With 2023 training camps set to get underway next week for the majority of NFL teams and later this week for few others, it’s survey season around the league.
Several media outlets have reached out to current scouts and executives to gather their input and opinions on who they believe the top players at their respective positions. The list of results that have been gaining the most headlines and attention have been those of ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler.
He has compiled and published several top 10 lists based on his findings and there have been four players from the Baltimore Ravens in total that have been ranked and two more were featured as honorable mentions. The two offensive players that were revealed should come as no surprise, however the one that was left out entirely was rather surprising.
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback
After not cracking the top 10 on last year’s list, the former unanimous league MVP came in outside the top five at No. 7 this year despite missing the final stretch of games for the second year in a row.
“His winning ways are hard to ignore,” Fowler wrote. “The Ravens’ winning percentage of .738 (45-16) with Jackson trails only Mahomes (.800), Tom Brady (.754) and Roger Staubach (.746). He’s still considered perhaps the most dynamic dual threat in the league.”
What made the difference in the eyes of the evaluators around the league that he surveyed this year compared to last even though the both seasons ended the same with Jackson being injured was the “growth as a passer” that he put on tape.
Let’s talk about this throw from Lamar Jackson.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 21, 2022
JUGS. Laser. Seed. Rope. Whatever, perfect throw between two defenders. DOT. pic.twitter.com/mD0jP7hkSP
“Jackson’s rushing attempts per game were down from 11.08 to 9.33 year over year, yet his QBR improved from 56.8 to 59.1 in the same span,” Fowler noted. “Since 2019, Jackson ranks second in the NFL in QBR (68).”
His sizzling hot start to the season certainly helped bolster his case as he posted a QB rating of 98 or higher in half of his first eight starts, “and he was solid on third down with a 70.89 QBR, ranking 10th in the NFL.”
“Prior to the [knee] injury, he was doing some big things from the pocket as a passer,” an NFL scouting director told Fowler. “Some of those early games, he was dialing it up. He’s definitely evolving as a passer, taking it to next level. He’s a smart runner. Teams want to peg him in that role, but he never really gets hit solidly. He knows how to elude and avoid big hits.”
While he noted that “questions about his precision passing remain” also wrote about how opposing teams are “eager to see” what Jackson will do in first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system when it comes to “trips-empty spread offense, “pistol” passing concepts”. They also believe that lack of pass catching weapons “excuse” is no longer valid now that he has threats at wide receiver that defenses will be weary of each week in three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr, first round rookie Zay Flowers, and veteran Nelson Agholor.
“He had excuses before. He won’t have them now,” an NFL personnel evaluator told Fowler. “Time to put it all together as a passer.”
Mark Andrews, Tight End
The third Raven that was revealed is three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews who came in at No. 3. In front of him were a pair of usual suspects in George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers just ahead at No. 2 and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs claimed the top spot.
“Andrews is one of the most well-rounded skill players in the league and produces when the Ravens need him most,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote. “He has 25 red-zone receiving touchdowns over the past four years, tied with Mike Evans for fifth in the NFL. His blocking is elite, too, with Andrews ranking first in run-block win rate (86%) out of 115 qualifying tight ends last year.”
The former First-Team All-Pro selection in 2021 led the Ravens in all major receiving categories for the third time his career with 73 catches on 113 targets for 847 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games per Pro Football Reference.
“Major matchup issue with his size, speed, athleticism and route-running ability,” an NFL scouting director said. “Huge catch radius. A really easy guy to throw it to. Always the primary guy for the defense.”
ANOTHER ONE— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 25, 2022
Tune in on FOX! pic.twitter.com/oFXuWYJfVh
With the influx of explosive pass catchers that the Ravens added at wide receiver with three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr., first-round rookie Zay Flowers and veteran Nelson Agholor, there will be a lot more space for Andrews to work with over the middle of the field and down the seams of the defense which could lead to another elite year.
OT Ronnie Stanley snubbed entirely
The Ravens’ franchise left blindside protector was the only former or reigning First-Team All-Pro on offensive or defense that didn’t make the list this year, not even as an honorable mention despite having played the vast majority of the 2022 season and doing so at a high level. His teammate and fellow 2019 All-Pro selection, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure and bewilderment with Stanley’s exclusion from the list.
Does Ronnie Stanley play in the NFL https://t.co/0Ix0Y664GZ— marlonhumphrey.eth (@marlon_humphrey) July 16, 2023
While all the players at the tackle position that did make the top 10 were all well deserving based on their performance and durability last season, over half of the others that were featured in the honorable mentions section over him played around the same amount or fewer games than him in 2022. The most egregious offense was having Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys make the cut over him given that he only appeared in four games and his overall Pro Football Focus grade of 58.6 was far inferior to Stanley’s 70.9.
Another another arguable snub was second-year center Tyler Linderbaum who established himself as one of the better players at his position as a rookie and is expected to take another big step in his sophomore season. He didn’t even receive a single vote for the honorable mention section of the list of the top 10 interior offensive lineman which includes guards and centers.
He could very well enter Pro Bowl conversations towards the end of the upcoming season as new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense which will emphasize getting playmakers into space could help him put plenty more highlight reps of him pancaking defenders down the field while on the mood using his impressive athleticism.