Nate Burleson: Sammy Watkins Will Thrive for Ravens
Sammy Watkins wasn't the top-of-the-market wide receiver some Ravens fans were pining for this offseason, but cost isn't always indicative of performance.
NFL Network and CBS analyst Nate Burleson believes Watkins will flourish in the Ravens' offense. In an article for NFL.com, Burleson projected Watkins's 2021 stats at 60 receptions for 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
That would be Watkins's best season since 2015, his second year in the league, when he had 60 catches for 1,052 yards and nine touchdowns with the Buffalo Bills. His most productive season since then was in 2019, when he had 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns with the Kansas City Chiefs.
For further perspective, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown led the Ravens in receiving last season with 58 receptions for 769 yards and eight touchdowns. No Ravens wide receiver has had at least 800 yards in a season since Mike Wallace in 2016.
"Watkins played an instrumental role in the Chiefs' explosive offense over the last three seasons, though the former first-round pick never surpassed 700 yards in any season," Burleson wrote. "He now steps into a larger role for a Ravens offense looking to improve a passing attack that ranked last in yards in 2020. Watkins struggled as a No. 1 receiver early in his career, but with the experience and confidence gained in Kansas City, he should thrive in his return to that role."
Interestingly, Burleson predicted Watkins to post better numbers than Will Fuller, who signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins reportedly for $10.625 million. Watkins' one-year deal with the Ravens is reportedly worth up to $6 million.
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote that the Ravens got a steal in Watkins, and he also believes there will be an increase in his production this season.
"Just like in Kansas City where Watkins balanced out the Chiefs' passing attack playing opposite the speedy Tyreek Hill, Watkins will now play opposite the speedy Marquise Brown in Baltimore. Except, as the Ravens' roster currently stands, Watkins is clearly the No. 2 option, which should give him the opportunity to earn even more targets than he did last year in Kansas City," Stevens wrote.
Ravens Got One of Best Bargains of Offseason With Tyus Bowser
Speaking of the Ravens getting bang for their buck, re-signing outside linebacker Tyus Bowser for four years for a reported $22 million is one of the best bargains in the league this offseason, according to Sports Info Solutions' Bryce Rossler.
With the departure of pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngaokue, who signed lucrative deals in free agency, the Ravens' bringing back Bowser — especially at a reasonable price — cannot be overstated.
"Bowser is an interesting player," Rossler wrote. "He's an on-ball linebacker whose pass rush rate has gone down over the years (roughly 80% as a rookie to a little under 60% last year) and he's shown the ability to affect the game as both a rusher (12 Total Points in 2020) and a dropper (21).
"This contributed to his ranking as the most impactful pass defender at the position on a per-snap basis and helps explain why this has been the most valuable long-term (3+ years) deal of free agency given to a player coming off their first contract so far."
Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager also listed the Ravens' re-signing Bowser as one of the top moves in free agency this offseason.
Could J.K. Dobbins Become NFL's Best Running Back in 2021?
During the second half of last season, second-round pick J.K. Dobbins showed why he was considered one of the steals of the 2020 draft, and Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler believes the running back only scratched the surface of how dominant he can be.
Schisler likened Dobbins to the two greatest running backs in Ravens history.
"Sometimes he reminds me of Jamal Lewis. Sometimes he looks like Ray Rice," Schisler wrote. "While it's probably not fair to say that Dobbins is a more powerful runner than Lewis, he's at least his equal. The leg-churning ability of Lewis is the stuff of legend, so that's a massive compliment. Dobbins has the most impressive leg strength in the NFL. There are a lot of tough runners in the league but none of them are quite as physically wowing as Dobbins.
"Ray Rice was almost impossible to tackle because of his low center of gravity, balance, and elusiveness. Dobbins has all of those traits but he's faster. Dobbins isn't a sports car you drive down the highway, he's built for the Indy 500."
While Dobbins' sample size is small, it's easy to understand why expectations for him are so high. In his final nine games last season, Dobbins rushed for 651 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging just 12 carries per game. Over a 16-game season, that translates to 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns. His yards per carry for the season was 6.01.
"Dobbins becoming the best running back in football, with the always strong [Gus] Edwards joining the effort, could make the best-run game in the NFL a Super Bowl winner," Schisler wrote. "The fact that Dobbins doesn't have to be a workhorse in this offense increases his value."
Former Raven Bernard Pollard Attempting a Comeback
Former Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, who was known for his fiery demeanor on the field and outspokenness off it, is attempting a comeback after being out of the league for six years.
The 36-year-old Pollard last played in 2014, when he saw action in five games with the Tennessee Titans before going on injured reserve. He has been posting workout videos on Twitter recently.
Pollard, who spent two seasons in Baltimore, was a member of the 2012 Super Bowl-winning team.
Don't Bet Against Justin Tucker When It Comes to Consistency
Justin Tucker was mentioned in one of Barstool Sports' "would you rather" questions.
The question posed was: Would you rather bet $1 million on Tucker making 100 straight 40-yard field goals, Steph Curry making 100 straight free throws, or Justin Verlander throwing 100 straight strikes at any speed he wants.
Barstool Sports' Big Tennessee went with the Ravens kicker.
"He's 162-165 for his career from 20-39 yards and that's going as quickly as possible with very large men trying to block the kick," Big Tennessee wrote. "Forty yards out off a tee is a cakewalk."
Judging by how confident and competitive Tucker is, he'd undoubtedly bet on himself.
- The Ravens' odds to win the Super Bowl have slipped to 18-1. They were at 16-1 before the start of free agency. The Ravens are tied with the Cleveland Browns for the seventh-best odds.