The Ravens entered this season with an unusually deep rookie class having drafted 12 players. While several of them were limited this season due to injury or lack of opportunity, Baltimore’s crop of rookies were largely productive as an overall group.
With the Ravens season officially over, now is a good time to look back at this years’ rookie class and see how each of Baltimore’s 2018 draft picks fared in their first-year campaigns. It should be noted that several rookies missed the entirety or a majority of the season due to injury.
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section and dish out your own grades for the rookie class.
Hayden Hurst, TE (Round 1, Pick 25)
Hurst suffered a foot injury in the preseason, which sidelined him for the first few weeks of the regular season. Upon his return against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, Hurst never seemed to get into any sort of rhythm.
His role in the offense gradually began to expand as the season went along, but with three other tight ends receiving playing time (Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams and Mark Andrews), Hurst struggled to break through.
In 10 games, Hurst caught just 13 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown. These numbers are acceptable for a backup tight end, but as the Ravens first overall pick in the draft, the expectations far exceeded his production. He finished eighth on the team in receiving yards and 10th in receptions.
Hurst was used more as a blocker than a receiver, and he took a backseat to fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews in the passing game. Baltimore can only hope he puts a quiet rookie season behind him and emerges next year, which he certainly has a good chance of doing. However, Hurst’s rookie campaign left much to be desired.
Lamar Jackson, QB (Round 1, Pick 32)
For the first half of the season, Lamar Jackson was used sporadically in designed run packages and on trick plays. However, once Joe Flacco was sidelined midseason with a hip injury, Jackson was thrust into the starting role for the final seven weeks of the regular season and largely exceeded expectations.
His inconsistencies as a passer and decision-maker were evident. Jackson completed just 58.2% of his passes and tied for the league-lead in fumbles, despite playing less than half a season. However, he compensated for this with historic rushing production at the position and more importantly, winning.
Jackson spearheaded a dominant rushing attack that, with the help of Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, led the league in rushing over the second half of the season by a wide margin. When Jackson took over, the Ravens immediately shifted from a pass-happy group to a run-heavy team that dominated the time of the possession.
Until they ran into the Chargers in the first round of the playoffs, it worked to perfection. Baltimore finished the season 6-1 and won the division. Make no mistake about it, without Jackson’s presence, that doesn’t happen.
His accuracy and mechanics certainly need to improve going forward, and he cannot continue to rush 17+ times a game. However, Jackson proved many people wrong in his rookie season by demonstrating big-play ability, mental toughness and leadership skills.
Jackson got the most out of his teammates and sparked a midseason turnaround that changed the direction of the franchise overall. That, combined with flashes of passing and rushing we saw throughout the season, earns him a solid grade.
Orlando Brown Jr., RT (Round 3, Pick 19)
Orlando Brown fell to the Ravens in the draft after a poor combine performance. Many thought he’d walk into a starting role at right tackle and James Hurst would slide to guard, but “Zeus Jr.” spent much of the first half of the season on the bench.
However, injuries along the offensive line midseason opened up a starting spot opposite Ronnie Stanley and Brown seized the opportunity. After Week 7, Brown did not miss a snap or allow a single sack for the rest of the season.
While he struggled in Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Chargers, a poor finale should not overshadow a strong body of work during the regular season. While not yet a consistent, polished product, Brown showed flashes throughout the year of being a long-term fixture at right tackle.
Mark Andrews, TE (Round 3, Pick 22)
At 6’5”, 256 pounds, Mark Andrews was expected to be serve as a viable red zone threat this season. However, he proved to be much more of a versatile, big-play option in the passing game.
Outside of a few quiet performances, Andrews made an impressive impact for both Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson this season. He emerged as Jackson’s go-to receiver down the stretch and made big plays in the passing game.
Andrews finished fourth on the team in receiving yards (552), second in yards per catch average (16.2) and tied for second in touchdowns (three). He graded out as the 13th-best tight end in the league on Pro Football Focus and led all rookie tight ends in yards, yards per catch average, yards after catch and first down receptions.
His 74-yard reception against the Raiders and 68-yard touchdown against the Chargers showcased Andrews vertical ability. He can still serve to become a more consistent, every-down presence, but Andrews far exceeded expectations and put forth an impressive rookie campaign.
Kenny Young, LB (Round 4, Pick 22)
Kenny Young had an outside shot of challenging Patrick Onwuasor for a starting linebacker spot opposite C.J. Mosley entering the season. After a string of standout performances to begin the year, it appeared Young was well on his way to seizing said role.
However, Young’s play began to level out a bit as the season went on, while Onwuasor emerged as an impact, every-down caliber linebacker. Still, Young saw the field as a rotational piece and generally made the most of his snaps.
Young flashed rangy, end-to-end speed and solid pursuit to the ball. He showcased both adept coverage and run-stopping skills, while also making an impact on special teams throughout the season. He finished the season with 51 combined tackles and 2.5 sacks, both of which ranked fifth on the team.
He needs to become more consistent and disciplined, but Young’s rookie season suggests he could become a long-term fixture at linebacker. If the Ravens don’t re-sign, C.J. Mosley, Young could see his role expand greatly next season.
Bradley Bozeman, G/C (Round 6, Pick 215)
Bozeman was a center coming out of the draft but ended up switching positions along the offensive line his rookie season. With injuries throughout the season to Alex Lewis and James Hurst, Bozeman filled in at the left guard spot at different points.
He appeared in 14 games, and while Bozeman was more of a rotational piece than starter, he flashed some potential that should excite Ravens fans going forward. Bozeman was far from perfect but played well for a late sixth-round pick.
In a Week 15 victory against the Buccaneers, Bozeman held his own and earned high praise from Pro Football Focus. However, overall, he needs to refine his technique, become stronger off the block and develop more consistency.
The Ravens offensive line, particularly along the interior, figures to see some reshuffling. Marshal Yanda could opt to retire, and Matt Skura leaves much to be desired at center, as does James Hurst at left guard. Bozeman could have an inside track at a starting job heading into next season.
Gus Edwards, RB (Undrafted)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was the emergence of Gus Edwards, an undrafted running back our of Rutgers. After playing a minimal role over the first half of the season, Edwards became the starter once Alex Collins was placed on IR and made the most of his opportunity.
“Gus the Bus” led the Ravens in rushing on the season with 718 yards and two touchdowns on 137 attempts, good for a yards per carry average of 5.2. Nearly all of his production came after the bye week, as he took on a large workload when Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback.
Edwards is fairly one-dimensional runner, as he’s effective rushing downhill and north-to-south, but he lacks elite elusiveness and speed. However, that didn’t stop him from recording three games of over 100 yards rushing, including becoming the first Ravens back to record back-to-back games of over 100 yards since Justin Forsett in 2014.
There were only two games this year in which Edwards YPC fell below 4.0, and he showed a consistent knack for picking up positive yardage and running hard. He figures to have a sizable role in the offense again next season after an impressive rookie campaign.