It is that time of year again. I am of course referring to the time of year when ESPN releases their annual “Top 25 under 25” article. The purpose of the article is to rank the Top 25 NFL players currently under 25 years old. The Ravens have had many players grace the list in recent years, but this year is different, as Baltimore did not have a single player make the list this time around.
Is that a cause for concern for a team gearing up to pay a potentially record-breaking contract to their star quarterback which will lead to less money to spend in free agency?
The Ravens are widely regarded as one of the league’s best when it comes to navigating the NFL Draft. Since the retirement of longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome and shift to his pupil-in-waiting Eric DeCosta following the 2018 season, however, Baltimore’s draft results have been somewhat lackluster. Sure, DeCosta has brought in several contributors in that timespan through the draft, but who is the last true difference maker Baltimore had on a rookie deal?
For that answer, you may have to go back to Newsome’s legendary final draft in 2018. The Ravens selected soon-to-be unanimous MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro-Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — among a bevy of other notable players in the 12-man class. The two years before that, Newsome selected two more All-Pros in the first round in cornerback Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Stanley, as well as NFL’s current sack leader (albeit for another team) and three-time Pro-Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon in the fifth round.
Recent drafts for the Ravens have been filled with high-potential players who, for some reason or another, have yet to live up to their potential. This includes several first-round players, such as inside linebacker Patrick Queen, wide receiver Rashod Bateman, and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh. Queen’s play has picked up for the better this season, but has it been enough to justify a first-round selection? Bateman has looked the part when healthy but has struggled to stay on the field through his first two seasons. Oweh started strong as a rookie but has been vastly underwhelming in his second season so far.
Outside of the first round, Baltimore has accumulated a slew of solid players, including defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, safety Geno Stone, offensive guard Ben Powers, and running back J.K. Dobbins to name a few, but none have elevated to Pro-Bowl stature. In fact, the Ravens’ only draft selection under DeCosta to make a Pro-Bowl appearance has been wide receiver Devin Duvernay for his return abilities on special teams.
The Ravens selected two more high-potential players in the first round of the 2022 in safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum. The early returns for both players have been mostly positive. So, hopefully the tide will turn soon for a team that will desperately need cheap difference makers if they do indeed keep Jackson for the long-term future on a mega contract.