What to make of the Ravens' backfield.
On pen and paper, getting a share of the 2018 league leaders in rushing, the Baltimore Ravens, backfield sounds like a no brainer. In 2018, the Ravens ran the ball, on average, 33.5 times per game. To me, that sounds like something I want to get my hands on when it comes to fantasy value, especially with that same team adding the likes of Mark Ingram. The Ravens are also one of three teams that will be missing 700 snaps from their 2018 backfield going into 2019. However, as you’ll find out in this article, you need to pump the breaks when it comes to drafting Ingram and company.
Let’s begin with something simple. Since taking over the starting quarterback job in Week 11 of 2018, Lamar Jackson averaged 17 carries for game. If we take out his first start where he ran the ball 26 times, that leaves him with an average of 15.5 carries per game for weeks 12 to 17.
So we take the 33.5 rushes and subtract Jackson’s workload, we’re left with 18 carries left over. That’s not too bad of a number of carriers for an every-down back, like Mark Ingram for example. However, last season the runningback who lead each game in snaps, whomever that was, averaged just 50-percent of snaps for the Ravens. Under Jackson, that number rose slightly to 52.14-percent.
Now, Mark Ingram is better than any back the Ravens rostered last season, and that’s why Baltimore went out and signed him for 3 years and $15 million this off-season. So we can assume he’ll get a heavier workload than the likes of Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, Alex Collins and the list goes on-and-on.
Since Jackson is consuming 46% of rushes, that leaves 54% (or 18 carries) to be scattered among the backs. Mark Ingram is sure to be the lead guy, but the Ravens (at this point) continue to roster Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon and used a fourth round selection to add rookie Justice Hill.
Now if we look at how Ingram’s been used since entering the NFL, the most he has averaged per game in carries has been 17.38 in 2014. That was six seasons ago now. He averaged 11.5 carries-a-game last year.
So let’s give Ingram 12 carries per game this season, a half carry more than a season ago and two-thirds of the remaining carries after Jackson.
A year ago Ingram averaged 4.7 yards per carry, operating behind the second ranked offensive line in the game according to the Football Outsiders. Now in Baltimore, he’ll continue to operate behind a top ten line, as the Ravens finished 9th according to the same rankings.
The bright news is the Ravens’ line is unchanged from a year ago and ranked better than the Saints in terms of running protection. Additionally, Gus Edwards had the highest yards-per-carry among Baltimore running backs a year ago at 5.2, good enough for seventh among qualifying running backs.
If we meet in the middle we get 4.95 yards per carry. If we take Ingram averaging 12 carries a game we get 192 carries for 950.4 yards.
Last season, the Ravens ranked 20th in the league in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns at 55.74%. They posted 19 rushing touchdowns and 18 passing touchdowns.
These numbers will be a little skewed as the Ravens went from scoring 1.44 passing touchdowns per game under Joe Flacco to 0.71 passing touchdowns under Lamar Jackson. On the flip side of that, the Ravens went from scoring 1.11 rushing touchdowns under Flacco to 1.29 per game under Jackson.
If we run these numbers, that would have given the Ravens 21 rushing touchdowns and 11 passing touchdowns if Jackson was to play 16 games last season.
With Jackson rushing the ball 46% percent of the time, that would give him 10 of the rushing touchdowns, leaving 11 for Ingram and company. Ingram would rush the ball 34% of the time so that would give him 7 rushing touchdowns, bringing his projected rushing line to 192 carries, 950 yards and 7 touchdowns. Not too bad.
Now, let’s look into how the Ravens utilized the runningbacks out of the backfield last season with Jackson under center.
From weeks 11 to 17 of last year, the Ravens, as a team, averaged 2.6 targets per game to their running backs. Thirty-four different individual players, including Ty Montgomery and Kenneth Dixon on the Ravens, averaged more targets per game than the entire backfield did under Jackson. And 1.7 of those targets per game were to one player.
Catching the ball is not really Ingram’s fortay either. Last year he averaged just 1.7 targets per game. He averaged 8.1 yards per reception as Ty Montgomery, who received the same number of targets operating behind Jackson last season, averaged just 5.7 yards per reception a year ago. We’ll again meet in the middle and give Ingram a projected yards-per-reception at 6.9 yards. At 1.7 targets a game, thats 27 receptions. Since that’s the same number of targets he received last season, we’ll use his same number of receptions at 21.
If we run 21 receptions at 5.7 yards per carry, we get 119.7 yards. We’ll add one receiving touchdown for this projection.
So we’re projecting Ingram to have a complete stat line of 192 carries, 950 yards, 7 touchdowns, 21 receptions, 120 yards and one receiving touchdown.
That’s good for 176 full point PPR points, 165.5 half point PPR points and 155 standard points. Those numbers would have put him at RB21 for standard, RB22 half point PPR and RB22 in full point PPR last year.
I guess this turned more into a Mark Ingram article opposed to the Ravens’ backfield article as I intended, but showing how poorly we’re grading Ingram, who is easily presumed to be the lead back in Baltimore, we’re going to spoil it and just tell you that the others backs are going to be extremely worthless.
So in short, stay away from the Ravens backfield this season.