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With brains and brawn, Ravens rookie Ben Bredeson might be smart choice for starting spot at right guard

Columnist Mike Preston and Ravens beat writer Jonas Shaffer discuss their evaluation of the Ravens 2020 draft picks.

Ben Bredeson was a precocious child. When he was 5, he memorized multiplication tables. When he was in the sixth grade, he took the ACT and finished in the 75th percentile of students administered the college admissions test.

When the Ravens took the All-American guard in the fourth round of the NFL draft last month, coach John Harbaugh hailed his “photographic memory.” Bredeson is wary of the label — “I don’t know if it’s ever been tested,” he said Monday — but his combination of brains and brawn is unique. He started all four years in high school, then all four years at Michigan.

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With the Ravens’ open competition to replace All-Pro Marshal Yanda at right guard, Bredeson might prove the smart choice. He got the team’s playbook last week and said he’s already “got a good grasp of it.” Bredeson could contend for playing time at center and at left guard, so he’s studying those roles, too. What he sees on the page, he tends to remember.

“Working with the offensive line, it’s always beneficial to know what everybody’s doing so you can play in multiple spots and know what the guy next to you is doing,” Bredeson said in a conference call Monday with Baltimore reporters. “So I’m just learning the plays completely through, and that’ll give me the opportunity to play multiple positions down the line.”

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Bredeson’s expected to battle second-year guard Ben Powers and third-round pick Tyre Phillips for the job at right guard, as well as former Seattle Seahawks starter D.J. Fluker, whose Ravens contract has not yet been finalized. Bredeson, who played exclusively at left guard in college but practiced at all five spots, also said he feels “comfortable” at center, where starter Matt Skura’s coming off a season-ending knee injury.

Bredeson’s parents gave him his good genes; his siblings made him scrap for every advantage. His mother, Deb, competes in field trial competitions, events that test dogs’ retrieving ability. His father, Mike, played center at Illinois State. His older brother, Jack, pitched at Michigan from 2016 to 2019, and his younger brother, Max, is a high school pitching prospect himself.

“We always grew up in a very competitive and athletically driven house,” he said. “When you have three boys, and none of them want to lose to each other, it’s a catalyst, and we’re all super competitive here. They’re my best friends and my biggest rivals at the same time.”

Bredeson’s intangibles didn’t hurt his draft stock — he was a two-year captain at Michigan, and Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh gushed to his brother in his scouting report: “Leader by example, and vocal, no nonsense, all football all the time, really motivated, very competitive guy.”

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It was partly his measurables that dropped him to the fourth round. While a lingering hamstring injury kept the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Bredeson from participating in testing and on-field drills at the NFL scouting combine, his arms measured just over 31 inches long. That ranks in the first percentile among offensive linemen; 5-9 Ravens running back Justice Hill’s arms are a half-inch longer.

“Compared to [the arm length of] some other guys, yeah, I’m on the shorter end of the spectrum,” Bredeson said Monday, but he still regularly uprooted Big Ten Conference defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage. With the Ravens’ run-heavy game plan, he said he “couldn’t have picked a better offensive line unit or offense to be drafted to.”

Pass protection wasn’t an issue for Bredeson, either: According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t surrender a sack over a combined 866 pass-blocking snaps in 2017 and 2019. If there’s one rookie lineman across the NFL who can actually remember what success looks like, it’s probably Bredeson.

“We play this game to win games and get on the field, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help the 'O' line and help the team,” he said. “So whether that’s starting or being in a backup role, this team’s trying to win a championship, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help push that goal forward.”

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