Lamar Jackson Named a Tier 2 Quarterback
It's another edition of quarterback rankings, which has merit to usurp baseball as America's pastime.
This time it comes from The Athletic's Mike Sando, who corralled 50 league insiders, including "eight general managers, 10 head coaches, 15 coordinators, 10 executives, four quarterback coaches and three involved in coaching/analytics." The 50-person vote resulted in Lamar Jackson being named a Tier 2 quarterback and No. 7 in the NFL.
"I was really tempted to put him at 1 since when he's healthy, Baltimore wins," an exec said to Sando, "but I kept him at 2 with the definition requiring expert handling of pure-pass situations."
Many took note of the Ravens' offseason addition of Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, and whether the change "will unleash Jackson or expose his limitations as a passer."
"What's nice is, Monken is getting him as a veteran quarterback," a GM said to Sando. "He doesn't have him as a first- or second-year young guy, so I think he can help him. Don't forget, (former coordinator) Greg Roman got him as a rookie. There was a lot to work on."
For the record, it was Marty Mornhinweg who was Jackson's rookie coordinator. Roman took over in 2019 and helped lead the offense to a record-breaking year that resulted in Jackson earning the second ever unanimous league MVP award. Roman was named the NFL's assistant coach of the year.
However, one of the NFL's defensive coordinators was rather critical of the Ravens' offense for Jackson and is awaiting his leap in performance with Monken.
"If Josh Allen was in that same offense Lamar was in, you would think of Josh the same way you think of Lamar," a defensive coordinator said to Sando. "Josh was just in a more pro-favorable offense. Lamar, whatever they thought they were doing, simple fact of the matter is, they put him basically in a college offense. It will be really good to see if Lamar elevates his game and people say he is more like Josh Allen."
Trade Suggestion Nets Upside Edge Rusher in Baltimore
There's been a vote of confidence after the first week of training camp in Baltimore for the Ravens' passing offense. Many have complimented rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers, there's been excitement for Odell Beckham Jr., who has flashed, and tight end Mark Andrews continues to be a reliable and consistent playmaker.
This all leads to Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine suggesting the Ravens trade a wide receiver lower on their depth chart in Devin Duvernay for high-upside edge rusher Carlos "Boogie" Basham Jr. and a sixth-round pick.
"The Ravens have transformed wide receiver from a desperate need to a position of potential strength in 2023," Ballentine wrote. "They signed Odell Beckham Jr., drafted Zay Flowers and should be hoping for a breakout season from a healthy Rashod Bateman. Add in the Ravens' ability to run 12 personnel with Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, and Devin Duvernay could be the odd man out."
Ballentine believes Duvernay, a back-to-back Pro Bowl returner, could be a piece the Bills are longing for to pair with wide receiver Stefon Diggs while the Ravens could net a pass rusher who, like Duvernay, is talented but a bit lower in the pecking order.
"In return, the Ravens could target Boogie Basham as a buy-low candidate who could break out in their defense," Ballentine wrote. "The Bills have a crowded edge-rusher rotation with Von Miller, A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau and Shaq Lawson. At 6'3", 274 pounds, Basham has the size to play on the outside or kick in. With David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh still coming along, Basham would provide another young defensive lineman to develop."
The Ravens have shown a desire to add an outside linebacker with recent tryouts and this would net them a player with two years remaining on his rookie deal. Financially, the move is sound as according to overthecap.com, as the Ravens would free up around $3.1 million in cap space after the hypothetical trade would be finalized.
To make a trade with a direct competitor in the AFC, especially a team equally primed to make a postseason run, is a dangerous consideration. Especially when the commodity given is a bit more proven while acquiring Basham is based more on potential than production.
Pundit Isn't Buying the Zay Flowers Hype … Yet
Though Flowers missed the past two training camp practices due to illness, many saw during the first two days just what kind of speed and agility the young wideout will bring to the Ravens' new offense. While some have begun to buy into Flowers having a big rookie season, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport is tempering his expectations.
"Again, this is less a matter of selling Flowers than the idea he's going to make a big rookie impact. The 5'9" 182-pounder has 4.42-second speed, solid route-running ability and soft hands. He's the real deal," Davenport wrote. "But even if Monken opens up the Baltimore offense some, the Ravens aren't going to suddenly morph into the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills."
A big part of why Davenport doesn't see Flowers having a star season is the depth chart around and above him.
"There's also the matter of the pecking order in the passing game," Davenport wrote. "Tight end Mark Andrews is the unquestioned No. 1 pass-catcher in Baltimore. Beckham didn't get $15 million in guarantees to be a decoy. The reality is that Flowers is (at best) the No. 3 option in a low-volume passing attack. The talent may be there, but the numbers won't. At least not in 2023."
All Under 25 Defense Sports Two Ravens
On Friday, CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani released the NFL All Under 25 defensive team for 2023. On Dajani's first teams was one Raven: linebacker Patrick Queen.
"Roquan Smith is the star linebacker for the Ravens, but that doesn't mean you can just forget about Patrick Queen," Dajani wrote. "In his third NFL season, the former LSU star set career-high numbers across the board with 117 combined tackles, five sacks, 14 QB hits, six passes defensed and two interceptions."
The underrated aspect of Queen making the list isn't his talent; rather, it's his experience as he enters Year 4 in the NFL and turns 24 years old midway through training camp. Queen's an old head on young shoulders, with the numbers to back it up.
"Queen is one of three defenders with at least 300 tackles, three interceptions and 10 sacks since entering the league in 2020," Dajani wrote. "The two other players? His teammate Smith, and the legendary Bobby Wagner."
The only other player on Dajani's first team list with four seasons in the NFL and under 25 was Washington Commanders safety Kamren Curl, who oddly got the nod over safety Kyle Hamilton. Curl was PFF's second highest graded safety last season, behind Hamilton.
Top Offensive Ravens in PFF History
Since 2006, PFF has evaluated every player and every play in the NFL. Now, looking at the grand scope, PFF’s Gordon McGuinness shares the top offensive players for the Ravens since the website's inception, starting with a Hall of Famer.
"We have just two seasons of data and grading on the Hall of Fame left tackle, and they came at the end of his career as he dealt with injuries," McGuinness wrote. "But he was still a top-tier tackle in that span. An elite pass protector, Ogden allowed just 18 pressures from his final 859 pass-blocking snaps with the team that made him the first draft selection in franchise history back in 1996."
According to PFF’s Dalton Wasserman, Ogden is one of five offensive players to play at least 200 snaps and finish a season with a 95.0-plus grade.
It's a linemen affair, but it's hard to complain when the second is a worthy candidate to join Ogden in the Hall of Fame.
"Yanda spent his entire 13-year career in Baltimore and produced a PFF grade above 80.0 in every one of those seasons," McGuinness wrote. "While he was a guard for most of his career, he started at right tackle as a rookie and was one of the best in the league, so he very well could have been a Hall of Fame-caliber tackle, too."
Tight end Mark Andrews is ranked No. 3, with McGuinness noting Andrews' lowly 6.8% drop rate in five NFL seasons. But with Ravens fans knowing Andrews' ability, it's better to note running back Gus Edwards is No. 4 with a 90.5 PFF grade.
"Edwards has been incredibly efficient for the Ravens over his four-year career, averaging 5.1 yards per carry on 542 rushing attempts including the playoffs," McGuinness wrote. "A physical runner who is tough to stop on first contact, he has averaged 3.4 yards after contact per carry in his NFL tenure, fifth among the 47 players with 400 carries in that span including the playoffs."
- PFF's Dalton Wasserman gave one stat for all 32 teams before the 2023 season and made sure to remind the NFL what kind of player safety Kyle Hamilton was last season. "Kyle Hamilton joins Derwin James as the only rookie safeties in PFF history to grade out above 80.0 in run defense, coverage and pass rush," Wasserman wrote."Hamilton got more comfortable in his strong safety/slot role as last season progressed. His emergence is a prime reason that the Ravens could field an elite defense moving forward."