Patrick Queen is the first LSU player drafted by the Ravens, yet he is part of a common theme in this year's class.
Queen hails from the SEC, one of the "Power Five" conferences that nearly made a clean sweep of Baltimore's draft this year. Nine of 10 players drafted by the Ravens were either from the Big Ten, the SEC or the Big 12. The exception was sixth-round wide receiver James Proche, who played for SMU in the American Athletic Conference.
Baltimore's preference for players from power conferences was more predictable this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of most pro days and all pre-draft visits to team facilities. There is no sure-fire way to predict which players will pan out, however picking players from top programs is usually a safer bet. Why not rely on players who performed in the top conferences, playing in many of college football's biggest games?
"I think one of the themes this year with us is, we took some guys from really awesome, successful programs – guys who played in huge games, playoff-type atmospheres in college," General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "Guys like [J.K.] Dobbins and Malik [Harrison], guys like Patrick [Queen]. [They] are going to be able to come in and, I think, really kind of get acclimated quickly. With Harrison specifically, he's a guy that really looks like an NFL linebacker."
The Ravens loved the way Queen rose to the occasion in LSU's two college football playoff victories that clinched the national title for the Tigers. He had eight tackles against both Oklahoma and Clemson and he had six tackles and a sack in the SEC championship game against Georgia.
Playing in the NFL is an even higher level of football, but Queen believes his SEC experience will better prepare him for it. Fourteen players from LSU were chosen in this year's draft, including five first-rounders. At least one LSU linebacker has been drafted for eight consecutive years. Last year it was Devin White, who went fifth overall and had a standout year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It's a like a standard at LSU that we try to hold up," Queen said. "Every day we come in, the first thing we say is LBU (linebacker university). It's just a respect thing, really that we're trying to keep up."
Queen, third-round offensive lineman Tyre Phillips (Mississippi State) and defensive tackle Justin Mudubuike (Texas A&M) were Baltimore's three SEC selections. The Ravens took four Big Ten players – Dobbins and Harrison from Ohio State, guard Ben Bredeson from Michigan and safety Geno Stone from Iowa. Two Ravens draft picks are from the Big 12 – wide receiver Devin Duvernay of Texas and defensive tackle Broderick Washington of Texas Tech.
In addition to coming from power conferences, some of the Ravens' draft picks benefitted from inside intel the Ravens had through their relationships. Bredeson was coached at Michigan by Jim Harbaugh, the brother of Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. Stone's head coach at Iowa was former Ravens Offensive Line Coach Kirk Ferentz, who is friends with several members of Baltimore's staff and front office. Madubuike was teammates at Texas A&M with Ravens defensive tackle Daylon Mack.
Had the draft board fallen differently, perhaps the Ravens would have chosen more players from smaller schools. But in this draft, going primarily with players from the most prominent conferences in college football felt right for the Ravens.
Rookie minicamp would have kicked off this past weekend under normal circumstances, but COVID-19 cancelled that and likely many more offseason practices that are essential for rookies. The Ravens will do their best under the circumstances, and Head Coach John Harbaugh was clear that the expectations are still high for this year's rookie class. DeCosta said COVID-19's impact on offseason activities was not the reason for picking players from power programs.
"I think we just want winners," DeCosta said. "We want guys that are mature, that are fully developed, in terms of preparation, work ethic, approach and discipline. [With] some of the big schools … they come in and their process is close to being the same, and the adjustment is not quite as severe as it could be. Whatever level of football, playing in big games matters. We like guys that could play in successful programs, and good competition is always something that we are going to look for, and that's really it."