Four Downs: AFC North - Robert Weintraub
Biggest Need: Wide receiver
It’s possible that the promising but inconsistent Marquise Brown is already the best wideout Baltimore has ever drafted, a damning statement about the team’s history of development in that department. Brown was the 55th-ranked wide receiver by DYAR in 2020, in case a statistical bulwark was required for backing what everyone saw with their eyes. Clearly, the Ravens need reinforcements at the position, preferably a true No. 1 type player whom Lamar Jackson can target both in and out of structure.
Yannick Ngakoue was asked to come in and provide an immediate jolt, which he didn’t accomplish. A player of his voltage remains a need for the Ravens, who were an OK but hardly dominant 13th in adjusted sack rate; toss out one seven-sack game against the Bengals’ struggling offensive line and Baltimore had 32 sacks in 15 games.
As for Willie Snead, see above—the Ravens need all the quality pass-catchers they can get, and Snead qualifies. His sample size was small (48 targets) but his efficiency (9.9% DVOA) was the equivalent of Tyler Lockett’s. But with the all the young receivers who need development, and the likelihood of reinforcements, Snead will probably be squeezed out.
2021 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings - Michael Renner
In a class full of jitterbugs, Bateman has a decidedly different skill set. His speed and quicks won’t be his calling card, but he gets open just the same. His ability to get off the line of scrimmage and play through contact at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds is as good as it gets in the draft class after Ja’Marr Chase. It’s why he led the country in yards per route run as a sophomore in 2019 from a wide alignment.
He kicked inside to the slot this past season and remained productive, although many of those vertical targets evaporated. His shake doesn’t only translate along his routes, as he’s broken 36 tackles on 147 receptions in his career. It’s worth noting that focus drops have been a bit of an issue. Even though I’ve got no problems with how he tracks the ball, Bateman has dropped 19 of his 166 catchable targets in his career.
Marshall is a long-limbed speedster who offers a little more dynamism after the catch than your average 6-foot-3 wide receiver. After playing primarily on the outside in 2019, Marshall thrived in 2020 while taking over Justin Jefferson’s role in the slot. He would have easily been one of the most productive receivers in the country on a per-target basis were it not for seven drops on 55 catchable targets. Still, he can make some spectacular catches with a massive catch radius, and drops haven’t been an issue for him in the past.
He still needs to add some play strength to his game, as he’s a slender 200 pounds at the moment. While not quite a complete prospect yet, he could very well get there soon.
Size: 6-foot-4, 315 pounds
Pros: Davis was a unanimous First-Team All-American in 2020. He should be able to start immediately at guard. Davis is regarded as one of the best blockers in the draft and will be a first-round pick. Davis is athletic, strong and mobile, which could complement Jackson’s skill set. Davis will also bring toughness to the Ravens offensive line.
Cons: Davis dealt with several injuries last season and had to leave the national championship game against Alabama. Those are not long-term setbacks, but durability will be something NFL teams will scrutinize.
Outlook: Davis is projected to be a late first-round pick or early second-round pick, meaning he will be available when the Ravens ake the 27th overall selection. Baltimore needs to boost its interior offensive line and Davis would be a huge addition. The Ravens never fully recovered from the loss of right guard Marshal Yanda last season and Davis can begin to help fill that void.
2021 NFL free agency: Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney headline solid interior offensive lineman market - Jared Dubin
NE • C • 60
David Andrews seems like the more likely of New England’s two premium offensive line free agents to return to the fold, if only because he has not yet been franchise tagged and thus will likely be less expensive to retain. He missed the entire 2019 season and four games in 2020, but he is a quality starting center with a wealth of experience in New England. The Patriots can’t afford to lose both players, so the smart money is on them retaining at least one.
ATL • C • 51
Alex Mack is no longer at the peak of his powers, but he is still quite good. A 12-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowler, he’s also been remarkably durable throughout his career. The two games he missed this season were his first since sitting out 11 in 2014. He’s played and started every other game of his career. With the Falcons bringing in new management and a new coaching staff, it’s possible he could be looking for a new home. Any team running a zone-based rushing attack would be lucky to have him.
MIA • C • 67
Ted Karras was Andrews’ backup in New England for three seasons, then started in place of him in 2019. He went down to Miami to join former Pats assistant Brian Flores last season, and started all 16 games for the Dolphins. He’s a perfectly competent starting center, and the Dolphins would probably like to bring him back for at least one more year as they search for a longer-term option at the position.
The NFL issued a memo Thursday morning that indicated the league’s salary-cap floor would be $180 million for the 2021 season.
That’s up at least $5 million from projections of a $175 million cap in 2021 previously, which had been agreed upon by the league and the players’ union. This determination was made following the NFL’s “discussions with the union that addressed both actual 2020 revenues and projected attendance for the 2021 season.”
The official salary-cap figure will be determined, according to the memo, once there has been a full audit on 2020 league revenues. The final number, which will be at least $180 million in cap space allotted per team, must be determined before the start of free agency on March 17.
Although the league lost a shocking amount of money during a pandemic-affected 2020 season — a figure likely in the billions — the league likely is accounting for revenue that will be generated through an expanded regular-season schedule that’s expected (plus last season’s expanded playoffs), new media deals and sponsorship renewals.