It’s hard to believe that the NFL draft was almost three weeks ago, as it still feels very fresh in the mind to most.
Considering we’re still a few months out from the start of the regular season and in the middle of an offseason unlike any other, it’s difficult to foresee what the immediate future holds for the incoming rookie class of 2020.
However, as it pertains to the Ravens, much of the roster is already set in place and we may already have a decent idea as to what roles each member of the team’s draft class will play on the roster this year.
Here’s an early look with some possible projections.
Finding a surefire, Day 1 starter in the first round of the draft isn’t necessarily always a given, especially when picking at No. 28. The Ravens did just this, though, filling a large void at inside linebacker with Patrick Queen.
Queen’s athleticism, intangibles and well-rounded skill set suggest he could very well be a three-down player for the Ravens in Year 1. He won’t face much competition for snaps at either MIKE or weakside linebacker, although he profiles more so as the latter.
This is the easiest projection to make of the bunch.
Role: Starting linebacker
The selection of J.K. Dobbins was surprising to many considering the Ravens already have a a stable of running backs in Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Assuming these three players are all returning for the 2020 season, it makes Dobbins’ role a bit murky.
He won’t leapfrog Ingram as the starter anytime soon but could easily supplant Edwards and Hill for snaps early on in the season. Edwards ran the ball very well behind Ingram last season and Hill came on strong towards the end of the year, but Dobbins offers a more complete skill set than both players and brings more explosiveness to the table.
Therefore, he should settle in as Ingram’s primary backup but the snap count between the four of them could be divided relatively evenly, especially between Ingram, Dobbins and Edwards. It’s difficult to imagine the Ravens selecting Dobbins in the second round and not having big plans for him in Year 1, ultimately.
After letting Michael Pierce walk in free agency, the Ravens had a need to fill at the nose tackle position behind Brandon Williams. They addressed this hole by drafting Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike in the third round.
Madubuike is a great athlete for his size and brings explosiveness to the table that will make it difficult to keep him off the field. Unfortunately, there may not be many snaps to go around on the defensive line, which also features Calais Campbell and Derrick Wolfe in addition to Williams.
Madubuike will face depth chart competition from Justin Ellis, Daylon Mack and fellow rookie Broderick Washington Jr. Assuming he fends them off in training camp and preseason, he should work his way into the rotation as Williams’ primary backup defensive tackle.
Role: Rotational defensive lineman
Texas product Devin Duvernay is an interesting case. Out of all the players from this list of rookies, you can argue that his role could expand the most as the season progresses.
However, based on the current outlook, he profiles as the fourth receiver on the depth chart behind Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV. Duvernay figures to see snaps and add some juice as a complimentary pass-catcher, but he’ll be hard-pressed to become a starter in Year 1.
Duvernay is primarily a slot receiver and the Ravens are set at that spot for the time being with Snead, a tested veteran who knows the system. It’s possible, though, that Duvernay may begin to take snaps away from Snead towards the latter part of the year.
Additionally, Duvernay has experience as a return man on special teams.
Role: WR4 and special teams contributor
The Ravens decision to double-dip at the linebacker position landed themselves a steal, as nabbing Ohio State’s Malik Harrison in the third round was great value.
Harrison is a classic “thumper” who specializes as a downhill run-stopper. He does have some underrated coverage ability but tasking him with doing so a consistent basis would be a misuse of personnel, which “Wink” Martindale rarely ever does.
How much Martindale deploys two-linebacker sets will ultimately affect Harrison’s role but whether he’s a “starter” or “backup”, the Ravens three-man rotation at linebacker will consist of Queen, Harrison and L.J. Fort regardless.
Fort and Harrison will be splitting snaps more so than Queen, however, and for right now the safer bet is probably to assume that Fort will begin the season with a slightly higher snap count. That could and likely will change at some point, though.
Role: Rotational linebacker; potential/eventual starter
The first of two offensive lineman taken in the draft, Tyre Phillips played tackle at Mississippi State but the Ravens are likely to attempt kicking him inside at guard. Along with a bevy of other names, Phillips will be in the mix to fill the vacant starting position at RG.
Phillips is a mammoth of an individual and has solid athletic ability. However, he could use some refinement and technique improvement, which will probably hold him back from beating out other candidates for the starting job.
Look for Phillips to replace James Hurst as the “swingman” on the depth chart. He could potentially be the primary backup tackle to Ronnie Stanley and/or Orlando Brown Jr. depending on the future of veteran Andre Smith.
Role: Backup swingman OL
Like Phillips, Michigan’s Ben Bredeson is another offensive lineman who profiles as a versatile rookie who can play multiple positions. Bredeson was a tackle in high school and played guard for the Wolverines, although he may wind up profiling as a center in the NFL.
Bredeson could be in the mix for a starting role at either guard spot depending on how comfortable the Ravens feel with Bradley Bozeman retaining his job at LG. It’s unlikely Bredeson will have a chance to start at center with Matt Skura returning from injury and Patrick Mekari coming off a solid rookie season.
Ultimately, Bredeson’s chances for playing time will hinder on whether not he can beat out Ben Powers, D.J. Fluker, Bozeman or Phillips for a starting job. As of right now, it seems more likely that he’ll begin the year as a backup but I’d say his chances of starting as of right now are already higher than that of Phillips, as he’s more refined.
Role: Backup G/C; potential starter
Broderick Washington Jr.
After drafting Madubuike in the third round, the Ravens added to an already loaded group of defensive lineman by drafting Broderick Washington Jr. two rounds later.
Washington profiles as an early-down player who specializes in run-stuffing. It’s unclear if he’ll bring much else to the table, though, at least in Year 1. It’s also unclear if he’ll be able to beat out Justin Ellis and/or Daylon Mack for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Baltimore did invest draft capital in him, though, so there’s clearly something they like about Washington’s skill set. Assuming he makes the roster, he’ll be hard-pressed for playing time early on at such a loaded position.
Role: Backup DT
Like Duvernay, WR James Proche is a slot specialist despite demonstrating some ability on the boundaries at SMU. Also similar to Duvernay is his insane pass-catching acumen and skill set on special teams.
Proche’s potential fit as a kickoff or punt returner might make De’Anthony Thomas expendable. Either way, Proche is going to make the team but how much he’ll play on offense is unclear. The prospects of him seeing significant snaps are unlikely with Snead and Duvernay on the depth chart.
Proche has more upside than other complimentary options like Chris Moore and Jaleel Scott, though, so he should be able to slot in as the No. 5 wideout early on.
Role: WR5 and special teams contributor
With their last pick in the draft, the Ravens added to the defensive backfield by picking up Geno Stone out of Iowa. Stone was projected to be selected earlier by many experts but he didn’t test all that well at the combine, which may have caused him to slide.
Like any player picked in the seventh round, Stone is not going to step in and play meaningful defensive snaps. He’ll serve as a valuable depth chip behind Earl Thomas III, though, as he brings a similar skill set to the table in terms of range and instincts.
Stone could easily become a special teams ace in Year 1, too.
Role: Backup safety and special teams contributor