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Late for Work: Ravens' Under-25 Talent Earns Elite Ranking

C Tyler Linderbaum
C Tyler Linderbaum

Ravens' Under-25 Talent Earns Elite Ranking

One of the reasons the Ravens are perennial contenders is that they draft well and do a good job of developing their young talent.

Baltimore's skills in those areas were reflected in ESPN's rankings of every team's under-25 talent. The Ravens came in at No. 3.

Three Ravens were identified as blue-chip players: safety Kyle Hamilton, wide receiver Zay Flowers, and center Tyler Linderbaum.

"First-team All-Pro Hamilton leads the Ravens' young talent as one of the most valuable defensive players in the NFL," Aaron Schatz wrote. "He ranked first in success rate and fifth in coverage DVOA among safeties last season and is just 23 years old. Linderbaum made his first Pro Bowl last season after his second NFL season. He posted the fifth-best pass block win rate (96.4%) and is 24. The Ravens' receiving corp is also youthful. Flowers, who led the team with 858 receiving yards, is 23; Rashod Bateman, who had 367 yards, is 24 years old."

Schatz noted that the Ravens have other under-25 players who have the talent to be key contributors.

"Rookies Nate Wiggins (cornerback, Round 1) and Roger Rosengarten (right tackle, Round 2) will be starters," Schatz wrote. "Tight end Isaiah Likely has started off strong with 784 receiving yards in his first two seasons and is 24. The Ravens will get even more value from young talent if certain young players can step into major roles this season.

"Coach John Harbaugh is high on 24-year-old edge rusher David Ojabo, who is finally healthy after battling ankle and knee injuries last season. Trenton Simpson will move into the starting lineup at linebacker next to Roquan Smith and is 23. And running back Keaton Mitchell had one of the best run DVOA ratings ever in limited time last season. He's 22 and should return from a torn ACL at midseason."

On a related note, Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon named every team's most promising building block. Only players who are on their rookie contract and have yet to earn a Pro Bowl or All-Pro selection were considered.

Flowers got the nod for the Ravens.

"In very unsurprising news, the Ravens have crushed some draft picks lately with Pro Bowl safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum. The next in line is likely Zay Flowers, who paced Baltimore in receptions (77) and yards (858) with a handful of scores as a rookie," Kenyon wrote. "Although the team needs to upgrade the receiving unit for Lamar Jackson, Flowers is clearly a positive part of the solution."

Nick Wright Says Ravens Are 'Way Overrated'

The Ravens have the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl (behind the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers), but not everyone believes Baltimore is worthy of such a lofty position.

Fox Sports’ Nick Wright said the Ravens are "way overrated."

"I think just in the AFC — obviously take Kansas City out of it, they are ahead of them — Cincinnati and Houston have a better chance of making the Super Bowl," Wright said on FS1's "First Things First." "As far as an easier path, you could make the case for Buffalo. … I think that the Ravens, for me, would be like fifth or sixth in the AFC. This is to win the Super Bowl; this isn't to have the best regular season. This is, 'Do we think this team can win three or four consecutive playoff games?' I have a really hard time buying that they can."

CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan also believes the Ravens will fail to meet expectations.

"A year ago, I had Baltimore as my pick to come out of the AFC and reach the Super Bowl. I'm singing a different tune now," Sullivan wrote. "Currently, they own the second-best odds to win the AFC only trailing the Chiefs, and I feel like that may be a bit too rich. Their division should be more competitive with Cincinnati getting Joe Burrow back, and if that's the bar we're holding them to (winning the AFC North), I can see a scenario where they come up short.

"The road is also pretty rough for them this year as they own the fourth-toughest strength of schedule based on their opponents' projected win total. Also, don't underrate the departure of Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald and linebacker Patrick Queen this offseason either."

Wright's colleague, Chris Broussard, was much more optimistic about the Ravens' chances this season. He said Baltimore's Super Bowl odds are exactly where they should be.

"I think the Ravens are the second-best team in the AFC," Broussard said. "... I like what the Ravens have done this offseason. I know they lost some defensive players and the coordinator, but their culture, their identity is great defense, so I think they're going to be fine there.

"And then with Derrick Henry, they are going to have the best running game by far in the NFL. I think [Jackson is] going to have an even better command of offense this year than he did last year, having been in it another season. So, I think Lamar's going to have another good year, and I think they're going to have a great year with the run game."

Guess Who Pundit Picked to Be Ravens' 2024 MVP’s Eric Edholm predicted each team's MVP for the coming season. He did not go out on a limb with his Ravens' selection, as he went with Jackson.

"I'm not going to get cute here and project RB Derrick Henry, WR Zay Flowers or any member of the Ravens' fine defensive or special teams units, commendable as they might be," Edholm wrote. "Jackson plays the game's most important position and was the league's deserved MVP last season, capturing his second such award in a five-year span. Aside from the debate over Lamar's reduced production in the playoffs, there's absolutely no reason to even toy with any other option in Baltimore."

To Edholm's point, a more compelling question is which non-quarterback could be the Ravens' MVP. He mentioned Henry and Flowers, but there's also Hamilton, Smith, tight end Mark Andrews, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, and kicker Justin Tucker.

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