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2018 NFL Draft Preview: Baltimore Ravens positional needs

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Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This may come as a bit of a shock to you all, but the Baltimore Ravens roster is not complete. The 16-0 regular season and perfect post-season run will be coming, but not until an all-star draft occurs from Ozzie Newsome as he rides off into the sunset. Here is my final needs list, or at least what I expect Ozzie to focus on before he submits his final draft pick as General Manager of the Baltimore Ravens.

Tight End

The hope of Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore or Darren Waller piecing together a complete game is fading. They also cannot combine their singular talents into a single player, though we all wonder if it could somehow work. No two ways about it, the Ravens need a tight end; more specifically, a pass-catching, playmaking tight end. No more Dallas Clark or Benjamin Watson. The Ravens need a young, skilled tight end, capable of contributing on the field.

Right Tackle

James Hurst has not proven himself as a capable right tackle. He’s good-to-great as a guard, but the skill has not transferred to the position change. Nonetheless, the Ravens and Hurst inked a four-year/$17.5 million deal. The Ravens also did not pick up OT Austin Howard’s option, letting the tackle walk after a good season. Unless Crockett Gillmore’s transition to tackle goes perfectly, or James Hurst breaks through the barrier, Baltimore needs a blocker on the right side of the line.

Pass Rusher

This is the last year Terrell Suggs is under contract with the Ravens. Maybe they find another deal to agree upon, but the first word of this sentence captures the uncertainty. Worth noting, Sizzle is turning 36 in October. He’s earned every major award for a pass rusher, and after 15 years, hanging up cleats may feel nice. The Ravens addressed his eventual absence last season, drafting Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, but both demonstrated rookie struggles. Matt Judon is the only proven successor on the roster, and the clock is ticking. While many want this draft loaded with offensive players, another pass rusher could be an option.

Inside Linebacker

I’ve published a story or two about C.J. Mosley needing a coverage linebacker beside him, and I’m standing behind my words. Patrick Onwausor is capable, but a talented coverage linebacker is necessary. We watched Mosley’s production with Daryl Smith sky-rocket. We’ve witnessed Mosley’s greatness beside Zachary Orr. Maybe it’s time for another coverage linebacker to play next to C.J. after this draft ceases.

Wide Receiver

Yes, there are exciting new receiver for QB Joe Flacco to make plays with, but the moves felt short-term. Michael Crabtree is under a three-year contract, with a one-year team option. Willie Snead signed a two-year offer sheet, and John Brown’s contract only covers the 2018-2019 season. It would be nice, so nice, if the Ravens drafted a productive wide receiver. One under a cheaper deal and contributing on the gridiron. I’d ask for two, but let’s not get greedy now.

Center

Ryan Jensen posted great production in his contract year with the Ravens and found himself agreeing to a four-year/$42 million deal. Now, the Ravens need a replacement. Good news, Matt Skura is still on the Ravens’ roster, and he, like Jensen, stepped up his game another tier. I’m confident Skura is the man in front of Flacco in the 2018 season, but drafting a back-up in a mid-to-late round isn’t a bad idea. I believe many Ravens fans would enjoy a center being drafted in the third round, or fourth.

Free Safety

Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are impressive hybrid safeties, capable of playing many areas well, but a top-notch coverage safety would improve either men’s game. This draft only features one, maybe two safeties with premier coverage ability, though, and both are expected to be gone within the top 10 picks. I don’t expect free safety to be a large focus in this draft, but it’s still a need worth mentioning.