Indianapolis — In the 24 years of Ravens draft history, the team has picked players from Maryland and Morehouse, Houston and Harvard, Florida and Florida International.
Not one, though, has come from a longtime NFL factory and college football blue blood.
“They’ve never drafted an LSU player ever, so I’ll be the first," Tigers inside linebacker Patrick Queen said Thursday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. “I guess that’s something to look positively at. So I’ll just be thankful.”
If the Ravens want to find the franchise’s next great inside linebacker in April’s draft, they won’t have trouble finding film. Their three most likely targets played for the reigning national champion (LSU’s Queen), a tried-and-true Baltimore pipeline (Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray) and a finishing school for linebackers (Wisconsin’s Zack Baun).
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With the potential exit of pending free agent Josh Bynes, general manager Eric DeCosta has a motive to find an instant-impact prospect in the middle. And a daunting precedent, too: The only two inside linebackers the Ravens have taken in the first round are Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley.
Queen could have All-Pro potential. Rated the No. 15 overall prospect and second-best inside linebacker in the class by the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, Queen’s been linked recently to the Ravens’ No. 28 overall pick. The 6-foot, 229-pound junior was named defensive Most Valuable Player of the Tigers’ national championship win over Clemson last month after posting eight tackles (2½ for loss).
“Patrick has always been an instinctive player," LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire said Wednesday. “I mean, you can watch it on film, but Pat is different in the form of him being just an elite athlete, but also a guy that’s always hard on himself and always preparing the way he needs to prepare. ... Certain guys learn certain ways, but I think him being hard on himself got him in a position that he’s in today.”
Murray is bigger (6-2, 241), more experienced (42 career starts) and a literal live-saver (in July, he administered CPR on an unconscious woman who’d been in an accident). He also starred for Oklahoma, which means he might as well start looking into available lodging around Owings Mills.
But Murray’s ties to the Ravens are far from superficial. His favorite player growing up was Ray Lewis. His pregame preparation always includes Ray Lewis highlights.
“That’d obviously be a huge honor,” he said of the Ravens possibly picking him. “Just try to pattern my leadership after Ray Lewis and try to pattern my play after Ray Lewis. So that’d obviously be a huge honor to play for Baltimore, given what Ray and the rest of the linebackers there have done.”
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Maybe the biggest mystery is the 6-2, 238-pound Baun, who was named Wisconsin’s Offensive Player of the Year as a high school senior after rushing for 39 touchdowns in a run-heavy spread offense, then moved to outside linebacker as a redshirt freshman at Wisconsin. He dominated as an edge rusher last season, finishing with 19½ tackles for loss and 12½ sacks, then got snaps as an off-ball linebacker at the Senior Bowl.
Baun feels “completely comfortable” playing there, but his experience is limited. He acknowledged Thursday that he didn’t have much experience covering tight ends or handling presnap responsibilities. At least he has friends who can offer some pointers. Former Badgers pass-rush star Joe Schobert made a similar transition inside after the Cleveland Browns drafted him in 2016, and six other Wisconsin linebackers have been taken in the past three years.
A retailing and consumer behavior major at Wisconsin, Baun, maybe more than most prospects, knows how shoppers think about tough choices.
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“This is a business,” he said. “I’m trying to provide as much value to a team as I can, and I know they’re making an investment in me. So I’m trying to make sure that I’m sufficient in all aspects, whether that’s knowledge of the game, ability to play, off-the-field stuff. You need to have every category to be exactly what a team’s looking for.”
NFL key dates
Through Monday: NFL scouting combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.
March 10: Before 4 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players.
March 16-18: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents.
March 29-April 1: Annual league meeting, Palm Beach, Florida.
April 23-25: NFL draft, Las Vegas.