Perhaps the Ravens’ biggest need is an off-ball linebacker. Fortunately for them, there are two standouts that are projected to go in the back half of the first round of this year’s draft.
The biggest question mark, though, is whether Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma or Patrick Queen of LSU will be on the board when the Ravens pick at 28th.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta discussed both linebackers in detail.
"It really just depends what flavor you like, Murray or Queen," DeCosta said. "I think they're looked at side by side as probably two of the very best inside linebackers."
Queen and Murray, both of whom have been linked to the Ravens in the first round, are two different college linebackers.
Queen was just a one-year starter in the SEC at LSU, but stood out from the pack and registered 85 tackles and three sacks in 15 games played. It was his only season as a starter.
At the NFL Combine, the 6-foot, 229-pound linebacker ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225-pounds 18 times.
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"Not as big as Murray, (but he’s) very explosive," DeCosta said. "LSU has put a number of really good defensive players in the league over the last four or five years. He's a guy that's sideline to sideline, he can play downhill, he's a very good cover linebacker. He kind of came on the scene this year, was not a household name before this year.”
Murray, on the other hand, was a three-year starter and has tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound linebacker ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and bench pressed 21 times at the combine.
"Tremendous athlete, a cerebral guy, he's got really good length," DeCosta said. "He's been a really good defensive player on a team that really hasn't had a lot of really good defensive players lately. He’s a good prospect, he's a great student of the game, he's got great intangibles.”
Both linebackers represent the new era, of sorts, for linebackers in the NFL, as the traditional big and powerful linebackers of decades past are no more. Now, speed is at a premium to get on the field.
While the Ravens’ front office added they could centralize their needs at linebacker and find a player with a specific skill of defending the run well, or defending the pass well, to play two downs, both Murray and Queen represent linebackers that can stay on the field for three downs.
“In a perfect world you'd like to have a bigger guy, but you're also looking for a bigger guy who can run,” DeCosta said. “Linebacker is a position where every single play is usually a contact play. The physical aspect, the durability aspect, of that position, guys that are consistently able to play, I think that’s a factor.”
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