The Baltimore Ravens have had some hard luck with drafting over the past several years. Over the past ten years they’ve made eight first round selections, three of whom are no longer with the team.
That’s just scratching the surface though, as they’ve made a number of middle or late round picks who’ve either not panned out, or looked good just to leave town and get a payday elsewhere. The best way to combat that proverbial brain drain is to make multiple solid draft choices every year.
This is something that’s much easier said than done, but if anyone would’ve built up a reputation for doing so, it would be general manager Ozzie Newsome. In that way, it’s possible he became a victim of some his early success, even if some of his recent struggles are a bit more overstated thanks to the microscope zeroing in on him as the years have gone by.
Regardless, as the 2018 regular season (Newsome’s final in charge) comes to a close, it’s beginning to look like he may have still had the touch all along. This is evidenced by his 2018 rookie class, which is looking like one of the stronger ones in the entire league.
Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton recently wrote a piece in which he ranked the league’s top draft classes from this season, and he apparently likes what he’s seen of Baltimore’s. Ranking them at #8, he’s particularly impressed with the heart of the class, and also singled out undrafted runner Gus Edwards as a guy to keep an eye on:
It’s not often a team seemingly whiffs on a first-round pick yet claims a top draft class. Technically, the Baltimore Ravens had two-first round selections. Tight end Hayden Hurst dealt with a foot injury and missed four games before entering the lineup and managing a meager 10 receptions for 102 yards. The team’s next three picks were outstanding, though. Lamar Jackson’s insertion into the lineup after the Week 10 bye revolutionized the Ravens offense. Baltimore became the first team since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers to run for 190 or more yards in five consecutive games, according to Patrick Gleason of the Ravens’ official site. Jackson, meanwhile, became the first quarterback since Michael Vick in 2004 to run for 60 or more yards in five straight contests, per SportsCenter. Undrafted rookie Gus Edwards has run for 486 yards since Jackson became the starter. Pro Football Focus grades Edwards as the NFL’s second-best rookie running back. Right tackle Orlando Brown, tight end Mark Andrews and linebacker Kenny Young have been solid middle-round finds. Brown has started the last eight games. Andrews is fourth on the team with 415 receiving yards. Young ranks fourth with 49 tackles.
That’s a lot of names and info to parse through, which should tell you all you need to know. While there’s no bona-fide superstar just yet (even Jackson needs some work still of course), there are solid players contributing to the team week in and week out, which is the sign of a traditionally strong class.
This is all without mentioning the players such as Bradley Bozeman, Anthony Averett, and Zach Sieler who have contributed this season as well. Beyond them, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley and DeShon Elliott still are yet to see what they can do - that’s something to keep an eye on in 2018.
Also notable from this piece is that Moton ranked the Cleveland Browns at number 1, something that’s pretty tough to argue at this point. Baltimore will have to worry about players like Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Denzel Ward for several years, something that ought to scare them and the rest of the division a good deal.
Speaking of the division, neither Cincinnati or Pittsburgh we’re anywhere to be found in Moton’s piece which is fortunate for Baltimore as they’re usually two of the better drafting franchises in the NFL. Their fortunes are likely to change, but neither of them seem to be getting a ton from their rookies in 2018.
The Ravens certainly are, and with their 2018 playoff status currently uncertain, that’s at least something fans can be excited about moving forward. With Eric DeCosta soon to be in charge of these decisions, the franchise will hopefully have many more of these types of drafts in the coming years.