Now that the 2017 NFL draft has come to a close, media pundits and fans will start to critique each and every prospect that a team took. Whether they think a player was taken too high or too low is a moot point to the actual team itself because they made the selection based on where a player was ranked on their boards. The Baltimore Ravens and general manager Ozzie Newsome follow that "best player available" motto to the letter, and their draft class is more instant proof of their philosophy.
ESPN's Mel Kiper was one of the first national media draft insiders to release his full team grades. For the Ravens, he gave them a "B" grade for their efforts, complimenting them for their selections and, as always, sticking to their board. His one concern? Well, take a guess. Kiper stated:
"This was a defense-heavy class for the Ravens, and I like virtually every pick--I think the question is whether Joe Flacco loves it. Marlon Humphrey is my second-ranked corner, a super-athlete and physical defender who will compete with Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith for a starting spot. I remember watching his father, Bobby Humphrey, who was a star running back at Alabama and played four seasons in the NFL. Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are perfect fits in the Ravens' 3-4 and potential replacements for Terrell Suggs. Williams was the No. 1 prospect on my big board headed into the 2016 season, but he's not a complete player, and off-field issues are why he was still around in Round 3. Williams does one thing really well--get up the field quickly in pursuit of quarterbacks--but that's a skill teams crave. Chris Wormley dropped a little bit, but could ultimately replace the traded Timmy Jernigan. He's an outstanding defensive tackle in an admittedly lean class. On Day 3, Nico Siragusa and Jermaine Eluemunor are guards who could replace Alex Lewis on the left side. That's all three of their needs checked off in a solid all-around draft. The big question: O.J. Howard was there for the taking at No. 16. Does an improved defense make that a moot point? We'll see. "
Kiper makes a good point and he is right about what the Ravens addressed. The team entered with help needed for the offensive line, pass-rush, and secondary. They came away with all three. They did very well getting good players with good value, and while the roar for a wide receiver was loud and heard all around Baltimore, the team added to units that have also, just like the wide receiver core, struggled in recent years. When you think about the secondary and pass-rush, how many times have people talked about those two aspects being an issue for the last several years? The secondary has struggled since 2012, and the pass-rush hasn't been anything to brag about either except for 2014. Newsome has done all he could do in free agency and the draft for those problems to fade away.
Having said that, yes, Kiper is also right about what the Ravens didn't do for Flacco. I felt the Ravens did well during these three days of the draft, but it is frustrating seeing quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota leave the draft with weapons added to their arsenals. While at the same time, Flacco leaves with absolutely nothing except two offensive lineman added to his offense. Even Tom Brady, after winning a Super Bowl, got Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dwayne Allen, and Brandin Cooks added to an already stout offense before the draft.
Kiper's fellow ESPN colleague Jamison Hensley felt the same way about the Ravens passing up on O.J. Howard as he listed Humphrey as the teams riskiest pick. Baltimore also passed on receivers like USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster for Bowser in the second-round. While the team didn't come away with a receiver, or a running back for that matter, Ozzie Newsome did state on Saturday that he wasn't done and he will continue to try and add a receiver. The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec brought up the point on Twitter that Newsome will bring in a receiver based on his history and how he conducts his business.
Not defending Newsome here at all for not adding WR in FA or draft. But fans should know how he operates well enough to know he;ll add one— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) April 29, 2017
Whether it's a veteran free agent or somebody in a trade, he'll add one. He always does.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) April 29, 2017
It's also important to note that while receivers like Anquan Boldin and Vincent Jackson are still out there on the market, others like Eric Decker and even Sammy Watkins could be available as well. The team also needs help at the center position and they did bring in free agent Nick Mangold for a visit. Newsome should, and will give Flacco some help, it's just a matter of when.
At least for now, all we can look back on is how Newsome improved the team in areas that they did indeed needed help in entering the draft. Getting players like Humphrey, Bowser, and Williams are important pieces to a Ravens defense for now and the future. They could also help add something that some have argued this defense hasn't had in years: attitude. Time will tell.
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