With the NFL draft approaching shortly and plenty of free agents still available, the Baltimore Ravens will be filling out their roster well into the summer. However, we already have a good idea of who the key players for 2023 are at certain positions.
Regardless of who the team adds over the next several months, the Ravens will be looking for a number of returning individuals to take a step forward next season. Here are three players who fall into that category, coincidentally all from the team’s 2021 draft class.
G Ben Cleveland
Through two seasons, Ben Cleveland has yet to establish himself as a full-time fixture in the Ravens’ offensive line picture. The former Georgia Bulldog has appeared in 21 total games, starting five in spot-starter capacity. Most of Cleveland’s on-field action came in his rookie season, where he started four games and played 367 total offensive snaps.
This past year, Cleveland’s snap count dipped below 100 on offense for the entire season. He missed a handful of games due to injury and also was healthy scratched multiple times. Many thought Cleveland may compete for the starting left guard spot entering Year 2, but he never supplanted Ben Powers.
Now, with Powers having signed a four-year contract with the Denver Broncos in free agency, the opportunity for Cleveland to seize a larger role is there for the taking. With the size to be a mauler in run blocking and match up against many defensive lineman, Cleveland profiles as a seamless fit between Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum.
Thus far, though, Cleveland has not consistently played up to his physical potential and has been a work-in-progress, particularly in pass protection. 2023 would be an ideal time for him to take a big step forward.
OLB Odafe Oweh
After an impressive rookie campaign, expectations were high for Odafe Oweh heading into his second season. Unfortunately, the Penn State product failed to make the jump forward many had anticipated. Oweh had a few nice performances but saw his pass-rushing production decrease across the board.
While he played two full more games and made four more starts than in 2021, Oweh played only 29 more defensive snaps on the season. His sacks, quarterback hits, pressures, and hurries all dipped. In Year 1, Oweh altered the outcome of a few different games with timely forced turnovers in primetime moments. That didn’t happen as much in 2022 and he was not as consistently impactful game-to-game, down-to-down.
With that being said, Oweh still has all the physical tools and raw talent to make significant strides heading into Year 3. The Ravens will need him to, with veterans Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul currently unrestricted free agents. If the Ravens don’t ultimately retain Houston, they’ll need to replace 14 sacks over the past two years combined.
David Ojabo is unproven at the moment and Tyus Bowser is the only other true edge rusher on the depth chart as is. Oweh will be called upon to increase his productivity in 2023 and it’s imperative that he answers the bell.
WR Rashod Bateman
One of the most disappointing developments over the past two seasons has been the unfortunate injury luck to Rashod Bateman. After appearing in 12 games over the second half of his rookie year, hopes were high for Bateman heading into 2022.
Unfortunately, Bateman’s stint as the Ravens’ No. 1 wide receiver was short-lived, as he suffered a season-ending foot injury after just seven games — not all of which were completed fully. Bateman again showed high-level flashes, particularly through the first three weeks of the year, but has yet to put together a long stretch of productive play.
Entering his third season, availability is by the far the most important factor for the former Minnesota Gopher. However, Bateman also can stand to become more consistent and clean up issues with dropped passes.
He won’t have the pressure of shouldering the lone No. 1 wide receiver title anymore after the Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency. They also could potentially add another wideout in the draft as early as the first round. Nevertheless, Bateman still profiles as the team’s X-factor at the position.