The Baltimore Ravens defensive line has been in a state of flux this offseason. General manager Ozzie Newsome locked up the anchor of the unit, big nose tackle Brandon Williams, on a 5-year deal. However, the Ravens will be replacing the other two former starters on the line after Lawrence Guy fled New England and Timmy Jernigan was traded to Philadelphia.
The Ravens decision makers would not have traded Jernigan unless they felt optimistic about their in-house replacement options. The Ravens have continually invested valuable draft resources into their defensive line. The roster currently possesses good depth and several promising players.
Even after the losses sustained this offseason, the Ravens have a serviceable two-deep. Williams is expected to play on 60-percent or more of the defensive snaps in the middle of the line. At three-technique defensive tackle, former undrafted second year man Michael Pierce will likely compete with former third round pick Carl Davis for the starting role, with the loser of the competition penciled in as Williams backup.
Last year’s fourth round selection, Willie Henry, has serious pass rush potential and should rotate in at defensive tackle on passing downs. Another former fourth rounder, Brent Urban, appears to be the frontrunner for the five-technique defensive end role. 2016 third rounder Bronson Kaufusi could push Urban for reps if he was able to add strength during his ‘redshirt’ rookie season.
In summary, the Ravens current defensive line depth chart is long on potential but short on experience. The two interior positions should be fine considering the Ravens historical success in coaching up defensive tackles. Defensive end is a slightly different situation becuase Urban and Kaufusi are largely unproven commodities. A defensive end that can consistently make an impact on passing downs has been a piece the Ravens defense has been missing for the last few season, acquiring one would be a huge boost to the pass rush.
Furthermore the defensive line benefits from a strong rotation of fresh bodies more than any other position group. It would not be shocking if the Ravens picked a defensive lineman sometime in the first three rounds if the right prospect is available. At a minimum they would be wise to add a developmental defensive lineman on Day 3.
Here are five intriguing defensive lineman that could be available in the fourth round or later:
Nazair Jones, North Carolina, 6’5” 304
Currently projected to be selected in third or fourth round. Naz is an early entrant who posted 146 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, ten passes deflected, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions for he Tarheels over three seasons.
Jones uses a strong punch and smart hand placement to control the point of attack while occupying two gaps. He has the ability to stack and shed to beat single blocking as well. His above average play strength and long arms make him a perfect fit for the Ravens scheme at 5-technique.
Deatrich Wise, Arkansas, 6’5” 274
Wise was better during his junior season for the Razorbacks than he was a senior. Over the last three season his stat line inlcludes 18 sacks, 26 quarterback hits and 48 pressures.
A high upside pass rusher with experience at five technique make Wise a desirable prospect for the Ravens to consider. His excellent length and power allow Deatrich to set a strong edge. He is known as a high motor player with a well developed bull rush and the frame to add bulk.
Davon Godchaux, LSU, 6’3” 301
Another early entrant who was a three year starter down on the Bayou. Davon is a disruptive lineman who provided 99 tackles with 17.5 behind the line, 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery over the last two seasons.
Godchaux’s strengths include explosion out of the three point stance, quickness to shoot gaps, and a good understanding of hand usage and pad level to maintain leverage. The ‘swim’ is Godchaux’s best pass rushing move. He would be a versatile backup at both three and five tech for the Ravens.
D.J. Jones, Mississippi, 6’1” 319
The former junior college transfer is built like a fire hydrant and was a two year starter for the Rebels. He contributed 70 tackles including 8.5 for a loss and six sacks while playing nose tackle against an SEC schedule the last two years.
Jones can anchor against the run and has good lateral quickness for a big man. He is very strong, has quick hands and a nice ‘rip’ move. D.J. could earn early playing time for the Ravens as the backup nose tackle, allowing Davis and Pierce to focus on defensive tackle.
DeAngelo Brown, Louisville, 6’1” 317
Brown was snubbed from the scouting combine after turning in a third team All-ACC season as a senior. He posted 80 total tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recover for the Cardinals over the last two seasons.
40 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press make Brown one of the strongest prospects in the country. He plays with good power, a decent motor and uses an effective punch get off blocks. Likely to be available in the sixth round, DeAngelo is another nose tackle to consider as Williams’s backup.