‘Perimeter’ Playmaker Named Ravens’ Most Underrated Player

May 15, 2024

Brandon Stephens and Devin Singletary

he didn’t lead the Baltimore Ravens in interceptions or go to the Pro Bowl, but Brandon Stephens did enough in 2023 to earn the distinction as the “most underrated player” on the team.

That’s according to Zoltán Buday of Pro Football Focus. He noted how Stephens, who “mostly played safety during his rookie season in 2021, has transitioned into a perimeter cornerback.”

The position switch has paid dividends after Stephens “was thrust into action due to injuries in 2023 and ended up playing more snaps than any other Baltimore defender last season. His 67.4 PFF grade in 2023 was the highest among all Ravens outside cornerbacks.”

Stephens didn’t just earn his plaudits via some props from the analytics community. The 26-year-old merited praise for the solid numbers he produced on the field.

Ironically, those numbers may not be enough to keep Stephens on the field. Not after the Ravens used two prominent picks to select cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL draft, including first-rounder Nate Wiggins.

Brandon Stephens Enjoyed Breakout Campaign

Some of Stephens’ best numbers included snatching two interceptions and breaking up a further 11 passes. He also allowed 68 completions from 108 targets, as well as a mere 6.6 yards per target, per Pro Football Reference.

Touchdowns were impossible to come by for teams going after Stephens during his peak run of the season, according to numbers from PFF BAL Ravens.

Stephens more than did his part to justify another heavy workload in 2024. Yet, he’s still facing an uphill battle to stay relevant, based on the quality of reinforcements the Ravens added via the draft.

Ravens’ Draft Strategy Changed CB Pecking Order

Using the 30th-overall pick on former Clemson standout Wiggins sent a clear message the Ravens wanted to overhaul the depth chart at corner. It made sense since All-Pro Marlon Humphrey missed seven games with foot and calf injuries.

Humphrey is still a capable cover man, but the 27-year-old has started every game in a single season just once during his seven-year career. So there’s room for a dynamic athlete like Wiggins at one of the starting spots, but the Ravens also took T.J. Tampa in the fourth round.

There was an element of best player available about the latter pick. Tampa was deemed too good to pass up with the 130th selection.

The ex-Iowa State star is already planning to use his draft slide as motivation, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: “It’s definitely a chip on my shoulder for all the teams who skipped me.”

Adding Tampa and Wiggins alongside Humphrey and Stephens gives Ravens’ defensive coordinator Zach Orr options. Keeping Humphrey in the slot, where he’s grown more comfortable in recent years, is one idea.

Playing Humphrey inside would let Stephens stay outside the numbers. At least in sub-package situations.

Another combination could involve 6-foot-1, 194-pounder Tampa playing the slot. The rookie’s presence closer to the line of scrimmage might allow Orr to shift Stephens further back as a de facto safety.

Taking advantage of Stephens’ experience at free safety would make him an asset in the deep halves, while a more physical safety, Kyle Hamilton or Marcus Williams, lined up closer to the ball.