The Baltimore Ravens entered the 2016 NFL draft with many needs to fill, and with an early draft position throughout each round, they seemed primed to add some high level talent to each of those positions.
At least, within the first few rounds. However, the Ravens front office seemed content to take a different approach than swinging for the fences and trying to add blue chip players with their first few picks.
With the sixth pick, they added left tackle Ronnie Stanley who has had a pretty good rookie season so far when healthy. However, it was the second round proved to be somewhat controversial for them, mostly in the eyes of Ravens fans.
They held the fifth pick of the second round and could have used it on a player that most would have been considered first round quality at that point. It could have been someone such as Noah Spence, Sterling Shepard, Mackensie Alexander, or a plethora of other players that draftniks, and by extension fans of the draft, all loved.
Instead they traded back twice racking up five fourth round picks in the process, and eventually selected linebacker Kamalei Correa with the 42nd overall selection. Following Correa, they selected defensive end Bronson Kaufusi with their third pick, a player whose value can’t be fairly judged until he fully recovers from the broken ankle that he suffered.
Beyond these three players and whatever criticism can be levied at the front office for the impact they may or may not have had, it is hard to argue with the front office’s strategy of acquiring more picks and adding a large quantity of players that have provided both depth and solid play for the Ravens in 2016.
The most obvious real live testament to this is cornerback Tavon Young. Coming out of Temple, Young had received positive reports for his play on the field, with one of the main criticisms of the player being his diminutive stature. While he has proven to be mismatched with certain bigger, athletic receivers (see Bryant, Dez) Young has proven his worth playing both the slot and the outside. A former wideout who would know a lot about this kind of topic has taken notice of Young, and was complementary of him on Twitter during the Ravens second matchup with the Browns.
That young boul at corner for the Ravens is nice with it, no wasted movement from what I can see from tv... #36— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) November 11, 2016
The player drafted after Young is wide receiver Chris Moore. He certainly has had his ups-and-downs on offense, but he has proven his worth on special teams. He has scored not one, but two touchdowns off of blocked punts which have seem to come at an incredible rate for the Ravens in 2016.
Following Moore, the Ravens pulled the trigger on tackle Alex Lewis from Wisconsin who earned a starting job at left guard during 2016 training camp. Lewis had been having a solid 2016 campaign until an ankle injury sidelined him for several weeks. Needless to say, the Ravens got good value out of Lewis for him being a fourth round selection.
After the Lewis pick came Willie Henry who hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, but it was the next pick over who has shown some serious promise this season, especially recently. That would be running back Kenneth Dixon who has gotten more and more involved in a struggling Ravens offense, and has helped to spark it a bit.
Both Ravens running backs look really good today. Kenneth Dixon is legit. Can see why coaches were always so high on him.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) November 27, 2016
If Dixon can continue to run the ball well into December, the Ravens will be happy with their returns on the fourth rounder who many believed could become a bell-cow back this season for the team.
Finally, the Ravens got another impact player late in the draft, this time being fifth round linebacker Matthew Judon. As a division II level player, Judon led all of college football in sacks last season and while he has only accumulated two in 2016, his value has gone beyond just that of a pass rusher.
Matt Judon sets the edge. Timmy Jernigan shrugs off a double team. This is how you stuff the run. https://t.co/4zLp6GfK8e— Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) November 29, 2016
On a stout Ravens defense, Judon has helped the Ravens do what they do best by a significant margin - stuff the run. They are only allowing 87.8 rushing yards per game which is especially impressive considering they have faced rushing attacks featuring Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Lesean McCoy, and many other impressive running backs.
Judon is the final player that best represents the strength of this Ravens draft class: a high quantity of solid to good players that have rounded out this 2016 squad nicely. While it would have been nice to grab more blue chip/immediate impact players early on, it is hard to deny that the Ravens front office added a lot of depth to a team that needed it in a bad way. If at any point players such as Correa and Kaufusi are able to make any sort of impact for the purple and black, it will only be a bonus to what is proving to be a good 2016 draft class for the team and its top brass.