2 Ravens breakout candidates become clear after dominant minicamp

The Ravens are getting solid performances from their young players.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

The Baltimore Ravens are willing to splash the cash in free agency when the right player becomes available, but this organization has been built on the back of drafting, developing, and promoting their top young talent internally. That roster building approach will not change heading into 2024.

The Ravens will be asking for big things from third-year tight end Isaiah Likely, who impressed when filling in for Mark Andrews last season. On the defensive side of the ball, second-year linebacker Trenton Simpson will need to validate his pre-draft hype by sliding into a starting role.

According to reviews and rumblings from minicamp, both Likely and Simpson seem to be turning a corner and hitting their stride. Likely has been piling up the one-handed catches, performing the best out of all the Ravens' pass-catchers. John Harbaugh has even been quoted as saying Likely will "be a big part of what we do."

Simpson looks completely different from last year in Zach Orr's defense, playing with a deadly combination of intelligence and ferocity as he makes plays. After the loss of Patrick Queen, Simpson appears ready to start in the middle of new defensive coordinator Zach Orr's unit.

Isaiah Likely, Trenton Simpson impressing at Baltimore Ravens minicamp

Likely was so good during his stint filling in for Andrews last season that Baltimore may need to do more two tight end sets just to accommodate him. If extrapolated out a 17-game piece, Likely would have piled up 912 yards and 14 touchdowns. It's safe to say that level of production is too good to keep on the bench.

Likely would be an upgrade on a good chunk of teams across the league as a starter. While Andrews will always be the starter as he chases history, Likely has officially become so good that Baltimore can't just let him rot on the bench.

Simpson is beyond reproach as an athlete, as he has shown amazing speed and coverage skills during his workouts and film at Clemson. The key to becoming a star in the pros lies in mastering Orr's defense and being more aggressive than he was during his time as a tentative rookie.

With an All-Pro running mate in Roquan Smith next to him, Simpson can play free knowing that any missteps he makes can be erased by one of the best in the league at the linebacker position. Simpson has all the physical tools needed to replace Queen in the middle.