10 Questions: Which Rookies Will Have Big Roles This Season?

(From left to right) C Tyler Linderbaum & S Kyle Hamilton

We've hit the slow time of the NFL calendar, the time when there's a whole lot more debate than news.

Thus, over the rest of this week, we will debate some of the most pressing issues facing the Ravens as they enter the 2022 season.

Which rookies will have big roles this season?

Expect most of the Ravens' 2022 draft class to play on Sundays, and the top two picks should make a huge impact.

Tyler Linderbaum is the presumed new starting center, while talented safety Kyle Hamilton will be an immediate playmaker in the secondary.

Hamilton was regarded as the best safety in the draft, and most scouts predicted he'd be off the board by the time the Ravens picked at No. 14. Hamilton is an unusual talent – a 6-foot-4 safety with excellent ball skills who covers ground and hits like a linebacker. The Ravens want to create more turnovers and improve their pass defense that ranked last in the NFL last season, and Hamilton checks both boxes.

"He's extremely instinctive, has 'go-go gadget' arms, he's 6-foot-4, agile," Pass Game Coordinator/Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt said. "He's the total package."

Linderbaum was regarded as the draft's top center, but he was also the smallest center (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) which didn't deter the Ravens from drafting him. A superb high school wrestler, Linderbaum knows how to use angles, strength and quickness to set up his blocks, and he looks ready to handle whatever the coaching staff wants from him.

"He's doing a really good job; you can see it every day," Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. "Some guys – you can just see it every day – they just take another step forward, and he's one of those guys thus far. So, it's a credit to him, and he needs to keep it going."

Third-round pick Travis Jones is expected to play his way into the defensive line rotation immediately, replacing some of the reps vacated by the departed Brandon Williams (free agent) and Justin Ellis (Giants).

Fourth-round corners Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion "Pepe" Williams are in the mix for reps behind starters Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Williams will compete with veteran Kyle Fuller and others to become the primary slot corner to replace Tavon Young (Lions).

Drafting Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely in the fourth round indicates the Ravens want to enhance their use of multiple tight end sets, something Roman is known for. Kolar was a consistent pass catcher during rookie minicamp and Likely sparkled at mandatory minicamp, showing his potential to be an immediate weapon.

"Charlie's a really big target. Really good catch radius. Good all-around player," Roman said. "Isaiah has a little knack. He can do a lot of things unscripted as a receiver, and I think that he'll continue to develop in the other phases of the offense. They're definitely chess pieces and we'll see how it all fits together. [It] could be pretty interesting."

Jordan Stout, the first punter selected in the draft, will take over for recently retired Sam Koch,[comma] who is now a special teams consultant.

Sixth-round pick Tyler Badie is already showing his versatility as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. He has a chance to factor into the running back rotation, especially if J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards have not recovered from knee injuries in time to be activated for Week 1. If Badie's part of the mix, the Ravens could easily have at least nine rookies in unform for the season-opener against the Jets.

The two rookies facing the biggest challenge to make an immediate impact are second-round outside linebacker David Ojabo and fourth-round offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. Ojabo tore his Achilles at his Pro Day on March 19 and won't be ready at the start of the season. The Ravens think Ojabo will play at some point this season but his timetable is uncertain.

Faalele is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds, the heaviest player in the modern history of the NFL Combine. That's a lot lighter than 426 pounds, which was Faalele's weight when he enrolled at Minnesota. However, Faalele labored during some practices at mandatory minicamp and needs to show his conditioning has improved during training camp.

"Daniel has looked good," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a young kid, he's a big man. I saw some of the stuff about you guys talking about [him] getting in shape, and yes, he's working his way into kind of NFL-type-conditioning as a tackle."

Harbaugh will find out even more about the rookie class during training camp, when the pads come on during days that can be long and grueling. But he is impressed with the rookie class' potential.

"They seem comfortable," Harbaugh said. "You saw Isaiah Likely out there making catches. I feel like those guys, they're kind of acclimated to this. Now, the next step will be training camp; that will be a shock for them. Then, they'll have to get acclimated to that, and then they'll be preseason games, and that will be a shock for them, and then the regular season. That's kind of that process."

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