Fantasy Football 2020: The Ravens Record-Setting Offense Could Be Frustrating

by Alex Kurpeski

 

The Baltimore Ravens unleashed a monster upon the NFL last season, in the form of QB Lamar Jackson and a revamped offense tailored specifically to his strengths as both a passer and as a runner. Flanked by veteran tailback Mark Ingram, Jackson finished as the sixth-leading rusher in the league, with 1,206 of the team’s 3,296 total ground yardage. While Jackson was the catalyst for the team’s run game, rumor has it that Jackson will be cutting back on his rushing attempts this season in order to preserve his health. If this is the case, then Jackson touch-share on option looks (29.5% of the team’s carries came from him in 2019) should be re-distributed to his backs. 

 

While Ingram was far and away the lead back for Baltimore last season (his 202 carries were 51.2% of the team’s total touches for running backs), the organization’s decision to select Ohio State standout J.K Dobbins calls that title into question for 2020. It’s hard to see the team giving either player a discernible advantage in the touch share department, as both Ingram and Dobbins have the tools to be the ‘bellcow’ for an NFL offense. I see this situation in a similar light to the one we saw for the Cleveland Browns in 2018, when the team organically transitioned the starting running back role from Carlos Hyde to Nick Chubb. Given the high-volume usage of the run game we saw last year, it’s more likely than not that the Ravens will be relying on more than two backs as the season chugs along. 

 

 

Let’s begin by talking about Ingram. The former Saints star didn’t miss a beat with his new team, finishing as the RB11 last season despite playing banged up at times. 2019 serves as his third-best fantasy finish (he was RB8 in 2016 and RB6 in 2017) despite it being his age 29-30 season. Even in his old age, Ingram continued to be the reliable back we have always known him to be, adding much needed stability that the team’s backfield has lacked since the days of Ray Rice (before he was a monster). At 5’9, 225 lbs, Ingram is the ideal back for a modern offense, thus it’s hard to see him more than 10% of his share in the offense, even to a guy as well-rounded as Dobbins.

 

 

Speaking of Dobbins, he will no doubt be the unquestioned lead back for this team one day. At 5’10, 220 lbs, he is an ideal size for an NFL halfback, while also possessing elite vision that should allow him to thrive in Baltimore’s system, which relies heavily on zone reads. Like Ingram, he can catch passes while also acting as a battering ram, two boxes that must be checked for a successful three-down back. He is far more equipped to take on a significant workload (if called upon) than his teammates Gus ‘The Bus’ Edwards and Justice Hill. Judging from the fact that the Ravens invested significant draft capital in him, we can fairly assume that they plan to pair him up with Jackson in the long-term. There’s not a thing that Dobbins doesn’t do adequately, as he was extremely proficient in a workhorse role for the Buckeyes, ripping off three consecutive 1,000+ yard campaigns while scoring 38 rushing touchdowns. He can run through tackles with ease, possessing incredible speed in the open field that will make him a key element of Baltimore’s offense, as evidenced by his 31 carries of 15+ yards (best mark in the NCAA) and his 1,208 yards after-contact (4th-best mark in the NCAA). 

 

While Justice Hill may be the odd-man out after the selection of J.K Dobbins, he should have a role in this backfield. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

 

Behind the obvious duo at the top of the team’s depth chart, the Ravens will likely use a third or fourth back extensively in a change-of-pace role. Here’s where the competition between Edwards, Hill, and potentially rookie Bronson Reichsteiner (son of former WWE/WCW/ECW wrestler Rick Steiner, nephew of ‘Big Poppa Pump’ Scott Steiner) will become important. While Edwards performed admirably as the primary rotational back behind Ingram last season, his one-dimensionality as a bruising plodder makes me think the team may turn more to Hill in this role. Although he was almost nonexistent last season, Hill displayed a dynamic upside during his days at Oklahoma State, and he offers an upside far higher than Edwards at this point. Here’s a look at what I expect this backfield to look like:

 

Mark Ingram

 

  • 887 rushing yards
  • 180 ATT
  • 7 rushing TDs
  • 24 receptions
  • 1 receiving TD
  • 193 receiving yards
  • 180 fantasy points (RB15-25)

 

J.K Dobbins

 

  • 905 rushing yards
  • 164 ATT
  • 6 rushing TD
  • 17 receptions
  • 2 receiving TDs
  • 185 receiving yards
  • 174 fantasy points (RB18-27)

 

Justice Hill

 

  • 236 rushing yards
  • 62 rushing ATT
  • 0 rushing TD
  • 15 receptions
  • 104 receiving yards
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 49 fantasy points (RB68-80)

 

Gus Edwards

 

  • 145 rushing yards
  • 39 ATT
  • 2 rushing TD
  • 3 receptions
  • 14 receiving yards
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 30.9 fantasy points (RB82-100)

 

Bronson Reichsteiner

 

  • 10 rushing yards
  • 5 ATT
  • 1 rushing TD
  • 0 receptions
  • 0 receiving yards
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 7 fantasy points (RB100+)

 

These are some very tentative estimates, although I do feel like the touch shares will reflect what I have outlined. I imagine the team will slowly transition the lead back duties from Ingram to Dobbins over the course of the season. Edwards and Hill should get some scraps, with each having a double-digit point game or two thanks to a big play or a random touchdown. 

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