Draft picks change our fantasy football rankings every year. The 2022 NFL Draft was no different. Still, I’m honestly not sure of the last time a draft-day move changed my ranking of a single player as drastically as this one. Plus, it wasn’t even an NFL Draft pick that did it – it was a trade. So today we are going to discuss how the Baltimore Ravens' draft-day trade of Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals boosted Rashod Bateman's fantasy football ranking. The wide receiver went from a fantasy football sleeper with a profile I kind of liked as a stash in dynasty fantasy football leagues to a player that I’m going to be drafting everywhere. That goes for Underdog best ball drafts to DraftKings daily fantasy football to the Scott Fish Bowl season-long fantasy football to my own home leagues. Everywhere. So buckle up. Let's take a closer look at why Bateman is shooting up my fantasy football rankings as you prepare for your dynasty, best ball, and regular redraft fantasy football drafts.
Baltimore Ravens Trade Marquise Brown to Arizona Cardinals
The trade seems simple on the surface. First and third-round picks for a player. But there are some underlying aspects of why it happened that are a tad more complex. First off, Marquise Brown reportedly wanted out of the Ravens offense because of offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Understandable, as we’ll discuss below. It just so happened the perfect storm of a landing spot was brewing across the country in another bird team, the Arizona Cardinals. They not only have Kyler Murray, Brown’s college quarterback from Oklahoma, as their starting QB but they were also staring down the impending suspension of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. It was a match made in heaven.
Ravens Offense WR Usage
I mentioned earlier that I liked Rashod Bateman’s profile. Well, I HATED his previous situation. Not only have the Ravens been fairly run-heavy as an organization, but Greg Roman's offenses had never finished higher than 23rd in pass offense with him as offensive coordinator before last season. "Before last season” is an important caveat that we’ll hit on later. The one season where Roman's offense was 23rd in passing was way back in 2012 with San Francisco. Since then, he hadn’t been higher than 29th. That means he was bottom three in passing for six seasons of calling plays ranging from 2013 to 2020.
Plus, somehow it's been even worse for wide receivers with how the Ravens split up the snap counts on an organizational level. They use more personnel groupings than any other NFL team (save for the Patriots, maybe). They essentially do the opposite of what teams like the Rams or Bengals do – offenses that use the same 11 guys nearly every play. For instance, the Rams used 10 of their 11 starters on 94% or more of the snaps in Weeks 7, 9, and 12 of last season. The only players that even subbed in and out at all were Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson at RB. Super highly consolidated – which is great for fantasy football. It’s predictable. If you don’t believe me, we have the snap counts by week for every single team right here and I break down the implications of those numbers every single week in a separate article during the season. Teams have drastically different approaches to personnel and it matters for fantasy football.
And here’s a look at what the Ravens were doing:
As you can see, the Ravens are pretty much the complete opposite of consolidated. Plus, that’s actually one of the MORE consolidated weeks – I just used Week 7 to compare apples to apples. Bateman was playing as low as 44-45% of snaps in Weeks 12 and 13. It makes sense when you just think about what John Harbaugh and Baltimore do on offense.
Let’s say you have the 11 guys that the Rams use. Any time you send in a second tight end, a wide receiver comes out. Every time you use a fullback, a wide receiver comes out. We already know the Ravens love multiple tight-end sets. Then there's fullback Patrick Ricard, who played in 13 games before he got hurt and played over 50% of the snaps (and upwards of 80%) in 11 of them. Ricard, even while missing games, played more backfield snaps than any running back on the team last season. Here are Ricard’s snap count percentages, courtesy of Pro Football Reference, in the games he played.
That type of personnel switching made it damn near impossible for a second or third WR to do anything fantasy relevant. No Ravens' wide receiver besides Marquise Brown even played 50% of the overall snaps on the season. Plus, it was even crazier in 2019. Here were Baltimore's leaders in snap share that year.
Nick Boyle was the only tight end, wide receiver, or running back to play more than 62% of the snaps. Nick. Boyle. So why do we like this situation now?
Newfound Upside in Baltimore's Offense
There is an interesting upside to this offensive set-up for fantasy football. Even though the Ravens' blocking tight ends and fullbacks eat up snaps, they don’t see a ton a lot of targets. That actually results in the targets being highly consolidated among any pass-catchers that can actually earn a big snap share in this strange offense. Last year, even on just an 80% snap share while missing one game, Marquise Brown was able to accumulate 145 targets – which was the ninth-most targets among NFL wideouts. Plus, Brown's 26.7% target share was the 12th-highest of any wide receiver last season, per Player Profiler. Through 10 weeks, before Lamar Jackson got banged up, Marquise Brown was the WR6 overall in PPR. Mark Andrews and his 76.5% snap share saw 154 targets with his 76.5% snap share. That was not only the most total targets among NFL tight ends, but his 26.6% target share was also first for tight ends. Andrews finished as the TE1 in fantasy. The next-highest player on the team was Rashod Bateman with 67 targets, which was good for 59th in total targets and 61st in target share for wide receivers. Yuck.
By this point, you probably know where we are going with this. Bateman as a rookie was able to earn that third snap and target share over other recent draft picks like Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay. In fact, despite being a third-round pick, Boykin was outright released. Theoretically, that moves Bateman up from an absolutely brutal third-fiddle position in this offense to the top-dog seat where he can see serious usage.
Earlier, we mentioned “an important caveat” in regards to the Ravens' passing offense. It's that last year represented a huge pivot for Greg Roman. After finishing bottom-three in all those other years, the Ravens’ offense was actually ranked 13th in passing offense in 2021. Now, there is a chance they revert back to the run-heavy scheme with the return of the running backs that were injured last year. It’s also possible that they will at least meet in the middle. Even in 2019 with a 29th-ranked passing offense, Lamar Jackson led the league in touchdown passes and was the league MVP – so the middle would be a fine spot to land. The upside is there.
Rashod Bateman Fantasy Football Outlook
This section will be straightforward because, as I said at the very beginning, we've always liked Bateman’s profile. He’s a first-round NFL Draft pick. He was productive in college at Minnesota. His best comparable player in terms of size, speed, metrics etc. is actually Stefon Diggs on Player Profiler.
So the bet we are making here is a simple one. We think Bateman is good. Apparently, the Ravens think he’s good enough to trade away their top wide receiver in Hollywood Brown – a guy who earned 145 targets and had over 1,000 receiving yards last season. Yet, currently on Underdog fantasy football best ball drafts (one of our only reliable sources of early ADP), Rashod Bateman is going off the board as the 29th wide receiver. I think Bateman is BETTER than Marquise Brown, who was a WR2 in fantasy football leagues last year. I think Bateman has WR1 upside as soon as this upcoming season. Yet, right now, he’s being drafted in the mid-WR3 range. So go out and trade for Bateman in your dynasty leagues. Or, at least, make yourself an Underdog account with this link and promo code ALARM to take advantage of this blatant discrepancy in his fantasy football draft value – before it’s too late.
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