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Late for Work 12/23: Mark Andrews Solidifies Rise From Draft Steal to AFC's Top Tight End

TE Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews Solidifies Rise From Draft Steal to Elite Tight End

Three tight ends were selected in the 2018 draft before Mark Andrews, including one by the Ravens. Now Andrews is second to none at the position.

Andrews was named to his second Pro Bowl yesterday, his first as a starter. He got the nod in the AFC over Kansas City's Travis Kelce, who led all NFL tight ends in fan voting. Roster selections are determined by the votes of fans, players and coaches, with each counting for one-third.

Andrews being the starter means he got more votes from players and coaches than Kelce.

Andrews was a central figure in the Ravens' offense the past three seasons, but he's taken his game to an elite level this year.

He is third in the AFC in receiving yards (1,062), leads all tight ends in receptions (85), and is second among tight ends in touchdown catches (eight). Andrews also leads all tight ends in 20-plus-yard receptions (16) and receiving first downs (62).

Clearly, the Ravens got a steal when they drafted Andrews out of Oklahoma in the third round (86th overall). Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm looked back at why Andrews, who won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end in 2017 and was projected as a second-round pick, didn't go higher in the draft.

Edholm noted that Andrews had some disappointing combine workouts and came up short on desired measurements for wingspan, arm length and hand size.

"There also were questions about how much Andrews' college production was inflated by a supersonic OU offense led by Baker Mayfield and designed by offensive whiz Lincoln Riley, with blue-chip talent at running back, offensive line and receiver," Edholm wrote. "It was also an offense that often feasted on leaky Big 12 defenses.

"Andrews also was dinged for his blocking ability by some evaluators and, because he has type 1 diabetes, some teams added a layer of medical concern to his dossier. In college, Andrews had multiple incidents where his blood sugar dropped to the point of him being unresponsive."

Whatever concerns there were about Andrews heading into the draft, Edholm said that "Andrews falling as far as he did feels absurd now."

Edholm said the Ravens signing Andrews, 26, to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $56 million prior to the start of this season "is proving to be a grand slam."

"Assuming a good health forecast, there's little reason why Andrews can't continue his ascension among the top tight ends in the game," Edholm wrote. "Kelce might hold that mantle now, but at age 32 he might be closer to the end of his dominance than the beginning. With Andrews improving markedly as a blocker — in the run game and in pass protection — over his time in the NFL, he's as well-rounded now as they come at the position, along with the likes of George Kittle, [Dallas] Goedert and a small handful of others."

More Pundits Praise John Harbaugh for Dialogue With Players Before Two-Point Conversion Try

Pat McAfee and A.J. Hawk were very complimentary of John Harbaugh on “The Pat McAfee Show” after watching the clip of the head coach interacting with his players about going for the two-point conversion at the end of Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.

Harbaugh, who was mic'd up for the game, asked several players on offense whether they wanted to go for two or play for overtime. Going for two was unanimous.

"Just an awesome give and take. I think he was trying to get a feel for everybody's confidence," McAfee said. "Some people are saying, 'He didn't want to make his own decision and be a leader.' I think he wanted to test everybody's confidence. … I loved it."

Hawk said: "When he came to [Tyler Huntley] and said, 'When you go down and score a touchdown, do you want to go for two or not?' he's knows what he's doing. He's giving his quarterback, his offense, a bunch of confidence. And letting them know, 'Oh by the way, when you score, don't just run off the field and waste all your energy because you're probably going to stay out there and go for two and try to win.'"

McAfee and Hawk also noted that Andrews reassuring Harbaugh that he made the right decision after the two-point conversion attempt failed spoke volumes about the relationship between Harbaugh and his players.

"[Harbaugh] knew he was going to get killed for it. I also respect the fact that Mark Andrews knew he was going to get killed for it, too, and he walked up to him," McAfee said.

Separating Fact from Fiction on Ravens and Analytics

In Late for Work earlier this week, how much analytics factored into Harbaugh's decision to go for two was discussed. The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer delved further into the subject of analytics and attempted to separate fact from fiction.

Here are some excerpts:

Fact: The Ravens are among the NFL's most analytically inclined teams.

"Just look at the results of ESPN's October survey of NFL analytics staffers: The Ravens were regarded as having the league's second-most analytically advanced team, the second-highest level of "analytics work" and the second-most incorporation of analytics into their decision-making — behind only the Browns in all three categories. (Not surprisingly, the Ravens are also believed to have one of the NFL's bigger analytics staffs.)

"In practice, the most mainstream influence of analytics is on fourth-down play-calling. According to Football Outsiders, Harbaugh "set an all-time record for fourth-down aggressiveness" in 2019, going for it on 23% of what the analytics website called qualifying fourth downs. The Ravens led the NFL that season in fourth-down success, converting 17 of 24 opportunities overall."

Fiction: Analytics aren't helpful in the long run.

"Analytics are a tool, not an orthodoxy. They help teams make more informed in-game decisions. They help shape offseason team-building strategies. They can have applications as important as fourth-down aggressiveness and as overlooked as special teams value.

"Every modern sports team uses some kind of analytics, and even franchises as progressive as the Ravens can embrace old-school strategies. In 2019, when the Ravens had the NFL's most efficient offense, they had football research coach Daniel Stern sitting next to Roman, dispensing information about in-game situations. They also rolled over defenses not by throwing the ball, as analytics would have almost all offenses do, but by leading the league in rushing."

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