than Noah Fant. Chad Reuter of NFL.com has Noah Fant going to the Raiders at pick 27 (Oakland’s 3rd pick of the first round). That same mock has T.J. Hockenson going to the Packers earlier in the draft. I did not see the Packers taking a Tight End there because they have more dire needs at other positions. However, some fellow writers at TheFFAnalysts.com agreed with the mock draft. “A lot of people see it as a possibility,” remarks @jplumm94. “I could see Hockenson at 12,” agreed @theFF_taters. With Hockenson off the board, the Raiders hand will be forced.

Author’s note: Since the writing of this article, the Raiders have signed Luke Willson. This has to be a depth move. Willson is another Tight End that has never had fantasy relevance. He is quite good at run and pass blocking, though.

The Tight End position will likely be taken care of early in the draft. Between that, the draft capital of the 2018 rookie offensive lineman, and the other team needs in 2019 it is quite conceivable that the Raiders will stand pat at the offensive line. At most, they may use a late round pick to add some depth.

2019 Thoughts

Here is what we know about the Raiders:

  • They’ve added some impressive receivers in Free Agency
  • They’ve added a strong player to their offensive line
  • The rookies from 2018 on the o-line were college standouts
  • Derek Carr has shown that he is able to succeed

Recently, the Raiders signed Isaiah Crowell. After this signing, it is becoming clear that the improvements at offensive line do not appear to be completed to improve the run game. Crowell’s one year deal is an indicator that they are holding out until the 2020 draft class to fill the RB need.

Instead, they will be focusing on Derek Carr and the passing game. They’ll need it. The Oakland defense gave up the most points to opposing offenses in 2018. There haven’t been any slam dunk free agency signings and their defensive issues will not be solved immediately through the draft. While the defense is in the midst of a rebuild, the offense will be playing catch up.

Conclusion

Vegas odds has the Raiders winning 5 games in 2019. With the added firepower at receiver and the strengthening of the offensive line, the Raiders will be in more close games and could squeak out some additional wins through their passing game alone. The losses will likely include some garbage time points.

What does this mean for fantasy? Derek Carr’s 2018 stats means he will not be drafted in most formats. However, I could see a likelihood that he will be a waiver wire target at times in 2019. He’s going to have production. He has talent and now he has a couple of high end targets in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Throw in the possibility of a new Tight End and Derek Carr has the potential to return to his Top 10 Fantasy QB stats.

Speaking of those receivers, they will both be owned in most formats. Antonio Brown is currently the 7th Wide Receiver off the board at the 2.06 according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Tyrell Williams is going at the incredible fantasy value of the 14th round. Both should have very good fantasy years considering the pass protection of the offensive line and Derek Carr’s ability. If the pieces remain healthy, then Antonio Brown could remain a top 5 WR and Tyrell Williams could be a solid WR2 in fantasy.

Don’t sleep on the Oakland Raiders. But, don’t overspend on them, either. We will certainly know more after the draft.