Even the though the Baltimore Ravens had a much smaller draft class this year with six picks compared to last year when they made nearly a dozen with 11 picks, there are still inevitable ripple effects that impact the status of returning players on the roster.
With each year’s incoming crop, there are those who benefit greatly from the new young talent that is brought in. There are also others that are happy that the team didn’t invest notable or high draft capital in their position. Then there are those whose futures with the team becomes uncertain if not put in jeopardy with the arrival of a more inexpensive option at their position.
Here are some of the players that were on the roster prior to the draft who were either helped or hurt this past weekend.
WR Devin Duvernay:
The two-time Pro Bowl returner entered the offseason as the team’s clear-cut No. 2 receiver option on the depth chart behind 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman. However, with the free agent additions of former first-rounders Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor followed by the drafting of Boston College star Zay Flowers in the first last Thursday, one could argue he has fallen to fourth of possibly fifth in the pecking order heading into the final year of his rookie contract.
While his roster spot isn’t in jeopardy as the team would like to maintain quality depth at the position, his role in the offense and perhaps even on special teams could get reduced in 2023.
There are a lot more mouths to feed now but still only one ball to go around so consistent targets will be harder to come by. The Ravens also might want to get Flowers some experience as the future replacement at returner as a rookie so Duvernay might see less action in that facet of the game as well.
Prior to suffering a season-ending foot injury last year, Duvernay was establishing himself as one of the most dangerous all-purpose weapons in the league. Despite being limited to just (14) games, he finished with career-highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (407), yards per reception (11), receiving touchdowns (three), rushing attempts (12), rushing yards (84), and recorded his first career rushing touchdown according to Pro Football Reference.
ILB Patrick Queen:
The former first-rounder’s long-term future with the team already became a bit murky when they traded for eventual First-Team All-Pro Roquan Smith at the midseason deadline and signed him to a market-setting extension before the season even ended. An even darker shroud of uncertainty was cast when the Ravens selected versatile Clemson off-ball linebacker Trenton Simpson who drew some comparison to Queen at No. 86 overall in the third round last Friday.
His fate became crystal clear on Monday, May 1, 2023, when it was reported that the team would not be exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. While he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, the team will still likely look to hang onto him for the 2023 season since the draft has now passed and any return they get for him outside of a player-for-player trade wouldn’t come until 2024 at the earliest.
Queen is still an ascending player coming off his best season to date in which he recorded career-highs in total tackles (117), quarterback hits (14), sacks (five), pass deflections (six), interceptions (two), and fumbles recoveries (two) per Pro Football Reference.
He and Smith formed arguably the best inside linebacker tandem in the league once they joined forces last year and will be key to a potential title run for the team this year in what will likely be their last ride.
CBs Jalyn Armour-Davis & Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams:
The Ravens selected both of these young defensive backs in the fourth round of last year’s draft but added another this past Saturday on Day 3 with the selection of former Stanford standout Kyu Blu Kelly in the fifth round.
Following the draft, general manager Eric DeCosta said that the team still has confidence in their ability to develop but also expressed their desire to sign an established veteran at the position in the coming weeks and delivered on Wednesday with the signing of former second-rounder Rock Ya-Sin to a one-year deal.
As rookies, they both struggled with injuries and consistency when they were on the field. Armour-Davis appeared in just four games and even made his first career start in Week 3 but didn’t fair well and was benched by halftime. He was placed on injured reserve in November and finished the year with six total tackles including one for loss and pass deflection while allowing 11 completions on 12 targets for 226 yards and an opposing passer rating of 158.3 per Pro Football Reference.
Williams appeared in 14 games and faired better in coverage and played more snaps on defense than on special teams. He didn’t make a start but still finished with 24 total tackles including one for a loss, and two pass deflections while allowing 20 completions on 32 targets for 243 yards and an opposing passer rating of 106.6 per Pro Football Reference.
WR James Proche:
The former sixth-rounder will be entering the final year of his rookie contract facing a steep uphill battle to make the roster given all the new additions that the Ravens have made at his position this offseason. Unlike Duvernay, his 2020 draftmate, Proche has underwhelmed during his first three years in the league with just 25 receptions on 40 targets for 278 receiving yards and no touchdowns.
In a fight for the sixth and likely final receiver spot, he’d need to edge out 2021 fourth-rounder Tylan Wallace who hasn’t been very productive as a pass catcher in his first two seasons but has become a staple on kick coverage units.
ILBs Kristian Welch, Malik Harrison, and Josh Ross:
Queen wasn’t the only player at his position on the roster that is affected by the addition of Simpson. He and the team’s top decision-makers talked about how excited they all are to see the impact he will have on special teams. That means that the battle for what will likely be the fourth and final off-ball linebacker spot will be a tight one between the aforementioned trio.
Both Welch and Ross are former undrafted free agents and Harrison is a former third-round pick heading into the final year of his rookie deal. Welch and Harrison played the percent of the team’s total special teams snaps in 2022 with 78 percent. But, Harrison provides the most value of them all as he also played most defensive snaps of the bunch with 248 compared to just four by Welch and none by Ross who only appeared in two games as a rookie last year.
QB Lamar Jackson:
The former unanimous league MVP was the biggest winner before the draft even started because he signed a five-year extension to become the highest-paid player in league history. His team then made his night even sweeter when they used a first-round pick on a wide receiver for the third time in the last five years with the selection of Flowers.
As tumultuous as this offseason has been at times for the 26-year-old self-represented superstar, as it currently stands, he has arguably the best roster he’s had since entering the league and certainly has the best collection of pass catchers he has ever had at any level of competition.
Even the Ravens drafted a pair of offensive linemen late on Day 3 of the draft with the selection of Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu in the sixth round and USC’s Andrew Vorhees in the seventh, neither is expected to be in contention for a starting spot in their respective rookie seasons. Aumavae-Laulu is a developmental project that offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris loves and has tackle and guard flexibility while Vorhees will medically redshirt in 2023 after suffering a torn ACL at this year’s Scouting Combine.
That still leaves veteran John Simpson, 2021 third-rounder Ben Cleveland, and veteran utility lineman Patrick Mekari as the top contenders for the starting left guard spot that was vacated when Ben Powers signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency. Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed his excitement for all three as well as second-year pro Daniel Faalele who hasn’t played guard at any level but is still viewed by the coaching staff as an option still in the running.
QB Tyler Huntley:
While he didn’t break the bank like Jackson, the Pro Bowler’s role as the team’s primary backup is likely secured. The Ravens were one of the few teams that opted not to spend a draft pick on a developmental quarterback as many pundits believed and predicted they would sometime on Day 3 or Day 1 had they not signed their starter to a long-term deal prior to the draft.
Huntley is coming off his best season to date where he went 2-2 as the Ravens starter in place of Jackson when he was injured. He led the team to a come-from-behind victory when their starter initially went down with what would be a season-ending knee injury and established himself as one of the better backups in the league.
His chief competition for his spot on the depth chart will be 2022 undrafted free agent Anthony Brown who saw some action as a rookie including making his first career start in the regular season finale on the road in Week 18.
RB J.K. Dobbins & Gus Edwards:
Neither player’s roster spot was ever in jeopardy, the fact that the team didn’t use a draft pick to add another player at the position who could’ve potentially taken away from their workload bodes well for them and their fantasy owners. Since they are both heading into the final years of their respective contracts, neither will want to come off the field or split, even more, carries in what will be a more balanced offense under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Each of them will be two years removed suffering severe knee injuries that they were working their way back from last season. After undergoing a midseason knee scope procedure, Dobbins was one of the most potent and productive running backs down the final stretch in 2022. He wasn’t satisfied with his lack of involvement in the team’s loss in the Wildcard round of the playoffs and will enter his fourth season as the clear-cut number one and determined he can be one of the league’s best from start to finish.
The team did reportedly sign one of the most explosive running backs in all of college football last season as an undrafted free agent in East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell. However, with Justice as the team’s entrenched change-of-pace back and a core special teams contributor, the rookie would need a very strong training camp and preseason to push for a roster spot but would be a prime practice squad candidate if he is cut and clears waivers.