The 2023-2024 NFL season is complete and before the chapter is closed, we want a final look at the joys that came from the Baltimore Ravens season.
So, let’s celebrate the successes by handing out our 2023 Baltimore Beatdown Awards. Below, we’ll hand out the awards for the following 10 categories.
- Breakout Player of the Year
- Special Teams Player of the Year
- Rookie of the Year
- Coach of the Year
- Game of the Year
- Offensive Player of the Year
- Defensive Player of the Year
- Play of the Year
- Baltimore Beatdown Moment of the Year
Throughout the next 10 days, the Beatdown gang will make their picks for each award. Ultimately, though, the “winner” will be decided by you, the reader, with a poll at each articles end.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Breakout Player of the Year Candidates
Kyle Phoenix: DT Justin Madubuike
In true Ravens fashion, a contract-year pass-rusher rings the “sackpot” by generating double-digit sacks. Matter of fact, Madubuike carved through offensive lines for 13 sacks in 2023.
The emergence of Madubuike showed the Ravens have once more drafted and developed a star rusher, and also that they must hang onto this one. They’ve seen others part ways in the past (Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith), but they can’t afford to do the same this go-round. But affording Madubuike will come at a hefty price.
Nonetheless, Madubuike was a force along the interior defensive line. he finished with 64 total pressures according to PFF and 37 defensive stops. Overall, Madubuike graded out as the No. 23 interior lineman (min. 20% of snaps) and No. 17 in pass rush grade (77.7). While there are other worthy candidates below, Madubuike is my nominee.
Vasilis Lericos: CB Brandon Stephens
Stephens enjoyed a remarkable rise from backup safety at OTAs to cornerback No. 1 for the NFL’s best pass defense. Playing more than 1,000 snaps in 2023, Brandon allowed an impressive 6.6 yards per target while facing more than 100 throws into his coverage this season. He was even asked to shadow some of the leagues best wideouts at times. Stephens also contributed two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and made 57 solo tackles while only missing two during his breakout campaign.
Frank Platko: CB Brandon Stephens
There are more flashy choices for breakout player of the year like Justin Madubuike or Kyle Hamilton, who both earned All-Pro selections. However, I will go with Stephens, whose expectations were lower and seemed far more improbable to emerge in the way he did.
Stephens took a big step forward in Year 3 and developed into a reliable full-time starter at cornerback. His performance helped turn a once-seemingly question mark at the No. 2 corner spot into a strength opposite Marlon Humphrey. Stephens took on numerous top wideout assignments throughout the year in Humphrey’s absence and held his own. He entered the year as a rotational defensive back without a true position. Now, the Ravens can feel comfortable trotting him out as a starting corner and potentially even give him a contract extension in the near future.
Stephen Bopst: S Kyle Hamilton
When it comes to the definition of a breakout player, nobody fits the bill quite like Kyle Hamilton.
After showing flashes of greatness in his first season, Hamilton took his game to a completely different level in Year 2, earning first team All-Pro honors and staking his claim as the best safety in the NFL. While he might be the best safety in the league, that title really doesn’t do him justice. When playing deep, he’s as good as any zone safety in the league. When playing in the box, he plays like one of the best linebackers in the league. When playing in the slot, he eliminated players from the game, even those who were faster or more elusive than himself. Simply put, Hamilton went from a good rookie safety to one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
Zach Canter: S Kyle Hamilton
There are plenty of options here. Justin Madubuike showed promise before and finally fulfilled it. Brandon Stephens became a full-time starter and would have been my “surprise player of the year”. Geno Stone and Keaton Mitchell showed starter profiles.
But the true breakout guy is Kyle Hamilton. From falling to No. 14 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft despite being a Top 3 player in the class to struggling early in 2022 and coming on strong at the end of his rookie year, Hamilton emerged as the breakout Raven of the 2023 season.
Ravens fans and draft experts knew the type of player Hamilton could be and he showed it. A true enforcer and impact player at all levels, Hamilton finished his sophomore season as arguably the best safety in the NFL. He exploded onto the national stage with viral plays and was talked about endlessly. He’ll probably finish next year with a contract extension.
Joshua Reed: S Kyle Hamilton
There was arguably no second-year pro in the league that was under more pressure than the Ravens’ top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft because of all the offseason and preseason hype he garnered after coming on extremely strong in the second half of his rookie season. Not only did Hamilton not disappoint but he far exceeded those already lofty expectations with how he played and consistently disrupted opposing offense’s game plans each week.
Labeling him as the best slot defender and/or the best safety doesn’t begin to fully encapsulate the unique challenge he presents or the versatility he possesses. While All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith was the heartbeat and unquestioned leader of the Ravens’ top-ranked defense, Hamilton was the true catalyst for its success that unlocked everything they were able to do from disguising deceptive coverages to dialing up creative pressures. On any given play, he was the Ravens’ best coverage player, pass rusher, and run defender depending on how he was deployed. He showed that he can put the clamps on shifty and speedy slot receivers as well as dynamic pass-catching tight ends alike.
Hamilton is the ultimate defensive weapon and will only continue to look like arguably the biggest steal of the entire draft even though he was taken in the top 15 picks at No. 14 overall. Thank God the Philadelphia Eagles leapfrogged the Ravens to take Jordan Davis because thus far, their consolation prize has been a tremendous blessing in disguise.
Who wins 2023 Baltimore Ravens Breakout Player of the Year?
This poll is closed