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Late for Work 7/20: Ravens Crack Top 5 in ESPN's Future Power Rankings

Baltimore Ravens beat the Carolina Panthers 13-3 at M&T Bank Stadium in November of 2022.
Baltimore Ravens beat the Carolina Panthers 13-3 at M&T Bank Stadium in November of 2022.

Ravens Crack Top 5 in ESPN's Future Power Rankings

The Ravens' philosophy is to build a team that can compete for a Super Bowl year after year. They've done a good job of it and are on track to continue the trend, according to ESPN's future power rankings.

Baltimore is tied with the Buffalo Bills for the No. 4 spot in the rankings, which are based on expectations for every team over the next three seasons.

Five categories were weighted to create the overall score: roster (30%), quarterback (20%), draft (15%), front office (15%) and coaching (20%). The Ravens earned an 89.9 score for an "A" grade.

The Ravens placed in the top eight in each category: overall roster minus quarterback (88.0, No. 6); quarterback (92.7, No. 5); coaching (92.7, No. 3); draft (83.3, No. 8); and front office (93.0, No. 2).

"Stability and a long track record of competence both in the front office and on the coaching staff are the main reasons there's always optimism in Baltimore," Dan Graziano wrote. "General Manager Eric DeCosta and Coach John Harbaugh have kept the franchise competitive year in and year out. Plus, quarterback Lamar Jackson is still only 26 and one of the most thrilling players in the league. If he can stay healthy and take to the new offense, the Ravens could be really good for a really long time."

A reason for concern was identified for each team. For the Ravens, it's the implementation of a new offense.

"In last year's Future Power Rankings, I was worried about the Ravens' philosophical approach and offensive personnel going forward under then-OC Greg Roman's direction. With the veteran addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and the drafting of Zay Flowers in the first round, I'm in a much better place on the wide receiver talent," Louis Riddick wrote. "Bringing in new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken should take the passing game — and specifically play-action out of 12 personnel — to levels it hasn't achieved to this point, but it is still an unknown."

The teams ranked ahead of the Ravens are the Philadelphia Eagles (94.1), Kansas City Chiefs (93.4), and Cincinnati Bengals (91.0).

Zay Flowers Touted As Non-QB Rookie Poised to Make Biggest Impact

Fox Sports 1 analyst Emmanuel Acho expects Flowers to shine this season. The former NFL linebacker put the wide receiver at No. 1 in his top five rankings of non-quarterback rookies poised to make a big impact.

"There is no rookie that will have more on his plate," Acho wrote. "Lamar Jackson just got paid an exorbitant amount of money. But Zay Flowers needs to make sure that Odell Beckham Jr., who's coming off a major injury, doesn't have to do everything. Flowers needs to make sure that Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick by the Ravens just a couple of years back, doesn't have to do everything. Flowers needs to show up and put the team on his back as much as he possibly can."

Acho is not alone in his high opinion of Flowers. As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio expressed a similar sentiment about the former Boston College star, and one NFL evaluator told The Athletic this offseason that Flowers’ upside is Bills All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Meanwhile, Flowers received a 77 overall ranking in Madden NFL 23, which is the second-best among rookie wide receivers.

J.K. Dobbins Entering 'Make-or-Break' Season

Running back J.K. Dobbins was one of eight prominent players Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton said is heading into a make-or-break season.

"Because of a down year for the running back market, Dobbins will likely play out the final year of his rookie contract in hopes to cash in on free agency next offseason," Moton wrote. "In order to earn a significant pay raise, Dobbins must top his numbers from the 2020 and 2022 terms."

After rushing for 805 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns as a rookie, the second-round pick missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a torn ACL. He played eight games last season, running for 397 yards (7.0) and two touchdowns, four of which occurred after returning from a procedure to remove scar tissue from his previous surgery.

"If Dobbins goes into the 2023 campaign healthy, he can lead the Ravens in rushing," Moton wrote. "He may also see an expanded role in the passing game under new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, who, per to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, wants to get the running backs involved in the passing attack.

"In 23 games, Dobbins has 25 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown. With more pass-catching opportunities, he could command a decent salary bump on the open market. On the other hand, Dobbins will find it challenging to draw suitors without a well-rounded stat sheet in the upcoming term."

Dobbins has made it known that he wants to be a Raven for life, and Harbaugh has stated that he wants him in Baltimore beyond this season. However, both agreed that neither knows what the future holds.

John Harbaugh Lauded As 'Part of the Fabric of the NFL'

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio has been counting down his rankings of the top 10 head coaches. Harbaugh comes in at No. 4.

"In every industry, certain key figures are taken for granted. As NFL coaches go, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh often falls into that category," Florio wrote. "He's part of the fabric of the NFL. He's always there, doing his thing. And it's just assumed he'll keep doing it, without anyone giving it a second thought."

Florio noted that the Ravens have been "consistently relevant" under Harbaugh, who "manages to make his teams better than they would seem to be on paper."

"A young 60, Harbaugh seems to thrive on the game, to be invigorated by it," Florio wrote. "Although he's capable of being very intense and even feisty (especially when someone kicks the plug out of the wall during the second half of the Super Bowl), Harbaugh always seems to have a twinkle in his eye and a smile not far from his lips.

"Whether it's with the Ravens or some other team, he'll keep going as long as he wants to keep going. And he'll keep winning more games than he loses. And we'll keep seeing his teams playing in the postseason, more often than not."

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