When you look at the rankings the national media has put out as of late, and see where they place the Ravens, it's almost comical to look at where the pundits think the team is among their peers. ESPN ranked Baltimore 11th before the draft, afterwards, 16th. If you thought the ESPN one was bad, these two might take the cake, especially Sports Illustrated's.
Let's start with NFL.com's ranking by Elliot Harrison. After free agency, the Ravens were originally ranked 17th. After the draft, a draft where they addressed such needs like pass-rush, cornerback, and offensive line, Baltimore fell four spots to No.21. Harrison stated:
"A rejiggering of the team leaves Baltimore as the odd squad out, sliding a few rungs down. The drop is more of a reflection of what the Eagles and Colts did in the draft as opposed to what the Ravens didn't do. That said, the criticism for not taking a wideout is fair. Losing Kamar Aiken to free agency and Steve Smith Sr., to retirement leaves the passing game in the hands of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Which means Danny Woodhead will catch approximately 180 balls. Not all is negative, as 11-22 on these rankings is awfully tight. As was the Chris Wormley pick. He's going to help right away."
In fairness, Harrison admits this was very tough to put the Ravens this low because it was very tight. If he feels the Eagles and Colts did better than the Ravens on draft day, then that's his opinion. Still, 21st is pretty low for a team that was very close to going to the playoffs last season, and did get better on defense this offseason. As I've mentioned before, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome stated he will add a veteran wide receiver. With free agent signings not affecting compensatory picks starting today, you know Ozzie's busy at work.
Harrison's rankings however, doesn't compare to where Sports Illustrated's Eric Single put them. Single believes that the Ravens belong as the 24th best team in the NFL. Meaning there are only eight teams Baltimore is better than. Single said:
"Didn't beat the curve. The inches by which Antonio Brown broke the plane of the goal line on Christmas night turned a season of contention into a misleading three-game gap between Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the final standings. The Ravens had been creeping toward the bottom third of the league in sacks over the past few years, and Day 2 picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams can help turn that trend around immediately off the edge."
To start, yes, he's right about the Ravens pass-rush over the last two years. Baltimore desperately needed to address the pass-rush with Terrell Suggs nearing the twilight of his career, Elvis Dumervil's release and Za'Darius Smith's sophomore struggles. Drafting players like Wormley, Williams, and Bowser should help take the pressure off Suggs and Matthew Judon.
However, for a team that finished second in division standings that Single himself said was "misleading", why does he have the Ravens at No.24? That is extremely low for a team that came so close to sweeping the Steelers a year ago. 24th is very bottom tier of the league territory for a team in playoff contention every year, minus one, ever since John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have been on board. With the work Newsome has put in so far this offseason, and who knows what other players he has in mind, this is far from one of the worst team's in the league.
So far since the draft, we have seen an NFL evaluator think the Ravens roster is closer to the Cleveland Browns, as well ESPN, NFL.com, and Sports Illustrated placing the Ravens in the middle and bottom half of the NFL in their power rankings. Which begs the question, do they really think this team is that bad? Yes, this team has wide receiver and center issues on offense, but the offseason isn't over and Newsome usually pounces on a free agent or two this time of the year. Not to mention Woodhead and rookie Nico Siragusa have a chance to make an impact this season. Especially Woodhead. What Newsome has done defensively leaves the potential of a Ravens defense having a true return to form in 2017. Which again I beg the question, are they really that bad?
Either way, we won't find out how good or bad this team will be until September 10th when the season begins in Cincinnati. Until then, chances are you'll see more material from national media pundits predicting doom and gloom for the Ravens. Heck, you might see a division prediction that has them finishing last place at this rate. That's why they play the games.