Lamar Jackson Not Among Top 5 Favorites to Win 2021 MVP Award
The favorite to win the 2021 NFL MVP award is 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Aaron Rodgers, last season's MVP, is second.
Lamar Jackson, who won the award in 2019 and was just the second unanimous MVP in league history, didn't make the top 5.
DraftKings all gave Josh Allen, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford better odds than Jackson, who is tied for sixth with Russell Wilson.
Jackson does have better odds with Bet MGM, the Ravens' first official gambling partner. He's tied for fourth with Kyler Murray. But Jackson is tied for sixth (with Brady) on FanDuel. Dak Prescott snuck ahead of Jackson on their books.
I'm no betting expert, but it feels like Jackson should have better odds. After all, the 24-year-old is just one year removed from one of the greatest statistical seasons ever for a quarterback, is the only quarterback in NFL history to post multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and all he does is win (30-7 as a starter in the regular season).
Moreover, as ESPN’s Jamison Hensley pointed out, the Ravens' moves this offseason have put Jackson in prime position to have a big season.
"It's undeniable [Jackson] was the big winner in the Ravens' 2021 draft," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore continued to bulk up on offense with early draft picks, adding two savvy wide receivers who know how to get open, as well as one of the draft's mountainous blockers in the first four rounds.
"The drafting of polished route runners Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace along with 6-foot-6, 357-pound guard Ben Cleveland provides more weapons and protection for Jackson, who is looking to take the next step as a passer and improve Baltimore's chances of reaching the playoffs for a fourth straight year."
The Ravens' selection of Bateman with the 27th-overall pick was ranked as the 13th-best move of the offseason by Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon.
"The final big board from the B/R NFL Scouting Department ranked Bateman ninth overall, above both Ja'Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle (who were selected fifth and sixth overall, respectively). It's hard not to love the selection," Gagnon wrote.
The Ravens further bolstered Jackson's supporting cast in free agency by signing wide receiver Sammy Watkins and guard Kevin Zeitler.
Marlon Humphrey Recruits Julio Jones, And Jackson Weighs in Too
A new twist in the Julio Jones trade speculation emerged yesterday when the Falcons All-Pro wide receiver said "I'm out of there" when asked by Fox Sports' Shannon Sharpe if he wanted to stay in Atlanta.
Sharpe called Jones while on the air. It's unclear whether Jones was aware that the conversation was taking place on live television.
Even though the Ravens trading for Jones seems unlikely, Baltimore continues to be mentioned as a potential suitor for the 32-year-old star. Before the draft, the Ravens were given the best odds to acquire Jones. Now they have the fourth-best odds.
Press Box’s Glenn Clark said the Ravens should trade for Jones, although he doesn't think they will.
"Even if Julio Jones is only 80 percent of what he once was, he demands significant attention, has continued to be a reliable target and opens more of the field up for Bateman, Watkins, Hollywood Brown, the tight ends and Jackson's legs," Clark wrote. "As the Ravens approach the time when they'll need to give an even larger percentage of their cap to Jackson, they'd do well to give him his best possible chance to succeed.
"This really is the right move. It's the right player at the right time, and while the Ravens are capable of succeeding without him, it would be so smart for them to acquire him."
Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher said "there's no debating that his addition would increase the Ravens' Super Bowl chances significantly," he believes there are too many factors working against the move.
"He has a salary that would be tough for Baltimore to work into their books right now, while he also is getting up there in age, has had nagging injuries throughout his career, could cost a lot of draft capital to acquire, and would take away snaps and a roster spot from a young receiver that the team feels confident in already," Oestreicher wrote.
Players around the league have taken to social media to recruit Jones, including the Ravens' Marlon Humphrey.
Were the Packers Set to Draft Rashod Bateman at No. 29?
Speaking of Bateman, had the Ravens not selected him at No. 27, Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz doesn't think the Minnesota receiver would have been available when the Ravens picked again at No. 31.
Hortiz thinks there's a good chance the Green Bay Packers would've taken Bateman at No. 29. While breaking down film on the Ravens' draft picks with reporters yesterday, Hortiz said he knew the Packers like Bateman.
"[Packers General Manager] Brian [Gutekunst] is a good friend of mine, and obviously, [Packers Director of Football Operations] Milt [Hendrickson] spent a long time here with us," Hortiz said. "I actually rode to the Pro Day with them, and they took me back to the airport after the Pro Day. So, certainly, we knew they liked him, and a lot of teams liked Rashod. You don't know for certain, but you do try to kind of pay attention to, 'OK, the GMs were at this Pro Day.' Especially this year, because the GMs weren't able to get out and see players."
According to ESPN, the Packers were doing "a lot of research" on Bateman and spent time with him in the process.
The Packers ended up drafting cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round. They selected wide receiver Amari Rodgers, the son of Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin, in the third round.
Earlier this month, our Ryan Mink laid out the evidence for his theory that Eric DeCosta's pre-draft wide receiver comments may have helped dissuade the Packers from trading up to get Bateman.
Ronnie Stanley Is No. 5 in PFF's Offensive Tackle Rankings
Pro Football Focus has released its top 32 rankings for each position on the offensive line. Here's a look at how the Ravens fared:
Ronnie Stanley: No. 5 T
"Stanley was his usual self prior to going down with a season-ending injury in Week 8 of 2020, virtually never losing in pass protection," PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote. "He earned a 91.0 pass-blocking grade over his six outings, which at the time was the best in the NFL. In 2019, Stanley led all tackles in pass-blocking grade by over four grading points with a 93.3 mark. "
Alejandro Villanueva: No. 32 T
"Baltimore smartly avoided having to pay Orlando Brown Jr., offloaded him for major draft capital and then signed an average, veteran offensive lineman to replace him," Treash wrote. "Over the past three years, Villanueva ranks 12th among left tackles in pass-blocking grade and has routinely done his job in the ground game, producing a negatively graded run-block rate that sits in the 82nd percentile at the position."
Kevin Zeitler: No. 14 G
"Zeitler was released by the Giants after struggling through the worst season of his NFL career — albeit one still good enough to rank among the top 32 guards in the NFL — but was quickly picked up by the Ravens, who have one of the most friendly schemes in the league for offensive linemen," PFF’s Sam Monson wrote. "You don't need to go back far to find Zeitler posting grades among the best in the NFL, and we could see that again for the Ravens this year."
Bradley Bozeman: No. 18 C
"Bozeman has yet to start a game at center over his first three seasons with Baltimore. However, that is where he played (and excelled) while at Alabama, and there is a good chance he makes the switch heading into 2021," PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. "Bozeman has given the Ravens average play as their starter at left guard over the past two seasons on a whopping 2,357 snaps, including the postseason (fourth among all offensive players). That snap count is part of the reason he's been one of the 10 most valuable guards in the league since 2019, per PFF WAR."
ESPN Pundit Predicts Justin Houston Will Sign With Ravens
Although free-agent edge rusher Justin Houston reportedly visited the Ravens last month, the veteran remains on the market. However, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell predicted Houston ultimately will sign with Baltimore for one year, $6 million.
"John Harbaugh's team used a first-round pick on Odafe Oweh, but he might not be ready to contribute at the highest level as a rookie," Barnwell wrote. "Signing Houston would give the Ravens another option on the edge as part of their exotic blitz packages while allowing Oweh to ease his way into a larger role."
Houston is one of a handful of proven edge rushers still available. Another, Melvin Ingram, reportedly will be visiting the Miami Dolphins.
Citing a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals were in talks with edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan before he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said the Ravens could have competition in the veteran edge rusher market.
"The Ravens appear comfortable waiting it out until they can get a guy they want at a price they are comfortable with. There are no guarantees," Zrebiec wrote. "It's been widely perceived that the Ravens are the last team standing since the Indianapolis Colts are alleged to be out of the running after drafting two pass rushers. However, there are clearly other teams still monitoring veteran edge rushers."