Flashback to the 2016 NFL draft. The Baltimore Ravens have the sixth overall pick. An unusually high spot for the proud franchise. The superstars such as Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, and Ezekiel Elliott are all off the board already, but the Ravens still have their choice of pretty much any player they want. The majority of the fan base clamors for a flashy playmaker, a top cornerback, or a premier pass rusher. The Ravens elected to go with offensive tackle Ronny Stanley out of Notre Dame instead.
This is what most would deem a “safe” and “boring” pick. Stanley wasn’t even touted as the top tackle in the class, that was Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss. As we would find out though, an incriminating video of Tunsil was released that night, causing him to slip all the way to the Miami Dolphins at pick 13. It was said afterwards that the Ravens rated Stanley higher on their board anyway, and going into the 2018 season, it sure looks like the right decision.
Stanley immediately started at left tackle for Baltimore and has been a very good player in his first two seasons. He has all of the makings of a franchise left tackle. While it wasn’t an exciting pick, it was a necessary one. The Ravens may have to make another decision like this in the first round of the 2018 draft, despite the clear need for playmakers on offense.
Outside of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, there are no clear-cut first round wide receivers in this year’s draft class. Especially not one worth taking at pick 16. Ridley has been the fan’s favorite prospect all off-season, but in reality he will probably be long gone by the time the Ravens are on the clock. The next batch of receivers (Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton, James Washington) are widely projected as day two picks, with one or two possibly slipping into the end of round one.
The second biggest need for Baltimore’s offense is a pass-catching tight end. The top tight ends of the draft, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews, are most likely day two selections. This leaves the Ravens in a tricky situation picking in the middle of the first round. Of course, they could always trade back to the end of the first and select one of the aforementioned wide receivers or tight ends, but for the purpose of this article, we will assume they stay put at 16.
Safety and inside linebacker are two possible positions that could be addressed in the first round, if the board falls that way. Players like Florida State safety Derwin James, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds would all be worth the 16th pick, but it’s unlikely that any of the three fall that far. Safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Rashaan Evans are both possibilities given their first round grade by most analysts and Ozzie Newsome’s affiliation with Alabama.
Running back isn’t a need, but a player like Derrius Guice could be tempting. Guice was an exciting running back at LSU, and is regarded as the second best running back in the class, only behind the generational Saquon Barkley.
Depending on how the board falls, the chances of the best player available being an offensive lineman are good right now. We all know that the Ravens live and die by the best player available mantra too. This wouldn’t be a bad pick though. The Ravens already have their franchise left tackle, so why not another franchise tackle to bookend the line for years to come? Austin Howard, while performing admirably in 2017, is not the long-term solution because of his age. There could very well be an immediate upgrade over Howard available to the Ravens at 16.
The player mocked the most to the Ravens lately is Orlando Brown Jr. from Oklahoma. Brown’s father, also named Orlando, played for Baltimore. He unfortunately passed away in 2011. His nickname was “Zeus” and Brown Jr. has appropriately been dubbed as “Zeus Jr.”
Brown is a big, nasty, mauler. He could help open lanes in the running game with his mean, physical play. Not only would it would be a touching story for Brown to play for the same team his father once did, but it would fill a long-term need at right tackle. If the Ravens could re-sign center Ryan Jensen, with the return of guards Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa, the offensive line would be set for years.
They could also go with Mike McGlinchey. Both he and Stanley played for Notre Dame, so I’m sure Stanley would love to have him on the team. Camaraderie is huge among offensive linemen, and Stanley and McGlinchey would have that bond from day one. He has been projected to possibly move inside and play guard at the next level, but McGlinchey could serve well as Baltimore’s right tackle.
The point is, the Ravens wouldn’t be making a mistake taking another offensive tackle in the first round. Offenses need a good line to be successful. Do you think the Philadelphia Eagles would have won the Super Bowl without their top offensive line? Quarterback Nick Foles wasn’t sacked once by the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Everyone loves flashy players like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., but without a good offensive line, those players are useless in the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.