In his latest mock draft, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Baltimore Ravens selecting Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield with the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Baltimore Beatdown’s Logan Levy acknowledged that Jeremiah is a former Ravens scout, so he could be onto something. Baltimore, of course, has Joe Flacco under center currently, but have many holes around the offense. Instead of drafting a quarterback in the first round, the Ravens should address an immediate need.
Flacco struggled with a back injury for the majority of the 2017 season, missing all of the preseason. His play was lackluster, completing 64.1% of his passes for just 3,141 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That is not ideal for your franchise quarterback, but the Ravens didn’t do anything to address the receiver position in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Baltimore didn’t draft a receiver or tight end last year, which caused an uproar from fans. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and running back Danny Woodhead were the only two free agent skill position signings of relevance for the Ravens in the 2017 offseason. Both players had injury-plagued seasons and were quite ineffective while on the field.
Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro are free agents. Maclin and Woodhead could be cut. Baltimore may be left with Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White heading into the 2018 season. Though Moore and Perriman have shown flashes in the past, none of these receivers have shown that they are consistent enough to warrant making them starters in the NFL.
The Ravens have needed offensive weapons to surround Flacco with for quite some time now. To draft a quarterback in the first round without upgraded offensive weapons is a lateral move. It doesn’t make the team better immediately. With head coach John Harbaugh under pressure to make the playoffs, it wouldn’t make sense for him to be comfortable with drafting a first round quarterback.
With that being said, there is a deep pool of playmakers to surround Flacco with and still get a quarterback in later rounds. Maryland’s D.J. Moore and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley have been the two receivers that have been discussed as possible fits for the Ravens. Each receiver brings a talent set that Baltimore doesn’t currently have on the roster, which includes crisp, consistent route running and good hands. This goes without mentioning what SMU’s Courtland Sutton or Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk could offer to the team.
Then there’s tight end, a position that Baltimore attempted to address multiple times since Dennis Pitta’s first hip injury. Crockett Gillmore was drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Since 2016, Gillmore has often been injured and he will now attempt to play offensive line. Maxx Williams was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and he’s dealt with injuries and lack of production. Nick Boyle was also drafted in the same year as Williams, but in the fifth round. Boyle has been primarily used as a blocking tight end.
Before the 2016 season, the Ravens signed tight end Ben Watson to a two-year deal. However, he would tear his Achilles tendon in a preseason game, ending his season before it started. Watson had a productive year in 2017, reeling in 61 catches for 522 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Though that is great for a 36-year old, Watson is a free agent and could retire.
Now, Baltimore has a chance to address the tight end position by drafting one of the five top tight ends in the 2018 NFL Draft - South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews and Washington’s Will Dissly. The Ravens could bolster the tight end position in second or third round with a player that may fall in the draft.
These scenarios also take into consideration that the Ravens could still address the quarterback position in later rounds. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Washington State’s Luke Falk or Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta may still be available in the fourth round. In this scenario, Baltimore could kill two birds with one stone by addressing positions of need first, instead of using an early round pick on a quarterback.
It’s not to say that Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson couldn’t be great Ravens one day, but to surround them with a lack of receiving talent would be the definition of insanity. It’s the exact same mistake that they made with Flacco. This time around, they can surround Flacco with talent and draft his heir-apparent in the mid-rounds.