With 2023 training camps set to get underway next week for the majority of NFL teams and later this week for few others, it’s survey season around the league.
Several media outlets have reached out to current scouts and executives to gather their input and opinions on who they believe the top players at their respective positions. The list of results that have been gaining the most headlines and attention have been those of ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler.
He has compiled and published several top 10 lists based on his findings and there have been four players from the Baltimore Ravens in total that have been ranked. The two defensive players that were revealed weren’t surprises and there a couple that just missed the cut but were featured as honorable mentions.
Roquan Smith, Inside Linebacker
The Ravens’ star off-ball linebacker was the first one revealed at No. 2 after being ranked No. 5 last offseason. He helped turn around a unit in Charm City that went from one of the league’s leakiest to one of the most stout and stingy after he was acquired at the midseason trade deadline from the Chicago Bears.
“I can’t believe [the Bears] let him out of their building,” an NFL coordinator said to Fowler. “He’s a stud. He’s everything a linebacker is supposed to be. Doesn’t have a weakness. Intelligence, versatility, consistent tackler, plus athleticism.”
His fellow First-Team All-Pro selection from last season, Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers, was the only player ranked above him on the list. Even that is still debatable based on the seismic impact Smith had on the unit he was dropped into as opposed Warner who has been the entrenched leader of his loaded unit for years.
“He jumped three spots in this year’s rankings thanks to a first-team All-Pro season in 2022, registering 4.5 sacks, three interceptions and 169 tackles,” Fowler wrote. “Smith was tied for second in the league in stuffs with 21.”
ROQUAN SMITH INTERCEPTION!!!!— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 11, 2022
Tune in on CBS!! pic.twitter.com/7x8dkvb4ER
Now that he has had a full offseason to further get acclimated to the system and with his teammates, Smith will not only calling the defense now that he will where the green dot on his helmet but he could take it to even greater heights.
Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback
The three-time Pro Bowler was the second Raven revealed at No. 6 following a very strong bounce back season. He didn’t give up a touchdown in 700 coverage snaps per Pro Football Focus, yet they inexplicably had him ranked No. 20 on their list of top 32 cornerbacks heading into the 2023 season in late-May article by Sam Monson.
“Humphrey pushed for the top five this year after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2022 and a stronger performance than — for his standards — the previous year,” Fowler wrote. “He ranked No. 2 in our 2021 list and is still considered elite.”
The former first rounder and seventh-year veteran had arguably a just as elite overall season in 2022 as he did in his First-Team All-Pro year in 2019. Humphrey tied for a career-high in interceptions with three, set a new career-high in sacks with three, and is still capable of dominating in slot as well as on the perimeter.
“If you’ve been involved in the AFC North, you have a deep appreciation for [Humphrey’s] game,” An NFL personnel executive said. “Ultimate competitor and can do a little bit of everything.”
ILB Patrick Queen - The former first round pick in 2020 was already ascending prior to the Ravens trade for Smith but once the two of them joined forces, they forged what was arguably the best off-ball linebacker tandem in the league. Queen set career-highs across the board including a team-leading 117 total tackles, the third most sacks on the team with five, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and 14 quarterback hits per PFR.
“Hard hitter, versatile, fits the physical Baltimore culture,” an AFC scout said to Fowler. “Was surprised to see they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, but it’s hard to pay two linebackers when you have to pay a quarterback.”
DB Marcus Williams - The seventh-year veteran free safety has been one of the underrated yet highly impactful playmakers at his position since entering the league and was on pace for a First-Team All-Pro selection with three interception in team’s first four and half games. The Ravens prized free agent acquisition from last offseason missed seven games due to a dislocated wrist but still managed to deflect eight passes on 20 targets for a “ridiculous 40% ball hawk clip” in 2022 per Fowler.
“Stud. Would have been Pro Bowler had he stayed healthy,” an veteran AFC defensive coach said. “His range sideline to sideline is among the best.”
DT Justin Madubuike - While fourth-year pro isn’t quite a household name or widely known among the national media yet, he likely caught the eye of several pro-scouts and executives last season when he recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2022 which tied for the second most on the team. He was an unblockable disruptive force at times in his third year and heading into the final year of his rookie contract, he could poised for a transcendent season now that six-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell is gone.
One of my breakout candidates for 2022 was Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 14, 2022
Madubuike was dominant against the Jets in Week 1 and finished with 5 combined tackles, a TFL and half a sack. pic.twitter.com/BnvKJLha1y
A few more defenders that didn’t even receive but could find themselves on one of these lists this time next year are second-year safety Kyle Hamilton who received a lot of hype in the offseason and either or both edge rushers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo who have a golden opportunity to make a name for themselves with breakout seasons.