Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Baltimore Ravens

2019 Coaching Staff

There was some speculation earlier in the year that head coach John Harbaugh was on the hot seat after a slow start. A quarterback switch later and Harbaugh gets a nice extension instead. His offensive coordinator was not so fortunate. Marty Mornhinweg’s tenure as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator was marred by inconsistency. His offense struggled to pick up yards more often than not, and the surprisingly high points scored numbers were bolstered significantly by some of the best starting field position in the league (courtesy of the Ravens defense).

cs5kq5eocpl3pubjegxuWith Mornhinweg opting to leave instead of taking a demotion, Greg Roman will take his place after being promoted from his previous position as tight ends coach and run game coordinator.

What to Expect

Seeing as how the Ravens offense finally hit its stride when they started running the ball more, there is reason for optimism after putting the run game coordinator in charge of the whole offense. Roman’s coaching history fits the bill as well. In six seasons as offensive coordinator of the 49ers and Bills, Roman’s teams rarely threw the ball, never finishing higher than 29th in pass attempts. However, they’ve only finished outside the top 3 in rush attempts twice, and never outside the top 10. More importantly, Roman’s offenses run with volume and efficiency; his teams have finished outside the top 5 in yards per carry only twice in six years. With a mobile QB like Lamar Jackson and a veritable army of running backs and tight ends, this offense should continue to focus on the run game.

Speaking of Jackson, Roman might be the perfect coordinator to mold the raw-but-talented Jackson into a true NFL quarterback. After all, this won’t be the first time that Roman gets to take advantage of a dual-threat QB; his previous stops featured Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick.  There is some risk that Jackson’s inexperience could make the offense rather one-dimensional and predictable – the primary reason for the playoff collapse against the Chargers – but, then again, is that really all that different from Kaepernick’s early years? Besides, a strong running game is a defense’s best friend. Given how tough the Ravens’ defense already is, a clock-chewing running game will allow the stingy Baltimore defense to hide mistakes from Jackson’s growing pains.

The Data

As mentioned above, Greg Roman really emphasizes a strong running game. His offenses have typically finished with right around a 50/50 pass/run ratio, and it hasn’t exactly been uncommon for his teams to finish with noticeably more rush attempts than pass attempts. This is a major departure from the classic west coast pass-heavy style that previous coordinator Mornhinweg liked to run, but it’s a change that makes sense. The Ravens boast a deep stable of running backs in addition to their new dual-threat QB and wide selection of high-pedigree tight ends. Meanwhile, they enter 2019 with their top wide receiver being…Willie Snead? Gee, why are they focusing on the run game?

With this in mind, it’s likely that Roman will de-emphasize the wide receiver position compared to what he’s called in the past. While in Buffalo and San Francisco, Roman’s wideouts typically saw target shares between 55-60% with a high water mark of 71%. Given the extreme lack of wide receiver talent in Baltimore compared to the other skill positions, Roman’s scheme should bend a bit and drop the wideout target share to the lower 50% range, possibly as low as 50% depending on how the Ravens approach free agency and the draft. I would expect the tight end group to pick up the slack. Historically, Roman’s tight ends have seen target shares in the mid-20% range. Baltimore’s group has more depth than anything Roman has had to work with before, and his promotion to offensive coordinator was from the tight end position coach so he should be particularly familiar with this group. It’s not far-fetched to think that the Baltimore tight ends could reach a 30% target share next year.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

The last consideration to make when looking forward to the coming year is the number of plays the offense will run. Under Mornhinweg, the offense was frequently near the top of the league in plays run. In fact, they led the league in that category last year (1135). Going off Roman’s history, expect the Ravens to slow it down a bit this year. The Bills offense under Roman ran about the league average number of plays (just a hair over 1000 plays in both 2015 and 2016), while the 49ers matched that twice and actually dipped all the way down to the 960 range twice.

Fantasy Impact

In a league that has progressively become more pass-centric, the Ravens will be dialing it back with a punishing run game and stout defense. Of the passes that Baltimore does throw, the tight ends should command a rather large share given the depth at the position and lack of depth at wide receiver. However, someone has to catch the ball out wide, so there’s some sleeper potential for those willing to take the risk.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 500 Attempts
Projected Passing: 300 Completions on 480 Attempts, 35 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 135 Receptions on 245 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 70 Receptions on 95 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 95 Receptions on 140 Targets


Update 1: Free agency is hitting the Ravens defense hard. Four key starters (Eric Weddle, C. J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, & Terrell Suggs) signed elsewhere, leaving gaping holes in the Baltimore defensive lineup. I have faith that defensive coordinator Don Martindale can continue to coach up a high-level defense, but his job just got a lot tougher watching all that talent walk out the door. We’ve adjusted our offensive projections to slightly favor the passing game.

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