The first-year defensive back has the potential to be the next undrafted gem to blossom into a consistent contributor.
The Baltimore Ravens are deep enough on both offense and defense that they don’t necessarily need many of their rookies to emerge as starters in 2021. Nevertheless, they are still expecting most of them to contribute regularly, at least in rotational roles at their respective positions.
Here is the sixth in a seven-part piece in a series breaking down bold predictions for each member of the Ravens’ 2021 rookie class.
DB Ar’Darius Washington
Bold prediction: Leads Ravens rookie defenders in turnovers and splits time with Tavon Young at nickel.
The Ravens signed the former TCU Horned Frog as a priority free agent after he didn’t get selected in this year’s draft. The undersized defensive back earned a spot on the final 53-man roster with the expectation that he would provide additional depth at both safety and nickel corner, as well contribute on special teams.
Washington was one of the top-graded safety prospects coming out of college this past pre-draft cycle but likely didn’t get his name called on any of the draft days because of concerns about his stature and speed. At 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds, Washington is considered undersized for just about any position on a football team. Also, his 4.61 unofficial time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day is considered pedestrian if not slow for a defensive back.
However, what the first-year pro lacks in measurables and other traditional/superficial metrics, he more than makes up for with his instincts, playmaking ability, and positional versatility. He was always around the football and seemed to consistently be in the right place at the right time in college and showed those same tendencies in both training camp and preseason with the Ravens.
This was a really impressive play by Ar’Darius Washington to get the Ravens the ball back deep in their own territory
He’s a playmaker, as he seems to be constantly around the ball pic.twitter.com/3GeGhJDPCD
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) August 19, 2021
In addition to playing safety, Washington possesses the ability and tenacity to play cornerback in the slot as well. He lined up in the nickel spot quite a bit during the preseason and took reps with the first-team defense earlier in the offseason while Tavon Young was working his way back from his third major injury in the last four years.
When healthy, Young is arguably the best nickel corner in the entire league but his inability to stay on the field the past two seasons, in particular, has forced the Ravens to move All-Pro Marlon Humphrey into the slot. While he has still been able to maintain his elite level of play inside, Humphrey is at his best taking away a specific player or entire side of the field on the perimeter.
Many believed that fifth-round pick Shaun Wade was going to be the top candidate to split time and potentially be the heir apparent to Young in the slot. However, Washington outplayed the more highly-rated rookie through minicamps and the first half of training camp. So much so, in fact, that the Ravens decided to trade Wade after just two preseason games, where he didn’t enter either exhibition contest until after halftime.
Washington, on the other hand, entered each preseason game in the first half and even played with some members of the first-team defense. Even though he’s listed as the third-string free safety on the team’s official depth chart, I’d be surprised if he didn’t split the slot duties with Young. This could help preserve the six-year veteran for the duration of the season.
Final stat prediction: 21 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one interception, six pass deflections, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one sack, and three quarterback hits.