The Baltimore Ravens offseason has been defined by adapting and changing gameplans as the field changes around them. It started out by missing out on acquiring now-Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry while collecting Michael Crabtree as an unexpected consolation prize. This came about again on draft night again as the Ozzie Newsome shook up the draft board multiple times. In his final draft, Newsome turned Baltimore’s eight initial picks into 12 including both additional first and third-round selections. Baltimore came away with three players that possess first-round talent and a ton of depth to create competition at more than one position of need.
Whether you are satisfied or not with the Ravens pull in this year’s draft, it is hard to deny that Ozzie checked off all the boxes needed to have a successful draft.
4 Takeaways From The Baltimore Ravens Draft
The Ravens Did Not Like Any of the Top-5 Receivers in the Draft
Before the draft, Dez Bryant was making headlines not because he had found a new home after being cut by the Cowboys, but because he reportedly turned down a three-year contract offer from the Ravens. Whether the Ravens would benefit from Bryant’s presence will remain unknown, but this showed that Baltimore was still trying to improve their wide receiver core. They then proceeded to trade back down in the first round of the draft on night one potentially with their eyes on taking a young wide receiver. A tight end, Hayden Hurst, was the eventual pick after trading down from 16 to 22, then 22 to 25.
The Ravens had the chance to take the draft’s consensus most pro-ready wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and they passed on him TWICE for a do-it-all tight end that wasn’t even necessarily the best tight end in the draft. Couple this with the fact that there was interest in bringing in a veteran receiver and it shows Ravens management believes their receivers can be improved but did not see anyone they liked enough to use one of their first two picks on them. Baltimore selected it’s first wide receiver with their last pick of the fourth round in Jaleel Scott of New Mexico State.
2. Joe Flacco Needs To Show He Deserves to Start
The biggest hindrance to the Ravens for the start of 2017 was the lingering back injury that plagued Flacco over the preseason. This kept him out of action until the first game of the regular season where he threw for a 1:2 TD:INT ratio over his first six games and started the Ravens at 3-3. Though Flacco would only throw another five picks over his next 10 games, he appeared to be off track with a number of his receivers at times. Some of this can be chalked up to drops and a lack of 50:50 balls caught but Baltimore is clearly sending a message to Flacco with the selection of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens traded away their 2019 second-round pick to the Eagles to move up 17 spots and select the 2016 Heisman winner. Jackson plays a completely different style of football to Flacco and if he struggles to begin the year, Head Coach John Harbaugh will have to take a serious look at starting Jackson. In the Ravens first-round review press conference, Harbaugh said “Joe Flacco is our quarterback – that’s the thing we have to remember” when being asked about the expected usage of Jackson. This shows that the Ravens have a commitment to Flacco but if he performs similarly to last year with a new group of receivers, Ravens fans will all be asking for Jackson to take the reigns.
3. The Defense is Expected to be Dominant
Baltimore may have finished the 2018 season at 9-7 but it was no thanks to their 27th ranked offence. The Ravens won games on the shoulders of their dominant defence and expect their 2017 draft-class to step-up in the coming year thus continuing the tradition of gritty football in Baltimore. The defence pitched three shutouts over the course of 2017 while finishing with the most interceptions in the NFL. Of Baltimore’s seven picks in the 2017 draft, five were on the defensive side of the ball whereas only four of the 12 were used in 2018 on defensive players.
This means that Coach Harbaugh is looking for big leaps in play from a lot of players in 2018. This includes from respective 2017 second and third round picks, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Both were taken with the prospect of taking over Terrell Suggs job at outside linebacker but neither were able to make an on-field impact in 2017. Though there was little competition for them drafted in 2018, they still have to work hard to earn time over Suggs and last years breakout Raven Matt Judon. The pass rush is still the biggest weakness on the Ravens defence and someone new needs to make an impact as soon as the season kicks off.
4. The Ravens Want To Compete Now and in the Future
While the Ravens traded back multiple times to accumulate draft picks in 2018, it followed the trend of Newsome getting the most of the picks he is given. However, the selection of Hurst surprised more than a couple people considering it could be perceived as a reach. Tight end was perhaps the biggest position of need that the Ravens had and showed it with the selection of another tight end Mark Andrews in the third round. If one of these players turn in to Todd Heap it is no longer a reach but for the time being, the pick of the 24-year-old Hurst looked like a move for the immediate future and not down the line.
Baltimore also got away with a bit of a steal in the third round with the selection of Orlando Brown out of Oklahoma. Brown was widely considered a top-20 talent before his historically bad combine, but if his on-field play doesn’t waiver, the Ravens may have found a starting right tackle for – if not next-year – the foreseeable future. The selection of Jackson also shows the Ravens want to have no gap between when he is ready to step in and Flacco’s eventual departure. Jackson can sit and mature behind Flacco on the bench with another former Heisman winner in Robert Griffin III and take over when Flacco’s time as a Raven is over.
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