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Ravens may be anchored by 2016 draft class

Success may ride on a few of these stars

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

While the Baltimore Ravens acquired a slew of exciting talent this offseason, the draft class of the past may be the key ingredient for future success. With prominent players in key positions, the squad may lean on these playmakers to lead the franchise in 2019.

The Ravens highest pick since selecting Jamal Lewis at fifth overall back in 2000, Ronnie Stanley (sixth overall), is a vital piece of the game this season. Sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson needs more protection than ever before, and the left tackle position is quite possibly the second-most valuable in the game. Stanley’s performance week-to-week could be indicative of the offenses’ performance throughout their 16-game season.

In 2018, Stanley allowed pressure on only 3.1% of snaps, which was tied for the lowest rate in the NFL among OT with 180+ snaps [PFF]. Quick reminder, this wasn’t against the slouches of the NFL, either. Stanley faced off against the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Saints, Browns 2x, and Steelers 2x. These teams have their fair share of pass-rushing talent, yet Stanley stonewalled them.

This may be a classic Barber reach, but I see Kenneth Dixon as another focus of the offense.

He’s a complete back, in my mind. He runs hard, yet utilizes his speed, strength and agility when necessary. He’s been grinding all offseason and though Eric DeCosta signed Mark Ingram in free agency, he won’t be the only player used by the Ravens.

“Dixon is a tackle-breaking machine, forcing 58 on 193 career touches (best in the league since he entered, and on a Ravens team that is clearly going to be run-heavy, that role would be very valuable.” [PFF]

The 2016 draft class is stout on the defensive side, boasting three noteworthy performers, beginning with none other than Matt Judon.

While the Ravens’ secondary looks like the best in the league on paper, it’s nothing without pass rushers to finish the job. Judon is now the old head in the OLB room and his play may dictate the dominance in 2019.

While Judon is the noise-maker, Baltimore’s slot cornerback is an assassin, quietly bullying any receiver who comes his way. He also cashed in on his play with a three-year contract extension, becoming the highest-paid nickel corner, which I strongly supported back in February, and still do.

The final name on the list is Willie Henry. He’s a key ingredient to the interior pass-rushing unit and with the Ravens missing out on Gerald McCoy, he’s more important than ever. Henry has a real opportunity to break out in 2019 after suffering a season-ending injury last October. With a bigger stake in rotation, Willie could take double his career sack total.