The Ravens offense lacks offensive playmakers once again this year, something which has been a common occurrence during their tenure in Baltimore. While many have fixated on the Ravens issues with drafting wide receivers, the truth is their track record is not significantly better at running back.
While the presence of two of the ten best Ravens of all time may hide the issue, the truth is the Ravens have not drafted a running back in their 21 years who has developed into a Pro Bowl back or even an above average starter outside of Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice. Both were taken in the top 55 picks.
With three recent mid-round picks at the position in Kenneth Dixon, Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen, and Lorenzo Taliaferro, the Ravens should not be resorting to players cut by other teams like Terrence West and Alex Collins, or veterans like Danny Woodhead and Justin Forsett to start at the position. The Ravens should be drafting and developing their own talent, especially with their reputation as a run first team.
Here is a list of running backs drafted by Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens over the years:
As you can see, after the two stud running backs, the next best is Chester Taylor, who did most of his damage in Minnesota, and Bernard Pierce, who essentially was only a viable back during the Ravens 2012 championship season, washing out of the league soon after.
With the Ravens struggling to run the ball the past two seasons, the position has clearly been a concern in Baltimore. Although some of the blame goes to the coaching staff and the offensive line, Joe Flacco needs a good run game to be able to complement the Ravens loaded defense with a reliable offense.
While stud running backs have been taken early in the past two drafts, with Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey all drafted before the Ravens were on the clock, there was still plenty of value available in the middle rounds.
The Ravens went with Dixon in 2016, and he has battled injuries. Buck Allen has been relatively effective, but does not have the look of a starter due to his running style. Taliaferro has battled injuries, and did not make the roster this season. Alex Collins, a 2015 5th rounder by Seattle who was left off the roster this preseason in a numbers crunch looks to be the best of the bunch if he can cure his fumbling problems.
Here is a list of all the running backs taken in the past 3 years, with some glaring misses:
While you can’t really fault them for not taking Derrick Henry at the top of the second round, there are some on the list of misses which are quite glaring:
2014: Carlos Hyde (57th), Devonta Freeman (4th round).
2015: Tevin Coleman (3rd round), David Johnson (3rd round), Jay Ajayi (5th round)
While it is easy to concentrate on the exceptions among the list of misses, the bottom line is the Ravens have only once since the Super Bowl run in 2012 had a reliable run game, with Ray Rice’s exile from the NFL setting the team back and forcing them to continuously spend picks which could be used to bolster the offensive line depth or some other area of need. One thing is for sure, what they have been doing until now has not been working, so hopefully the front office will resolve the position and find a long term solution if a need remains by the end of the season.