A third-round pick a year ago, Madubuike flashed as a rookie finishing as Pro Football Focus‘ highest-graded first-year interior defensive lineman earning a very solid grade of 72.1.
For that reason, it’s no surprise that Madubuike was recently named one of 15 potential second-year breakout candidates by PFF’s Seth Galina.
Galina explained how Madubuike’s impressive rookie season could predict future success and eventually lead to him taking over as a full-time starter.
"“Madubuike claimed the title of best rookie defensive tackle in 2020, and his 72.1 PFF grade ranks 15th among first-year interior defenders over the past five seasons. He has some quickness to his game, which allows him to get off, come inside counter moves in pass-rush situations and chase down ball carriers from the backside on runs away from him.Getting enough reps next year is going to be important. He may not be an every-down starter this season, but he’ll come off the bench and provide a spark. And that might just lead to a full-time role in the near future.”"
The Ravens haven’t seen the best of Justin Madubuike.
Madubuike played a primary reserve role as a rookie as he was on the field for 24 percent of defensive snaps despite the fact that he missed six games.
In his 10 games, Madubuike finished with 19 tackles, one sack, two QB hits, and two tackles for loss — modest numbers, but the box score rarely tells the whole story.
Madubuike was effective as both a pass-rusher and run-stopper earning PFF pass-rush and run-defense grades north of 65.0. He was a good player, and he has a chance to be even better in 2021.
The 23-year-old is an excellent athlete who flashed his playmaking abilities at Texas A&M. With another year of experience, it’s easy to see Madubuike making major strides on the gridiron.
That said, he might have to wait until his third NFL season for a true breakout campaign.
The veteran-heavy Ravens defensive line featuring the likes of Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe will likely leave Madubuike relegated to a backup role once again in 2021, barring injury.
But it’s unlikely that all three of those players return in 2022. Campbell and Williams are in the final year of their contracts and the former has been pondering retirement.
Justin Madubuike should receive more opportunities this season, but perhaps his “breakout” might be saved for the following year.