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Sophomore season breakdown for the Ravens 2019 draft class

Who broke out or was at least able to raise their game?

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The Baltimore Ravens were expecting significant contributions from their 2019 draft class heading into the 2020 season. They had multiple players projected to have breakout sophomore campaigns.

While no one exceeded those expectations, some came close, some didn’t have ample opportunity to do so, some made an impact in nontraditional ways and others came on strong down the stretch.

Here is a breakdown of every player’s 2020 season from the eight-man draft class:

WR Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown- first round, 25th overall

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The former Oklahoma Sooner was pegged by many pundits as a prime breakout candidate heading into the year after he showed flashes of his playmaking potential as a rookie and bulked up during the offseason.

Brown had a decent start to the season in September and October before a rough four-game skid in November plagued with inconsistency and drops had some questioning whether he would live up to the preseason hype.

His emergence down the stretch in December, as the Ravens were fighting to stay in contention, was vital to their playoff push. He didn’t completely correct his issues with drops but made up for the ones that he did have by making big plays and finding the end zone.

Brown recorded 534 receiving yards and scored six touchdowns in the final six games of the regular season. He carried that momentum into January and continued to play well in the postseason.

In the Ravens’ two playoff games, he led the team in receiving by hauling in 11 of his 15 targets for 196 yards and added 19 yards rushing on a pair of backward passes that he caught behind the line of scrimmage after going in orbit motion.

He was targeted a team-high 100 times in the regular season, leading the Ravens in receiving yards (769) and touchdowns (eight), and tied tight end Mark Andrews for the lead in receptions (58).

Hollywood could be the key to unlocking the Ravens passing attack that ranked dead last in the league in 2020.

If he and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson can make their connection on the field as strong as it off the field then 2021 could the year he breaks out and transcends into the fabled ‘true No.1’ receiver that fans and pundits have been insisting the Ravens need in order to win a championship.

OLB Jaylon Ferguson- third round, 85th overall

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The former Louisiana Tech Bulldog saw a reduction of nearly 200 in his defensive snap count from his rookie year due to a log jam at outside linebacker, especially once the team acquired Pro Bowl pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue just before the midseason trade deadline.

Despite his reduction in playing time and playing mainly on early downs when he was on the field, he still managed to record 30 total tackles, a pair of sacks, seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, a pass break deflection, and a forced fumble which was almost identical to his 2019 production where he made eight starts to just one in 2020.

Ferguson was circled as a breakout candidate heading into the last season as well. While he still has yet to live up to the ‘Sack Daddy’ nickname that he earned in college when he broke Terrell Suggs’ career sack record, he made his most significant strides as an edge setter against the run where he was a liability at as a rookie.

He is the only edge defender from the 2020 active roster that is under contract heading into the offseason. The Ravens have five players at outside linebacker/defensive end slated to become unrestricted free agents come March.

The team likely won’t be able to retain most or even half of the pending free agents at the position so year three could be where Ferguson finally breaks out and lives up to the hype.

WR Miles Boykin- third round, 93rd overall

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The former Notre Dame golden domer was an under the radar candidate to have a breakout second season. While he didn’t do that as a pass catcher, which is the most popular metric of which wide receivers are graded, he was a beast of a blocker in the run game.

He caught just six more passes (19-13) for 68 more yards (266-198) and hauled in one more touchdown (4-3) than he did as a rookie.

His lack of a significant jump in his receiving production is a byproduct of both the Ravens run-heavy offense that provides limited opportunities for its pass catchers and Jackson just not looking his way enough and throwing errant or inaccurate passes his way when he does.

There were several instances this past season where Boykin was wide open, gained separation, or uncovered at different levels of the field, and Jackson either over or underthrew him or didn’t look his way at all.

Since the Ravens finished dead last in passing attempts, that meant there weren’t enough chances for him and Jackson to make up for some of those that they missed. The key to Boykin emerging as a bigger threat as a pass-catcher in year three is tied to the evolution of the Ravens passing game but could be hurt by the arrival of a notable veteran free agent.

RB Justice Hill- fourth round, 113th overall

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The former Oklahoma State Cowboy showed some flashes in limited opportunities as a rookie in 2019 but was buried on the running back depth chart even deeper with the arrival of sensational rookie J.K. Dobbins in 2020.

However, that didn’t stop Hill from becoming a core special teams player once he got healthy. He was an absolute force on both of the kick coverage units where he recorded nine total tackles including six solos and forced a fumble as well.

He finished his second season with just 12 carries for 60 yards and caught all five of his targets for 20 yards. Hill can expect a slight but not significant uptick in his offensive involvement heading into year three but Dobbins and Gus Edwards—assuming he is brought back—will still be the bell cows behind Jackson who has led the team in rushing in the last two seasons.

OG Ben Powers- fourth round, 123rd overall

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The former Oklahoma Sooner finally got his shot as a starter in Week 11 and played 100 percent of the snaps at right guard for the remainder of the regular season and both postseason games. While has a long way to go to reach the level of eight-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda, who manned that spot the year before, Powers played well for the most part.

He had his fair share of mistakes and was flagged three times as a starter, two of which were accepted for a net of 18 yards, but he made most of his blocks and was very stout as a run blocker.

Powers will likely have the inside track at keeping his starting position heading into year three but the Ravens will be looking to bring in some more interior offensive line competition so nothing is guaranteed.

CB Iman Marshall- fourth round, 127th overall

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The former USC Trojan spent his entire second season on injured reserve with a torn ACL he suffered in training camp. The Ravens have tremendous talent and great depth at cornerback heading into 2021 which means, barring an injury to one of the players ahead of him in the pecking order, Marshall will primarily play special teams when active in year three.

DT Daylon Mack- fifth round, 160th overall

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The former Texas A&M Aggie didn’t make the team coming out of training camp and spent 2020 with four different teams after getting cut. He was signed to a reserved/futures contract earlier this month, making them his sixth team in the last six months. The only career game Mack has appeared in was with the Ravens in 2019.

QB Trace McSorley- sixth round, 197th overall

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The former Penn State Nittany Lion only saw action in two games in his second season with both being in relief of the injured starter. The first came late in rescheduled Week 12 bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he nearly guided a depleted Ravens active roster to a come-from-behind victory.

The second came in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ Week 14 thriller against the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. McSorely helped set the stage for a dramatic finish by Jackson when he emerged from the locker room after being treated for cramps.

McSorley only completed three of his 10 passing attempts in the two games for 90 yards and a touchdown before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury. He also added 17 yards rushing on five carries.

In year three, he’ll be in a tight competition with undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley to serve as Jackson’s primary backup. Huntley backed up Jackson in the final three games of the regular season as well as both playoff contests and performed well in relief duty.