Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison could be playing side by side for a long time.
It would be premature to anoint the rookie inside linebackers as starters for next season. But both players are expected to make an immediate impact after the Ravens drafted Queen in Round 1, followed by Harrison in Round 3.
The Ravens have added two athletic linebackers at a position where they lacked depth. Their playing styles mesh, with Queen's speed complimenting Harrison's physicality.
The thought of joining Queen in the middle of Baltimore's defense has Harrison pumped.
"Patrick Queen is a great linebacker. Me and him together is probably the most dynamic duo in the linebacker corps," Harrison said. "You get the best of both worlds with both me and Patrick. He's the lighter one, and I'm the heavy linebacker. So, it's like a one-two punch."
The transition from college to the NFL should never be taken for granted, but there are reasons to believe Queen and Harrison will adjust quickly. Both come from elite programs – Queen from LSU and Harrison from Ohio State. Harrison was a team captain, while Queen was making the defensive calls for LSU when the Tigers made their run to the national championship.
The versatility shown by Queen and Harrison in college makes the Ravens believe both rookies will fit seamlessly into Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's scheme.
"It just gives us more flexibility," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We can move those guys around. Both of those guys have played on the edge of the defense. Both of those guys have rushed inside quite a bit. You can kind of stereotype them a little bit: You have a big thumper and you have a sideline-to-sideline speed guy. But really, they've both done both, and I'm sure that we can do whatever we want."
Increasing the Ravens' team speed was a draft priority for General Manager Eric DeCosta, and both Queen and Harrison address that objective. Queen was one of the fastest linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash. But it was Queen's play on the field that made Harbaugh a believer.
"All you really had to do is watch the tape," Harbaugh said. "He jumped off the tape. He's flying around making plays. Because LSU has some pretty good players, year-in and year-out, it's not easy to go in there and start and he worked his way into the lineup. He's still very young, but he played great football. He's flying around in the biggest games, against the best teams, making play after play. That's what I saw, and really, that's what mattered to me."
The Ravens have proven acumen for drafting linebackers in the first round, which bodes well for Queen's success.
Harrison (4.66) isn't as swift as Queen, but at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, Harrison was an excellent run defender at Ohio State with the strength to shed blocks and enough quickness to run down ballcarriers. He led Ohio State in tackles as a junior (81) and senior (75) and finished his career with 205 total tackles.
A former high school quarterback, Harrison moves extremely well for a player his size, and while pass coverage was not his forte at Ohio State, he believes that aspect of his game can become a strength.
"I really haven't shown my coverage ability but it's there," Harrison said. "I wasn't really asked to do that at Ohio State. I know I have some improvement to do with it, but it's there. Once I get the proper technique and more reps, then I'm going to be great at it."
Returning inside linebackers L.J. Fort and Chris Board will push Queen and Harrison, and the competition for playing time will be intense. But adding the rookie duo injects the Ravens' inside linebacker corps with a major dose of talent and potential.
"It's just exciting," Harbaugh said. "I don't feel like we'll be limited at all where we're just forced into doing certain things. It'll all be by choice. Wink is very creative. (Linebackers Coach) Mike Macdonald is going to do a great job with these two young linebackers. He's a great young coach, and I know he's going to have these guys ready to go."