Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely was one of the more pleasant surprises in fantasy football in 2022. By no means was he a serviceable week-to-week option, but his emergence and flashes of brilliance during periods where Mark Andrews was banged up, not fully available, or just splitting snaps gave us a glimpse into what the future might hold for Likely moving forward.
There was perhaps no finer display of Likely's talent than in Baltimore's Week 17 game against the Bengals. In that contest, he hauled in eight balls for 103 yards on 13 targets while Andrews was sidelined. That stat line is eerily similar to Andrews' production in his best games.
During the 2022 season, the Ravens' tight ends had an overall target share of nearly 44 percent. Most of that share went to Andrews, who had 113 of the team’s 465 total targets on his own. Likely finished 3rd on the team in targets with 60. The Ravens targeted their tight ends an NFL-high 204 times in 2022.
Enter Todd Monken and his offensive scheme.
Monken will take over play-calling duties in Baltimore after back-to-back national titles at Georgia in the same role.
Much like the Ravens, Georgia’s receiving corps was good, but not great. Their tight ends, however, were elite. As a result, Monken frequently deployed a two tight end set that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. The top two Georgia tight ends – Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington – finished first and fourth respectively in terms of most receiving yards on the team.
Between the offense the Ravens ran in 2022 being their foundation, and the offense Monken is in the process of installing, the tight end position is going to continue to demand a high volume of targets in the passing game. Additionally, there’s a pretty good chance we see an increase in Isaiah Likely’s total snap count, which should also yield an increase in targets.
Beyond 2023, ages and contracts are going to work in Likely’s favor.
Mark Andrews will turn 28 at the beginning of the season and has 3 years left on his current contract. It’s a safe bet that he’ll be out of Baltimore after the 2025 season. It’s also a safe bet that we’ve probably already seen the best of Andrews. Sure, Travis Kelce is still going strong, but he's the exception to the rule. Kelce is one of only three NFL tight ends over the age of 30 currently at the top of their respective depth charts. The other two are Darren Waller and Zach Ertz, who are both past their prime.
Isaiah Likely just turned 23 in April and is in year two of a $4.16 million dollar (total) rookie contract. Any way you cut it, Likely is postured to be the tight end of the future in an offense designed to protect the quarterback and funnel targets to tight ends.
We still haven't seen Isaiah Likely play as a full-time starter for an entire season. There's a chance he just happened to make the most of his limited opportunities in 2022.
Baltimore added Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. They also drafted Zay Flowers. Additionally, Rashod Bateman was one of most talented receivers to come out of the last three NFL Drafts.
Bateman's 2022 season was shortened due to injury. There's a chance he blows up in 2023 if he's fully healthy. And Flowers has drawn comparisons to Antonio Brown. If both receivers reach their full potential, the Ravens could have one of the best duos in the league at the position moving forward. And that doesn't even take into account the chance of Odell Beckham returning to peak form in 2023.
That's the sort of upgrade at wide receiver that can change an offensive game plan, if not an entire scheme. Whoever lines up at tight end could become the third or fourth option in the passing game -- and possibly an afterthought in the years to come.
You might have an owner in your league who is hurting at the tight end position and desperately needs some depth. If you own Likely and have other viable options at the position, you could end up cashing in on his potential in order to improve your roster elsewhere.
Isaiah Likely is a young, talented tight end playing in an offense that will cater to his skill set. That alone gives him streaming value. He's also one injury away from becoming the primary tight end in the Baltimore offense, which would position him to be one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL. He's about as low-risk, high-reward as you can get right now outside of spending a late rookie pick on the position in 2023. If you already have him, hold onto him. If you can get him for a late-round 2024 pick, it's worth it.
J.P. is a 3-times FWAA Award winner, College Football Hall of Fame voter, Armed Forces Merit Award committee member, and Biletnikoff Award voter. His work has appeared in USA Today, Fox Sports, SI.com, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.