Reviewing the Ravens’ 2016 draft class at the quarter mark
With four games of the regular season in the books, the time has arrived to issue the first of four sets of quarterly grades to the Baltimore Ravens’ 2016 draft class. In all, the team selected 11 players, most of which remain on the 53-man roster or practice squad.
For this exercise, grades were considered relative to draft position and reasonable expectations for a player in his first year.
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Player: Ronnie Stanley, OT (No. 6 overall pick)
Draft: Round 1 (No. 6 overall)
Through three games, the Ravens’ offensive line hasn’t done a particularly good job of protecting quarterback Joe Flacco. The unit ranks 28th in pressure rate according to Football Outsiders, and the all-rookie left side led by No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley has contributed significantly to those issues in pass protection.
At the same time, offensive linemen generally struggle early in their career, especially when they lack a reliable veteran at their hip to cover up mistakes. Stanley has to figure out the nuances of the NFL game alongside a guard doing the same thing, all while both players try to establish chemistry with one another. In the context of such a monumental task, Stanley’s performance suddenly appears more favorable.
Player: Kamalei Correa, LB
Draft: Round 2 (No. 42 overall)
Though Kamalei Correa played in a number of different spots along Boise State’s defensive front during his college career, he spent most of his time rushing the passer. So when the Ravens drafted him in the second round and began the process of converting him into an off-ball linebacker, few could have realistically expected much early success.
And at least on defense, Correa hasn’t had much success or failure to speak of. He has played just 12 snaps from scrimmage so far this season, with just one tackle and one defensive target to his name. While that suggests a low grade, Correa has already become a key contributor on special teams. His 79 snaps in that phase of the game rank among the highest on the team, and he regularly finds himself near the ball. Often times, standout play on special teams for young players leads to larger roles on their respective side of the ball. If so, Correa could see more action on defense in the near future.
Player: Bronson Kaufusi, DE
Draft: Round 3 (No. 70 overall)
Bronson Kaufusi’s size and movement skills made him an attractive pick in the third round for the Ravens, as did his experience in BYU’s hybrid defensive scheme. How well the versatile defensive end fits in Baltimore remains to be seen, however, as a broken ankle prematurely ended his season. While such a fracture could derail any career, the fact that Kaufusi turns 26 next offseason doesn’t suggest much reason for optimism.
Player: Tavon Young, CB
Draft: Round 4 (No. 104 overall)
Other than quarterback, perhaps no position in football offers more challenges to young players than corner. The minuscule margin for error, the tremendous physical requirements, and the heightened level of responsibility for the position make it extremely difficult for rookies to assume major roles, especially ones selected after the opening three rounds of the draft. As such, it makes more sense to grade a first-year cover man like Tavon Young with more weight given to his good moments rather than his mistakes.
By that standard, Young already looks like another fantastic Day 3 catch for general manager Ozzie Newsome. Over the past two weeks, the Temple product has produced two takeaways (one interception, one fumble recovery). Young has also seen his playing time increase accordingly, topping out at 35 percent of the available defensive snaps in Week 4. With few other promising young defensive backs in Baltimore’s defense, Young’s emergence could become a crucial development over the course of the season.
Player: Chris Moore, WR
Draft: Round 4 (No. 107 overall)
When a wideout with Chris Moore’s physical gifts arrives through the draft, expectations can quickly grow out of control. Indeed, many foresaw Moore becoming the Ravens’ deep threat, a role left mostly vacant since Torrey Smith’s departure in 2015. So far, Moore has received plenty of opportunities (94 snaps from scrimmage) and done little with them, averaging just 7.5 yards a catch on four receptions. Part of that relates to Baltimore’s pass-protection issues bogging down the offense, but Moore hasn’t found ways to get open downfield. Even for a rookie, that feels disappointing.
Player: Alex Lewis, OL
Draft: Round 4 (No. 130 overall)
As discussed earlier, the left side of Baltimore’s offensive line has created constant headaches for Flacco and the coaching staff. As currently constituted, the line cannot provide adequate pass protection nor open up holes in the ground game as regularly as needed to compensate. Though not solely responsible, Alex Lewis has appeared the weak link on the line so far this season.
So why a middle-of-the-road grade? The Ravens not only threw Lewis into the fire as a rookie, but have asked him to learn the guard position while working alongside a fellow rookie. Given the hardship, Lewis gets a slight pass.
Player: Willie Henry, DT
Draft: Round 4 (No. 132 overall)
Like Kaufusi, Henry simply hasn’t had an opportunity to put his skills on display.
Player: Kenneth Dixon, RB
Draft: Round 4 (No. 134 overall)
Kenneth Dixon has yet to play a snap during the regular season. That could change Sunday as multiple signs point to the Louisiana Tech product receiving his first action of the year. However, until that happens, Dixon hasn’t provided enough data to grade.
Player: Matt Judon, DE
Draft: Round 5 (No. 146 overall)
As part of the Ravens’ effort to get bigger along the edges, they selected Matt Judon out of Grand Valley State. Judon, a hand-in-the-ground player in college, promptly shifted over to outside linebacker in Baltimore.
And while such a transition usually takes a few years to complete, Judon has already made some strides. In just 46 defensive snaps, he has three tackles and a 1/2 pressure according to Football Outsiders. Though those figures don’t jump off the page, they show signs of life for a player coming from the FCS level.
Player: Keenan Reynolds, WR
Draft: Round 6 (No. 182 overall)
Reynolds faced long odds to make the 53-man roster when the Ravens drafted him in April, and he came up short. However, he showed enough to convince the team to let him hang around on the practice squad.
Player: Maurice Canady, CB
Draft: Round 6 (No. 209 overall)
Maurice Canady registered two tackles on special teams before hamstring trouble ended his rookie campaign earlier this week. A tall corner with good reach, Canady could have potentially seen more time on defense if not for his injury.
Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He has bylines at NFL.com, SB Nation, Sports on Earth, and other outlets. He also serves as the senior reporter and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.