With 11 picks from the 2016 NFL draft class, the Baltimore Ravens will surely have their fare share of year-one “redshirts” and bottom dwellers of the roster from the rookie class.
From a sheer numbers game perspective, it is bound to happen.
But on the flip side, even if three or four players struggle to make a name for themselves in 2016, having as few as five of this year’s rookies make an early impact would be a major step forward.
Some players – like sixth overall pick Ronnie Stanley – would be considered nothing but a failure if they fail to crack the starting lineup from the get-go. Others – such as Keenan Reynolds – are expected to develop at a slower rate, especially given Reynolds’ position change.
As a whole, this is quite the intriguing rookie class. But which of the rookies will make the biggest impact this season?
Let’s rank the Ravens rookies based on projected year-one impact.
1. Ronnie Stanley – No surprise here. As it stands right now, Stanley would have to battle it out with Eugene Monroe for the starting left tackle job. But it would not be a surprise to see Monroe cut before training camp, and for the Ravens to hand Stanley the job. Even if Monroe is around for 2016, there is just no logical scenario in which a left tackle picked sixth overall does not start week one. From there, Stanley’s pass protection will net the Ravens a decent early return on investment.
2. Bronson Kaufusi – From a competition perspective, Kaufusi has very little. The most established defensive end on the roster is Lawrence Guy, so seeing Kaufusi frequently rotate in all season would be no surprise, particularly given his diverse skill set.
3. Kenneth Dixon – Long story short, Dixon is about as good of a fourth-round pick as you can find. He should provide an impact as both a violent runner and pass catcher, but the projected reps-sharing with Justin Forsett and Buck Allen prevents him from being any higher on the list.
4. Kamalei Correa – His long-term outlook is promising; it is just hard to envision too lofty of a year-one output. Can he supersede Za’Darius Smith as the #3 outside linebacker? Can he play inside linebacker (which he did some of in college) in the NFL? It is hard to tell, and quite frankly Correa could be the hardest of the rookies to project for the 2016 season. But as a second-round pick, he should be hitting the field in some fashion.
5. Tavon Young – Prior to the signing of Jerraud Powers, Young felt like a lock for the starting nickel role. That may have now changed, but Young should still be hitting the field early and often in 2016 nonetheless. Having one nickel corner is not enough, and luckily the Ravens should have two this year.
6. Willie Henry – He fits right in with the Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan mold of diverse interior defensive lineman. Henry could find himself in a role similar to what each of the two aforementioned Ravens took on during their respective rookie seasons, which should keep the front three fresh.
7. Chris Moore – With premier downfield ability due to speed and ball skills, Moore seems like the perfect match for Joe Flacco. But he enters a team with two more highly regarded downfield threats in Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace, so from a numbers perspective Moore figures to just work in rotationally as a fifth receiver this season.
8. Alex Lewis – In a best case scenario, Lewis becomes the “new James Hurst.” If he can outplay Hurst in training camp – which is, well, a pretty achievable goal for any lineman in the NFL – Lewis has a chance to become the team’s first backup at both left and right tackle, which would be a good start for a fourth-round pick.
9. Keenan Reynolds – We all love Reynolds for what he does on and off the field, but a college quarterback transitioning to receiver/return man is not an overnight process. Sure, he could crack the special teams lineup, but does anyone really expect him to be posting any receptions this season?
10. Matt Judon – Barring an injury to a starter, it is hard to see Judon breaking into the pass-rushing rotation early in 2016. Especially if Correa offers edge-rushing help, Judon will fall victim simply to a numbers game, and may need to wait for a Suggs or Dumervil-less defense in Baltimore before he makes his mark.
11. Maurice Canady – There is a reason why Canady was Baltimore’s final draft pick: other than his size, what does he have going for him? He was an inconsistent coverage corner in college, but has the ideal frame that could translate to success down the road. His best bet may be getting snuck onto the practice squad for year one.