PFF Explains Why Lamar Jackson Wasn't Among Its Top 50 Players
Count me as one of the people who were surprised when Lamar Jackson wasn't included in Pro Football Focus's Top 50 player rankings last week.
After an outcry on social media, PFF’s Sam Monson wrote that Jackson is the player who most deserves a spot after missing out on the list.
"Recently an NFL MVP, Jackson remains one of the most dynamic players in the league, but he is also a cautionary tale about expecting someone to continue to develop onward and upward each year," Monson wrote. "Jackson was a unanimous MVP one year and the No. 15-graded quarterback in the league in terms of overall PFF grade (81.5) the next. That's still a very good mark, but it's obviously a regression.
"Jackson, of course, has the difficult-to-quantify bonus of a unique importance to the Ravens' offense. The threat he brings as an athlete and playmaker allows the running backs to produce atypical success. It makes life easier for the offensive line, which doesn't have to pass block as often. And even when the unit does block in the passing game, it's facing rushers who must keep one eye on Jackson to avoid him ripping off a big run."
Monson said it's debatable if Jackson will have a better season than the six quarterbacks who made the list (Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, and Dak Prescott).
While Jackson didn't repeat the record-breaking numbers from his MVP season, his "regression" still included throwing 26 touchdowns to only nine interceptions, and rushing for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
It's also fair to question if some of the quarterbacks on PFF's Top 50 will repeat their same production. Prescott is returning from a major leg injury, while Aaron Rodgers' time with the Green Bay Packers is up in the air. And who knows what else could happen with the other quarterbacks (can Tom Brady play at a championship level forever?).
"Even if Jackson doesn't have a better season than the other six quarterbacks on the list, excluding him just because he'd be the seventh quarterback isn't a good reason at all. If the top 50 players were all quarterbacks, those players should all be represented," Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher wrote. "That might not be what Monson intended to imply, but either way, not putting a former unanimous-MVP who has the best supporting cast he's ever had on a list of the best players in the NFL is an interesting decision to say the least, and one that many disagree with."
What's Still the Biggest Offseason Question?
ESPN asked its NFL Nation reporters to assess the biggest offseason question for the teams they cover.
If you've been following the Ravens, you can understand why their biggest question remains centered around the pass rush.
"Which edge rusher is getting to the quarterback? The Ravens lost their two most accomplished pass-rushers in Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Baltimore's top returning outside linebackers – Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee – are known more for their run stopping and pass coverage. The Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round, but he didn't have a sack in his last season at Penn State."
The Ravens don't lack youth at pass rusher. McPhee is the only outside linebacker over 30 years old on the roster.
Hensley said no one would be surprised if the Ravens signed a veteran free agent like Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram. Both have been mentioned as fits in Baltimore, and a signing at this point in the season doesn't count against the compensatory formula.
"The Ravens could also use a reliable, veteran pass rusher who can help bolster a group that finished just 14th in the league in sacks in 2020," CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo wrote. "Fortunately for the Ravens, there are still several available pass rushers on the open market. The Ravens have expressed interest in Houston, a four-time Pro Bowler who collected eight sacks with the Colts in 2020. Other available options include Ingram, Olivier Vernon and Everson Griffen. If the price is right, look for the Ravens (who currently have about $10 million in cap space) to add a veteran pass rusher to their roster sometime before the start of training camp."
CBS Sports Ranks John Harbaugh as NFL's Third-Best Head Coach
John Harbaugh and Jackson were ranked as one of the head coach/quarterback duos under the most pressure this season, but CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin doesn't see it that way.
Benjamin ranked Harbaugh as his third-best coach in the NFL behind Andy Reid and Bill Belichick.
"Critics may compare him to his current star QB, Lamar Jackson: Undeniably good, but can he win it all? Let's not forget Harbaugh already has," Benjamin wrote. "No, he hasn't returned to an AFC title game since 2012, but his team has also gotten incrementally better since Jackson entered the picture. Few coaches are as reliable and so willing to adapt their approach. Another ring is certainly within reach."
Consistency has been a constant for the Ravens. Harbaugh has led Baltimore to nine playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title in 14 seasons.
Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager said Harbaugh has a Hall of Fame case.
"Whether it's by building defenses from back to front, adapting his team to suit the needs of a once-in-a-generation talent at the quarterback position or listening to the math on fourth-down decision-making (he went for it 64% of the time when he should have in 2020, among the league's highest rates), Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league currently and has a Hall of Fame case to make," Eager wrote.
More Playing Time for These Young Ravens?
Calais Campbell told reporters that the Ravens are going to have to depend on their young talent this season. Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko looked at three players who he believes deserve more playing time.
"Snaps are hard to come by as the third running back in the pecking order, especially when Lamar Jackson accounts for a high number of rushing attempts himself. Still, Hill deserves to be a bigger part of the offensive gameplan in 2021.
"He's demonstrated speed and elusiveness in the open field both as a runner and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Hill's receiving chops alone warrant him seeing some action in third down situations, but he is also an underrated rusher between the tackles."
"Harrison showcased the ability to take on offensive lineman and shed blocks downhill in 2020, including against some of the best in the game like Quentin Nelson.
"Harrison likely won't step into a full-time starting role next season with L.J. Fort and Queen both still in the mix, along with Chris Board. However, the Ravens would be well-served to find ways to get Harrison on the field as much as possible in 2021."
"All signs point to Madubuike receiving significantly more snaps than the 260 he did last season. Given their age and injury history, it's probably unlikely that Wolfe, Campbell and Williams each suit up for all 16 games. Even when active, their snaps will be managed delicately to an extent to preserve health for later in the year.
"Madubuike is probably the most athletic defensive lineman on the roster and without a doubt has the most upside. Provided the opportunity, he should be a legitimate impact defender on the front-seven in 2021."
- Bleacher Report believes trading Orlando Brown Jr. was the Ravens' riskiest move of 2021.