What exactly is an X-factor? Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.” A more casual definition describes an X-factor as “a noteworthy special talent or quality.”
For the purposes of this article, both of these descriptions are applicable. Below are some players who could potentially be X-factors for the Ravens in 2018, whether that’s through their noteworthy talent or by having a significant role on the team when not necessarily expected to.
Instead of just focusing on one or the other, this piece is meant to look at a combination of both definitions. Four players who could provide an unexpected boost to Baltimore’s team this year:
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback
Jackson is the most exciting. While Lamar was clearly drafted to be the successor to Joe Flacco, reports from minicamp suggest that the two could be seeing some time on the field together. Jackson presents the most obvious X-factor in that he could take over the reins as starting quarterback at any point, but he also could provide a spark to the offense as a versatile weapon in certain packages. His unique athleticism makes him a wildcard in every sense of the word.
Tavon Young, Cornerback
Young is an X-factor in the sense that we know his potential, but we’re unsure if he’ll ever reach those heights again. What makes him even more of a high upside unknown is the fact he likely won’t begin the season as a starter. Based upon his play in 2016, he probably would have a claim to a starting spot in nickel. But big time performances from Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, and Marlon Humphrey throughout 2017 more or less locked up the top spots. Nonetheless, anything can change. If any of those three corners go down, Young is waiting in the wings to come out and prove his impressive rookie season wasn’t a fluke.
Mark Andrews, Tight end
Andrews was a bit of a surprising selection in the third round this past draft. It’s not that he wasn’t a good prospect (he was drafted right around the expected area), but rather about where he might fit into the team. The Ravens had some competent tight ends already on the roster when they chose high level prospect Hayden Hurst in the first round, so the pick of Andrews seemed to be a bit of a luxury at the time. Regardless, he and Hurst could top the depth chart, so with the former probably starting, there’s no telling what Andrews may bring from a secondary role. The fact that he was highly regarded combined with the relief of pressure due to the presence of Hurst may allow for the third rounder to prove a pleasant surprise in 2018.
Kenneth Dixon, Running back
Dixon is a true X-factor because we have literally no idea what to expect from him this season. Issues with suspension and injuries have kept him off of the field a ton over the course of his first two seasons after he was looked at as a steal in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He’s never shown himself to be a special player, but if he can stay on the field for 16 games this coming year, he’ll have a better chance to flash some productivity. If Alex Collins and Buck Allen are the 1-2 punch early on, cold weather and eventual wear-and-tear may eventually open the door for Dixon to live up to the hype he had garnered a few years back.