The Ravens recorded the best regular season in franchise history, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in 2019?
Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl — Baltimore had a record-tying 13 selections — or determining postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few watch every player on every team closely enough to form any real authoritative opinion.
Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Tampa Bay offensive line this season? What about the Atlanta Falcons linebackers or the Detroit Lions cornerbacks?
That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging their grading is far from the gospel of evaluation. I don’t envy the exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league when most of us watch one team or maybe one division on any kind of a regular basis.
We’ll look at each positional group on the roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens defensive linemen ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 572
PFF ranking: 66th among interior defenders
Skinny: I’ve mostly agreed with PFF’s past grading of Williams — viewing him as solid but unspectacular since signing his 2017 extension — but he played his best football in a few years in 2019, especially after his Week 4 absence and reported spat with Earl Thomas. His $9.25 million salary and $14.17 million cap number for 2020 are steep for someone who doesn’t pressure passers, but he anchors Baltimore’s front.
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 521
PFF ranking: 45th among interior defenders
Skinny: While his spring weight problems were largely forgotten by the start of the season, Pierce didn’t have the contract year he envisioned, finishing 2019 with the lowest PFF grade of his career and not being as impactful. There still figures to be a good market for his services, but the Ravens are already paying premium money for a defensive tackle that doesn’t get after the quarterback.
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 484
PFF ranking: 62nd among interior defenders
Skinny: The 5-technique defensive end saw the biggest workload of his three-year career and was solid playing the run, but he registered just 1 1/2 sacks, six quarterback hits, and the lowest PFF pass-rushing grade among all Ravens defensive linemen. The 2017 third-round pick is a reliable member of the rotation, but he’ll need a big contract year to make an extension any kind of a priority for Baltimore.
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 158
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Signed in mid-November, the 14th-year defensive tackle served as a capable run stopper in place of an injured Pierce and settled into a rotational role down the stretch. Peko left the door open to playing another season after last month’s playoff loss, but the 35-year-old should serve as more of a backup plan than a priority re-signing at this stage of his career.
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 71
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Signed along with Peko, the 350-pound defensive tackle played sparingly in four regular-season games and the playoff loss. Ellis, 29, is another run-stopping option who graded well in limited opportunities, but he doesn’t offer much versatility and isn’t a pass-rushing threat.
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 9
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The fifth-round rookie from Texas A&M saw his only action of the season in Week 4 before eventually being placed on injured reserve in November. With so many free agents along the defensive line, the Ravens need Mack to step into a rotational role at the very least.
2020 positional outlook
Other than Williams and Wormley, the cupboard is bare in terms of proven rotation options under contract, making this position group a greater priority than some are acknowledging. Finding a more balanced defensive lineman via the draft or free agency would be a major boon since the Ravens haven’t had a viable pass-rushing defensive tackle across multiple seasons since Timmy Jernigan, instead relying on versatile edge players like Za’Darius Smith and Pernell McPhee to move inside in passing situations. It will be interesting to see whether the Ravens rely on the draft, take another stab at signing a veteran like Gerald McCoy, or dip their toes into more lucrative free-agent waters to sign someone like Pittsbugh’s Javon Hargrave, who registered 10 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons and graded as PFF’s eighth-best interior defender last season. Regardless of the avenue, the Ravens really need to address an interior defensive line that could lose Pierce and finished with a bottom five pass-rushing grade in 2019, according to PFF.