Three Ravens Among Leading Breakout Candidates
The Athletic's Nate Tice named 11 players who are primed for a breakout season, choosing at least one player from each position group.
Running back J.K. Dobbins, wide receiver Rashod Bateman and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike made the list. The Denver Broncos were the only other team with multiple players (two) named.
Here are some excerpts from what Tice wrote about the three Ravens:
"Though [Gus] Edwards also returns to a Ravens offense that likes to utilize several running backs, a healthy Dobbins should have a more-featured role as he returns to Baltimore's backfield in 2022. Dobbins is such a well-rounded player that, even as a rookie, the Ravens utilized him as a pass protector and checkdown option on third down and during two-minute drives, which allowed him to stay on the field for more snaps. With a healthier and improved offensive line in Baltimore, look for a bounceback year from Dobbins and the Ravens as they exit the infirmary."
"The Ravens will always be a run-first team with [Lamar] Jackson at quarterback, but Bateman's play while Jackson was on the field offers reason for optimism, especially as the two develop more consistency and chemistry with one another. With 33-inch arms, Bateman provides a bigger target than the recently traded Marquise Brown. That should help Jackson on his throws over the middle, an area he likes to attack. Bateman is also a much better route runner than Brown, with an ability to operate from the slot and on the outside - versatility that meshes nicely with tight end Mark Andrews. Despite injuries and with a backup quarterback behind center, there were flashes of positive play from Bateman that make it easy to understand why he was a first-round pick (No. 27 overall)."
"Madubuike has been utilized more on first and second downs so far in his career; only 40 of his 484 defensive snaps in 2021 came on third or fourth down with three or more yards to go, but he is a disruptive player against the run and a useful contributor against the pass. He has the burst and snap timing to shoot through gaps to quickly get into the backfield, especially in short-yardage situations. He also shows the timing to get his hands up in throwing lanes to bat down the ball. Madubuike has improved during his first two NFL seasons, and the arrow is still pointing up for more in 2022."
Don't Forget About Tylan Wallace
While Bateman is a top breakout candidate, the three other members of the Ravens' young wide receiver corps also have an opportunity to make more of an impact this season.
Devin Duvernay, a first-team All-Pro as a punt returner last season, and James Proche II have shown flashes, but Russell Street Report's Darin McCann said Tylan Wallace shouldn't be slept on.
"We know what Duvernay and Proche bring to the table," McCann wrote. "They have both shown to have some skills operating out of the slot, and bring great hands - Proche is a bit more polished as a route runner, and Duvernay comes with more juice in a straight line. But Wallace brings something to the perimeter that this team doesn't have an abundance of, and that will count when the season gets going."
Wallace, a fourth-round pick last year, played almost exclusively on special teams last season. He had just two catches for 23 yards in 2021, but one of them - an 18-yard gain on third-and-13 against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 - provided a glimpse of what Wallace is capable of.
"Though he doesn't have that prototypical size or blazing speed you'd like to see in an outside receiver, make no mistake about it - Wallace is a guy who thrives on the perimeter," McCann wrote. "He is a good route-runner who thrived on contested catches in college, and he has sure hands. The Ravens don't need Wallace to be a 100-catch guy. In fact, in a perfect world, the running game stays healthy and thrives, and Bateman and Andrews are gobbling up targets.
"But Wallace can be that kind of player who gets you 14-17 yards a catch in this offense, either by snagging those contested grabs against man coverage if opponents continue their blitz parade against this year's Ravens, or by shaking loose on some of Lamar Jackson's scramble-scramble-scramble-juke-scramble-and-throw plays that can electrify the Bank at any given moment. What if Wallace can chip in with 40-50 yards a game as a third option, flipping field position once a week with a clutch downfield catch?"
Ravens Are No. 8 in Projected Salary Cap Health Over Next Three Years
Yesterday's Late for Work noted that General Manager Eric DeCosta has the Ravens poised to be one of the most successful, consistent teams for at least the next three years. That opinion was reflected in Pro Football Focus' three-year salary cap analysis.
The Ravens came in at No. 8 in PFF's rankings of all 32 teams' projected salary cap health from 2022-2024.
"One of the biggest remaining questions of the offseason may be what happens with quarterback Lamar Jackson's potential extension, but Baltimore is a well-run franchise that navigates contract negotiations calmly and rationally," PFF's Brad Spielberger wrote. "The Ravens no longer need to also pay top dollar to retain tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who is driving a hard bargain with the Kansas City Chiefs following a solid season transitioning full-time from right tackle over to the blindside. With Brown currently subject to the franchise tag, the two sides have until July 15 to iron out a multi-year extension. Baltimore made a similar move sending wide receiver Marquise Brown and a third-round pick to the Cardinals for a first-round pick, avoiding a hefty payday and adding more cheap talent.
"In back-to-back drafts, the Ravens had multiple first-round picks after trading away players looking for big-money extensions. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, edge defender Odafe Oweh, safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum could represent a new, young nucleus on both sides of the ball over the next four years, and all four will earn roughly $53.5 million combined over the span. Brown probably looking to earn that much alone by 2024."
Kyle Hamilton Named Ravens' Player Who Could Disappoint
Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton identified one player from each team who could disappoint this season. For the Ravens, he went with Hamilton.
The consensus is that the Ravens getting Hamilton with the 14th-overall pick was a steal, and some pundits believe Hamilton might have been the best pick of the draft. Moreover, Hamilton has been impressive in minicamps.
Moton doesn't question Hamilton's potential, but he wonders if the Ravens' abundance of talented players in the secondary will limit the rookie safety's opportunities to make an impact in 2022.
"The Ravens have two proven starters at safety in Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams, who just signed a five-year, $70 million deal," Moton wrote. "They can experiment with Hamilton and use him in the slot following the release of Tavon Young, but cornerback Marlon Humphrey may move inside if Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller line up on the boundary in nickel alignments.
"New Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will have to exercise some creativity if he wants Hamilton on the field for meaningful snaps. Barring injuries at safety or a trade that involves Clark, Hamilton could be a rotational slot defender in the big nickel formation and the sixth defensive back in dime packages, which would give the 14th-overall pick few opportunities to make an impact in his rookie year."
Something tells me Macdonald will have no problem finding ways to get the versatile Hamilton on the field.
Ravens' Roster Ranked No. 1 in AFC North
The AFC North figures to be extremely competitive, but the Ravens have the best roster in the division when at full strength, according to The Draft Network's Ryan Fowler.
In analyzing the four teams' rosters (excluding quarterbacks), Fowler put the Ravens at the top, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"The Ravens are a deep, fast, and loaded football team," Fowler wrote. "At full strength, Baltimore represents the cream of the crop in the division despite overwhelming pop from the [other] teams."
Fowler expects the healthy return of Dobbins and Edwards to boost the offense and he said the defense is "dripping with talent at all three levels."