Ravens’ two 1st-round picks in 2022 paying big dividends

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta knew that he had an opportunity to improve the roster with a pair of first-round picks in 2022.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, who was viewed as a top-five pick, fell to them with the 14th overall selection. Then DeCosta selected Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum with the 25th overall pick. The move was criticized because some draft pundits thought Linderbaum was a undersized at 6 feet 2, 270 pounds, and that he could have been taken in a later round.

DeCosta proved the experts wrong.

Hamilton and Linderbaum were named to the Pro Bowl in just their second seasons in the NFL.

“We continue to work [and] continue to push each other,” Linderbaum said. “Guys on this team … There’s a lot of good men that are deserving of being Pro Bowlers. There’s a lot of talented guys on this team, especially Kyle [Hamilton], Kyle can do a lot of different things. You guys can see it on the field, and in the locker room, he’s a great guy, too. So, [I’m] happy for him and [I’m] proud of him, but I think a lot of guys can agree – we still have another goal that we’re chasing.” 

Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) runs after the catch against Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) in the second quarter at EverBank Stadium. By Jeremy Reper-USA Today Sports

Hamilton leads all NFL players at his position in passes defensed (13) and tackles for loss (10). His three sacks are tied for the most by an AFC safety, and his four interceptions (including one pick-six) are tied for the second most among the group.

Hamilton has posted a career-high 81 tackles (63 solo) and one forced fumble while permitting an NFL-safety-low 38.4 passer rating (minimum 40 targets) in coverage for a Ravens defense that leads the NFL in scoring (16.4 points per game), sacks (57) and takeaways (29).

Hamilton is the first NFL defender to produce at least 10 tackles for loss and four interceptions in a season since safety Tyrann Mathieu in his 2015 Pro Bowl and All-Pro season. Hamilton is also the first Raven since Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper (both in 2001) to record double-digit tackles for loss (10) and passes defensed (13) in a single season.

Linderbaum anchors an offensive line that blocks for the AFC’s second-best overall (379.5 yards per game) and scoring (29.6 points per game) unit. The Ravens’ offense also averages the AFC’s second-most (6.0) yards per play, has posted the conference’s third-most explosive plays (122), and allowed the group’s fewest plays of zero or negative yards, including incompletions (289).

Linderbaum is one of five AFC centers with at least 800 offensive snaps to have committed three or fewer penalties this season.

“A lot of guys that are around me are really good and really talented players,” Linderbaum said. “So, anytime you’re surrounding yourself with elite talent, it’s going to make you better. It’s definitely done that [for me] in the first two years – just continuing to get better [and] learning from each other is the biggest thing.” 

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