Ravens Patrick Queen is among the top candidates to win the DROY award

The expectations for Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Patrick Queen in year one keeps getting higher and higher as the season nears. The uber-athletic middle linebacker that helped the LSU Tigers win the Division I college football national championship last year is expected to help do the same for the Ravens in their pursuit of a Superbowl title.

He couldn’t have asked to land in a better situation than the one he has in Baltimore where there is a rich tradition of stout defenses and he has a star-studded cast in front of him along the defensive line and behind him in the secondary. The Ravens are viewed as one of the top championship contenders heading into a 2020 season and are favored to go all the way according to several betting odds and media pundits.

Coming off a 2019 campaign where their finished top five in both total offense and defense, one of their top offseason priorities was to add a playmaker in the middle of their defense at the inside linebacker position and that’s exactly what they got when Queen managed to fall right into their laps at the 28th overall pick in April’s draft when many thought he would’ve been long gone or that General Manager Eric DeCosta would have to trade up to get him.

His name has been mentioned is several conversations about being one the most potentially impactful rookies, rookies that are best set up for success and he has also emerged as one of the top candidates to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. NFL Media Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein of NFL.com released his top candidates for both top offensive and defensive rookie honors this week and Queen landed at No.2 on the list of first-year defenders behind only Washington Redskins rookie Chase Young who was selected with the second overall pick and was considered by Zierlein and several others as the best overall prospect in this year’s class.

“While just two DROY winners over the last 10 seasons were off-ball linebackers, both players (Darius Leonard and Luke Kuechly) played fast and offered coverage versatility on third downs,” Zierlein wrote. “Queen is not only fast in a straight line, but his scrape explosiveness is extremely impressive, and he can cover both tight ends and running backs down the field. He plays with an alpha mentality and should stack plenty of tackles for a proven defense in Year 1.”

Despite being known best for their defense prior to the Lamar Jackson era, the Ravens have only had two players win the award in the first 24 years in the history of the franchise dating back to 1996. Both were edge rushers with Peter Boulware being the first in 1997 and future Hall of Famer and franchise all-time sack leader Terrell Suggs being the second. Each of them busted onto the scene with double-digit sack seasons as rookies (Boulware with 11.5 and Suggs with 12).

As Zierline noted only two off-ball linebackers have won the award over the last decade whereas, since 1999, seven edge rushers have been crowned the top defensive rookie by the associated press after registering sack totals that hover around or eclipse the double-digit threshold with 14.5 being the record for a rookie—a mark set by Jevon ‘The Freak’ Kearse in with the Tennessee Titans.

It’s much harder for an inside linebacker that racks up tackles instead of piling up sacks to win the award, not even the great Ray Lewis could do it. Former Raven and four-time Pro Bowler CJ Mosley came pretty close in 2014 but his 133 total tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, 12 quarterback hits, eight pass deflections, and Pro Bowl nod wasn’t enough to edge out Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald who recorded nine sacks, 48 tackles, and 13 quarterback hits.

“Inside linebackers are also frequently in the mix if they step into a starting job and have the speed and versatility to stay on the field for all three downs. Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray could fit that bill this season,” Zierlein wrote.

Even though Queen hasn’t had the benefit of having much an offseason program with the exception of virtual meetings and workouts due to the coronavirus pandemic, he is still set up to have immediate success with veteran defensive linemen Brandon ‘Big Baby’ Williams, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe in front of him eating up blockers and allowing him to use his great sideline to sideline lateral speed and quickness. Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale expressed his confidence in the rookie’s ability to make an instant impact in a video press conference with reporters last month.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him because of the practice time that he’s missed,” said Martindale via the team’s official website. “But I know that just by speaking with him and being in meeting with him, I think this kid can handle it.”

Back in May, he came in at No.3 on Pro Football Focus’ top Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidates list behind Young and eighth overall pick Isaiah Simmons of the Arizona Cardinals.

“Queen’s speed, explosiveness. and overall athleticism [are] off the charts and exactly what the Ravens needed in their defense,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote. “He’ll have a large role right away in Baltimore, and his athleticism will make an impact immediately as a blitzing weapon. Mix in his top-notch coverage ability, and you’ve got yourself a prime DROY candidate.

“After being named a starter on LSU’s defense in Week 4 of this past season, Queen went on to produce a PFF coverage grade that was the seventh-best in the FBS. Overall, he allowed just half a yard per coverage snap. Doing that in the SEC is incredibly impressive.”

Queen has come a long way in less than a year time where he didn’t even begin his final collegiate season as a starter but managed to show enough on film once he was elevated into a more expanded role to entice a team like the Ravens who have historically value more experience and production over a longer period in their prospects to use their first-round selection on him.

“You were like, ‘Wow, he’s a 20-year old kid who’s showing this right now. What would he have been next year if he would have been another year starter with 12 more, 14 more starts under his belt? How much more instinctive would he be?'” Ravens Director of Player Personnel Hortiz said in a conference call with media earlier this offseason.

“So, I think you project that out forward. He’s a smart kid, he works his butt off, he loves the game and he’s a great character kid. So, you say to yourself, ‘Man, as this guy gets experience in the NFL, he’s just going to get better and better.’ We really think he’s got a high ceiling and also a high floor. So, we’re fired up to see what comes of him, but yes, to me, it’s impressive.”

It appears the sky is the limit for Queen for his rookie year and beyond with all of the untapped potentials that lie within him. Winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award could just be the beginning of what has the potential to be a great career that could feature Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Bowl and maybe even All-Pro honors, and hopefully hoisting multiple Vince Lombardi trophies as the Ravens look to establish a dynasty of their own.

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