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Inside linebacker Patrick Queen fills top need for Ravens | COMMENTARY

The Baltimore Sun's Ravens draft coverage team discusses first-round pick Patrick Queen, a linebacker from LSU.

There were a few anxious moments, but the Ravens filled their biggest offseason need Thursday night with the selection of LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen with the No. 28 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Queen, along with Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, were generally considered the top two inside linebackers in college football. The Los Angeles Chargers chose Murray with the No. 23 overall pick after a trade with the New England Patriots, and there was speculation that the New Orleans Saints would select Queen at No. 24.

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Instead, the Saints picked Michigan guard Cesar Ruiz, the Seattle Seahawks took Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks at No. 27 and the Ravens eventually selected Queen.

The Ravens’ weakness at inside linebacker was glaring last season and became a major focus once the Tennessee Titans rushed for 217 yards and knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs with a 28-12 win in the AFC divisional round.

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For most of the season, the Ravens offense put up big numbers and controlled the pace with a dominant running attack. They forced most teams out of their base offense and put the Ravens in position to use sub packages on defense, which was a strength because of the team’s outstanding secondary.

But defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale knew that the Ravens had an average front seven, especially with no big, physical middle linebacker.

The position became even weaker once Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor, who played inside last season, signed free-agent contracts with the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets, respectively, earlier this offseason.

Queen can flat-out fly.

He isn’t the prototypical 6-foot-4, 235-pound thumper, but he runs extremely well from sideline to sideline. His speed and ability to read and react could make him special if he can adapt to the pro game.

In 15 games last season, Queen played 780 snaps and finished with 85 tackles, 12 of those for losses. He’ll fit into the Ravens scheme because he is good at blitzing and finding seams. He had three sacks last season and 16 quarterback pressures.

He played well during the Tigers’ regular season but was even better in the College Football Playoff as LSU won the national championship. Queen was chosen the defensive MVP with eight tackles in the national championship win against Clemson. LSU is also in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football.

As with any prospect, there are some concerns. Queen is only 6 feet and 229 pounds. He could have problems facing a downhill running game like the one used by the Titans or the Ravens.

Because of his quickness, speed and aggressiveness, Queen also has been known to get out of position on counter or misdirection plays.

But at least in Baltimore, the Ravens have an improved defensive line from last season. They acquired Calais Campbell in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the offseason, one of the best ends in the game, as well as former Denver Broncos lineman Derek Wolfe. Queen will also have a veteran to work with and learn from in recently signed Jake Ryan.

Queen might be small now, but he is bigger than Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis when Lewis was a rookie with the Ravens. Lewis was about an inch taller but about 14 to 20 pounds lighter.

The Ravens didn’t ask Lewis to shuck and shed blockers a lot, which he could do. They just wanted him to run sideline to sideline, which will be Queen’s job.

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Day 2 should be interesting for the Ravens because there are still some quality receivers available if they want to trade up and select early in the second round. Or the Ravens could just hold steady and still get some quality interior offensive linemen, another priority.

The Ravens have two picks in the second round and two in the third. But they took care of their biggest need on opening night.

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