Ben Cleveland Named Ravens' Biggest Standout of Offseason Thus Far
At 6-foot-6 and 357 pounds, guard Ben Cleveland stands out in a crowd. The third-round pick is getting noticed for more than just his massive size, however.
Cleveland was named the Ravens' biggest standout of the offseason thus far by Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski.
"Cleveland set a goal to start as a rookie. Considering the physicality he brings to the offensive interior, that achievement is well within his reach," Sobleski wrote.
The rookie out of Georgia is competing for the starting job at left guard. Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week that the competition is "wide open," but Sobleski wrote: "Cleveland just may have the inside track since his skill set lends well to Baltimore's offensive scheme."
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker noted that Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman have "spoken glowingly of the mountainous Cleveland, but he'll have to win a training camp battle against Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips."
Last month, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec predicted that Cleveland will make the biggest impact for the Ravens this season among the team's rookies.
"The Ravens believe that Cleveland, a third-round pick, will solidify an offensive line that's been under construction," Zrebiec wrote. "If they are able to lead the league in rushing for a third consecutive season, Cleveland is a big reason why."
Analytics Show Rashod Bateman Will Be One of the Most Productive Rookie Receivers This Season
Rashod Bateman will be one of the most productive rookie wide receivers in the NFL this season, according to NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund.
Using contextualized data and computer-vision models, Frelund ranked Bateman sixth.
"Route-running precision is a metric my model values more than most, and Bateman thrives in this area, especially when aligned on the outside," Frelund wrote. "I've found that route-running precision leading to separation in college typically plays well in the NFL. Over the past two seasons in the FBS, Bateman ranked No. 3 among wide receivers in terms of route-running efficiency (as measured by reliable timing and the ability to create separation) on routes run from outside alignment.
"Pro Football Focus adds additional context here: Over the past two seasons when it came to intermediate targets (10-19 air yards), Bateman ranked second in the FBS with 44 catches and third with 697 yards."
Frelund added that the only reason Bateman, the 27th-overall pick, isn't higher in her rankings is because of the large volume of rushing plays the Ravens are likely to run.
Who Will Be the Ravens' MVP in 2021?
The Athletic asked its NFL writers to predict the MVP for the team they cover, and Zrebiec's choice for the Ravens was a shocker.
Just kidding. It was Lamar Jackson, who was voted the Ravens' MVP the past two seasons by the local media and was the unanimous NFL MVP in 2019.
Zrebiec wrote: "The Ravens upgraded Jackson's group of targets by signing Sammy Watkins and drafting Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace. Bradley Bozeman's move to center and the signing of Kevin Zeitler should improve the pass blocking. The Ravens offensive staff have had another offseason — and a normal one at that — to make some necessary tweaks. All of those factors should help Jackson put up better numbers in the passing game and everyone knows what he can do with his legs."
Jackson and Ray Rice (2011-2012) are the only players to be voted Ravens MVP in back-to-back seasons since the award's introduction in 2003.
Sammy Watkins Is Among the Ravens Whose Stock Is Rising
In yesterday's Late for Work, we highlighted Zrebiec's choices for young players on the Ravens whose stock is up after offseason workouts. Today, we'll look at three of the players The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer identified as risers.
WR Sammy Watkins
"Watkins ended mandatory minicamp Wednesday with a dominant showing in 11-on-11 action, winning on downfield routes and looking like the 1,000-yard receiver he was early in his career. Watkins, who signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this offseason, could be the outside target quarterback Lamar Jackson's lacked over his first three seasons in Baltimore. … Harbaugh said Watkins is 'right on schedule' and 'getting into the groove' with Jackson. Most importantly, he's healthy."
CB Tavon Young
"Young has played just two games over the past two seasons, his promising, stop-and-start career derailed by a 2019 neck injury and a 2020 knee injury. So it was encouraging that, three months before the Ravens head to Las Vegas for their season opener, Young was back at practice for the start of minicamp, participating in individual drills."
TE Josh Oliver
"Acquired in March for a conditional seventh-round pick, the 6-foot-5 Oliver was the most consistent receiver of the tight ends battling for a roster spot. Injuries have limited him to just four games over two NFL seasons, but he showed his athleticism and range on short and intermediate routes, and solid enough hands. Depending on Oliver's fit in the offense, he might not need to wow as a blocker in training camp, but he'll still have to prove capable when the pads come on."
John Harbaugh Is on Mount Rushmore of Special Teams Coaches
Harbaugh having a "Hall of Fame case" was discussed in Late for Work earlier this month, but we won't know for years whether the Ravens' head coach will have his bust in Canton.
However, Harbaugh's face is already on a hypothetical Mount Rushmore of special teams coaches.
Sports Illustrated's Rick Gosselin took a deep dive into special teams coaches over the past 36 years, and he placed Harbaugh on his Mount Rushmore in terms of historical significance.
Before becoming the Ravens' head coach in 2008, Harbaugh spent the bulk of his career coaching special teams, including nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Any special-teams coach who becomes an NFL head coach going forward has Harbaugh to thank," Gosselin wrote. "His success opened the door for [Joe] Judge, who went directly from special-teams coach of the Patriots to head coach of the Giants in 2020."
Using the 12-category formula devised by former NFL special teams coach Frank Gansz to measure special teams performance, Gosselin ranked the top 25 special teams coaches since 1985. Harbaugh placed 24th and is one of eight special teams coaches to be ranked No. 1 in multiple seasons.
Moreover, Harbaugh and Hall of Famer Bill Cowher are the only coaches to finish first in the special teams rankings and win a Super Bowl as a head coach. The former Steelers head coach was the Cleveland Browns' special teams coach in 1985-1986.
Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens' special teams coordinator from 2008-2018, was No. 5 in the rankings. Rosburg's units in Baltimore finished in the top 10 in Gosselin's rankings from 2012-2018, the second-longest stretch in the history of the rankings.
- Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is No. 46 on PFF's list of the top 50 players in the NFL heading into the 2021 season. "Stanley may be the best pass-protector in the entire NFL at any position," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. PFF has revealed players 31-50 and will continue counting down the top players the rest of this week.
- CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora says Bozeman is the "make-or-break player" who could determine the Ravens' fate this season.