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Ravens rookies: Top concern for each member of 2021 draft class

By Chris Schisler

Making the leap from college football to the NFL isn’t always a seamless transition. The Ravens have a very exciting crop of rookies ready to start their first training camp at the Castle in Owings Mills. What could hold each one back? What do they have to be mindful of as they prepare for their first season. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Rashod Bateman: Finding his spot in the offense

Bateman is just like any rookie, he has to learn a new offense and find his place in it. The good news for Bateman though, is that the passing attack should be fairly new for all parties involved. Kieth Williams and Tee Martin are entering their first season as the passing game coordinator and the receivers coaching positions. Sammy Watkins is a veteran and this is going to be new for him too. This honestly could cushion the transition for Bateman.

The 27th overall pick has to develop a chemistry with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens also need to figure out where he is in the receiving pecking order. Bateman may have more talent than any of the receivers. Still, Watkins is a veteran and Marquise Brown is Jackson’s favorite target. The Ravens will obviously like to get Bateman going. On a team that probably won’t average over 30 passing attempts per game, and with two proven targets at his position, will it get in the way of a breakout rookie season? That’s the top concern for Bateman.

Odafe Oweh: Learning on the job

Odafe Oweh is a phenomenal athlete. The Ravens are tasked with making their gifted phenom a great football player, not just an athlete with the things you can’t coach. Oweh has a long wingspan. He’s quick off the ball and he’s powerful as well. From a physical traits standpoint, Oweh has nothing to worry about.

Oweh’s top concern is being ready to get to the quarterback in the NFL. He’s a raw pass rusher with a limited set of pass rush moves. With Oweh, it won’t take long for opposing offensive tackles to surmise what is coming. The big worry for Oweh isn’t that he doesn’t belong on the stage. We know he does. Quite frankly, the man was born to play football, he’s got the goods. That worry is whether or not he’ll be ready to play at a high level as a rookie. If there is a draft pick of the Ravens with something to prove, it’s him.

Ben Cleveland: When being massive isn’t enough

Ben Cleveland has a strong possibility of winning a starting job at left guard. The Ravens drafted Cleveland to be the dominant and imposing presence for the offensive line and he looks the part. Cleveland is a massive human being. He’s 6-6 and weighs 357 pounds. Let’s be honest, he makes some offensive tackles seem small. Is that enough in the NFL. Much like Oweh, Cleveland can’t solely rely on the fact that he won the genetic lottery and has the things you can’t instill in a player with coaching.

If there is one concern that I have for Cleveland, it’s that he may rely on his strength too much at the expense of technique and footwork. This is a player who is just used to being bigger and badder than his opponents, even in the mighty SEC. There’s a ton of competition at left guard and Cleveland has to win the job. The best-case scenario sees Cleveland do just that. One way or the other though, the Ravens will have a rookie offensive linemen who will probably need some polish.

Brandon Stephens: Will he be typecasted as a special teams player

The Ravens have an abundance of talent at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are two of the four Aces in a deck of cards. Jimmy Smith is at least a Jack. Tavon Young can be an elite nickel corner if he can stay on the field. Baltimore should be very excited about Shaun Wade. Stephens is in a crowd there.

Stephens may be a safety when it’s all said and done. Well, there’s a logjam there. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott. Smith can be used as a safety and undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington may be the unproven player to watch in camp. Stephens will have to make an impact on special teams. He already knew that. The question is how involved can he get with the defense?

Tylan Wallace: Will he pay the Ravens’ rookie tax?

Tylan Wallace was one of two picks at the wide receiver position. Sammy Watkins was brought in as a free agent. If Bateman has to find his role in this offense, it may take longer for Wallace. Bateman has the luxury of being a number one pick, he’s getting chances to show off. Wallace doesn’t have that expectation right away.

Wallace has to find any and every way to contribute that he can. He has to avoid being this year’s James Proche, a mostly ignored rookie. The Ravens traditionally favor experience over potential. That’s why Willie Snead got a lot of playing time that probably should have gone to Devin Duvernay. Speaking of Duvernay, that’s Wallace’s main competition for playing time. Wallace has big potential, but he may have to wait to really show it.

Shaun Wade: Can he be a job thief?

I know, competition is a theme here. It’s the biggest pothole that rookies find themselves stuck in. The thing is, Shaun Wade may struggle to get playing time. If they stay healthy Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith are Baltimore”s best extra corners. What if Brandon Stephens ends up being a stud cornerback? Anthony Averett is still here. Like Stephens, he’s coming into the most crowded secondary unit in the NFL. You may not see Wade really get his chance until year two or three of his career. Where he was drafted this may actually be part of the plan. 

Ben Mason: Copycat of another Ravens player

This isn’t too complicated. The Ravens already have a Ben Mason and his name is Pat Ricard. MAson comes into the league with almost the same exact skill set as Ricard. The Ravens already have one, do they need two fullbacks? If you count Mason as a tight end, he’s a poor man’s, Nick Boyle. Does Mason give the Ravens anything they were lacking?

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions at the Wide Receiver Position

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