Patrick Queen Is a Top Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidate
Eleven defensive players, including four linebackers, were selected in this year's draft before the Ravens took Patrick Queen with the 28th-overall pick, but NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein ranked the former LSU inside linebacker at No. 2 on his list of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates.
Only edge rusher Chase Young, who was selected second overall by the Washington Redskins, placed higher than Queen.
"While just two DROY winners over the last 10 seasons were off-ball linebackers, both players (Darius Leonard and Luke Kuechly) played fast and offered coverage versatility on third downs," Zierlein wrote. "Queen is not only fast in a straight line, but his scrape explosiveness is extremely impressive and he can cover both tight ends and running backs down the field. He plays with an alpha mentality and should stack plenty of tackles for a proven defense in Year 1."
Zierlein is not alone in his belief that Queen is one of the favorites to win the award. When Pro Football Focus listed its top candidates a couple months ago, Queen was No. 3 (behind Young and Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the eighth-overall pick).
Further underscoring the high expectations for Queen, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec placed the rookie at No. 10 on his ranking of the 25 most important players to the Ravens' potential success this season.
"Queen, who wasn't even a Week 1 starter for LSU last year, has the pieces around him to succeed and he just has to do his part," Zrebiec wrote. "That means getting sideline-to-sideline, holding his own in coverage and being stout against the running game."
ESPN Analyst Says He'd Take Lamar Jackson If He Was Starting a Franchise
As noted in yesterday's Late for Work, reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson did not make the top five in ESPN's quarterback rankings. However, ESPN's Rob Ninkovich said if he was starting an NFL franchise, he would take Jackson over anyone, including Patrick Mahomes, who was No. 1 in the rankings.
"I'm not going with Pat Mahomes," Ninkovich said on "Get Up!" when Mike Greenberg asked if anyone would not say the Kansas City Chiefs star is the best young quarterback to start a franchise with. "I'm going with my guy Lamar. Listen to this now: [At] 22 years old last year, [he] led the NFL in touchdown passes and led the NFL in yards per carry as a quarterback."
The consensus is Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, but Ninkovich believes Jackson has a higher ceiling than the Super Bowl MVP.
"I think Lamar's upside is absolutely huge," Ninkovich said. "He's going to continue to grow in the NFL. He's going to learn. He's going to understand when to avoid all those big hits that he took last year. We learned [two] things last year: No. 1, he's a big playmaker; No. 2, he's durable."
The debate over whether Jackson or Mahomes will end up having the greater career is likely to rage on for years to come.
On a side note, Fox Sports 1's Marcellus Wiley said it was "crazy" that Jackson was No. 6 in ESPN's quarterback rankings. He placed Jackson at No. 3, behind Mahomes and Seattle's Russell Wilson.
"There was no one better in terms of quarterback performance," Wiley said of Jackson's 2019 season on "Speak For Yourself." "Even Patrick Mahomes last year didn't have a better year at the quarterback position."
Wiley said preconceived notions about Jackson's ability as a passer remain despite clear evidence to the contrary.
"Since college, people have been skeptical of, 'Could he throw?' He's just gotten better every year since his freshman year in college," Wiley said. "They look at Lamar Jackson and they start to say, 'You know what? That stigma must be real.' It's not real. It's deceptive. And it's making people look at him with a hypercritical eye."
Ravens Are the Most Complete Team in the NFL
The Ravens were undeniably the best team in the regular season last year. And despite suffering a stunning loss in the playoffs, they head into this season as the most complete team in the NFL.
That's the opinion of NFL.com's Adam Schein, who ranked the nine most complete teams.
"General Manager Eric DeCosta has assembled the best roster in the NFL, bar none," Schein wrote. "Last season, the Ravens led the league in scoring and finished third in scoring defense. Both units are positioned to dominate once again in 2020.
"No NFL team is perfect, but DeCosta's fine work – in free agency and the draft – has produced a roster with the fewest blemishes in the league today."
On offense, obviously it all starts with Jackson, who Schein said is "only going to get better," but he also praised the Ravens' "talented, young supporting cast he can continue to grow alongside."
"Second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, with his talent, toughness, work ethic and pedigree, was put on Earth to run the football for the Ravens," Schein wrote. "With Dobbins joining a backfield that already featured Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, Baltimore has every possible skill set you could want from the running back position.
"Meanwhile, second-year wideout Hollywood Brown can fly, making him a big-play threat on every snap. And tight end Mark Andrews is fresh off a breakout season that ended in the Pro Bowl, thanks to 852 yards and 10 touchdowns."
Schein acknowledged the Ravens took a big hit on the offensive line with the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, but said the unit still has "one of the NFL's top tackle tandems" in Pro Bowl selections Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.
Schein said the Ravens are also stacked on defense, which is led by "one of the league's most talented secondaries."
"On the second level, the Ravens snagged first-round pick Patrick Queen, whose athletic game is perfect for the modern NFL," Schein wrote. "And up front, DeCosta traded for Calais Campbell and added Derek Wolfe in free agency, giving the D-line a pair of experienced, versatile veterans with great leadership skills. Did I mention that Campbell's been a Pro Bowler in five of the past six seasons?"
One thing Schein failed to mention is that the Ravens also have the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker.
Incidentally, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs were No. 3 on Schein's list, one spot behind the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. The only other AFC North team in the rankings was the Cleveland Browns, at No. 6.
Ronnie Stanley Is the One Player Ravens Must Not Lose Next Offseason
At No. 2 on Zrebiec's list of the 25 most important players to success was Stanley, the protector of Jackson's blind side. Looking ahead to next year's offseason, Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox said the left tackle, who is entering the final year of his contract, is the one player the Ravens must not lose.
"Under no circumstances should a team allow its franchise left tackle to depart in free agency. The Baltimore Ravens are no exception when it comes to Ronnie Stanley," Knox wrote. " … If Baltimore allows Stanley to leave next offseason, it will be doing itself — and quarterback Lamar Jackson — a major disservice."
The Ravens have made it clear they want to keep Stanley in the fold for years to come. It will come at a hefty price, as the market for left tackles was set this offseason when the Houston Texans signed Laremy Tunsil to a reported three-year extension worth $66 million.
During a video call with reporters in May, Stanley said he's "comfortable" with how talks about a new deal had progressed.
"When the time comes, it will come," he said.
- The Ravens' tight ends and fullbacks were previewed by Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz.