Ravens Midseason Rookie Grades: Tyler Linderbaum leads the way

Ravens, Tyler Linderbaum (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ravens, Tyler Linderbaum (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Isaiah Likely, TE, Ravens: B+

Isaiah Likely was the breakout star of Ravens training camp, dominating in the preseason with many people (including myself) discussing whether Likely would simply be Baltimore’s third-best pass-catching option this season.

However, that consistency that Baltimore hoped for has not been there, as he has had more than two catches just twice this year.

While it is understandably hard to get consistent targets at tight end in an offense featuring Mark Andrews, Likely has struggled at times with drops and ranks just 33rd among tight ends in catch rate.

That being said, Likely did show his ceiling when he took over in Week 8 against Tampa with Andrews sidelined, putting up six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, with his after-the-catch prowess being particularly notable in an offense that lacks YAC without Rashod Bateman.

What perhaps is most peculiar about Likely’s rookie season is that his greatest strength has been run-blocking, which was supposed to be his biggest weakness.

Coming out of a preseason filled with holding penalties, there were legitimate questions about whether Likely would be competent enough as a run blocker to be playable on early downs.

Not only has he been competent, but he has the highest PFF run-blocking grade among all tight ends in football by a substantial margin, and has been penalized just once all year.

Before the season, there was an underlying assumption that he could be a reliably consistent presence in the passing game, but the two biggest questions were whether he could be used in the run game and whether he could fill in if Andrews were to go out.

If you had said prior to Week 1 that the answer to both questions was going to be yes, then it would have been reasonable to assume that he was going to be one of the breakout rookies in all of football.

But the consistency has just not always been there.

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Likely gets a B+ for his performance against Tampa and for being a legitimate asset in the running game, but he needs to become more reliable as a play-to-play threat.