The luckiest and unluckiest team scorers of 2017 - Daniel Kelley
2017 Baltimore Ravens
(395 points scored, 298 expected, +97, second-best in the last five years)
Only five teams had fewer yards from scrimmage than the Ravens last year; only eight teams scored more points. That is partly to do with the Ravens having an above-average defense, of course, but luck played plenty of role as well. While no individual Raven had a ridiculous number of touchdowns, RBs Alex Collins and Javorius Allen combined for 10 rushing scores on 365 carries; you can expect slightly less efficiency out of the running game in 2018, particularly if the passing game doesn’t improve. One thing to keep in mind, however — the inevitable-but-maybe-not-in-2018 ascension of Lamar Jackson to the starting role, which will change this offense completely.
According to this analysis, the Ravens offense was actually quite lucky in 2017. While they are unlikely to match their over-performance next season, a new cast of receivers and tight ends should lessen the need for scoring efficiency.
True NFL Draft Grades: 2014 Draft, Four Years Later - Peter King
Round 1 (17 overall). C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
2 (48). Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
3 (79). Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State
3 (99). Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
4 (134). Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
4 (138). Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
5 (175). John Urschel, G, Penn State
6 (194). Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State
7 (218). Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
Ozzie Newsome’s love for Alabama players paid off with C.J. Mosley. He’s not flawless, but he brings range and playmaking as a run defender and, perhaps more importantly, as a zone pass defender. He should be signed to a healthy second contract. Timmy Jernigan has also panned out, though more in Philly than Baltimore. The Ravens sent him to the Eagles last spring in exchange for advancing 25 spots in the third round. Overall, that’s not a great return, but one reason Jernigan became expendable is that some of Baltimore’s other defensive linemen, like Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, have overachieved. (When healthy, so has run-stopper Brent Urban, who was taken 86 spots behind Jernigan.) And it should be noted that none of the NFL’s defensive tackles taken after Pick 48 went on to become better than Jernigan.
Terrence Brooks did not overachieve—or even just “achieve.” He had chances to, given that 2013 first-rounder Matt Elam turned out a bust. Crockett Gillmore has teased at times, but there’s a reason the Ravens drafted a second-round tight end one year later (Maxx Williams) and, in 2018, took first- and third-round tight ends (Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews). Lorenzo Taliaferro and John Urschel had their moments and looked like value picks, but Taliaferro washed out of the league prior to the ’17 season, while Urschel retired to protect his health and study math at MIT.
Overall, this draft had a lot of good results, but those results were short-lived and never bore fruit at the same time.
Landing Mosley, a three time second-team All-Pro selection, saves this draft class. Jernigan was also productive during his three seasons in Baltimore, notching 13 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Overall, a mediocre draft by Ozzie Newsome’s standards.
Flacco is six years removed from his Super Bowl MVP effort. He is coming off three straight lackluster seasons statistically (QB rating average of 82.3), granted while playing with a questionable supporting cast at the skill positions.
The starting QB job in Baltimore initially will be Flacco’s to lose considering his $22 million average salary and the $28 million in dead money still on the books. But by next season, the $16 million in dead money if Flacco were to be traded or released is more manageable. So the veteran will need to up his game and get the Ravens back to the postseason this year, or the Jackson era will begin in 2019.
And if Flacco struggles early in the 2018 season, the pressure to make the switch to an exciting, dual-threat rookie QB will become intense for coach John Harbaugh, who has just two years remaining on his contract.
Harbaugh made several positive comments about his young QB during last weekend’s rookie minicamp, including the statement that Jackson was “throwing the ball naturally and very accurately.” The coach also dropped a quote that raised visions of special packages for Jackson this season: “We’re always going to try to get our players making plays for us. Lamar’s a guy that can help us win games.”
Jackson, meanwhile, doesn’t lack confidence, but he should ease off on comments such as, “I can go at the NFL pace right away.” Hate to break the news, but a rookie minicamp is not quite the same as a regular-season game against the rival Steelers. And even if college quarterbacks are more NFL-ready these days, there still is a learning curve for a rookie QB to fully grasp a new pro system.
But that doesn’t mean Jackson would not get thrown into the lineup should Baltimore’s season start going sideways and Flacco does not play well.
At a minimum, expect Jackson to be deployed in special packages next season. After all, the excitement the team created among the fanbase by drafting the electrifying quarterback will be short lived if he languishes on the bench all season long.
Hurst has the quickness, strength and toughness to be a top-notch receiver, especially over the middle and in picking up first downs. He can stretch the seam of opponent’s defenses while also doing a lot of the dirty work underneath.
“I think it’s a great fit,” Hurst said. “In our ‘12’ personnel, we get in there, we kind of work off each other and feed off each other’s energy. I’m excited to get out there and play with him.”
Andrews, meanwhile, is currently more of a big-bodied wide receiver since he mostly lined up wide in Oklahoma’s spread offense, where he caught 22 touchdowns in three seasons. If the Ravens are looking for a big target in the red zone, Andrews is the guy.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the first thing that stuck out to him about his rookie tight ends were their “excellent” hands. He also noticed their very good body control to get in and out of breaks and shield off defenders. He liked their feel for coverage.
Hurst and Andrews should supply some much needed versatility to an often predictable offense. Hopefully coordinator Marty Mornhinweg devises some creative plays that showcase his rookie tight ends this offseason.