It’s been several weeks since the 2022 NFL Draft concluded and the hype for the Baltimore Ravens’ impressive 11-man haul is still high. Often overly optimistic and sometimes unfair projections are placed on first-year players entering the league before they even take a snap in the preseason. With that in mind, the return of my annual realistic expectation article series has arrived.
TE Isaiah Likely
Round 4 No. 139 overall
The former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer was the second prospect at his position that the Ravens selected in this year’s draft after they failed to effectively fill the void that was created when they traded away Hayden Hurst two offseasons ago. While Charlie Kolar was the first tight end General Manager Eric DeCosta took in the fourth round, 11 picks prior, Likely most closely resembling Hurst between the two rookies.
Like Hurst, he can stretch the field vertically down the seam, create big plays after the catch, and has more immediate upside as a blocker that can line up in-line as well as in the backfield. Even though the former first-rounder didn’t put up gaudy numbers in a complementary role behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle as the third tight end in 2019, his contributions as both a pass catcher and blocker in the run game were vital to the overall success of the offense during the most prolific season in franchise history.
Some could make the argument that the Ravens have been in dire need of another pass-catching threat at tight end over the past two years. Given how heavily the position is used when Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme performing at its optimum efficiency, Likely should excel in a role similar to the one Hurst played.
He was a highly productive player in college and was the focal point of Coastal Carolina’s passing attack in 2021 where he recorded career highs in receptions (59), receiving yards (912), and touchdowns (12). His production increased each year and he finished with over 2000 receiving yards, 27 career touchdowns catches, and a career average of 15.4 yards per catch.
His tape shows a better and faster athlete than what his pre-draft testing numbers suggest and he can be an ideal move tight end as a rookie with in-line upside. Expect to see the Ravens utilize his speed down and over the middle of the field on safeties and linebackers. And don’t be surprised if they split him out wide and deploy him like the big-bodied receiver he is when they go heavy but still want the option for a potent play-action passing game.
History has shown that over the last decade-plus when the Ravens double-dip at tight end, the second one taken often turns out to be better and sticks around with the team longer than the first. That was the case in 2010 with Dennis Pitta over Ed Dickson, in 2015 with Nick Boyle over Maxx Williams, and in 2018 with Andrews over Hurst. Hopefully, both Kolar and Likely can find roles in which they can thrive and flourish in Baltimore.