The Baltimore Ravens currently own the 16th overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. The 16th slot has seen its fair share of busts over the last ten drafts, but has also been a good place to find quality pass rushers and offensive lineman...
2016: Taylor Decker, OT, Lions
Played surprisingly well as a rookie 16-game starter on the blindside, even outshining the Ravens own Ronnie Stanley according to some analysts.
2015: Kevin Johnson, CB, Texans
Had a solid rookie season before going to injured reserve with a broken foot last year.
2014: Zack Martin, G, Cowboys
One of the top right guards in the NFL and a vital piece on the league’s best blocking unit.
2013: E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills
Career 6-11 record as a starter is a backup at best going forward.
2012: Quinton Coples, OLB, Jets
16.5 career sacks over four seasons, is no longer playing in the NFL.
2011: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Redskins
The unquestioned leader of Washington’s defense is a two-time Pro Bowler and has notched 58.5 sacks in six seasons.
2010: Derrick Morgan, DE, Titans
Steady player took a couple years to find his stride, had his best season in 2016 with nine sacks.
2009: Larry English, OLB, Chargers
Lasted six years in the league, never started more than five games in a season.
2008: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Cardinals
Bounced around four different teams and showed a questionable work ethic, but has settled in to play some good football for the Giants over the last couple years.
2007: Justin Harrell, DT, Packers
Struggled with injuries and never gained any traction in a fourteen game career.
While Martin and Decker showcase the caliber of offensive lineman that have been available in the middle of the first round, the Ravens are unlikely to chose an offensive lineman with their first pick in back-to-back drafts considering the relative weakness of this class, unless they are absolutely sold on Forrest Lamp or Cam Robinson’s ability to dominate in the NFL. Kerrigan has been an extremely consistent and reliable outside linebacker. Morgan is a tier below the elite edge rushers of the NFL, but would be a welcome addition to any team’s defensive front.
Outside linebacker is perhaps the best and deepest positions of the 2017 draft class. Tennessee’s Derek Barnett is considered the top edge defender that has a chance of lasting until the 16th pick. Barnett is an average athlete but used refined technique to produce outstanding results in the SEC.
Taco Charlton was wildly inconsistent at Michigan. However, he did come up big in clutch situations and his ceiling is as high as anyone in the class. His movement is striking similar to Terrell Suggs. He could be an All-Pro if he can improve him motor.
Missouri’s Charles Harris has average measurables for the position. Regardless, he is a natural pass rusher with a lightning quick first step and tremendous footwork. The Tigers have put some potent sack artists into the league lately, including Shane Ray and Markus Golden.
Jordan Willis from Kansas State checked all the boxes at the scouting combine, but may be best suited for a wide-9 alignment in a 4-3 scheme. Takkarist McKinley and Carl Lawson round out the first tier of outside linebacker prospects, each have limitations that make them questionable value until the bottom of the first round.
With pass rush at such a premium across the NFL, it is uncommon to find top level edge defenders after the first round in comparison to most other positions, including receiver and offensive lineman. All of the pass rushers in this draft crop have some weaknesses except expected first overall pick Myles Garrett, most need to improve on setting the edge against the run. Nevertheless, outside linebackers such as Terrell Suggs and Khalil Mack, who can dominate against both the run and pass, are quite difficult to acquire. Furthermore, the Ravens free agency decisions to retain elite nose tackle Brandon Williams and add strong safety Tony Jefferson minimize the need for a complete outside linebacker to improve the run defense.
Drafting a rookie who can post double digit sacks next season would guarantee the success of the Ravens pass defense transformation. Judging by history and the projections of the outside linebackers in this draft class, the 16th selection is an ideal spot to do so.