The Baltimore Ravens enter finish their bye week searching for answers everywhere; both on the field and in the coaching department. A record of 4-5 is not the place this team wanted to be once they began their season back on September 10, in Cincinnati. The team needs a lot of help from both inside the organization and outside, but another aspect they need help in is the performance of their draft class.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome's draft picks from this year in Philadelphia came with a lot of criticism. The biggest being a defensive dominated draft picks in an offseason where the team needed to seriously address the offensive side of the football. Seven months later, and Baltimore is in the same boat, again. The only two Ravens offensive players selected were offensive lineman Nico Siragusa and Jermaine Eluemunor. Siragusa suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL in training camp, while Elumenor is a project who has come in sparingly due to injuries. He continues to be a backup offensive lineman.
Marlon Humphrey has not only been the prize of this draft class so far, he has been one of the big bright spots on the team all season. Humphrey seems to be getting better game-by-game. Baltimore hopes that the combination of Humphrey and Jimmy Smith can make a good one-two punch at the cornerback position for this defense for years to come. It really all hinges on health and Humphrey's progression, because he's going to make rookie mistakes.
After Humphrey, The next three draft picks have been rather disappointing to say the least. Third round pick Tim Williams has been hampered by injuries and healthy scratches, but when he's been on-the-field, the pass rusher that was big for the Alabama Crimson Tide has done nothing. He has yet to full display his abilities that made him a force in College. 3rd round pick Chris Wormley was completely inactive for the first four games only until Brent Urban went down for the season and Wormley wound up replacing Bronson Kaufusi. Wormley has been in the rotation, but again has made very little impact on a defense that is struggling to stop the run.
Maybe the biggest disappointment of this draft class is Tyus Bowser, the teams second round draft selection. Bowser started during the first two games of the season, and even won the NFL Pepsi Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Cleveland Browns. However, the good times haven't lasted for Bowser, as his play has suffered, leading to a decrease in snaps. He only had four defensive snaps against the Tennessee Titans last week, and committed a terrible illegal formation penalty on a great punt by Sam Koch deep in their own end zone. The penalty forced Koch to punt it again, which led to it being shanked and giving Tennessee great field position in Ravens territory.
Baltimore selected seven players in the draft, and while 7th rounder Chuck Clark has done well on special teams, only Humphrey has really been the one to make an impact. Which is great considering he is a first-round pick, and giving the Ravens a third good first-round pick in four years with the other two being C.J. Mosley and Ronny Stanley. The rest have been either ineffective or injured. Last years rookie class saw the likes of Tavon Young, Kenneth Dixon, Alex Lewis, and Stanley emerge in 2016.
The bonus for the rookie campaigns of 2017 will be on Newsome's top four selections when the team resumes play next week in Green Bay. Humphrey has been superb, his progression the rest of the season is volatile and hopefully, turnovers will come for the rookie. He can't afford to make too many mistakes. Williams, Bowser, and Wormley are going to have to step up to get more playing time, especially Bowser.
While it's not good to look at hindsight, it's not hard to look at the Raven offensive struggles and point to the lack of players drafted at certain positions. Baltimore passed on players such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, and Alvin Kamara for Tyus Bowser. They passed on Kareem Hunt for Tim Williams. Baltimore needs more from this class not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future. They need this class to succeed, because the top of the 2015 class highlighted by Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams looks like a dud.