The Ravens drafted eight players over the weekend, five of which play offense and the other three being defensive guys. Overall, it was a pretty successful draft for Eric DeCosta’s first go-around as general manager. Baltimore filled roster needs, got good value with their picks, and boosted their long-term outlook.
Almost all of the incoming rookie class could contribute right away if need-be, but their roles will be defined by the position they play and the talent already present on the roster, as well their own skill set.
Much can change between now and September, but let’s take an early crack in predicting the role each rookie with play next season.
Marquise Brown, WR
The Ravens showed a lot of faith and interest in “hollywood” when they chose to take him over the other receivers available, as well as Cody Ford, Montez Sweat, and others. Baltimore desperately needs help at wide receiver, and so long as he can stay on the field, Brown should immediately step in as the team’s WR1 and see a healthy dose of targets.
Brown brings element of speed and big-play ability unmatched by other targets on the roster. As we saw at Oklahoma, he can be moved around all over the field and make plays on vertical routes, shallow crosses, and bubble screens. The key to his success is having the ball in his hands, which can only happen if he’s involved in the offense. He has a tremendous ability to create yards after the catch and make defenders miss in space.
Projected role: Starting WR
Jaylon Ferguson, OLB/DE
Baltimore was linked to Jaylon Ferguson in several mock drafts prior to the weekend and it turned out their interest in him was legit. DeCosta said the Ravens wanted to trade into the second round to get him, but they were ultimately able to stand pat with pick #85 in the third round and land their guy. Ferguson, the FBS’ all-time sack leader, figures to play a big part in a defense that lost 36% of their sacks last season with the departures of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith.
I don’t think Ferguson will begin the season in a starting role, as Tim Williams or Tyus Bowser might get the first crack as the starter opposite Matthew Judon given their familiarity with Don Martindale’s system. However, Ferguson definitely has a great chance to eat into their snap counts as the season progresses. His role could also be impacted if the Ravens add a veteran pass-rusher before the season, such as Ezekiel Ansah. Regardless, Ferguson’s skill set is too good for him not to see the field a significant amount.
Projected role: Rotational OLB/DE, future starter
Miles Boykin, WR
The Ravens are clearly high on the abilities of Miles Boykin, evidenced by their decision to trade up in the third round to draft him. Boykin possesses a unique combination of size, speed, and catch radius, all of which suggest he’ll be a productive receiver at the next level. He wasn’t overly productive at Notre Dame, but it’s fair to say a lot of that had to do with poor quarterback play. Boykin has some of the best hands and blocking ability as any receiver in the draft class. These attributes, along with his catch radius and body control, make him the ideal complement to Marquise Brown.
This isn’t to say Boykin is a finished product, however, as that is not the case. While he possesses 4.4 speed, he doesn’t always play that fast on the field, especially when getting off the line of scrimmage. Boykin needs to improve at shedding press coverage and making decisive cuts when running routes. With this being said, I think he’ll do enough in training camp and free agency to win the starting job alongside Brown and Willie Snead IV. The Ravens clearly want to have speed all over the field, and that’s where Boykin has the advantage over Chris Moore and Seth Roberts. Baltimore is high on Moore and just recently signed Roberts, though, so don’t be surprised the #3 receiver spot develops into more of a rotation more so than any one guy dominating the snap count.
Projected Role: Starting WR
Justice Hill, RB
In the weeks prior to the draft, Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh both talked about wanting to add a “home-run” type of player to the back. That’s exactly what they did with their first of three picks in the fourth round, landing Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State. Hill ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, the fastest of any player at the position. His speed is legit, but Hill also has good vision and underrated power for a relatively undersized back. The Ravens won’t have him rushing between-the-tackles much, if at all, though. He'll be used primarily in passing situations where his agility and receiving skills are valuable.
Hill likely won’t see the field on too many offensive snaps with three other running backs on the depth chart, but he should carve out a nice role for himself and contribute on special teams. Hill could definitely make for a dangerous punt or kick returner if the Ravens want to explore that possibility.
Projected role: Rotational/3rd down RB and special teams contributor
Iman Marshall, CB
The Ravens snagged a cornerback in the fourth round which, at least to some (including myself), was a bit surprising. It’s the deepest position on Baltimore’s roster, but Iman Marshall won’t be expected to play a big role next season. By selecting him, the Ravens are preparing for the possibility that either Brandon Carr or Jimmy Smith, possibly even both, won’t be on the team after next year given their age and expiring contracts. Marshall has good size and length for the position and could develop into a nice press coverage CB. For now, however, he’ll be limited to a special teams role.
Projected role: Backup cornerback, special teams contributor
Ben Powers, G
We knew that interior offensive line was a position of need heading into the draft and while the Ravens waited until the fourth round to address it, they still landed a solid player in Ben Powers. His name is indicative of the player he is: tough, rugged, and hard-nosed. Heck, this guy said in a pre-draft interview that he loves playing offensive lineman because he can “crush another man’s dreams”. Sound like a guy you wanna line up against? Not me. In all seriousness, Powers has a good shot at earning a starting job at left guard next season. He’ll be fighting for that role with the likes of James Hurst, Alex Lewis, and Bradley Bozeman.
Personally, I’d like to see the Ravens move Bozeman into the starting lineup and over to center to replace Matt Skura, who was arguably the worst OL starter on the team last year and leaves much to be desired as a blocker. Whether or not they explore this option remains to be seen, but I like Powers’ odds of winning the starting LG role over Hurst, whose best-suited as a backup, and Lewis, who can’t stay healthy and struggled last year. Powers has good chemistry with Orlando Brown Jr. from there days at Oklahoma, too. Boomer sooner, all the way.
Projected role: Starting LG
Daylon Mack, DT
Not many Ravens fans knew who Daylon Mack was prior to the draft and many still aren’t very familiar. I don’t envision it being very long before he’s a household name, however. The “Mack Attack” is a physical beast, much like Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. He’s an extremely gifted athlete for someone 6’1”, 346 pounds, and it shows on tape. After an inconsistent freshman-junior collegiate career, Mack shined after a coaching change at Texas A&M. He’s an underrated pass-rusher (5.5 sacks last year) and stout run-stopper. I envision him seeing a fair share of snaps behind Williams, Pierce, and Willie Henry next season before emerging as a starter down the line, especially if Pierce isn’t re-signed to a long-term deal.
Projected role: Rotational defensive lineman, future starter
Trace McSorley, QB
While he holds records at Penn State and earned All-Big Ten honors multiple times, Trace McSorley leaves much to be desired as a pure quarterback. This is fine, though, because the Ravens didn’t draft him to throw the ball with Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III already on the roster. McSorley’s skill set is very similar to Taysom Hill of the Saints in that he can be used in a variety of offensive roles with or without the ball, while also making an impact on special teams. This is what the Ravens have in mind for him next season but ideally he’s groomed to be Jackson’s long-term backup, as well.
Projected role: #3 QB, special teams contributor, gadget offensive playmaker
What impact do you see the newest Ravens making next year? Share your thoughts down below and be sure to stay tuned for more post-draft coverage from Baltimore Beatdown!