The Baltimore Ravens had several first-year players get significant playing time and play major roles down the stretch of the 2020 season as the team weathered the storm of untimely injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak.
Some rookies didn’t exactly live up to preseason hype, others lived up to and exceeded expectations, and others didn’t get enough playing time to make a proper judgment and others failed to seize the ample opportunities that they did receive.
Here is a breakdown of each member of the Ravens’ 2020 draft class, accompanied by a letter grade and sophomore season projections:
ILB Patrick Queen — Round 1, 28th overall
The former LSU Tiger had a solid rookie season where he appeared in and started all 16 regular season games and both of the playoff contests.
Queen was a prime candidate in the conversation to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at one point thanks to his ability to make splash plays, especially during the first half of the season. He recorded three sacks, two forced fumbles, nine tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and a pair of fumble recoveries that included a 53-yard return for his first career touchdown.
He was a heat-seeking missile at, near, and behind the scrimmage and led the team in total tackles with 106, which was the third most among all rookies. Queen was an excellent and instinctual blitzer and finished with 10 quarterback hits and 13 pressures.
As impressive as the splash plays, turnovers, and 100-plus tackles were, there were a few areas where he struggled at but thankfully all of them are correctable. While his man coverage skills improved as the year went on, his inconsistency in zone coverage persisted throughout the regular and postseason.
His 22 missed tackles were the most in the entire league and while that is a high and discouraging total, it was an homage to his ability to be in a position to make a tackle because he uses his athletic ability to fly from sideline to sideline.
Making the transition from college to the pros is hard to make at every position on either side of the ball but especially at inside linebacker where there have been several players in recent memory that had up and down rookie seasons before breaking out in year two.
One glowing example of a first-round linebacker that made a huge leap in their second year in the league is Queen’s close friend and college teammate Devin White, who also flashed his athleticism and made a lot of splash plays as a rookie in 2019 before emerging as one of the best defenders in the game in 2020.
White has been instrumental in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run to the Super Bowl this year and Queen has all the ability to make a similar jump in Year 2 with the Ravens — since he’ll actually have an offseason program and preseason, neither of which he had prior to his rookie season.
RB J.K. Dobbins — Round 2, 55th overall
The former Ohio State Buckeye was seen as a luxury pick when the Ravens drafted him but by the end of his rookie season, he had carved out a significant role on offense and proved he was the most explosive player in the backfield not named Lamar Jackson.
Dobbins was sparingly used at the onset of the season despite picking up chunks of yardage with nearly every sporadic carry. It wasn’t until an ankle injury hobbled 2019 Pro Bowler Mark Ingram that the rookie really began to hit his stride and take off.
Before the Ravens Week 7 bye, he had only carried the ball 25 times 154 yards on the first six games yet was still able to average over six yards per carry and found the end zone twice.
After the bye week, he carried the ball 109 times for 651 yards in his final nine regular season appearances and averaged nearly six yards per carry — 5.97 to be exact — and scored a rushing touchdown a record six straight games to close out the year.
Despite only making one regular season start, Dobbins recorded the second-most rushing yards on the team behind Jackson with 805 — which was first among the Ravens running backs and third among all rookies at the position in the league.
His eight runs of 20 plus yards were the most among all rookies at any position and tied his teammate Gus Edwards for the fourth-most in the league. He averaged six yards per carry which was the most among all running backs, rookies, and trailed only Jackson and Kyler Murray.
Dobbins’ nine touchdown runs broke a rookie franchise record for scores from scrimmage and he tacked on 120 yards receiving to his scrimmage total on 18 catches.
He showed tremendous elusiveness, vision, footwork, power, burst, acceleration, and balance after contact. His 2.9 yards per attempt after contact tied for the second-most in the league, trailing Tampa’s Ronald Jones who averaged three yards but also carried the ball 58 more times.
Dobbins’ rookie year was sensational but not without a few blemishes. He was the primary pass-catching back but didn’t put big numbers and had a handful of crucial drops late in games that cost the Ravens opportunities to extend drives and even score if had been able to corral the pass before looking to turn upfield, a mistake a lot of young and especially rookie players make.
Nevertheless, the future of the Ravens punishing run game looks extremely bright with Dobbins in the picture whether he is splitting time with Edwards like he did for most of 2020 or becomes the bell cow down the road at some point.
He will be in for a much heavier and consistent workload in year two and will be poised to rush for 1,000 plus yards and possibly even make his first career Pro Bowl.
DT Justin Madubuike — Round 3, 71st overall
The former Texas A&M Aggie got a late start to his rookie year after a knee injury that he suffered in training camp caused him to miss the first four weeks of the season. The Ravens planned to increase his playing time on a gradual basis but injuries to starters Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams forced him into a larger role much sooner.
There were some growing pains at first, as to be expected, but once he got comfortable and into a groove, he became an impact player for the defense down the stretch. He made three starts but did his best work as a rotational piece once Campbell and Williams returned from injury/COVID-19.
Including the playoffs, he appeared in 12 games and flashed as both a run stuffer and interior pass rusher. He finished the regular season with 19 total tackles including two for loss, a sack, two quarterback hits, and added three more tackles in the postseason.
Madubuike is the future of the Ravens defensive line and will continue to develop and improve under his five-time Pro Bowl mentor in Campbell, who he was beginning to resemble by the end of the year. Don’t be surprised if he puts up big numbers in year two even if he is still in a rotational role
WR Devin Duvernay — Round 3, 92nd overall
The former Texas Longhorn could’ve had a standout rookie season if the Ravens had just utilized his diverse and dangerous skillset more often on offense. He was active and appeared in all 16 regular season games as well as both playoffs games and made three starts.
Duvernay recorded 895 all-purpose yards as he showcased his tremendous speed and explosiveness as a returner and ball carrier out of the backfield on end-arounds and reverses but was severely underutilized as a pass-catcher, even before the midseason arrival of Dez Bryant.
He returned 21 kicks for 578 yards, including a 93-yard return for the only touchdown of his rookie year, and returned four punts for 46 yards with a long of 19.
On offense, he caught 20 of his 26 targets for 201 yards for an average of 10.1 yards per catch and added 70 rushing yards to his scrimmage total on four carries — good for an average of 17.5 yards per carry.
Duvernay’s lack of eye-popping production was more of a result of a lack of opportunity than it was an indictment on his ability to get open and make plays. His career will take off once he’s built a stronger rapport with Jackson and OC Greg Roman schemes up more ways to get the ball in his hands on a consistent basis.
Even if Willie Snead IV is re-signed this offseason, Duvernay will likely become much more of a factor in the passing game in the slot but he can make plays on the outside as well.
ILB Malik Harrison — Round 3, 98th overall
The former Ohio State Buckeye was active and played in all 16 regular season games as well as both playoff games and made seven starts. Harrison displayed his physical playing style that he had been known for at Ohio State and flashed some underrated ability in coverage at times.
Harrison didn’t get nearly as much playing time as Queen because he was in a three-man rotation at weakside (WILL) linebacker with special teams ace Chris Board and veteran L.J. Fort, but was still able to record 44 total tackles including one for a loss and a pass breakup.
While his struggles in coverage weren’t as glaring or frequent as Queen’s and even though he did show signs of improvement, Harrison was also out of position at times in zone coverage. He didn’t miss many tackles but there were instances where he got caught up in the wash on run plays and opposing running backs hit gaps that he failed to fill.
He will also benefit greatly from having his first real offseason program as well as a slate of preseason tune-up games heading into his second season. Harrison is not expected to make as significant of a leap as Queen in 2021 but his continued improvement will only strengthen the talented position group.
OL Tyre Phillips — Round 3, 106th overall
The former Mississippi State Bulldog entered his first training camp as a bit of a project but emerged as the starting right guard. He started six of the first seven games at guard and performed admirably before an ankle injury caused him to miss three games.
However, after returning to the lineup, Phillips had to split right tackle duties with veteran D.J. Fluker down the stretch and in the playoffs because Orlando Brown Jr. had to flip over to the blindside following Ronnie Stanley’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 8. In that same game, Phillips too suffered an injury and was placed on IR.
While Phillips starred at tackle in college, he struggled mightily when he had to move to the position in the pros as a rookie and especially when it came to pass protection. Growing pains are expected out of first and even second-year players but Phillips was a liability when he wasn’t run blocking.
His lack of explosion out of his stance and lumbering footwork caused him to routinely get beat off the line and yield almost instant pressure to speed rushers and even got bull rushed into the lap of the quarterback at times on drop-back passing plays.
The Ravens drafted the college tackle intending to convert him into a quality pro-level guard and that appears to be where his future is brightest. Heading into his second season, Phillips will be competing to start at right guard once again but the competition will be stiff.
IOL Ben Bredeson — Round 4, 143rd overall
The former Michigan Wolverine failed to win a starting job in training camp but was still active for 10 games as a rookie, all of which came in the regular season. He never played more than 17 snaps in a single game and was often used as an extra blocker on the end of the line or in an unbalanced formation.
He was flagged once in two different games for a net loss of 10 yards. One was a false start and the other was an illegal formation.
The Ravens were very deep with quality interior offensive linemen and Bredeson was buried on the depth chart behind more experienced and heralded players. As a result, there wasn’t enough of a sample size to make a proper assessment and provide a letter grade.
Next season, he’ll be in a tight competition with what will likely be a crowded group of interior offensive linemen vying for the start center and right guard position following the draft and free agency.
DT Broderick Washington — Round 5, 170th overall
The former Texas Tech product appeared in eight games and recorded just two tackles in 161 defensive snaps. He was unable to take advantage of extended playing time when both Williams and Campbell were out with injuries.
Washington struggled to consistently get off blocks and didn’t flash as an interior pass rusher either. He was often a healthy scratch down the stretch in favor of veteran Justin Ellis was inactive for four of the last five games of the season as well as both playoff games.
A full offseason program and a preseason could help him develop into a quality depth and rotational piece in his second season, especially if Ellis isn’t brought back.
WR James Proche — Round 6, 201st overall
The former SMU Mustang’s lackluster rookie season was due to a combination of a log jam on the depth chart in front of him and the offense that the Ravens run. It’s hard to stand out as the sixth receiver on the depth chart on a team that possesses a historically dominant rushing attack but finished dead last in passing yards and attempts in 2020
Proche had a very strong showing in training camp but wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the regular season. He was targeted just three times in 14 games and recorded just one catch for 14 yards.
He opened the season as the starting punt returner after he won the job in camp and racked up 198 yards on 23 returns for an average of 8.6 and had a long of 20. However, by the end of the season, the team decided to give both return duties to Duvernay and Proche was inactive for the final two games of the year as well as both playoff games.
Proche simply didn’t receive enough playing time on offense — just 25 snaps — to make much of an impact, which meant that there wasn’t enough tape to properly assess his rookie season and assign a letter grade.
With Snead and Bryant slated to be unrestricted free agents, Proche could be poised for more playing time even with the expected arrival of a rookie and or veteran wideout this offseason.
S Geno Stone — Round 7, 219th overall
The former Iowa Hawkeye was only active for two games and saw just two snaps on defense between them. However, he had ample opportunity to step up and be the third safety that the Ravens were in desperate need of for the vast majority of the season.
Stone was lauded as arguably the biggest steal of the draft considering where he ended up getting picked and the high esteem that top talent evaluators held him in during the pre-draft process.
According to multiple reports, he failed to stand out in training camp and was considered to be on the roster bubble during the final round of cuts. Even though he made the active roster, he was a healthy scratch for the first four games before being waived for the first time on October 8.
He was signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers, where the team hoped he could develop without taking up a coveted spot on the active roster. However, Stone was only activated for Weeks 9 & 10 before he was waived for the second and final time in late December.
Stone finished the season on the Texans roster and never made an impact or play any meaningful snaps with the Ravens. The coaching staff clearly didn’t believe he was ready and opted not to have a possible liability in coverage in their nickel and dime sub-packages.