Patrick Queen, Zack Baun, A.J. Epenesa Among Riskiest Prospects
LSU linebacker Patrick Queen and two other players often mocked to the Ravens – Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun and Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa – landed on NFL.com's Mike Band's list of six high-risk top prospects.
The list was composed of players who had an overall draft score of 75 or lower in the Next Gen Stats NFL Draft Model. Queen was No. 6 on the list with a score of 71, while Baun (69) was fifth, and Epenesa (68) was fourth.
"Stuck in a reserve role behind last year's fifth overall pick, Devin White, Queen started just 16 of his 41 career games over three seasons at LSU," Band wrote. "Finally assuming a full-time role last season, Queen did not make his debut with the starting unit until the team's third game of the season. His limited production over the course of his career earned him a production score of 60, lower than every linebacker selected in the first round over the last 12 years, and significantly lower than his former teammate, White (99)."
On Baun, Band wrote: "As a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none type of prospect, Baun lacks any one fatal flaw, though his chances of being an elite NFL player may not match his perceived value as a potential first-round pick. Baun finished the 2019 season with a career-high 12.5 sacks after accumulating just 2.5 sacks across 25 games entering his redshirt senior year. His lack of consistent production over the course of his career earned Baun a 63 production score, below average relative to historical linebackers."
On Epenesa, Band wrote: "The 2019 second-team All-American logged 10-plus sacks in back-to-back seasons (10.5 in 2018, 11.5 in '19), including a sophomore season where he led the Big Ten in sacks despite not starting a single game. Epenesa's production score of 71 is not so much the concern – it's his athleticism score of 58 that leads to questions about his profile. At 6-5 and 275 pounds with 34 1/2-inch arms, Epenesa has the ideal frame for the position, but his lack of speed (5.04 40), quickness (4.46 short shuttle, 7.34 3-cone), explosiveness (9-foot-9 broad jump, 32 1/2-inch vertical leap) and strength (17 bench reps) all raise red flags for a potential early pick. If Epenesa is taken in the first round next week, he will be the first primary edge rusher dating back to 2003 to be selected in Round 1 despite running a 40-yard dash slower than 5.0 seconds."
Two other players who have been mocked to the Ravens in various drafts also made the list: TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock (59 overall draft score) and LSU outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (65).
Yet Another LSU Player Is Linked to Ravens in Draft
The Ravens have never drafted a player from LSU, but there is no shortage of Tigers being linked to Baltimore in mock drafts this year.
Queen is a popular selection for the Ravens in the first round (ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has Queen going to the Ravens in all four of his mock drafts, as we noted in yesterday's Late for Work), and Tigers cornerback Kristian Fulton, Chaisson and wide receiver Justin Jefferson also have been mocked to Baltimore at No. 28.
Now you can add LSU offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry to the list. The Athletic's Andy Staples, a college football writer, says Cushenberry is the perfect fit for the Ravens.
Cushenberry was the Tigers' starting center the past two seasons, but the 6-foot-3, 312-pounder also has experience at guard and could fill the huge void left by the retirement of Marshal Yanda.
"LSU's Lloyd Cushenberry doesn't show up as a first-rounder in many mock drafts — he's usually predicted to go early in the second — but he feels like someone the Ravens would value," Staples wrote. " … Cushenberry had to deal with monsters at Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Florida while playing at LSU; he'll be able to handle the nastiest dudes the NFL can throw at him. And 10 years from now, we might be talking about him the way they talk about Yanda now."
With Cushenberry leading the way, the offensive line for the national champion Tigers won the Joe Moore Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive line in college football.
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, LSU's coaching staff awarded Cushenberry a No. 18 patch, which goes to the most respected leader on each side of the ball.
"That says a lot about Cushenberry, considering he played on the same unit as [Joe] Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Justin Jefferson," Staples wrote.
Ravens Wire's Neil Dutton also views Cushenberry as someone the Ravens could target in the draft as a replacement for Yanda, but perhaps not in the first round. The Ravens own two second-rounds picks (Nos. 55 and 60). The Athletic's Dane Brugler has Cushenberry projected to the Chicago Bears in the second round at pick No. 43.
"Many believe that Cushenberry might be better suited to playing at guard with the flexibility to slide back to center if needed. That flexibility is something Baltimore has typically loved from their offensive linemen and could make Cushenberry a little more attractive to the Ravens," Dutton wrote.
"While Cushenberry could work his way into the first round, not being a ready-made guard would make teams like the Ravens think long and hard about taking him that early. But if he sticks into the second round, Cushenberry could be a great option for Baltimore."
Ravens Not in PFF Analyst's Top 5 Rankings
The Ravens are typically No. 2 or No. 3 in this offseason's power rankings, trailing only the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and, on some lists, the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
One analyst, however, doesn't even have Baltimore in his top five.
Here's Pro Football Focus' Solomon Wilcots' rankings of the five best teams in the league: 1. Chiefs; 2. 49ers; 3. New Orleans Saints; 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 5. Pittsburgh Steelers.
"A healthy Ben Roethlisberger, with a defense that really did turn the corner last year in Pittsburgh in terms of pressure and coverage, I think Pittsburgh comes back into the conversation when you talk about the AFC that's now void of Tom Brady," Wilcots said.
Wilcots' colleague, George Chahrouri, pretty much summed up my reaction to Wilcot's list when he said: "Wow. The Steelers. That's high." Wilcots didn't explain why the Ravens were omitted from his rankings.
The oddsmakers have a much different view of the Ravens than Wilcots. Baltimore is the early favorite in every regular-season game in 2020, according to BetOnline, per Sports Illustrated. The Ravens are two-point favorites against the Chiefs at home.
2016 Redraft: Ravens Stick With Ronnie Stanley, But Matthew Judon Is Long Gone
In NFL.com's 2016 NFL draft do-over, the Ravens still selected Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 overall, but Matthew Judon did not join him in Baltimore.
In real life, Judon was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round with the 146th-overall pick, but the outside linebacker was drafted by the Denver Broncos at No. 26 in the do-over.
"Judon is a great value pick here," Jeffri Chadiha wrote. "The Broncos were one year away from losing DeMarcus Ware to retirement, and Shane Ray, a 2015 first-round pick, wouldn't pan out. Pair Judon – who made his first Pro Bowl after totaling 9.5 sacks in 2019 – with Von Miller, and there would be plenty of opposing quarterbacks losing sleep."
Stanley has developed into one of the best offensive tackles in the league, so it's not surprising he remained the Ravens' pick in the re-draft.
"Stanley has been everything the Ravens could've hoped for when they selected him," Chadiha wrote. "He made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2019, earned first-team All-Pro honors and impressed so much that Pro Football Focus called him 'the best pass-blocking tackle in the NFL.' Lamar Jackson will be a happy man for as long as Stanley literally has his back."
Chase Young Sets Sights on Lamar Jackson
Stanley will have added incentive to have Jackson's back if the Ravens play the team that drafts Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. Young, who is considered the top prospect in the draft by a number of analysts, said Jackson is the quarterback he is most looking forward to sacking this coming season.
Young clearly meant it as a compliment to the 2019 NFL MVP.
"He's real fast, real shifty, hard to get down, elite. … [In] my opinion, [he] was the best player in the league this past season," Young said on ESPN's "Get Up." "At quarterback, he's the one doing it right now in the league."
When asked by ESPN's Mike Greenberg if Young liked his chances of getting Jackson down in open space, Young replied: "Yeah, I have 100 percent confidence."
Most mock drafts have the Washington Redskins selecting Young with the second overall pick. The Ravens will play at Washington in 2020.
- NFL Network's Deion Sanders said the Ravens' acquisition of Calais Campbell via trade is the offseason move that isn't getting enough attention.
- Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick discussed what Jackson must do to improve in 2020.
- Ravens Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, former Raven Shannon Sharpe and former Baltimore Colt John Mackey made CBS Sports' Top 10 tight ends of all-time list.