Ravens Versus Chiefs Is NFL's Top Rivalry in 2020
Patrick Mahomes became the youngest Super Bowl MVP in league history after leading the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl title last month. Lamar Jackson became the youngest NFL MVP in league history (and the second unanimous choice) after leading the Ravens to a franchise-best 14-2 record last season.
So it's no surprise that Mahomes' Chiefs versus Jackson's Ravens is No. 1 on NFL.com's ranking of the top 10 rivalries heading into the 2020 season.
"Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are already the next great AFC quarterback rivalry, following in the footsteps of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning," NFL.com's Adam Rank wrote. "Some of you might think I'm jumping the gun here, but I'm not."
Mahomes, 24, has the edge in the rivalry thus far. Jackson, 23, is 19-3 as a starter during the regular season, with two of those losses coming to the Chiefs. Kansas City beat the Ravens 27-24 in overtime in 2018 and 33-28 last year. Both of those contests were played at Arrowhead Stadium. This season's game will be at M&T Bank Stadium.
"The only thing missing from this rivalry is an epic playoff showdown. But first, we'll just have to settle for another regular-season matchup -- this time in Baltimore," Rank wrote. "Something tells me Chiefs at Ravens is going to get prime-time love from NFL schedule makers."
While Mahomes and Jackson are fierce competitors, there's no rivalry between them off the field. Both have expressed their admiration and respect for the other.
"That's a great quarterback," Jackson said of Mahomes at the NFL 101 Awards in Kansas City last month. "I hate playing against him, to be honest, and I'm not even on defense. He's gonna keep scoring, and I'm like, 'Now we gotta go score.' It's gonna be a great game for the fans, but we hate it."
When Mahomes was asked if he considered himself the face of the NFL during the Super Bowl postgame press conference, he replied: "There's several guys that can be the face of the NFL. … Lamar was the unanimous MVP last night and he just had one of the best seasons of all time at quarterback."
Another rivalry involving the Ravens made Rank's list, and this one isn't nearly as friendly as the one between Mahomes and Jackson. Ravens-Steelers came in at No. 9.
"Heading into the 2020 campaign, the venom in one of the best rivalries in sports remains high -- and I can't wait," Rank wrote. "The Steelers look to get back to the top of the [AFC North], while the Ravens somehow managed to get even better this offseason by adding Calais Campbell -- which kind of doesn't seem fair. ... This annual home-and-home series will be must-see TV, per usual."
Five Free-Agent Defensive Tackles Ravens Could Target
In light of the Ravens and defensive tackle Michael Brockers being unable to come to an agreement on terms, Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens identified five defensive tackles the Ravens could sign to fill the huge void in their defensive line.
Here are some excerpts:
Shelby Harris: "Harris doesn't have the same size as Brockers, falling 3 inches and 15 pounds lighter. But Harris can play all over the defensive line and was productive last year for the Denver Broncos. … According to Pro Football Focus, he earned a 76.8 overall grade last season, which ranked 17th among defensive linemen."
Damon Harrison: "Harrison is a beast of a man at 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds. While 'Snacks' is towards the end of his career after eight years in the league, he's an experienced option that would likely be available for an affordable one-year deal. … Harrison is a run-stuffer through and through thanks to his size but he doesn't provide much in the way of harassing the quarterback."
Domata Peko: "It's not an ideal situation and the Ravens clearly wanted to upgrade their defensive line, but re-signing Peko would give them a good baseline that they can hopefully improve upon in the 2020 NFL Draft or later in free agency when other options get cut."
Timmy Jernigan: "Jernigan started his career with Baltimore before [they] traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles after three seasons. Though he never put up the same level of production he had with the Ravens, Jernigan did enough to earn a large contract from the Eagles. However, injuries followed him to Philadelphia where he played only 28 of 48 possible games. When healthy, Jernigan is the player Baltimore has been looking for this entire time."
Marcell Dareus: "Dareus is another experienced option towards the end of his career that the Ravens could be interested in. He just turned 30 years old and after nine years in the NFL, Dareus isn't quite the same player he was in his prime. However, this would be a reunion for Calais Campbell after playing with Dareus for the last two and a half years in Jacksonville. That familiarity could help strengthen Baltimore's interest."
Kudos for Lamar Jackson's Supporting Cast
No matter how many accolades Jackson receives, he's always quick to deflect the credit to his teammates, while the organization has focused on providing him with weapons and building the offense around him.
Pro Football Focus ranked the supporting casts of the eight quarterbacks who have been drafted in the first round over the past two seasons. The Ravens were No. 2, trailing only the Buffalo Bills' supporting cast for Josh Allen.
"The supporting cast for Jackson starts at the top, where Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman have done a wonderful job of building an offensive system around Jackson's unique skill set," PFF's Steve Palazzolo wrote.
Veteran running back Mark Ingram II and a "mauling offensive line" played major roles in the Ravens' record-setting rushing attack and league-best scoring offense last season, but the Ravens also got significant contributions from second-year tight end Mark Andrews and rookie wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
"TE Mark Andrews is a pass-game mismatch who has averaged 14.0 yards per reception in his two years in the league, while WR Marquise Brown was a crucial field-stretching weapon for the Ravens' play-action heavy attack," Palazzolo wrote. "And therein lies the other piece of the puzzle that circles back to Roman, as Jackson used play action on a league-high 34.8% of his dropbacks last season.
"The Ravens have done an excellent job at using every edge in order to put Jackson and the entire team in position to succeed."
With a deep wide receiver class in this year's draft, look for the Ravens to put Jackson in even better position to succeed in 2020.
Ravens Trade Up for Patrick Queen in Mock Draft
Speaking of the draft, NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter revealed his "post-free agency frenzy," four-round mock draft.
He projected the Ravens to trade up from No. 28 to select LSU linebacker Patrick Queen at No. 20, where the Jacksonville Jaguars are slated to pick. Reuter has Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray -- who, like Queen, has frequently been linked to the Ravens in mock drafts -- being selected by the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 19.
"Last year, the Steelers moved up to get their man in the middle (Devin Bush)," Reuter wrote. "This year, their rival moves up to get Queen before the Patriots can draft him, giving Jacksonville a third-round compensatory pick and their fourth-round selection."
In the second round, Reuter has the Ravens selecting Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche at No. 55 and Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool at No. 60.
Pro Football Network's Neal Driscoll identified Uche as one of the prospects who isn't getting enough attention.
"Uche's best trait is his burst. He consistently beats blockers with good snap anticipation, a lethal first step, and his tremendous explosiveness off the edge," Driscoll wrote. "In addition to his jaw-dropping burst, Uche possesses great length, an impressive motor, ability to bend, and imposing functional strength. ... His football intelligence is an underrated quality, which is highlighted by his ability to consistently time blitzes."
Claypool, at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, would provide another big target for Jackson down the middle of the field. Bleacher Report's Chris Roling believes Baltimore is an ideal landing spot for Claypool, who put up eye-popping numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"These numbers alone won't throw Claypool above every name in a wildly deep wideout class," Roling wrote. "But teams looking for a big-bodied value get in the late first or second round won't come away complaining."
Reuter mocked Michigan guard Ben Bredeson to the Ravens in the third round at No. 92 and Temple cornerback Harrison Hand in the fourth at No. 129.