The Baltimore Ravens find themselves in the sixth overall spot in April's NFL Draft. A spot reserved for one of the worst teams in the league, which the Ravens fit perfectly at 5-11. One of the rare instances where general manager Ozzie Newsome will be selecting in the top-ten, this Draft has a much larger opportunity to get the best player available and hit a much needed position all in the same pick.
But what are the needs of the Baltimore Ravens this offseason? Let's do a quick review and ranking to see where the Ravens might go in April.
It was obvious after the loss of linebacker Terrell Suggs that the Ravens defense was going to be limping along. Even though the pass rush got better as the season got on, there was no replacing the production that Suggs had on the team in 2014 and it had ramifications throughout the entire team.
With a poor pass rush, quarterbacks were able to sit in the pocket and wait out a middling secondary. Even with the defensive backs were on point, it resulted in a disappointing number of turnovers. With a defense that could barely hold back opposing offenses, the Ravens offense was forced into tougher situations to help fill the gap. That extra pressure led to more production, but significantly more turnovers.
Both Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are getting older, making a serious need for the team to find replacements for those players. Suggs is also coming off his second Achilles tear and might not be the same regardless. While rookie Za'Darius Smith finished strong, the team can't rely on him breaking out in 2016 alone.
I'm ranking safety over the cornerbacks mainly because I think the Ravens are happy with how Shareece Wright and Will Davis played last year. While you can never have too many corners, I found that most of the issues with the secondary hinged on safeties either playing out of position for a variety of reasons or just plan being out of position, leading to big plays that turned several games away from the Ravens.
Will Hill is a strong safety with some cover skills, but he shouldn't be relied on in coverage even close to 50%. Kendrick Lewis was a downright disappointment in 2015 and could find himself cut this offseason if the Ravens can get in a replacement that they feel will take over. In their young players, the team still has Terrence Brooks and Matt Elam. But neither of them have lived up to potential yet and could be viewed as projects even if neither fits into the free safety role that the team really needs.
With a center-field playing free safety, the Ravens would have seriously eliminated a lot of the big plays they gave up and might be picking much later in the first round because of it. It should also up the number of turnovers as well, immediately making this defense fearsome again.
Like I said above, you can never have too many corners in this league. With players like Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and Martavis Bryant in the AFC North, the Ravens could really use two premier corners to shut teams down. Lardarius Webb is moving to safety if he is even on the team in 2016 with such a high cap figure, and there is no telling if Shareece Wright will continue to improve and if Will Davis will be able to get healthy enough to improve. In drafting a corner that the Ravens can scout and grow with, the team will have someone that they could either stick in immediately if drafted high enough, or could be a depth piece.
There is no doubt that Baltimore's secondary has been atrocious lately and most of that comes down to injuries. Rookie corner Frank Walker never saw any meaningful time in 2015 and looks every bit of a project at that position. At the least, expect the Ravens to grab one cornerback, if not two or three in this Draft after so many went down in the last two seasons.
The offensive line in 2015 was abysmal at times, mostly with the loss of Eugene Monroe and James Hurst coming in to relieve him. It got bad enough that the Ravens slid left guard Kelechi Osemele over to left tackle to help out. The offensive line eventually settled down, but with Monroe looking like a cap casualty and Osemele looking like he'll require too much money to resign, the Ravens suddenly have a major gap at left tackle, with no depth anywhere else. Sure John Urschel looks like he might come into his own at center and Ryan Jensen was a beast at left guard, but Jeremy Zuttah is coming back from injured reserve and might be shaky to start while Ricky Wagner had an overall down season.
At the least, the Ravens will need to add depth to the offensive line, both interior and on the ends, and that's if they decide to keep an often-injured Monroe around. Without Monroe, they need a major upgrade at left tackle in addition to the depth, so look for the team to add a minimum of two or three linemen in the offseason.
Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the organization has to be happy with how this unit performed in 2015. Four different quarterbacks throughout the season and it quickly became next man up as the Ravens saw Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Darren Waller, and Michael Campanaro all head to injured reserve. In their absence, Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler came through, with Aiken even breaking the franchise record for most consecutive games with five or more receptions.
Yet, with Steve Smith nearing the end of his career after holding off retirement to come back one last time, the team knows it has to get itself figured out on that department sooner rather than later. Perriman's injury sounds like a bad omen for the rest of his career given that it was originally diagnosed as a knee bruise after falling on it after trying to make a catch. Having an additional guy or two picked in April should help if the Ravens have another season that sends multiple players to injured reserve and even beyond as guys move on from the Ravens and football in general.
The Ravens have C.J. Mosley and he looks like the guy that will be in the middle of the Ravens defense for another decade. But with Daryl Smith finding his snaps decreasing mostly in coverage situations and his age getting to the point where the team has to figure out his replacement soon, the Ravens will undoubtedly look for depth at the inside linebacker position. Players like Albert McClellan listed as an unrestricted free agent and Zach Orr as a restricted free agent doesn't make anything any easier here either.
The Ravens almost assuredly are done with the Arthur Brown experiment and could see him waived this offseason as well. With only Orr as the best opportunity to come back, the Ravens could have only three inside linebackers when they typically carry five.
The Ravens could even see needs at running back and defensive end as well depending on how things shake out this offseason. But I picked these six positions as being the main things that Ozzie Newsome will be looking at in order to get the final roster as strong as he possibly can.
Do you think another position will be needed or did you think one of the positions listed should be higher or lower? Hit us up in the comments and let us know what you think.