After a long and seemingly endless wait, we finally found which direction the Ravens were going in with the 28th overall pick around the 11:30 hour of last night’s first round.
To the surprise of few and to the delight of many, Baltimore selected LB Patrick Queen, a star defensive talent from LSU’s 2019 national championship roster. Queen had been heavily linked to the Ravens in the weeks leading up to Round 1 and when he was still available at No. 28, it felt inevitable that Eric DeCosta would pick up the phone.
The selection of Queen has already generated some excitement among fans, players and spectators alike. Who is positively and negatively impacted by the Ravens drafting Queen?
Let’s find out.
Winner: “Wink” Martindale
Heading into a season with a linebacker room of L.J. Fort, Chris Board, Jake Ryan and Otara Alaka is a less-than-ideal task for any defensive coordinator, even the best one in the NFL in “Wink” Martindale.
The Ravens were obviously going to draft a linebacker at some point in the draft but the decision to take Queen in the first round has to be a sigh of relief for Martindale. Queen is superior in talent and raw ability to that of any other linebacker currently on the roster and his presence will take pressure of Martindale to scheme around the weaknesses of the position group overall.
Queen is a yet another new toy for Martindale to play with on the defensive side of the ball. We know that Martindale values players with a high intelligence and processing ability, both of which Queen brings to the table.
He’s only 20 years old, too, meaning he’s in many ways a blank canvas with loads of untapped potential and upside. Of course, before taking over as defensive coordinator, Martindale was in fact the team’s inside linebackers coach. He’ll now get the chance to work with and help grow an extremely talented player in Queen.
Winner: Eric DeCosta
Once again, GM Eric DeCosta pushed the right buttons. DeCosta stayed the course in what wound up being a pretty whacky first round, particularly between picks 20-32, and landed a player who probably should have been off the board earlier.
Queen is either the second or third-best linebacker in this draft class, definitively. If you are in the camp that thinks Kenneth Murray is better than Queen, the comparison is splitting hairs. There’s no logical argument that Murray is significantly nor substantially superior between the two prospects but rather the difference is marginal.
And yet, in order to draft Murray, the Chargers had to manufacture both their second and third-round selections in this year’s draft to trade up for him. To draft Queen, the Ravens simply had to wait their turn and play the cards that were dealt to them.
In doing so, DeCosta addressed arguably the team’s biggest need in Round 1.
Loser: Otara Alaka and Chris Board
The aforementioned linebacker core on this roster was obviously lacking talent and pedigree heading into the Thursday night. However, at least with players like L.J. Fort and to a lesser extent Jake Ryan, you know what you’re getting.
Fort played well for the Ravens last season and earned himself a two-year contract extension, proving his worth as both a defender and special teams ace. Ryan has not played very much at all in recent years after struggling with injuries. He’ll be on the roster bubble heading into the 2020 season but at least a track record to point to from his days in Green Bay.
The same cannot be said for Otara Alaka and Chris Board. As undrafted free agents from 2018 and 2019, respectively, both players found themselves on the 53-man roster last season. However, Alaka did not play a single snap all year and Board was once again a special teams contributor but failed to crack the linebacker rotation.
If the Ravens brain trust was truly confident in either player stepping up next season, they probably don’t use a first-round pick on an inside linebacker. The fact that they did, though, and selected Queen does not bode very well for the future prospects of Board and/or Alaka in Baltimore.
Loser: Opposing running backs
Loser: Positional value
For those who are anti-linebacker as first round picks, of which there are quite a few individuals these days, drafting Queen may not be most popular pick.
Analytics-based arguments suggest that the linebacker position is generally a devalued one in today’s NFL and is far less crucial than say, cornerback and safety. This formula has seemingly driven the Ravens’ thinking in recent years, as they’ve made heavy investments in their secondary and defensive line but opted to not do the same at linebacker.
Last year, they managed to get by with a Top-5 defense despite trotting out a linebacker platoon of Fort, Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor, which led many to believe the platoon approach could work again next season despite the team losing both Bynes and “Peanut”.
Evidently, the Ravens did not feel the same way. If they did, they could have selected another prospect like Grant Delpit, Xavier McKinney or Tee Higgins with the 28th pick and chosen a linebacker in the second or third round. Instead, DeCosta and company viewed drafting an inside linebacker as the best move in the first round.
Deduct a point for the anti-linebacker side of this positional value debate.
Winner: Mel Kiper Jr.
It’s hard not to give some credit and props here to longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. In each one of his five mock drafts this year, Kiper had the Ravens selecting Patrick Queen. Normally, you would expect at least one of these mock drafts to deviate from the others but Kiper was clearly sold on Queen going to Baltimore.
Whether he had legitimate inside information or has mental superpowers is unknown, but the selection of Queen by the Ravens is a win for Kiper’s credibility and expertise. Also, a boost to the ego of a man who probably doesn’t need it - but still.
Winner: New beginnings
Prior to last night, the Ravens had never once drafted a player from LSU. Yep, that’s right, not once in the franchise’s 25-year history. This was a remarkable streak, especially when considering the amount of NFL-caliber talent that LSU has produced over the years.
However, they can officially scratch doing so off of their list now that Patrick Queen is coming to town. Not only does Queen have the opportunity to carry the torch of successful inside linebackers in Baltimore, but he can create his own path and legacy as the first ever draft pick from LSU to play for the franchise.