The Baltimore Ravens put on quite the polarizing draft class last week in Philadelphia. If you are a Ravens fan, you left the three days of watching the draft either happy, sad, angry, or just flat out confused. You might as well make the sequel to the Disney Pixar film "Inside Out" about a Ravens fan watching the team make their selections last week. That actually could be fun watching all those emotions scrambling around a Ravens fan on draft day.
Even the national media has had some up-and-down things to say about the teams choice of players and who they passed up on to select them. This time however, it is an NFL evaluator and a coordinator who will be reviewing Baltimore's draft class, and their opinions aren't very positive.
ESPN's Mike Sando spoke to numerous NFL executives, coaches, and evaluators about how they felt each team did on draft day in his article here. It is important to note this is an ESPN Insider article, so you must be a subscriber to read it. With that out of the way, this is what the coordinator stated about the Ravens draft class.
"They have $20 million a year in (Joe) Flacco and got him no weapons. That is just strange to me. I guess they will try to hold everyone down on offense with their defense, and that is that. I was surprised [GM Ozzie Newsome], did not take tight end [O.J. Howard] in the first round. But they do need another corner."
Of course, this is a sentiment that has been discussed by many fans and the media. Expressing the fact that despite having a proven quarterback like Joe Flacco, the team continues to pass up on offensive talent to help him out for the sake of the defense. ESPN's Mel Kiper and Jamison Hensley expressed this same sentiment as well, and all three brought up Newsome passing on Howard for Marlon Humphrey. Baltimore even passed up on USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for Tyus Bowser. Smith-Schuster is now in Pittsburgh. What the coordinator says is very understandable, and is a legit argument. All you can say is this: the offseason isn't over and Ozzie Newsome said he will add to the offense, and I believe him.
While what the coordinator said is very understandable, what the evaluator said to Sando was even more harsh and frankly, two of his points were out of this world. He stated:
"Right now, I have Baltimore's roster being closer to Cleveland's than it is to Pittsburgh. Baltimore is so big on letting guys go so they can get compensatory picks. Well, they just haven't been hitting on the picks well enough. There were four Alabama players sitting there for Ozzie, and he took Humphrey, which was probably on pure talent, number four. But they needed a corner and they drafted for need. They did nothing to address the receiving corps that is one of the league's worst."
Lets start with his last statement, I see what he's saying. The receiving core, after Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, isn't very good, and its pretty much what the coordinator and many others have stated. Its unproven, but guys like Chris Moore have potential. Wallace praised Moore a few weeks ago, and he could emerge as that X-factor even with a veteran addition. Michael Campanaro has all the talent in the world to be a Julian Edelman type of player for the Ravens, he just can't stay on the field. As stated before, Newsome said he isn't done, we just have to wait and see what he does.
As far as Newsome's recent draft picks go, as much as people criticize his 2013 draft for selecting Arthur Brown and Matt Elam, other draftees like Rick Wagner, Brandon Williams, and Kyle Jusczcyk have produced and got paid this offseason. Jusczcyk and Wagner were compensatory picks, as well as Pernell McPhee. Other compensatory picks have been Crockett Gillmore and Brent Urban who have been fine when healthy. After playing his first full season and notching two sacks a year ago, Urban has a chance to really step up this year. Ozzie does deserve criticism for some of his recent picks such as Brown, Elam, and Terrance Brooks, but the guy hasn't lost it. Just look at what the rookies did last year. Kenneth Dixon was a compensatory pick, as well as Willie Henry. Henry could also see more playing time this year, and Dixon has all the tools to be the Ravens feature back this year when he returns from suspension. Dixon will be a valuable asset when the team gets to November and December if they are fighting for a playoff spot.
Now, on to the two points that are just ridiculous. First, the Ravens never draft for need. How an evaluator who works for an NFL team thinks that way about the Ravens is beyond me. Baltimore drafts whoever is the best player on their board, no matter who it is. They will do it every time. If they felt Humphrey was the best player on their board over the others, he was going to be the pick. The Ravens didn't necessarily need to draft a corner early after the offseason they had, but their history shows that no matter what positions they addressed in free agency, they will go back to it in the draft if the best player on the board plays that same position. That's the way they conduct business.
Lastly, no, the Baltimore Ravens roster is not closer to the Cleveland Browns. End of story, case closed. I hear this from some people in the media from time to time, but that’s no big deal. To hear that from a guy who works at an NFL team office is just flat out insulting to what the Ravens have done not only in the past, but this offseason. This was a team that was an Antonio Brown left arm stretch away from sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers, and putting themselves in position to win the AFC North in Week 17. Are the Ravens better than Pittsburgh right now? No, but the gap isn't as big as some would think because no matter who is on the roster, these two teams are so evenly matched. The Ravens are not at Pittsburgh's level, not yet, but they are certainly not even close to being the Browns.
Do you agree with what they had to say about the Ravens 2017 draft?