The Ravens’ 2018 draft class was particular, and at the same time as rookies, they appeared to realize it. Their first yr in Baltimore, the Ravens claimed their first AFC North title since 2012. A yr later, the group gained a franchise-record 14 video games. Offensive sort out Orlando Brown Jr., one of many many standouts of the 12-player group, as soon as recalled classmates sharing their Tremendous Bowl ambitions, their future seeming so vibrant.
“I feel as a gaggle, we set objectives after we acquired in right here that we needed to be as dominant as doable and all do what we would have liked to do to make an affect,” Brown mentioned after his rookie yr. “For probably the most half, all of us type of held as much as our personal phrases. I’m fairly proud and joyful for everyone.”
With NFL free company approaching, and the four-year contracts of 2018 rookies expiring — some in Baltimore, others elsewhere — there may be perhaps no higher time to understand what was gained and misplaced from Ozzie Newsome’s last draft as Ravens basic supervisor. Extremely embellished and impressively deep, it is among the greatest collections of expertise acquired within the 2010s. It additionally stands as a sobering reminder of the realities of group constructing.
The category’ particular person accomplishments are exceptional: one NFL Most Invaluable Participant, two first-team All-Professional honorees, three Professional Bowl gamers (totaling seven Professional Bowl invites), 43 wins in Baltimore, 279 begins across the NFL. There have been busts and misfires within the group, in fact, however these misses are far surpassed by the contributions of the celebrities and starters the Ravens developed, or no less than unearthed.
“When folks take into consideration Ozzie Newsome, they give thought to the drafting and the younger gamers and the undrafted guys,” then-first-year basic supervisor Eric DeCosta mentioned in 2019. “I feel from a soccer standpoint, to see the final draft class emerge and actually assist us, it epitomizes all of that.” Simply take a look at the dozen gamers who comprised the group.
TE Hayden Hurst: The Ravens’ prime general choose seemed like a rookie-year star in offseason exercises earlier than a stress fracture in his foot knocked his profession off track. Hurst was a key cog within the Ravens’ tight-end-heavy 2019 offense, however was traded to Atlanta the next offseason as a part of a deal that helped the Ravens draft operating again J.Ok. Dobbins. Hurst caught 82 passes for 792 yards and 9 touchdowns over two years with the Falcons, who declined his fifth-year possibility final season.
QB Lamar Jackson: Jackson has been the NFL’s greatest cut price since he arrived in Baltimore as a stunning first-round choose: the youngest MVP in league historical past after a record-breaking 2019, a two-time Professional Bowl choice, the quickest quarterback to succeed in 5,000 passing yards and a pair of,000 speeding yards, the primary quarterback to win 35 video games earlier than age 25. Playoff success and a long-term contract have to this point eluded Jackson, however the 25-year-old is among the NFL’s most dynamic and in style gamers.
OT Orlando Brown Jr.: The third-round choose and son of the longtime Ravens lineman is the one offensive sort out to make the Professional Bowl every of the previous three seasons. Solely two had been in Baltimore, although. With Brown demanding to play left sort out, the Ravens traded him and a second-round choose to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in April for a first-rounder (exterior linebacker Odafe Oweh) and third-rounder (guard Ben Cleveland). The Chiefs hope to signal Brown to a long-term deal, whereas the Ravens’ sort out scenario stays in flux whereas Ronnie Stanley recovers from one other ankle operation.
TE Mark Andrews: The third-round choose earned first-team All-Professional honors and his second Professional Bowl choice final season after setting franchise information in each receptions (107) and receiving yards (1,361), each NFL highs for a good finish in 2021. Solely three tight ends have extra receiving yards of their first 4 seasons than Andrews (3,466): George Kittle, Jimmy Graham and Mike Ditka. Andrews, who signed a four-year, $56 million extension in September, is the one draft choose from the 2018 class underneath contract past subsequent season.
CB Anthony Averett: Accidents, inconsistency and a deep cornerback room restricted the fourth-round choose to simply 30 appearances and 7 begins over his first three seasons in Baltimore. However amid a disappointing 2021 for the Ravens’ secondary, Averett emerged because the group’s greatest cornerback. He allowed a passer score of simply 77.5 in protection, in response to Professional Soccer Reference, and began all however three video games.
ILB Kenny Younger: After an up-and-down rookie season, the fourth-round choose was traded in October 2019 to the Los Angeles Rams together with a fifth-round choose for cornerback Marcus Peters. Younger began 13 video games over three seasons with the Rams earlier than he was traded to the Broncos for a sixth-round choose final yr. He had 29 tackles in six begins for Denver.
WR Jaleel Scott: The fourth-round choose appeared in three video games and had one catch over his two seasons in Baltimore. The Ravens launched Scott after their 2020 coaching camp, and he had one reception for the New York Jets earlier than being waived final yr.
WR Jordan Lasley: The fifth-round choose didn’t play throughout his rookie season, then was lower early within the Ravens’ 2019 coaching camp after struggling with teammates and celebrating a landing catch by throwing the ball into a close-by pond. He’s since bounced round from the NFL to the XFL to the Canadian Soccer League to america Soccer League.
S DeShon Elliott: The sixth-round choose has performed just one full season in an injury-plagued profession. Elliott broke his forearm within the 2018 preseason, suffered a season-ending knee harm in October 2019 and tore his biceps and a pectoral muscle in November. He graded out as a stable starter in 2020 and 2021, in response to PFF, and has 103 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, two pressured fumbles and an interception over the previous two seasons.
OL Greg Senat: The sixth-round choose missed his rookie season after present process foot surgical procedure and was waived one sport into the 2019 season. Senat, a transformed basketball participant, has since frolicked with 5 organizations however has performed for just one group, showing in 10 video games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, totally on particular groups. The Jets claimed him off waivers in January.
C Bradley Bozeman: The sixth-round choose developed into one of many Ravens’ most constant linemen, beginning 32 straight video games at left guard earlier than beginning each sport at middle in 2021. Based on ESPN, Bozeman ranked second amongst NFL facilities in pass-block win price and seventh in run-block win price final season. Bozeman was additionally twice named the Ravens’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Yr award, recognizing his philanthropic work and neighborhood contributions.
DL Zach Sieler: The seventh-round choose appeared in two video games as a rookie and 4 in 2019 earlier than he was launched to make room for middle Hroniss Grasu. Claimed off waivers by the Dolphins, Sieler shortly discovered a house in Miami. He had 48 tackles (11 for loss) in 2020 and 62 tackles (six for loss) final season, when he graded out as PFF’s third-best inside defender. In November 2020, he signed a two-year, $7.6 million contract extension by means of the 2023 season.
Few lessons over the previous decade can evaluate.
- In 2012, the Seattle Seahawks drafted exterior linebacker Bruce Irvin, inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson.
- In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings drafted cornerback Trae Waynes, inside linebacker Eric Kendrick, defensive finish Danielle Hunter and extensive receiver Stefon Diggs.
- In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys drafted operating again Ezekiel Elliott, inside linebacker Jaylon Smith and quarterback Dak Prescott.
- In 2017, the New Orleans Saints drafted cornerback Marshon Lattimore, offensive sort out Ryan Ramczyk, security Marcus Williams and operating again Alvin Kamara.
- In 2018, the Indianapolis Colts drafted guard Quenton Nelson, inside linebacker Darius Leonard and offensive sort out Braden Smith.
In some methods, these banner years solely serve to spotlight the restrictions of foundational lessons. They’re reminders of the vagaries of the game. Of these 5 groups, solely Seattle reached the Tremendous Bowl, helped largely by Wilson’s cut price of a rookie contract.
The Ravens, handed an identical alternative with Jackson, gained only one playoff sport over the previous 4 years, by no means even reaching the AFC championship sport. There have been accidents and infections, dangerous sport plans and poor execution. There was Patrick Mahomes in Kansas Metropolis and Josh Allen in Buffalo.
There was additionally a drop-off in drafting. Solely 5 picks within the 2019 and 2020 lessons — extensive receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, inside linebacker Patrick Queen, operating again J.Ok. Dobbins, extensive receiver-returner Devin Duvernay, and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike — have established themselves in Baltimore, and for some the flashes of expertise have been too sporadic to cowl up the holes the 2018 group couldn’t tackle.
With a handful of starters from that class now headed to free company, and the Ravens maybe resigned to shedding all of them, DeCosta and his entrance workplace should replenish the roster with one other bumper crop of rookies. The Ravens will enter subsequent month’s draft with 10 picks, together with 9 within the first 4 rounds.
4 years in the past, at one other inflection level within the franchise, the group had requested numerous its rookies. “They’re an enormous a part of the place we’re at and the place we’re going,” coach John Harbaugh mentioned close to the top of the 2018 season. In some methods, they nonetheless are. However the NFL’s perpetual roster churn will depart the Ravens beginning over, trying to find extra.