xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Ravens select LSU linebacker Patrick Queen in first round of NFL draft: ‘It was kind of a no-brainer for us’

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

The Ravens had a plan, Eric DeCosta explained, but he was still nervous. This was the NFL draft’s opening night; general managers are always nervous.

As the first round crawled its way to the Ravens’ No. 28 overall pick late Thursday, prospects the team coveted flew off the board. But LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen was still available. One linebacker-needy team traded ahead of the Ravens, then another. Their picks came and went, and Queen, maybe the class’ top pure inside linebacker prospect, was still available.

Advertisement

DeCosta has been through enough drafts to know the pain of losing out on a player right before the Ravens could get him, to have something until, in an instant, it’s no longer there. This wasn’t one of those nights. This was a night that was going according to plan.

“You see a guy like that,” DeCosta said of Queen, “and it was kind of a no-brainer for us.”

Advertisement

After a year in which the Ravens lacked the playmaking inside linebacker their defense has long been anchored by, they might have found an heir apparent.

Queen projects as a do-everything, three-down linebacker for the Ravens, the next in line at one of the franchise’s proudest positions. Under general manager Ozzie Newsome and now DeCosta, the Ravens had taken only two inside linebackers ever entering Thursday: Ray Lewis, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and C.J. Mosley, a four-time Pro Bowl player who was never sufficiently replaced after his departure last offseason.

The Ravens had long been expected to add talent at inside linebacker through the draft. Starter Josh Bynes was not re-signed despite solid play in stopgap duty, and Patrick Onwuasor, the team’s second-leading tackler last season, also signed elsewhere after an up-and-down year.

Their departures in free agency left the Ravens’ depth chart low on experience and lacking in pedigree. Queen, who won’t turn 21 until August, is by far the team’s youngest and most talented player at the position. L.J. Fort had three career starts before making eight last season. Chris Board has never started. Otaro Alaka has never played an NFL snap. Recent reported signing Jake Ryan, the team’s only veteran linebacker who was even drafted, has played just two games over the past two seasons because of a knee injury.

At a safety-sized 6 feet, 229 pounds, Queen is a new-age linebacker for a league that now values coverage skills above run-stuffing ability. With a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and explosive qualities, he compares physically to the Minnesota Vikings’ Eric Kendricks, a first-team All-Pro selection who played every defensive snap in nine games last season.

Despite not starting until LSU’s fourth game last season, Queen was on the Ravens’ radar pretty quickly. “As our scouts went in," Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz recalled, “they just couldn’t help but notice No. 8 flying around the field." Queen finished the year third on the team with 85 total tackles, including 12 for loss, along with three sacks and an interception. He was flexible for an inside linebacker, lining up everywhere from outside cornerback to deep safety to edge rusher.

Over the Tigers’ final four games, including the Southeastern Conference championship and their two College Football Playoff games, Queen had seven tackles for loss and 2½ sacks. He capped his breakout junior season with defensive Most Valuable Player honors in the Tigers’ championship game triumph over Clemson.

“He’s a guy that really fits us,” DeCosta said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters early Friday morning. “He’s an explosive player, sideline to sideline. He’s equally adept in coverage and also against the run. He’s a good blitzer. He’s a guy that plays like a Raven. He’s a guy that, when you watch the tape, you notice him. He’s a great fit for our defense. I think he’s a great fit for Baltimore, and we’re very excited about him.”

Said coach John Harbaugh: “He really is legit. I mean, he’s a young guy coming on. He’s a first-year starter there. ... His best football’s in front of him, and he’s got some really good tape behind him this year, so we feel like he’s really a riser.”

On a Ravens defense that embraces positional flexibility, Queen fits like a glove. In coverage, he’s shown he can carry slot receivers down the seam into deep zones, mirror running backs leaking out of the backfield and spy on mobile quarterbacks. As a blitzer, he has the tenacity and athleticism to give coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale another instrument of destruction.

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

Queen, the first LSU player drafted by the Ravens, is far from a perfect prospect. His limited experience and size will raise questions about his NFL readiness. He can be an inconsistent tackler, as Alabama running back Najee Harris showed with a couple of highlight runs in their meeting last season. But even in run defense, Queen plays with the intelligence, lateral quickness and technique to stay a half-step ahead.

“I feel like I’m going to bring everything to the table that their defense is known for: the passion, the aggression, just total dominance,” Queen said from his home in Louisiana in a later conference call. “There’s no one little piece to my game. I bring it all.”

Advertisement

It was a “long, long, long, long wait” Thursday, Queen said. It was uncertain whether he’d even fall past the mid-20s, or whether the Ravens would be there if he did.

After a somewhat uneventful opening hour, the draft offered opportunities for the Ravens to trade up and land maybe the draft’s top wide receiver. But after the Las Vegas Raiders took Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and the Denver Broncos grabbed Crimson Tide teammate Jerry Jeudy at Nos. 12 and 15 overall, respectively, the Ravens held pat. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, a close friend of Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, instead landed with the Dallas Cowboys at No. 17.

“Our phone didn’t ring quite as much,” DeCosta said. “We had a couple of phone calls, but nothing that got really close to making a trade.”

Before long, likely Ravens targets started heading elsewhere. Over a four-pick span, the Jacksonville Jaguars took LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, the Philadelphia Eagles picked TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor, the Minnesota Vikings selected LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, and the Los Angeles Chargers drafted Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray after trading up to No. 23 overall.

Queen would’ve filled a need for New Orleans one pick later, but the Saints instead went for an offensive lineman, Michigan center Cesar Ruiz, another player connected to the Ravens. The Green Bay Packers seemed like another threat after trading up to No. 26, but they took Utah State quarterback Jordan Love instead. When the Seattle Seahawks, in a surprise move, took an inside linebacker, it wasn’t Queen; it was Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks.

Advertisement

“You’re always concerned” about losing out on a preferred target, DeCosta said. “I mean, we create so many different conspiracies in our heads leading up our pick — you know, ‘This team’s going to take him.’ ‘This team’s going to take him.’ ‘This team’s going to take him.’ ”

Advertisement

"This year, he added later, “was nice, just to have a guy fall to us.”

The Ravens have enjoyed success in the first round ever since taking left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Lewis with their first two picks as a franchise in 1996. Of their 25 first-round picks over 24 years, 14 have appeared in a Pro Bowl, five have been honored as an offensive or defensive Player of the Year, and three have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Those picks have been especially fruitful lately, with the Ravens taking All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (2016), All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey (2017) and NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson (2018) over the past four years.

With Queen’s selection, the Ravens have eight remaining draft picks, including two selections apiece in Friday’s second and third rounds. DeCosta said he “loves” the players available. He estimated that there are 25 or 30 players capable of contributing as rookies.

“We’re going to get two of those guys,” DeCosta said. "If I can do a good job and we are right in our assessment on these players, which I believe we are, there is no reason why we can’t have a slam dunk day tomorrow.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement