Last night, HBO premiered their much awaited TV series House of Targaryen. It was the No. 1 trending topic on twitter. Just behind that? The Ravens rookie fourth-round draft selection, Isaiah Likely, who stole the show as the Baltimore Ravens won an exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night. The rookie followed up an awesome performance last week against the Tennessee Titans with an even more impactful performance. Likely played only 15 snaps in Arizona, yet finished the game with eight receptions, 100 yards and a touchdown that capped off a drive where he caught five passes for 67 yards before exiting the game.
In only 15 snaps, Likely showed the complete skillset that has had reporters, teammates and coaches alike raving about the Coastal Carolina alumni all summer long. Likely showcased a well rounded skillset, impressing before, during and after the catch. At around 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, the rookie tight end is built like a Frankenstein offensive football player with the trunk of a running back, the wingspan of a tight end but a lean upper body like a boundary receiver.
Likely flashed in the quick game, reading soft spots and making himself throw ready for quarterback Tyler Huntley. He also flashed against tight man coverage on RPO slants making tight window catches. Likely worked the scramble drill to make himself available as Huntley evaded pressure, reeling in a contested catch. Likely used his inside arm to push off and create separation on an out route, using his physicality to get open.
The 22-year-old broke tackles over the middle, and eluded a defensive back forcing a missed tackle on a 31-yard catch and run. Finally, he broke a slant inside sharply and flashed his hands between four defenders and found his way into the end zone. He showcased a complete skillset against man, zone and in the scramble drill. The former Chanticleer made contested catches, he broke tackles, forced missed tackles after the catch and showed an understanding for where defenses wouldn’t be in order to create throwing windows.
Most importantly, Likely played with a sense of urgency and understanding for how each play would unfold. At the same time, he didn’t play with a frenetic, nervous energy that can overcome rookies who are trying to “play fast.”
Isaiah Likely played with a sense of urgency last night, making himself available and ready for Huntley early and often.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) August 22, 2022
Here’s every snap from Likely. pic.twitter.com/E0eLiVfRte
It’s easy to overreact to preseason performances, but when a rookie was one of the most productive tight ends in college football over the last five years, comes in and makes plays during OTA’s, throughout training camp, then has back-to-back excellent performances in the preseason, there’s a genuine reason for the buzz he’s created. Boy oh boy, buzz, did he certainly create.
Isaiah Likely is RIDICULOUS— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 22, 2022
preseason to date:
12.0 yards per target
5.7 yards after contact/reception
of 78 receivers w 5+ catches, he ranks:
#3 in receptions
#3 in receiving yds
#1 in total yards after the catch
Isaiah Likely this preseason— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 22, 2022
29 routes run
71 yards after the catch
62 yards after contact
9 first downs
4 contested catches
7 avoided tackles
3 explosive plays
4.97 yards per route run
41.4% threat rate
Greg Olsen on Isaiah Likely: “Looks like a young Darren Waller after the catch.”— Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) August 22, 2022
The rookie is legit.
The Ravens moved on from Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins this offseason, vacating 195 targets from 2021. With Rashod Bateman slated to turn his 67 targets into something more along the line of Brown’s 146, there will still be plenty of opportunity for players like Likely, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II to shine.
What Likely has done after the catch is a welcome sight in Baltimore, who had the fourth fewest broken tackles and 11th fewest missed tackles forced by pass catchers in 2021. Likely’s body type and skillset have the potential to round out Baltimore’s young receiving corps nicely, as they haven’t had a capable larger target aside from All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews since they traded away Hayden Hurst following the 2019 season.
The rookie has been aligned in the slot for 21 of his 29 routes run, showcasing that he’s more than capable aligned as a receiver as opposed to the traditional in-line tight end. With his combination of suddenness, physicality at the stem and catch point, concentration and big play potential after the catch, it will be difficult for the Ravens to temper their expectations of the rookie fourth-round pick. Likely has the potential to fill the role that was vacated when Hayden Hurst left, and the early returns look even more promising than what Hurst produced.
While many outlets, analysts and pundits alike have expressed their concern over the Ravens lack of assets used to bring in wide receivers, the Ravens seem to be doubling down on navigating towards more 12, 13, 21 and 22 usage in their offense. It may be to your surprise that the Ravens ranked 16th in the NFL in snaps with two or more tight ends on the field in 2021. Their 297 such snaps paled in comparison to the league leading Miami Dolphins 777. With Baltimore spending draft capital on Likely and fellow fourth-round pick Charlie Kolar (who hasn’t participated in training camp due to a hernia), the Ravens are likely to return to their 2019 form, where they deployed two or more tight ends 441 times, which ranked third in the league. As defenses shift to lighter boxes and more split safety usage, the Ravens brought in bigger bodies that can bully nickel and dime packages on the ground, or take advantage of linebackers in coverage. With Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard filling more block-heavy archetypes, the Ravens have a plethora of tight-end types to take advantage of matchups accordingly.
It’s just preseason, but with a complete skillset, awesome college production and a consistently positive summer, Isaiah Likely offers outstanding insurance for Andrews and has the potential to take the Ravens offense over the top in 2022 by adding another dynamic pass catcher to their offense, which desperately needs someone to step up in that department.