Following a historic regular season, the Ravens season came crashing back down to Earth in a loss to the Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Regardless of the abrupt ending, there were many positives to pull from this season including a very promising showing from the 2019 rookie class.
Below is a final grade for each rookie based on their performance and impact in their first season in the league.
Marquise Brown – B+
“Hollywood” showed flashes of being a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL despite playing the 2019 season with lingering injuries. In his first professional game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, Brown burst onto the scene while posting 147 yards and two touchdowns on just four catches. With an offseason full of question marks following a Lisfranc injury, this was a positive development for an offense in desperate need of playmakers.
He followed up that performance by reeling in eight catches for 86 yards, including a game-sealing sideline catch in Week 2 against the Cardinals. From there, the production slowed down and he would eventually leave the team’s Week 5 matchup against the Steelers at halftime. He returned but was evidently limited in the immediate games following.
Brown finished the season on a high note with an impressive showing against the Titans in the playoffs. He made a highlight grab on a deep pass from Jackson and was the most productive skill position player in a game where there were few bright spots. Brown and Jackson showed undeniable chemistry throughout the year and should continue to push each other to reach their untapped potential. Moving forward, becoming a more consistent contributor will be key in taking the next steps in his development. With a full offseason to prepare and get back to full health, expect Brown to really make his mark on this offense in 2020 as the bon-a-fide number one receiver.
Final stat line: 46 catches, 584 yards, 7 touchdowns
Miles Boykin – C+
A standout in training camp, Boykin carved out a nice role for himself in his rookie season. The third-round pick from Notre Dame showed flashes of potential when he was given an opportunity, but there simply was not enough volume to go around in this offense to light up the stat sheet. It was in the run game where Boykin earned his playing time as a willing and effective blocker downfield. In this offense, the importance of blocking from the wide receiver group can’t be overstated and Boykin answered the call all season.
In the receiving game, there is clearly room for improvement and growth. He struggled with separation from defensive backs and lacked the nuances it takes to be a dominant receiver in the league, which can be expected from a rookie. He has all the measurables and potential to be a starting receiver. He will enter a very important offseason with an opportunity to show the Ravens he is the answer they are searching for opposite of Brown.
Final stat line: 13 catches, 198 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jaylon Ferguson - C
It took some time for Ferguson to get acclimated to the professional level and a complex Ravens defensive scheme. When Pernell McPhee went down in Week 6 with a season-ending injury, it was almost a lock the Ravens would be making a move for a pass-rusher ahead of the trade deadline. They decided to put more on Ferguson's plate and the rookie handled it well, accounting for over 60% of the team’s defensive snaps from there on out. He seemingly improved game by game and was noticeably more disruptive in the opponent’s backfield as the year went on.
An area of concern for Ferguson moving forward is in the run game, where he struggled to set the edge as the Ravens got gashed on outside zone runs by a handful of teams. This was most noticeable in the playoff loss to the Titans where you could see Ferguson overwhelmed by the offensive tackles while Derrick Henry had his way. Going into the offseason, improving his edge setting abilities and expanding his pass rush moves will be the key areas of development.
With the status of Matthew Judon up in the air, the Ravens could be targeting a pass rusher early in the draft or in free agency. This should add some motivation for Ferguson to attack the offseason like his job depends on it while hopefully taking the next step in his development to be an every down player in 2020.
Final stat line: 31 tackles (20 solo), 2.5 sacks, one defended pass and one fumble recovery
Patrick Mekari - C
Injuries to the offensive line in the middle of the season can prove fatal for a team’s aspirations. When center Matt Skura went down with a season ending injury in Week 12, the Ravens turned to the undrafted guard out of the University of California to man the middle of the most historic rushing offense in NFL history. This was a tall task for a rookie, especially for a guy that didn’t even play the position in college. He wasn’t flawless, but he also didn’t kill them and turned in above-average performances to close out the 2019 regular season. His worst performance, like many others on the team, came in the playoff loss to the Titans. The offensive line was completely overmatched and Mekari was consistently beat, allowing the pocket to collapse from interior pressure. It’s a game he will soon want to forget as he enters his first full offseason with the team. It will be interesting to see how the team views his role moving forward with Skura expected back by training camp. If Marshall Yanda decides to retire, will he slide over to the starting right guard spot, or is this a position they are grooming fellow rookie Ben Powers for?
Justice Hill – C
Buried behind the stellar play of Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, Hill had limited opportunities to shine in 2019. He flashed his tantalizing speed and potential on numerous occasions but was nothing more than a reserve back in his rookie season. His highlight of the season came in Week 16 against the Browns when he took a handoff to the right and burst through blockers on his way to the end zone. He flashed both his speed and elusiveness and looked smooth as a runner going untouched for an 18-yard touchdown. It’s tough to place a grade on his season because you can’t point out many negatives, but his impact was also very minimal. With both Ingram and Edwards slated to return in 2020, it will be interesting to see how Hill is deployed in the offense as his role should undoubtedly grow. Utilizing him in the passing game and on jet sweeps would seem obvious, allowing him to get into open space and utilize the speed which made him such an attractive prospect.
Final stat line: 58 carries, 225 yards, 2 touchdowns
CB Iman Marshall
OG Ben Powers
QB Trace McSorley
DT Daylon Mack (IR)
LB Otaro Alaka (IR)