The Ravens have a tradition of excellence during their 26-year history that many NFL franchises would envy. From 2000-2020, the Ravens made 13 playoff appearances, won two Super Bowl titles and had just four losing records.

Yet here’s the stark truth for last year’s Ravens rookie class: Their only professional experience is a losing season (8-9) and a postseason spent watching games on the couch. Of course, there are myriad reasons for that, and most involve injuries, as the Ravens were ravaged more than any team in the league last year. A total of 25 Ravens spent time on injured reserve, and several starters were lost for all or much of the season.

Head coach John Harbaugh has often said that a player’s biggest growth takes place from Year One to Year Two. Players have fully adjusted to life as a professional, and they are bigger, stronger and more familiar with the playbook and the rigors and speed of the pro game.

The Ravens’ 2021 rookie class embarks on Year Two with the beginning of the offseason conditioning program this month, followed by 10 OTA workouts starting in mid-May and then the three-day mandatory minicamp in June. This group will play a crucial role as the team hopes to reverse last year’s losing record — just the second in Harbaugh’s 14-year tenure — and find its way back to the postseason in an AFC North that only seems to be getting stronger.

One year in, the Ravens’ 2021 draft class looks especially top-heavy. Whereas previous drafts included late Day Three picks such as Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott and Bradley Bozeman who became key contributors, the final three picks of the eight-member 2021 draft class — all taken in the fifth round — had little to no time with the team as rookies, and two of them weren’t even on the roster when the season began.

Here is a rundown of the Ravens’ 2021 draft class, with a quick look at what they accomplished last season and what success might look like for each of them in 2022. (This list does not include fifth-round pick Shaun Wade, a cornerback who was traded to the New England Patriots last preseason.)


Bateman’s rookie year was slowed by a preseason groin injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the first five games. When he finally got on the field, he showed the reliable hands and crisp route-running that made him the Ravens’ top draft pick.

Bateman finished the 2021 season with 46 catches for 515 yards and one touchdown, but there were times he vanished for long stretches or his number simply wasn’t called. He had a career-best 103-yard game at Cleveland, and then a week later, he had one catch for 5 yards (on two targets) against Green Bay.

Social media posts have shown Bateman working out with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason. The duo had hardly any preseason time together last year. Jackson missed the first 10 days of training camp after testing positive for COVID, and just two practices after he returned, Bateman was sidelined. Their injuries during the regular season didn’t coincide, either. They played just seven games together, so the more reps, the better.

Last year, Marquise Brown — who had numbers similar to Bateman as a rookie (46-584) — became just the second wide receiver drafted by the team to produce a 1,000-yard season with the team. Even in a Ravens offense built around the run, Bateman should become the third, this year or next.

Year Two progress for Bateman would mean: He emerges as a No. 1 wide receiver and finds the end zone at least five times after scoring just once as a rookie. Bateman’s skill set and what Jackson called Bateman’s “sneaky speed” should prove effective against the Cover Zero blitzes that teams figure to throw at the Ravens after Jackson and the offense struggled against them last year.


When the Ravens drafted Oweh — with a pick obtained when they traded away tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — they dismissed the fact that Oweh had no sacks in his final season at Penn State. The team’s talent evaluators and coaches stressed that his speed and athleticism could be game-changing.

Oweh flashed some of that right away, most notably by forcing and recovering a fumble in the closing minutes of the Ravens’ 36-35 win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Oweh finished the year with 33 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.

Oweh missed the final two games with a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery, but the Ravens expect him to be fully recovered for this season. And frankly, they need him to be. After a deal to sign Za’Darius Smith fell through, and with Tyus Bowser coming off a torn Achilles suffered in the season finale against Pittsburgh, the Ravens’ edge rush group remains the biggest area of concern.

Year Two progress for Oweh would mean: He leads the team in sacks and has a hand in at least a half-dozen turnovers, via forced fumbles, fumble recoveries or interceptions. New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who will be working with Oweh for the first time, will try to devise schemes that allow Oweh’s speed to be at its most disruptive.


Cleveland arrived in Baltimore with much fanfare as a 6-foot-6, 357-pound, squirrel-eating mountain of a man from Georgia, and the former All-SEC road-grader was expected to compete immediately for the starting left guard spot. Instead, Cleveland was slowed by a concussion in training camp and later missed four games with a knee injury.

Cleveland finally worked into the starting lineup for the final four games with Ben Powers sidelined by a foot injury, but he struggled against some of the game’s elite interior defenders down the stretch. Pro Football Focus rated Cleveland 61st among guards.

The Ravens allowed a franchise-record 57 sacks in 2021, and the running game, which had led the league the previous two years, slipped to No. 3. That can be attributed in large part to the season-ending injuries to the presumed top three running backs (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill), forcing the Ravens to do some scrambling to find replacements.

Year Two progress for Cleveland would mean: He wins the left guard job in training camp and establishes himself as a consistent, reliable NFL starter for an improved offensive line, which general manager Eric DeCosta has said is a top offseason focus.


The Ravens touted Stephens’ versatility as a former running back at UCLA who transitioned to cornerback at SMU and projected as a safety in the NFL. With injuries ravaging the Ravens’ secondary, Stephens was pressed into action early and often.

Stephens started 11 games as a rookie in place of injured safety DeShon Elliott, and late in the year he lined up at cornerback at times. He finished with 78 tackles, fourth most on the team, and had four passes defensed. Stephens also had four special-teams tackles.

The Ravens signed safety Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million deal to patrol the back end of the defense alongside Chuck Clark, so Stephens figures to return to a reserve safety role. The Ravens used a third safety frequently in dime formations last year, and new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald might go that route again. Stephens also might get some reps at cornerback, where the Ravens are thin after releasing Tavon Young and losing Anthony Averett and Chris Westry to free agency.

Year Two progress for Stephens would mean: He continues to contribute in the secondary, on the field with both Williams and Clark in dime looks, or as a fill-in cornerback, and records a couple of interceptions. The Ravens’ secondary, Stephens included, dropped several potential interceptions last year, one reason the team finished with 15 takeaways, the second fewest in team history. Stephens also should rank among the team’s top special-teams tacklers.


Wallace had a limited role on offense but quickly established himself as one of the Ravens’ top punt-team gunners, which earned him playing time in all 17 games. He averaged just a handful of snaps on offense, finishing with two catches for 23 yards, but he played 59 percent of the team’s special-teams snaps and was tied for second on the team with nine special-teams tackles.

With Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay entrenched atop the receiver depth chart, Wallace once again finds his best path to the field via special teams, but the departure of Sammy Watkins could open the door for more contributions on offense.

Year Two progress for Wallace would mean: He once again is the team’s top gunner, leads the Ravens in special-teams stops and creates a couple of turnovers. On offense, he carves out a larger role with 20-plus catches and his first career touchdown.


Hayes’ rookie season was essentially over before it got started. A gameday inactive in the first two games, he played briefly during the win at Detroit in Week 3, but then the Notre Dame product was carted off the field with a knee injury and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.

Former Ravens linebackers coach Drew Wilkins, who followed Don “Wink” Martindale to the New York Giants this offseason, likened Hayes to Tyus Bowser, a versatile edge defender who could get to the quarterback and also drop into coverage and defend the run. With the Ravens’ lack of depth at outside linebacker, Hayes should have plenty of opportunity to assert himself in training camp, assuming he is healthy.

Year Two progress for Hayes would mean: Just getting on the field for more than a few snaps would mark progress after his injury-scarred rookie year. With a strong summer, Hayes can evolve into a consistent, rotational edge defender with 25 tackles and his first NFL sack.


Mason did not make the team out of training camp, becoming the Ravens’ highest draft pick since Robert Myers in 2015 to suffer that fate. The Ravens had hoped to stash Mason on the practice squad as an understudy to Patrick Ricard, but Mason opted to sign on to the practice squad of the New England Patriots instead. Mason never got into a game before being released, and he later spent time on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad.

The Ravens re-signed Mason to a reserve/futures deal in January, but his path to the 53-man roster would again seem to be blocked after the Ravens re-signed Ricard, their three-time Pro Bowl fullback, to a new three-year, $11.25 million deal in March.

Year Two progress for Mason would mean: He makes it onto a 53-man roster, either with the Ravens or elsewhere. The Ravens are unlikely to keep two fullbacks, so Mason’s best route would be to show well during training camp and in preseason games, where he should get plenty of chances to spell Ricard, then latch onto another opportunity elsewhere. He is also an immediate backup plan should Ricard suffer any training camp injury.

Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 274: April/May 2022

This article was updated after the Ravens traded WR Marquise Brown to the Cardinals on April 29.

Originally published April 20, 2022

Bo Smolka

See all posts by Bo Smolka. Follow Bo Smolka on Twitter at @bsmolka