One of the most consistent right guards in NFL history decided to retire from the league when former-Baltimore Raven Marshal Yanda hung up his cleats earlier in the off-season. Yanda had been one of the premier run-blocking offensive lineman since stepping into the league in 2007 and has left a large hole on the Ravens offensive line. Replacing a player that has played in 156 of the franchise’s last 176 games is never easy, but the Ravens have taken a number of steps in securing a replacement.
Through drafting and free agency over the past three seasons, general manager Eric DeCosta has stocked the shelves behind Yanda in preparation for his departure. Baltimore has added five new interior lineman via the draft and undrafted free agency in this time frame. They then added even more depth as teams began to cut players following the draft. Of the group, there are likely five different players that could potentially start at right guard for the Ravens Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
It’s also important to remember that no one – even some of the most elite guards in the NFL today – could replace what Marshal Yanda has done for the Ravens over his tenure. The players on the Ravens roster can only do their best.
With huge shoes to fill when it comes to replacing maybe the best guard of the past decade, these are the five options the Ravens, DeCosta, and head coach John Harbaugh will have to replace Marshal Yanda entering 2020.
Ravens 2020 Replacement Options for Marshal Yanda
Ben Powers: Fourth-round 2019 (123rd overall)
Perhaps the betting favorite to replace Marshal Yanda next season was selected in last year’s draft and already has a little bit of experience under his belt. With the Ravens in sole possession of the one-seed and a first-round bye going into their final regular-season game of 2019, Powers was given an opportunity to get reps at right guard for a resting Yanda. Parker Ehinger made the start over him but Powers was still able to see 30 snaps on the night. Powers was inserted into the lineup in the second quarter and did not allow a pressure all game. His solid performance landed him an 82.1 overall grade by Pro Football Focus — enough for him to make their team of the week at right guard.
Going into 2020, Powers seems like he’s at the front of the line for the starting spot. Coming out of Oklahoma, he started 35 of the 38 games he played in. The 2018 consensus All-American did not allow a sack in his final season while being solid in both the run and pass-blocking game. Powers isn’t the most athletic guard you’ll find but he makes up for it with good hand usage and great timing. Considering he’s already had a year of grooming in the Ravens system, there’s a good chance that Powers could start day-one for the Ravens at right guard.
Patrick Mekari: Undrafted Free Agent 2019
Mekari’s position on the Ravens is a unique one. When starting center Matt Skura went down due to a brutal leg injury Week 12, Mekari was abruptly forced into a starting role for the Ravens. Replacing the production of Skura seemed like a very tough task, as he was playing at a Pro Bowl level, but Mekari took the new challenge in stride and had a very solid last five and a half games. He was previously moved around the offensive line during his time at the University of California, Berkley and could be a dark-horse candidate to replace Yanda with Skura returning for another year.
Mekari saw significant playing time in 2019 after being the only undrafted free agent rookie to make the Week 1 roster in Baltimore. With offensive snaps coming in parts of 10 different games, he closed out the season playing 484 consecutive snaps for the Ravens. Over that period he allowed no sacks and finished out the year with a 70.6 overall grade per PFF. Mekari will not turn 23 until August but should be in the Ravens long-term plans on the offensive-line due to his production last season. He has a chance to start at right guard but he will most likely be pushing Skura for the starting center job come preseason. However, if no one seizes the open opportunity at guard, Mekari could easily be inserted at the position.
D.J. Fluker: Free Agent Signing
The lone veteran of the group, Fluker comes in to compete for a starting spot on the Ravens after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the off-season. He was a first-round selection of the San Diego Chargers in 2013 but has since bounced around to a number of teams after being released by the Chargers in 2016. Fluker started his career at right tackle in San Diego but was moved into guard prior to the start of the 2015 season. He started each of the 59 games he played in for the Chargers over his first four NFL seasons. Since moving on from them, he has consistently struggled — failing to record a PFF grade of over 60.4 during the past three seasons.
Now in Baltimore, Fluker will be looking to regain some of the energy he had blocking for Mark Ingram back at Alabama. He has by far the most starting experience of any of the Ravens options at right guard but his unimpressive play during his most recent seasons could lead to him being cut if he fails to impress early in camp and during the preseason. Fluker would be the safest option to start at right guard but the Ravens have invested too much into their prospect pool to not let one of them start the season. There’s a chance Fluker could remain on the 55-man roster due to its expansion and the Ravens uncertainty at the position.
Tyre Phillips: Third-round 2020 (106th overall)
Phillips is an interesting option to replace Yanda. On one hand, he was drafted the earliest of the four youngsters the Ravens have on their roster at guard. On the other hand, he seems to be the least developed of the group. Phillips spent the 2018 and 2019 college football at Mississippi State as a left tackle, having one of the most successful years of any offensive lineman in the SEC. His 80.1 grade was the second-highest amongst SEC tackles as he allowed just two sacks and one QB hit over 398 pass-blocking snaps. He’s also a solid run-blocker — using his hands, power, and 6’5″ 331 lbs frame to overwhelm defenders at the point of attack.
What pushes Phillips down the pecking order the most is his lack of experience. He was just a one-year starter at Mississippi State and saw just two snaps at guard in the 2019 season. His lack of agility hindered him on the outside but as an interior lineman, may not be as large of a problem. This should be a transition year for Phillips as he continues to learn a new position. There’s a lot to like about Phillips from a developmental standpoint but there is too much competition ahead of him on the offensive line for him to earn starting time (baring injuries).
Ben Bredeson: Fourth-round 2020 (143rd overall)
Amongst the group listed, Bredeson should have one of the better chances to start at right guard. Coming from Michigan, and John’s brother Jim Harbaugh‘s school, the Ravens likely have the best profile on Bredeson of any of the 32 NFL teams. He is another powerful and sizable guard who excelled in pass protection during his time in Ann Arbor. Bredeson is also as experienced as they come out of college. The former-Wolverine started 46 of his 50 games at left guard over his four years in college — earning three-straight All-Big 10 teams and a second-team All-American nod in 2019. In his final season at Michigan, Bredeson did not allow a sack or quarterback hit in pass protection.
For someone who had so much success in pass protection in college, Bredeson is a very good run blocker. His size and legs allow him to drive defenders forward when run blocking and his toughness shows itself as he continually pushes bodies around near the line of scrimmage. He also has fairly refined handwork. Bredeson simply knows where to be at the right time. It wouldn’t be shocking if he won the starting right tackle job right out of the gate but Bredeson is still a rookie competing with a number of other similar options. He’ll likely be in the thick of the competition come roster cuts.
Most Likely to Start at Right Guard Week 1: Ben Powers
Right guard will be the most intense training camp battle on the Ravens roster in 2020 and until someone asserts themselves in the role, it will still stay fairly open. Even the player that starts Week 1 likely won’t have the job fully secured.
The Ravens are not a team to team to force rookies into roles and for that reason, Powers looks like the favorite to start Week 1 at right guard. He may not have much experience in the NFL but he has shown signs that he can be a solid NFL pro, last year during the preseason, and in his one game of real NFL action. There’s a good chance Bredeson and Fluker push him for the job but Powers should become the first player not named Marshal Yanda to start at right guard for the Baltimore Ravens Week 1 of the NFL season since 2009.
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