Throughout the 2020 Ravens training camp (all two weeks of it) I’ve been working on a living document, as I track the players that I expect to make the 53-man roster. In doing so, I made quite the startling realization.
After just one year, the back end of the 2020 draft class for the Baltimore Ravens is not looking great.
It’s true! Beyond the trio of Hollywood Brown, Jaylon Ferguson, and Miles Boykin, the Ravens haven’t exactly gotten great production or a lasting impression from the remaining five draft picks. Here’s a quick look at where these players stand today:
RB Justice Hill – Round 4, Pick 113
Hill was never expected to start in 2019, but having more than five total touches in a game just three times (the blowout in Miami, the blowout in Los Angeles, and the Week 17 game against Pittsburgh when Mark Ingram was hurt) isn’t the progress we hoped for. Fast forward to 2020, and the Ravens have added Round 2 rookie RB J.K. Dobbins, who is already slated to leapfrog Hill, and possibly Gus Edwards. Expecting Hill to be anything more than RB4 at this juncture is farfetched, and quite honestly, with Hill injured, I’m not sure he starts the season healthy at all.
OL Ben Powers – Round 4 Pick 123
Many expected Ben Powers to step right into the Left Guard spot in 2019, but once again, Bradley Bozeman secured the starting gig. No matter, as Powers would spend 2019 learning and improving to eventually replace future Hall of Famer, Marshal Yanda, at Right Guard, right?
Not so fast. The Ravens went out and signed D.J. Fluker to fill the Yanda void, and drafted Tyre ‘Big Country’ Phillips, who has shown more than enough to surpass Powers thus far in camp. Understanding that Powers won’t be a starting guard, and that he lacks flexibility to play Center or Tackle, I find myself wondering whether or not he’ll make the roster at all.
CB Iman Marshall – Round 4, Pick 127
Iman ‘Biggie’ Marshall had me seeing shades of Jimmy Smith coming out of the draft, with an eye on replacing Jimmy in 2020… then the Ravens traded for Marcus Peters and signed him to a long-term deal opposite of Marlon Humphrey, locking down the starting outside corner spots. To compound matters, the Ravens brought back Smith on a one-year deal, essentially relinquishing Biggie to a depth corner/special teams role.
But none of this matters now, as Marshall ended up suffering a major knee injury in camp, and he’s done for the year. Going into 2021, Marshall has quite an uphill climb in his third year without logging much time on the field to date.
DT Daylon Mack – Round 5 Pick 160
Drafting Daylon Mack felt like a plan for 2020 and beyond when Michael Pierce would likely move on in free agency. Pierce did just that, but instead, the Ravens opted to cut Mack loose after just one season, and one game played.
Mack went on to join the Lions… only to fail their physical… and eventually land with the Giants in recent weeks. Pretty much the definition of a “bust” thus far.
QB Trace McSorley – Round 6 Pick 197
The Penn State product spent 2019 as QB3, despite fans hoping that McSorley would find a gadget-type role, or become a swiss army knife, a la Taysom Hill in New Orleans. Headed into 2020, McSorley is still behind Bobby G3, but UDFA QB Tyler Huntley is nipping on his heels to steal his roster spot.
Indictment of Eric?
Already, the Ravens have cut one of these final five picks (Mack), have lost one to injury (Marshall), and there’s a real chance any of the final three (Hill, Powers, McSorley) don’t make the Ravens 53 man roster in a few short weeks.
So naturally, this is an indictment of Eric DeCosta in his first draft as GM of the Ravens, right?
This doesn’t show me that DeCosta has failed, by any means whatsoever. Quite frankly, it shows me the opposite, and how the new regime in Baltimore is no-nonsense, no-excuses, & no-exceptions.
Under DeCosta (and John Harbaugh), the Ravens view every player as an equal the minute they hit the field. They don’t care if you’re a tenured Raven, a recently acquired free agent, a draft pick, or an undrafted free agent. Nobody gets preference, and nobody is protected from cut down day.
Mack failed a physical after failing to contribute in 2019?
If Powers doesn’t find a role beyond depth & they have better options with flexibility?
If McSorley is beat out by Huntley, or Hill is never going to see touches in games or have value on special teams?
GONE and GONE.
Now take it a step further: this shows me that the additions to this roster that DeCosta made in 2020 are so damn valuable, that the Ravens have found themselves in a position to oust recent draft picks who don’t carry an equal value. Mack was outmatched on the Defensive Line by free agents like Justin Ellis, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, while the 2020 draft picks had more upside in Broderick Washington and Justin Madubuike. Newcomers Tyre Phillips, Tristan Colon-Castillo, and Ben Bredeson offer positional flexibility that Powers doesn’t. McSorley is flat out getting beat like a drum by Huntley in camp. Hill just watched the Ravens add a high caliber back in Dobbins.
And it doesn’t stop with the 2019 draft class at all.
Earl Thomas and his antics were easily disposable as the team has faith in DeShon Elliott. Beyond Elliott, rookies Geno Stone (6th Round) and Nigel Warrior (UDFA) join CoCap to round out a great safety group, with solid Special Teams value. A healthy year of Hollywood Brown, a developed Year-2 Miles Boykin, and some great looking rookie in Devin Duvernay and James Proche II kept the Ravens from adding veteran wideouts, and could result in Chris Moore and Jaleel Scott finding themselves on the outside looking in.
Even guys like Chris Board, who could see his job snaked away by 2019 UDFA Otaro Alaka. Hell, we could go back to the Hayden Hurst trade and suggest that the Ravens must see enough from second-year TE Charles Scarff, or have a plan to increase the responsibilities of FB Pat Ricard, in order to feel comfortable sending the 2019 first round pick out of town.
But let’s get one thing clear: none of these aforementioned former starters and draft picks are falling down the depth charts or being cut because they’re not viable players in the league; the Ravens simply got markedly better at those positions in 2020 via free agency, the draft, and the incredible UDFA crop.
Another offseason of chess moves by Eric DeCosta surely deserves a round of applause.