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Why the Ravens drafted Justin Madubuike

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To bring a different explosion to their defensive front

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

With the 71st selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Justin Madubuike from Texas A&M University.

Maduibuike is an interior defensive linemen who primarily played the three technique, he is also capable of stepping in at the five technique or nose guard.

He fits a much different size and athletic profile than Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Daylon Mack, Justin Ellis or any of the defensive interior players that the Ravens possessed last year.

Madubuike is an explosive penetrator, who has strong lateral quickness and plays with great leverage. He was rarely stonewalled in one on one situations as a pass rusher. His hands and feet are active and in sync often, showing quickness as rhythm.

Madubuike packs a punch with his hand strikes, often jolting blocker’s heads back and pushing them back into the run play.

TAMU often used Madubuike as a twist player and looped him on stunts. His lateral agility, explosiveness and speed made him a weapon on twists. The Ravens have definitely tried to increase their usage of stunts when rushing four to generate pressure for a lackluster four man pass rush success rate.

Twisting Madubuike puts him in space, where he’s more athletic and explosive than many of the interior offensive linemen he faced in college.

The former four star defensive end had consistently strong production over the past two years. In 2019 Madubuike notched six sacks, eight QB hits and 26 hurries, totaling 40 pressures in just 12 games. In 2018, his production was even stronger: eight sacks, 11 QB hits and 25 pressures, totaling 44 pressures.

In terms of elite play, sack and TFL production seems somewhat relative in terms of projecting to today’s NFL.

Madubuike registered a 14.9% pass-rush win rate in 2019, which ranked ninth in the IDL class.

Madubuike has showed off chops, swipes, clubs, rips, spins and long arm bull rush moves. He has a full toolbox headed into the NFL.

He also has good length for an interior player, with 33.5 inch arms.

At the NFL Combine Madubuike tore up the drills he participated in. His 4.83s 40-yard dash ranked in the 97th percentile of all defensive linemen in combine history. The 6-foot-3 DT also posted a 7.37s three-cone still (88th percentile) and 31 reps on the bench press (81st percentile).

These metrics match what his tape shows, an explosive, quick and nimble interior defensive stalwart.

Madubuike played the lion’s share of his snaps in the B-gap, projecting to be a three technique at the next level, who can also take snaps as a nose guard or five technique. He’s longer, quicker and more explosive than most guards.

Madubuike can be moved by double teams, which makes sense as he’s not the shortest or heaviest player for his position. He also failed to drop a knee or corkscrew against double teams. There aren’t many better players in the NFL at taking on double teams than Brandon Williams, who can certainly show Madubuike the technique.

He did have some impressive reps against two blockers, nonetheless.

Consistency wasn’t quite there from game to game with the flashy pass disruption. There were games where Madubuike looked like a first round player who could take over a game (Ole Miss, 7 pressures) as well as games where he could look like a rotational type player at the next level.

Regardless, he always brought a strong bull rush, good gap integrity as a run defender, and pushed the pocket consistently. Rarely does his rush stagnate in one-on-one situations, while he might not always disengage.

As a run defender, Madubuike has great eyes and pad level, and reacts to offensive linemen’s first step in a flash. He does a great job using his length inside to shock blockers with one arm, keeping an arm free to wrap up ball carriers and muddy the gap, often forcing them to hesitate or cut back.

Madubuike, as many of the Ravens 2020 rookies, was a team captain at TAMU, and a two-time Aggie Defensive MVP. He was also named to the AP All-SEC Second Team. Former defensive mates Otaro Alaka and Daylon Mack should make their fellow Aggie feel right at home.

Madubuike is yet another addition the the Ravens front who is more of a penetrator than a two-gap player. I firmly believe that the Ravens acquired players like Wolfe, Campbell and Madubuike to use more even-front type looks and attack upfield, looking to make plays in the backfield that force teams to throw into the teeth of their elite secondary. Brandon Williams and Daylon Mack are the only players who fit the traditional two-gap mold. This will lead to a more explosive pass rush in 2020 than in prior seasons.

With Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe all on the wrong side of 30, Madubuike has a real chance to become a mainstay of the Ravens defense by the end of his rookie contract.

Rookie Prediction:

The Ravens will have Madubuike in the rotation up front as a rookie, mainly learning behind Derek Wolfe as a versatile three technique. They would be wise to use him on twists, where he consistently causes chaos in the pocket.

Madubuike will take 250-350 snaps as a rookie and generate 10-13 pressures with 2.5 sacks. Madubuike, who blocked two kicks while at A&M, will get a paw on one for the Ravens in 2020, where his explosion and length can devastate on kick defense.

If Derek Wolfe misses time due to injury, Madubuike will step in and take on a much more significant role.

Madubuike will be a starter in 2021.