Reviewing Ravens’ rookie class after 2023 season

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After receiving major contributions from one of the largest draft classes in franchise history a year ago, the Ravens didn’t lean as hard on their rookie class for the 2023 season.

Though first-round pick Zay Flowers quickly emerged as a top offensive player, only one other rookie — fourth-round outside linebacker Tavius Robinson — eclipsed 150 snaps on offense or defense as Baltimore relied on more experienced contributors to finish an NFL-best 13-4 in the regular season. Of course, that doesn’t mean the 2023 class won’t play a bigger part in the Ravens’ success moving forward, especially in the wake of two-time MVP Lamar Jackson signing a five-year, $260 million contract last spring.

“The landscape has changed a little bit because we’re paying a quarterback — who deserves it — a lot of money, and that’s going to have a salary cap ramification for sure,” general manager Eric DeCosta said earlier this month. “We’ll start to feel that. We started to feel that last year. We’ll feel that this year as do a lot of teams, so draft picks are very important to us and will continue to be very important.”

Below is a look at each of Baltimore’s rookies at the conclusion of the 2023 season:

WR Zay Flowers
Draft position: First round, 22nd overall
Offensive snaps: 905 over 16 games
Synopsis: An ongoing investigation into an alleged assault supplants the good feelings about Flowers’ rookie season for the time being, but the speedy 5-foot-9, 182-pound receiver was everything Baltimore wanted him to be on the field until his pivotal taunting penalty and goal-line fumble in the second half of the AFC championship game. Flowers led the Ravens in catches (77), receiving yards (858), and targets (108) while finishing second in touchdown catches (five), looking the part of Baltimore’s No. 1 wide receiver going forward with Pro Football Focus grading him 30th out of 128 qualified wide receivers. Of course, that status may depend on what happens off the field with the Ravens stating they “take these matters seriously” in response to reports about the investigation.

ILB Trenton Simpson
Draft position: Third round, 86th overall
Defensive snaps: 46 over 15 games
Synopsis: Most of the Clemson product’s defensive playing time came in a meaningless Week 18 loss to Pittsburgh, but he flashed his potential with a sack and seven tackles in that contest. This will be a big offseason for Simpson as he’s widely viewed as the replacement for 2023 Pro Bowl selection Patrick Queen, who appears very likely to depart as a free agent. The 22-year-old Simpson finished third on the team in special-teams snaps (258) and second in special-teams tackles (six).

OLB Tavius Robinson
Draft position: Fourth round, 124th overall
Defensive snaps: 335 over 17 games
Synopsis: Overshadowed by the lucrative success of veterans Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy as well as the third-year improvement of Odafe Oweh, Robinson gained valuable experience that will hopefully pay off in 2024 and beyond as the Ravens deal with a tighter salary cap picture. The 6-foot-6, 258-pound outside linebacker saw his playing time diminish over the second half of the season and has more developing to do as a pass rusher, but he finished with a sack and 26 tackles while appearing in every game as a rookie.

G Sala Aumavae–Laulu
Draft position: Sixth round, 199th overall
Offensive snaps: None
Synopsis: Despite beginning training camp firmly in the mix for the left guard job and being active for four games, Aumavae-Laulu didn’t take a single regular-season snap, which included Week 18 when the Ravens were resting starters on both sides of the ball. Needless to say, this is going to be a big spring and summer for a raw 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman who will be on the roster bubble in his second season.

G Andrew Vorhees
Draft position: Seventh round, 229th overall
Offensive snaps: None
Synopsis: An accomplished multiyear starter at USC, Vorhees lasted until the seventh round because of an ACL injury sustained at the combine, but the Ravens deemed him worthy of a final-round pick even with a “redshirt” season. With starting guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson currently scheduled to become free agents, Vorhees could find himself competing for a starting job if his knee is fully recovered.

RB Keaton Mitchell
Draft position: Undrafted
Offensive snaps: 135 snaps over eight games
Synopsis: The explosive Mitchell was one of the surprising stories of 2023 before a serious knee injury ended his season in Week 15, taking away a home-run hitter for the Baltimore offense down the stretch. Prior to that, he averaged a whopping 8.4 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per catch. That the East Carolina product finished with more than three times as many total yards (489) as offensive snaps as a rookie should have the Ravens salivating for the future, but the severity of his mid-December injury leaves his 2024 availability in question.

QB Malik Cunningham
Draft position: Undrafted
Offensive snaps: Four in one game
Synopsis: The Louisville product was signed off New England’s practice squad in mid-December and saw a few snaps at wide receiver in the regular-season finale, but this offseason will go a long way in determining whether Cunningham becomes a viable backup option for 2024.

RB Owen Wright
Draft position: Undrafted
Special-teams snaps: Eight in one game
Synopsis: With Mitchell’s early-season status in doubt and Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Dalvin Cook all scheduled to hit free agency, the Monmouth product who spent the entire year on the practice squad will have a chance to stake his claim to a roster spot.

OLB Malik Hamm
Draft position: Undrafted
Defensive snaps: None
Synopsis: An ankle injury cost the Baltimore native and Lafayette product his entire rookie year, but the Ravens thought enough of the potential he flashed in the preseason to keep him on the initial 53-man roster before placing him on injured reserve. Though he returned to practice in December and ultimately wasn’t activated, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Hamm will be an intriguing name to watch this summer.

WR Sean Ryan
Draft position: Undrafted
Offensive snaps: None
Synopsis: With multiple veteran receivers hitting free agency, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Rutgers product could find a more plausible path to a roster spot after spending all of 2023 on the practice squad.

G Tashawn Manning
Draft position: Undrafted
Offensive snaps: None
Synopsis: The Kentucky product will hope to compete for a 53-man roster spot after spending his rookie year on the practice squad.

G TyKeem Doss
Draft position: Undrafted
Offensive snaps: None
Synopsis: Like Manning, the Southern Mississippi product spent all of 2023 on the practice squad and will compete for a job.

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