With the Super Bowl now in the rear view mirror, unless your an Atlanta Falcons fan that probably hasn't had any sleep since Sunday, the NFL now shifts gears to the official start of the offseason. Free agent movement, trades, the combine, cuts, and of course the NFL Draft, will take center stage in the coming months. Before you know it, the months will pass and Sunday, September 10th, will arrive.
For now, it is offseason time and here in Baltimore the focus is on the Ravens to try to put the pieces together to turn an 8-8 team that came close to making the playoffs in 2016, into a team that can not only make it to January, but is able to make a deep run. Many predictions about what the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams will do during this period will be made and ESPN's NFL Nation reporters decided to take a crack at it.
Jamison Hensley made his prediction for the Ravens and it's probably no surprise to anybody because it is well known as one of the top needs and priorities for the Ravens heading into next season. You probably already know what it is. Hensley predicts that the Ravens will draft a cornerback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hensley states:
“This position has gone ignored long enough for Baltimore, which hasn't selected a corner in the first three rounds since 2011. The Ravens top three corners under contract are Jimmy Smith, who has repeatedly been injured; Tavon Young, who lacks ideal size to be an outside cornerback; and Shareece Wright, who likely will get cut after struggling most of the 2016 season. Baltimore could land an immediate starter with the No.16 overall pick if one of the draft's top corners, possibly Alabama's Marlon Humphrey or Florida's Teez Tarbor or Quincy Wilson, are available."
Hensley is absolutely right that the Ravens have gone long enough when it comes to picking a cornerback in the first three rounds. When you look at the team's cornerback troubles with injuries and players struggling over the last five seasons, it is astounding that they have not been able to select a top cornerback prospect in recent drafts. The Ravens did try to trade up in last years draft to select Jalen Ramsey, but a deal between them and the Dallas Cowboys was not able to prosper. They have tried to rely on stopgap free agents and late draft picks to fill in the position. Last year's fourth round pick Tavon Young had a very productive rookie season. It is also very sad that we will never get to see Tray Walker get a chance to play and live his life after his tragic passing last year.
Hensley's prediction is not far off the mark and it will be interesting if the Ravens do select someone like Quincy Wilson or Teez Tarbor to line up next to Jimmy Smith as a true number two cornerback. As always though, Ozzie Newsome will pick the best player available and stick to his board. It could be Alabama's tight end O.J. Howard despite the amount of depth and young talent the Ravens do have at that position. The problem of course is injuries at the tight end position.
The team has talked about adding another running back despite the solid seasons out of Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. Which has brought up draft candidates like LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida States Dalvin Cook as possible options for the Ravens with that 16th pick. Maybe the Ravens swerve everybody and pull a Dallas Cowboys by picking a center. Hey, Travis Frederick has done pretty well for a Cowboys team with the best offensive line in the NFL. Not to mention, the Ravens desperately need a center next season. They can't afford to go into Week 1 with Jeremy Zuttah starting at center once again.
I think the Ravens should take a pass-rusher with their 16th pick, but taking a cornerback isn't that far off either. We'll find out on draft day. Until then, there is a long way to go with tons and tons of evaluations of each prospect before the Draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.