Ben Bredeson

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Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

The Ravens had, by nearly all accounts, one of the NFL’s best drafts in April. 

With their 10 picks, they addressed just about every need on the roster — edge rusher being the holdout — and got more talented at each position they needed to. 

And while the Ravens are hopeful all of their drafted players can fill a role next season, a few players like Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington have clear roles carved out as depth players for their rookie season, and safety Geno Stone appears destined for a special teams role to start his career. 

Here are the five Ravens’ rookies that can make an immediate impact in 2020:

1. Patrick Queen

The first one is as obvious can be. 

Not only is Queen the team’s first round draft pick, but he also likely filled the biggest need on the team and will join the Ravens and immediately be handed a starting role. 

Queen made 85 tackles for the national champion LSU Tigers last season and, at just 20-years-old, was one of the draft’s top risers last season at LSU.

He’s perhaps the most talented player of the Ravens’ 2020 draft class and with a starting role so clearly carved out for him, the room for strong production is right there.

2. Devin Duvernay

Duvernay will join a Ravens receiving corps in need of a second wide receiver to prove himself. With Mark Andrews at tight end and Marquise Brown as the team’s two clear top options in the receiving game, there is still an opening for a third option to emerge from the group. The speedster from Texas could be it. 

With 4.39 40-yard dash speed, Duvernay will immediately be one of the fastest players not only on the offense, but on the team. He posted 106 catches last season for 1,386 yards at Texas, but his toughness was what stood out to the Ravens. 

If he’s able to prove his worth early on, he could find himself as the team’s third option in the receiving game.

3. James Proche

This might seem out of sorts for Proche to be on this list so high, but hold up. 

Yes, he was the second-to-last pick of the Ravens’ draft. Yes, he’s just a rookie and draft capital matters in terms of who gets a look, and how much they do.

But Proche is also likely going to be the team’s punt and perhaps kick returner to start the season. There’s not a rookie on this list, besides Queen, who is in better shape to have some kind of starting role so quickly. 

Add into the debate that Proche is joining the same depth chart as Duvernay, and it’s clear there’s a path for the sure-handed receiver to find his way onto the field sooner than some may think.

4. J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins has perhaps the highest ceiling on this list, and the floor is higher than perhaps anyone but Queen for his rookie year. The problem is, the ceiling involves some exceptions. 

He’ll join a crowded backfield with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, not to mention that his new quarterback is the league’s best running quarterback as well. 

Dobbins might end up having the greatest long-term impact on this list, but the odds of him taking on a major role in the offense — while he’s essentially guaranteed at least some kind of role in 2020 — would require him stepping up as the clear No. 1 running back, or a host of injuries. 

5. Ben Bredeson

Bredeson might make the quietest impact of anyone on this list, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to make the biggest. 

In a logjam to replace Marshal Yanda’s right guard spot, Bredeson figures to be the likeliest rookie to take over the position. If he’s able to, he’ll certainly have earned it.

The rookie started all four seasons at Michigan and certainly has the experience in big time games to step in and contribute immediately.

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Five players who could replace Marshal Yanda at right guard

Five players who could replace Marshal Yanda at right guard

The Ravens have a handful of options to replace retired Marshal Yanda at right guard. As for what the right combination is remains to be seen. 

With a few factors to consider, here are the top five candidates to replace Yanda’s spot at right guard.

D.J. Fluker

Fluker is the likeliest option — on paper — to start at right guard for the Ravens next season. He could run into problems with a diminished training camp. 

The newcomer from the Seahawks has played at right guard each year since 2015 and can slide out to tackle in a pinch if the Ravens need. But for now, he figures to be the best option as he’s the only member of this group who has actually seen significant time at right guard. 

At 6-foot-5 and 342 pounds, Fluker and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. would make a massive right side of the offensive line.

Ben Powers

Powers has a leg up on everyone on this list as he not only played guard last season for the Ravens, he also played next to Brown at Oklahoma while the two were Sooners. In an offseason with limited time together, Powers’ chemistry could play a big role. 

He played in just one game last season, his rookie year, but has the most experience of anyone on this list because of that. If Powers wants to see the field, he’ll certainly have every opportunity to seize the opportunity.

Ben Bredeson

Bredeson is one of two rookies who could see the field in 2020, and significantly so. 

He played four seasons at Michigan as the team’s starting left guard and is a technically sound player the Ravens could look for. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound offensive lineman was the 143rd pick in April’s draft.

If he’s able to successfully make the switch from the left side to the right side, the Ravens could have their next starting right guard on an incredibly young offensive line.

Tyre Phillips

Phillips was the 106th pick in April’s draft, and while he played tackle in college at Mississippi State, he is confident he can make the switch to guard in the NFL. 

He remarked he’s got a tackle’s feet with a guard’s body, which should set him up well to play on the right side of the Ravens’ offensive line. He’s 6-foot-5 and 345-pounds, which could prove to play to his benefit.

Patrick Mekari

If the Ravens want to choose experience, Mekari is the dark horse here — with a caveat. 

Center Matt Skura is recovering from a knee injury, and if he’s unable to play at the start of the season, Mekari will be the odds-on-favorite to replace him like he did last season. 

But if Skura is ready and available, Mekari — a versatile offensive lineman — could find himself at right guard. He practiced there last season and has a year in the system already. 

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Why Ben Bredeson can compete for Marshal Yanda's spot on the offensive line

Why Ben Bredeson can compete for Marshal Yanda's spot on the offensive line

Ed Warinner didn’t recruit Ben Bredeson. He recruited his mother. 

Warinner was the Ohio State offensive line coach when he recruited the Hartland, Wisconsin native. Or, more accurately, he showed up at Bredeson’s high school to talk with his mom who was a volunteer at the school — meaning Warinner wasn’t breaking any NCAA violations. 

Bredeson, however, chose Michigan, which was the school his brother played baseball at. And as fate would have it, Warinner ended up at Michigan for the final two years of Bredeson’s career.

It wasn’t exactly how Warinner thought he’d end up coaching Bredeson, but it worked out all the same.

“He’s a joy to be around, he’s a leader,” Warinner said. “He likes everyone, has a great personality. He’s the kind of individual I’d want my daughter to marry. Very smart and hard-working, very competitive, and the ultimate team player. He was a two-time captain for us. He’s the total package as a football player, as a person, just someone who will be a joy to have in the building every day.”

Bredeson, who weighed in at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds at the NFL Combine, played in 51 games at left guard as a Wolverine and compiled 46 starts. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in his senior season in 2019 and was a two-time team captain. 

While he played the majority of his time at left guard, he practiced in 2019 to be the team’s center, should the starter, Cesar Ruiz, go down with an injury.

Now in Baltimore, the two spots open in the starting lineup are the two Bredeson didn’t start a game at in college.

"I feel comfortable in all interior spots, left guard, center or right guard," Bredeson said on a video call with the media Monday afternoon. "I'm just going to go wherever I'm the best fit for the team." 

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As for swapping from the left to the right, Warinner doesn’t expect that transition to matter much to Bredeson.

“He’s a pretty good athlete, I don’t think playing left or right will matter,” Warinner said. “Ben took a lot of time in practice behind the scenes, not in games, but preparing to be a center. I think his transition there, if they said, ‘We need him to be our center,’ they can get him ready in a week or two to play center. He’s already broken ground on that, he knows the fundamentals. He’s actually pretty good at it.”

And while Bredeson’s ability to play all three interior offensive line positions was attractive to the Ravens, it was his style of play that made the most sense.

He’ll compete with Matt Skura (if healthy), Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, D.J. Fluker and fellow rookie Tyre Phillips to start at right guard for the first week of the season. Otherwise, he'll be fighting for a depth role.

Bredeson weighed in at 315 pounds for the combine, but Warinner said he played at 325 or 330 pounds in his senior season. He’s a physical blocker in the run game and fits the Ravens’ mold of an offensive lineman perfectly.

“He was very durable, played almost 1,000 snaps each of the last two years without any issues,” Warinner said. “He’s a rugged guy and he likes contact. He’s not a finesse player. He’ll come after you and be aggressive. He’s a really good fit for what they want to do running the football.”

Bredeson, like all rookies, has begun the process of the virtual offseason for the Ravens. With that, he’s gotten to know John Harbaugh, the older brother to his former coach at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh. 

“There’s a lot of similarities, each of them has their own tweaks to how they run their own program, but you can definitely see a lot of glaring similarities between the two,” Bredeson said. “Just kind of the way the playbook is set up, the way the program is being run, their mannerisms because a lot of them are the same. It’s comforting for me knowing I’m still in the Harbaugh family.”

At Michigan, they’ll have to fill a four-year starter’s role, a player who was a leader in offseason workouts and someone who was a calming presence along the offensive line. 

In Baltimore, that’s exactly what the Ravens are getting.

“When you jog out of the tunnel and he’s next to you, you feel pretty good about your chances,” Warinner said. “Those are huge shoes to fill.”

Bredeson was one of ten members of the team’s 2020 rookie class, one that included another offensive lineman in Phillips, but also two Ohio State Buckeyes.

Now, instead of dreading every J.K. Dobbins carry, Bredeson will be blocking for him. 

"Listen, whenever we played them, I just heard the name 'J.K. Dobbins' going over the loudspeaker over and over again,” Bredeson said. “I'm happy that I'm going to be blocking for him now, because he's done enough damage against me."

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