Mailbag: Sizing Up the Depth Chart With Potential Rookie Starters

WR Miles Boykin, LB Patrick Queen and WR Devin Duvernay

Now that the rookies are here, everybody wants to know how fast they'll get on the field and where they slot in on the depth chart.

Here's this week's Mailbag. Don't forget to submit your questions to each week to #RavensMailbag.

Mink: I don't think it matters all that much because I expect the Ravens will rotate their receivers (outside of Hollywood) a great deal. With that said, I think it would be Miles Boykin. He makes the most sense as the other "outside" wide receiver in a two-WR set because he's a big-bodied, fast, boundary receiver.

Boykin didn't have a huge impact as a third-round rookie last year (13 catches, 198 yards, three touchdowns), but he still made 11 starts and the Ravens have confidence that he can take a Year 2 leap. Boykin has all the tools and flashed them at times last year. An offseason getting more comfortable with the offensive scheme will help, though a COVID-impacted offseason hurts for a player that needs more reps to take the next leap. I'm glad the Ravens have Snead, who also started 11 games last year, because you know exactly what you're getting from him on Week 1.

As far as Duvernay and Proche, Duvernay has a good chance to see some significant snaps as a rookie, particularly as a slot receiver. The Ravens receiver corps needed more speed on the field and Duvernay brings it, along with reliable hands and toughness that will endear him to coaches. Barring injuries, there's too much depth for Proche to have a big impact on offense as a rookie, but he can carve out a role as a returner.

Downing: Jaylon Ferguson has the edge for that starting spot right now. Last year's third-round pick played well down the stretch and finished his rookie season with 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He can set the edge and get after the quarterback, and he should be ready to make an even larger impact in his second season. Even if Ferguson wins the starting job, Tyus Bowser and recently re-signed veteran Pernell McPhee will still see plenty of action. Bowser had a career-high five sacks last season and now he's looking to ramp up that production even more in a contract year. McPhee had three sacks in seven games last year, and he can also do the dirty work against the run.

Mink: Yes, I think we could see a pair of rookies starting at inside linebacker this season. Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison are the most talented of the bunch. Whether they do it Week 1 will be determined by whether they can get up to speed quick enough with less offseason practice time than usual because of COVID-19. The fact that they both come from big-time programs (LSU and Ohio State) should help them make a quicker transition. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, I think they both start Week 1. L.J. Fort would be the other top candidate. He started eight games for the Ravens last year and is certainly capable.

As far as Chris Board and Otaro Alaka, I think either could beat out Jake Ryan for a fourth inside linebacker roster spot. Ryan was a good veteran insurance policy addition, but he's no lock. Board looked to be headed toward a starting job last year before a preseason concussion and is still a good special teams contributor. Alaka has promise as well too.

Downing: Additional signings are always possible, but the Ravens don't have many holes left on the roster. They addressed the offensive line in the draft and through the reported addition of veteran D.J. Fluker. They added a pair of receivers in the draft. Quarterback is certainly set and the running back room is already quite crowded. If a quality tight end gets released, that is the position I could see the Ravens address. They traded Hayden Hurst this offseason and didn't draft anyone to replace him, so I wouldn't rule out signing a tight end before training camp.

Mink: There are some good candidates here. I already talked about Boykin, but I don't think any wide receiver outside of Hollywood will put up huge stats in this offense. So I'm going to point to Ferguson. As Garrett said earlier, he has the edge to be the starter with McPhee coming in relief to manage the veteran's snaps. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale raved about how Ferguson was improving every week, and those nine starts as a rookie were invaluable for his learning curve. He notched 2.5 sacks last year, but it's only a matter of time before "Sack Daddy" – the all-time NCAA career sack leader – comes up with a lot more. I expect he'll start nearly every game in 2020 and rack up about seven sacks.

Downing: I'll take the low-hanging fruit here and go with the first-round pick. Patrick Queen has the makeup of a star linebacker, and he's going to be a perfect fit in this defense. Fans will love the way he flies to football and makes plays all over the field. When we look back on this draft in a couple years, I think a lot of people will say, "How did Queen fall to the Ravens at No. 28?"

I also think running back J.K. Dobbins will be a huge hit. General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear that Dobbins was the highest-graded player on the board, by far, when the Ravens took him at No. 55. The Ravens thought he might come off the board in the first round. With the Ravens' run-heavy offense, it wouldn't surprise me to see Dobbins make the Pro Bowl within his first two seasons.

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