With the draft having concluded, the Ravens 2020 rookie class is officially set in stone.
From the decisions made by the front office over the weekend, there are some clear and apparent winners and losers in Baltimore. Below is a breakdown of some of them, but be sure to chime in with your own and join in on the conversation!
Winner: Greg Roman and “Wink” Martindale
Both of the Ravens’ coordinators emerge from this draft as clear winners, for obvious reasons.
Greg Roman was the most successful offensive mind in the NFL last year and squeezed the absolute most out of the talent at his disposal. Now, he has two new shiny toys to implement into the passing attack in WR’s Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Both players profile as “gadget” weapons who play inside-out and create yards after the catch.
The additions of both of these players diversify the team’s pass-catching corps and give Roman the flexibility to add new wrinkles into his attack. Look for the frequency of bubble screens and jet sweeps, for example, to increase next season.
“Wink” Martindale was made the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the league this offseason. In the draft, the Ravens brass made it a point to sure up the team’s two biggest weaknesses on the defense: defensive line and middle linebacker.
Much of the team’s pass-rushing success last season came from Martindale’s creativity and play-calling, which compensated for almost no penetration up the middle. Incoming rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr. will further solidify the front seven and bring added juice behind Brandon Williams, Derrick Wolfe and Calais Campbell.
Additionally, LB’s Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison could turn the weakest position group on the roster into a strength fairly quickly. Between Queen’s versatility and athleticism and Harrison’s potency as a “thumper” run-stuffer, Martindale now has two talented linebackers at his disposal to work with. It’s certainly an upgrade over the incumbent options.
Loser: Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott and De’Anthony Thomas
Each year when the Ravens draft a receiver, it usually doesn’t bode well for the bubble wideouts on the roster. This is even more so the case when they double-dip at the position, which they did in 2019 and did once again this weekend.
As a third-round pick, Devin Duvernay is a lock to make the roster and likely play a good amount of offensive snaps. Generally, players picked in the sixth round may have to claw their way for a spot on the 53-man roster but this won’t be the case for James Proche. The fact that the Ravens traded up for Proche tells you how highly they think of him.
Out of the returning receivers from last year, only Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV fall into the “lock” category. The additions of Duvernay and Proche in the draft will make it tougher on any one of Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott and De’Anthony Thomas to make the final roster.
If the Ravens choose to carry five receivers, it’s possible none of them could make it. If they want six to stick around, that would mean only one of the three will make it through. Moore and Thomas were re-signed in free agency but bring little to the table as pass-catchers, while Scott was a healthy scratch for almost all of th 2019 season.
Winner: Jaylon Ferguson
The Ravens entered the draft with four definitive needs: linebacker, interior offensive lineman, wide receiver and edge rusher. They addressed the latter three and did so in a big way, double-dipping at each position. However, the glaring exclusion is edge rusher - an area that Eric DeCosta surprisingly did not target with any of the team’s draft picks.
Baltimore is returning just three outside linebackers from 2019 in Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson. Judon was franchise tagged for 2020 and Tyus Bowser is entering the last season of his contract, meaning the future of both players beyond this season is currently up in the air.
That leaves Ferguson as the only “sure thing” in terms of long-term outlook at the position and the Ravens appear to be high on his potential. Baltimore needs Ferguson to take a step forward in his sophomore season and become more consistent.
He showed promise as the 2019 campaign progressed and became more impactful in setting the edge, stopping the run and providing sporadic pass-rush. However, he still has plenty of room to grow in each of these departments. The decision not to add a pass-rusher can be looked at as a vote of confidence in Ferguson’s ability to make a leap.
Loser: Daylon Mack and Justin Ellis
The aforementioned defensive line is now extremely crowded after the draft. Adding Madubuike and Washington into the mix complicates the depth chart quite a bit.
Brandon Williams, Derrick Wolfe and Calais Campbell are all but penciled-in as the projected starters at nose tackle and defensive end. After them, though, there’s a number of combinations as to who could fill out the rotation.
Between Jihad Ward, Justin Ellis, Daylon Mack, Madubuike and Washington, the Ravens have stacked depth along the defensive line. Of this group, though, it’s hard not to imagine at least two players being the odd men out, as there’s almost no way Baltimore carries eight defensive lineman on the active roster.
Ward’s versatility and new contract suggest he’s a sure bet to stick around. Same goes for Madubuike, who was selected 71st overall. That would leave Ellis, Mack and Washington fighting for one or two roster spots.
Ellis was re-signed in free agency but is hardly a bonafide contributor, while Mack - who the Ravens drafted just this past season - was kept at bay during his rookie season due to an injury. If the front office was especially high on either of these players, they probably would not have double-dipped with defensive tackles in the draft.
Winner: Offensive line competition
While not a specific player, per say, one of the biggest winners to come out of this draft is the competition that’s soon to commence along the offensive line.
To “replace” Marshal Yanda, the Ravens double-dipped on interior players in the middle rounds by drafting Mississippi State’s Tyre Phillips and Michigan’s Ben Bredeson. Neither player is necessarily a polished prospect but both bring positive attributes to the table and figure to be in the mix for starting spots.
The only surefire bets on Baltimore’s offensive line at the moment are the bookend tackles, Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. Bradley Bozeman has the inside track for retaining his starting spot at left guard but it’s possible the Ravens could opt for a number of different combinations between the two rookies, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari and Ben Powers. An important factor to consider is the versatility of these players, too.
Phillips was a tackle in college but can kick inside. Bredeson can play both guard and center, but was also a tackle coming out of high school. Skura and Mekari are capable at either center or guard and Powers can play both LG and RG.
Five players and three starting spots up for grabs? Buckle up.
Loser: Otara Alaka, Chris Board and Jake Ryan
Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh made a clear message on draft weekend, which is that they saw upgrading the linebacker position as a big priority.
Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison are going to play big roles on the defensive side of the ball and there’s only so much room for linebackers in Martindale’s packages. Returning veteran L.J. Fort rounds out the group as a rotational piece and special teams ace.
After this group, there are three other linebackers in the mix: Otara Alaka, Chris Board and the recently-signed Jake Ryan. Neither player has really proven themselves to be anything more than special teams contributors and it’s unlikely more than one of them will wound up making the 53-man roster.