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Many NFL players had their big breakout season last season, but none had a bigger breakout season than Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.

Madubuike, a third-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2020, spent his first three seasons as a rotation player but emerged as a force in the forward defense in 2023. The 26-year-old totaled 56 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 13 sacks (most of them among defensive tackles), earning him a Pro Bowl nomination for the first time in his career.

After his outstanding season, Madubuike’s standing in the league has improved significantly. ESPN polled league managers, coaches and scouts to find the best defensive tackles in the league and after being unlisted last year, Madubuike landed at No. 5 on the list this year.

“Disruptive in both phases, but his power has been his most improved tool (in 2023),” an AFC executive told ESPN. “Plays with a ton of confidence right now.”

Madubuike came in second and seventh among those surveyed. Only Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets, Dexter Lawrence of the New York Giants and Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans were ahead of him.

“Attitude and opportunity – the kid has put in a lot of work with his body and his general football knowledge. He’s been focused all year,” an AFC coordinator told ESPN.

The Ravens have already rewarded Madubuike for his outstanding season, giving him a four-year, $98 million contract extension in March. It’s quite possible that 2023 will remain the best year of his career, but for now he’s expected to consistently be one of the league’s best defensive tackles.

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