With the playoffs underway and the 2021 NFL regular season in the books, Nathan Cooper and John Todd of Sports Info Solutions collaborated to compile an All-Rookie Team. They comprised two rosters with the highest scored first-year players on both sides of the ball at their respective positions according to their Total Points metric.
The only Baltimore Ravens’ rookie to make the cut was outside linebacker Odafe Oweh who they selected No. 31 overall in the first round out of Penn State. He made quite the impact on defense in his inaugural season by burying the sack narrative that was a knock on him in the predraft process and came up clutch with several splash plays.
"Much was made about Oweh’s zero sack final season at Penn State in the pre-draft process, but his natural talent was never a question and it translated immediately to the NFL. He tallied 5 solo sacks, tied for the Ravens lead in pressures, and tied for 2nd on the team in tackles for loss in the run game."
Cooper and Todd highlighted some areas of improvement for Oweh heading into year two but are excited for his overall potential after a strong rookie campaign where he was in the running Defensive Rookie of the Year for a little over half of the season.
“The efficiency can still improve – he had too many tackles broken this season and his pressure percentage should be higher – but his combination of size and speed for a relatively inexperienced player are rare. His ceiling is very high, and this was a strong first year to build on."
First-round wide receiver Rashod Bateman and third-round offensive guard Ben Cleveland missing the cut is understandable considering that both players missed a chunk of the season due to injury. There’s also the fact that neither were utilized to their full potential when they were active before the final stretch amid the team’s losing streak to close out the season.
However, one Ravens’ rookie that was left off and is deserving of recognition is third-round defensive back Brandon Stephens. While he didn’t perform at the same high level as Jevon Holland of the Miami Dolphins who was named to the SIS First Team, he was far more impactful for the Ravens’ defense than Tre Norwood of the Pittsburgh Steelers who made the cut for the Second Team unit.
Even though both players appeared in all 17 regular-season games for their respective teams and Norwood even got to play in one extra game since the Steelers made the postseason, Stephens’ sample size on which he was graded was much larger. He made 11 starts at free safety for the Ravens and played 68 percent of the Ravens’ total defensive snaps with 744. Norwood was mostly relegated to a rotational backup role, made just three starts including the playoffs, and played just 33 percent of the Steelers’ total defensive snaps with 388.
SIS’ Total Points metric consists of the points the defender saved in coverage, against the run, and on pass rushes. Although Norwood saved 15.54 points in coverage to Stephens’ .74, the Ravens rookie played nearly 200 more snaps in those situations at 441-274. He also played on an injured and much-maligned defense that was proficient at stopping the run but not much else on a consistent basis.
His body of work was more extensive and showed greater promise in a featured role than his division rival showed in one that was more limited. Norwood’s 17 total points were higher by far than Stephens’ 8.5 but that doesn’t mean he had the better or more impactful rookie season.