Since Lamar Jackson became the team’s starting quarterback and the team began a run of sustained success, the Ravens have found themselves in the national spotlight with regularity. Winning games and fielding high-level talent will do that.
More league-wide recognition has come with numerous Ravens’ players (and coaches) being awarded with awards, Pro Bowl nods, and All-Pro bids. With the 2021 season in mind, who are some guys who could find themselves in contention for NFL awards this year?
Potential awards: Most Valuable Player (MVP), Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY)
The only appropriate place to start is with Lamar Jackson; 2019 NFL MVP by virtue of unanimous vote. Jackson took a step back in 2020 compared to his historic MVP season but is in-line for another big campaign this upcoming season.
Jackson’s combination of passing and rushing prowess ensure he will almost surely conclude the 2021 season with gaudy statistics. The Ravens made key additions this offseason to improve the offensive line and receiving corps — both of which figure to aid Jackson’s success.
MVP is in many ways a narrative-based award. Jackson essentially took the league by storm two years ago and emerged as the clear-cut frontrunner for MVP by the end of the season. He can no longer burst onto the scene given he’s a known commodity.
However, should Jackson have another strong individual season and the Ravens are amongst the best teams in the NFL, there’s a good chance he could find himself in the mix for MVP. If not, then Offensive Player of the Year would be a suitable consolation prize.
Potential awards: Comeback Player of the Year (CPOY)
Comeback Player of the Year is a tricky award to predict. It’s usually given to players who suffered an injury the prior season that forced them to miss most of, if not all the year. In some instances, the award is won by a player who bounces back from a disappointing season and takes a big step forward.
The past three winners have all been quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill, and Andrew Luck. It’s generally been dominated by quarterbacks and offensive/defensive skill position players, where it’s easy to point to statistics to mark improvement.
An offensive tackle has never — yes, never — won Comeback Player of the Year. Could Ronnie Stanley be the one to buck this trend? Given the lack of historical precedence, it would appear very unlikely. Unlikely does not mean impossible, though.
Stanley is in-line to return for the start of the 2021 season after suffering a gruesome ankle injury in Week 8 of 2020. Stanley, just two years removed from being a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl representative, is still widely recognized as one of the league’s best left tackles.
This national profile could aid his chances to win CPOY. It would be contingent upon Stanley returning to his 2019 form and playing a driving role on one of the best offenses in the NFL — a very plausible scenario.
Potential awards: Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY)
The last time a wide receiver won Offensive Rookie of the Year was in 2014, when then-Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. took home the award. Before that, only two other first-year wideouts won the award since 2000; Anquan Boldin in 2003 and Percy Harvin in 2009.
Needless to say, it’s an award that has historically been dominated by quarterbacks and running backs. In a vacuum, touches are harder to come by for rookie wide receivers than rookie running backs; and quarterbacks obviously have the best chance to post statistics.
Rashod Bateman was the fifth wideout selected in the 2021 draft behind Jamaar Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and Ka’Darius Toney. The four who went before him are all projected to play starting roles on their respective teams. Other possible candidates Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Najee Harris, etc.
In summary, there are a lot of talented offensive rookies taking the field this season and competition for OPOY will be stiff. Bateman is certainly talented in his own right. To find himself in the mix for the award in 2021, he’d need superior and/or comparable statistics to other skill position players listed above. Additionally, he would need projected starting quarterbacks like Lawrence and Wilson to not run away with the award — as Justin Herbert did in 2020.
So, while a lot needs to go his way, Bateman is good enough to carve out a sizeable role in the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens should throw the ball more often and more efficiently in 2021 and Bateman could be at the forefront of that shift. Playing alongside Lamar Jackson and company will ensure he garners national recognition should he show out.
Potential awards: Defensive Rookie of the Year
The Ravens’ second first-round pick from this year’s draft class, Odafe Oweh, could find himself in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year — although again a lot has to go right.
For one, we need to see what type of role Oweh will play for the Ravens this season. While we can presume Bateman will be a starting receiver, Oweh’s role on defense is more up in the air heading into training camp. Whether he begins the season as a starter or rotational player remains to be seen.
Either way, Oweh is going to see his share of snaps. Outside linebacker might be the weakest position on the Ravens’ roster and Oweh’s athleticism and high motor ensure he’ll find his way on the field early. If he can refine his game as the season progresses and his technique/intangibles catch up to his athletic ability, the sky is the limit.
It may seem like a longshot to think Oweh could have a legitimate shot at DROY. However, keep in mind that this year’s draft class was not top-heavy with defensive talent in the first round. Only three defensive players were picked in the Top-15 of Round 1. There are no clear-cut shoe-ins for DROY before the season like Chase Young in 2020.
After Young, the voting for DROY last year consisted of a late first-round pick (Patrick Queen) and two safeties picked in Round 2 (Jeremy Chinn, Antoine Winfield). Given his talent and upside, things could break right for Oweh in his rookie season.
Honorable mention: Marlon Humphrey, Defensive Player of the Year?
Share your thoughts on this list and chime in with any other viable candidates you can think of in the comments below!