How Will Ravens' Strong 2018 Draft Class Fare in 2019?
One of the biggest storylines of last season was the many instant contributions of the Ravens' rookie draft class. But how will they fare in Year 2? It will go a long way in determining whether Baltimore will repeat as division champs.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz reviewed the Ravens' 2018 draft class and assessed what can be expected of those players in their second season.
Any discussion of the Ravens' class of 2018 has to begin with quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was selected in the first round with the 32nd-[add]overall pick. After going 6-1 as a starter and leading the Ravens to the AFC North title, obviously big things are expected from Jackson in Year 2.
"This offseason, Baltimore's built an offseason around Jackson," Kasinitz wrote. "So if he can make strides as passer, he'll have a chance to solidify his place as the long-term face of the franchise. If he doesn't, the Ravens might need to recalibrate their approach."
ESPN's Dan Graziano ranked all 32 teams' commitment to their starting quarterback and put Jackson at No. 24 – one spot behind Philadelphia's Carson Wentz and one spot ahead of Carolina's Cam Newton. Jackson is entering the second year of a four-year contract with a fifth-year option.
"Baltimore is all-in on Jackson, obviously building a speed-based, run-first offense around his unique skill set," Graziano wrote. "If it doesn't work, the dead-money penalties two offseasons from now aren't too severe, and his contract isn't even fully guaranteed. Of all the 2018 first-rounders except Josh Rosen, he's on the most contractually shaky ground."
The Ravens' other first-round pick last season, tight end Hayden Hurst – who was selected 25th overall – had a much different rookie year than Jackson. Hurst missed the first four games with a foot injury and finished the season with 13 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown.
"He'll have every chance to emerge as a significant contributor in 2019, and if he stays healthy, there's reason to believe he can reach his first-round potential," Kasinitz wrote. "But if Hurst struggles again, the Ravens have enough tight end depth to limit his playing time."
Orlando Brown Jr. (third round) and tight end Mark Andrews (third round) both made an impact as rookies, so expectations for them in 2019 are high.
'"[Brown Jr.] will begin 2019 as a linchpin on Baltimore's offensive line," Kasinitz wrote." Andrews led all of the NFL's rookie tight ends in receiving yards last season, displaying a particularly strong connection with Jackson. Moving forward, Andrews is positioned as an important part of the passing game."
Among the Ravens' other 2018 draft picks, inside linebacker Kenny Young (fourth round) could have the most upside, according to Kasinitz.
"Young made an immediate impact as a rookie, chipping in on both defense and special teams," Kasinitz wrote. "And he could take on heightened responsibilities this year after Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley left for the Jets in free agency. As the roster is currently constructed, Young's in line to morph from a rotational piece into a bona fide starter."
Wide receivers Jaleel Scott (fourth round) and Jordan Lasley (fifth round) will have a chance to emerge from a young, crowded pack. Bradley Bozeman (sixth round) could challenge Matt Skura for the starting center spot and defensive end Zach Sieler (seventh round) will have a bigger opportunity after the free-agency departure of Brent Urban.
Rookie Season Stat Projections for Marquise Brown
If you believe that Marquise Brown is a perfect fit for the Ravens, you're not alone.
The Ravens' first-round draft pick is included on a list of 15 rookies who landed with the perfect teams, as chosen by ESPN's Matt Bowen.
Playing in an offensive scheme that figures to maximize the wide receiver's ability, Brown is projected by ESPN's Mike Clay to record 45 receptions for 680 yards and three touchdowns in 2019.
"With Greg Roman taking over as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens needed receivers with explosive-play traits to facilitate more pass-game production for second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson," Bowen wrote. "That's Brown, a prospect I compared to DeSean Jackson and T.Y. Hilton throughout the draft process.
"Yes, the 5-foot-9, 166-pound Brown has the long speed to challenge defenses vertically. And we will see the Ravens dial up deep-ball opportunities for him, both from a slot alignment and outside of the numbers. But let's not forget about Brown's ability to run after the catch."
Joe Horn. Jr. Following in Father's Footsteps in More Than One Way
Joe Horn Jr. is not the first Joe Horn to wear the uniform of a Baltimore professional football team.
The undrafted rookie wide receiver out of Division II Missouri State was signed to the Ravens' 90-man roster yesterday after participating in the team's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
His father, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints who played 12 seasons in the NFL, actually started his pro career with the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League.
The elder Horn, who had not played football for two years after leaving Itawamba Community College in 1992, was working at a Bojangles restaurant when he got a tryout with the Stallions. He was signed to the practice squad.
There would be no end zone celebrations with cell phones for Horn as a Stallion. In fact, he never played a down for the team. However, Horn did play a game in Baltimore.
As a member of the CFL's Memphis Mad Dogs, he helped them upset the Stallions at Memorial Stadium in 1995. Horn finished that season with 71 catches for 1,415 yards and five touchdowns.
He gained the attention of NFL scouts and was able to enter the 1996 NFL Draft thanks to a technicality discovered by his agent that allowed him to get out of his two-year contract with the CFL. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Chiefs, went to New Orleans four years later, and the rest is history.
Could Horn Jr. -- who had just 15 catches for 246 yards and no touchdowns in 11 games for Missouri State last season -- also rise from obscurity to make it in the NFL?
Time will tell, but Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh did like what he saw from the younger Horn at his tryout.
"Joe Horn Jr. looked really good," Harbaugh said. "I guess the thing that struck me about him was he looked like Joe Horn. His son looks like him – quick, fast, really good hands, in and out of breaks. You can tell he's worked with his dad a lot on technique. I just thought he looked excellent."
Horn Jr. has one other connection with pro football in Baltimore. He and Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. were teammates at Peachtree High School in Suwanee, Ga.
Marlon Humphrey Among NFL's Top 25 Under 25
Speaking of Ravens players receiving recognition, 23-year-old cornerback Marlon Humphrey was named one of Pro Football Focus' top 25 players under 25.
"Humphrey will enter his third year in the NFL as arguably the most important player on the Ravens' defense, but his play over the last two seasons has proved that he's more than up to that daunting title," Pro Football Focus' Mark Chichester wrote.
"Humphrey has amassed 37 forced incompletions over the last two seasons — the seventh-most among cornerbacks in that timeframe — and his 65.7 passer rating allowed is the third-best mark among those with at least 500 coverage snaps."
- John and Jim Harbaugh were named one of the best sibling combinations in sports by ESPN.