When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in 2018, they knew they were altering the future of the franchise.
Gone were the days of “Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?” The young and doe-eyed Louisville recruit embodied a shining beacon of hope for the Ravens organization, and in the years that followed, everything revolved around Jackson, the new dual-threat phenom on the block.
Still today, Baltimore continues to look for ways to surround Jackson with the best available weapons and the best supporting cast, from drafting several tight ends to revamping the offensive line this past offseason.
The 2019 MVP may have several years of league domination left in him, and 2022 will serve as a tell-tale season to see whether Jackson can make a triumphant comeback.
This is without a doubt the Lamar Jackson era, but if Baltimore wants Jackson to succeed, they’ll have to help these players on the roster thrive in the system, too.
Here are four players the Ravens must build around in 2022.
4. Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
Every quarterback needs a trusty wide receiver, and no, Mark Andrews doesn’t count.
Andrews has been carrying the brunt of receiving duties in the last few years, and it’s time for someone else to step up for a change. 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman has the athletic measurables and talent to solidify his place as a WR1 on the offense, and this upcoming season presents his best opportunity to break out.
Last year, Bateman suffered a groin injury that caused him to miss the beginning of the 2021 season, in turn missing out on the chance to build chemistry with Jackson.
When Bateman finally recovered, Jackson was the one on the outs as he had a few putrid performances and suffered a season-ending ankle injury, never regaining his early dominant form. In total, Jackson and Bateman played just seven games together, with Bateman showing just flashes of brilliance in that short timespan.
Many have since labeled Bateman as one of the league’s most promising breakout candidates, and he enters Year 2 with all eyes on him: Is he ready for this?
Arguably a better route runner than Marquise Brown, Bateman has the versatility to operate from the slot and on the outside and could feasibly hold onto the WR1 role for years to come.
Heading into 2022, the Ravens’ wide receiver corps consists of Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and James Proche as the touted starters — Baltimore’s risky gamble on its young wideouts may or may not pay off, but one thing is certain for the offense’s sustained success: Bateman needs to find his groove, and he needs to find it quickly.