Entering this offseason, the Baltimore Ravens severely needed to address the tight end and wide receiver positions. General manager Ozzie Newsome found help at receiver in free agency, signing Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown. However, he was unable to acquire any tight ends until the draft as Trey Burton signed with the Chicago Bears, Tyler Eifert resigned with the Cincinnati Bengals and Eric Ebron inked a deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
With Nick Boyle as the only lock at the position next season, Baltimore double-dipped at tight end early in the draft, selecting Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina in the first round and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews in the third round. The Ravens are no stranger to grabbing two tight ends in the draft, as Baltimore selected both Boyle and Maxx Williams in 2015 and Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta in 2010.
In the same year that Baltimore drafted Pitta and Dickson, the New England Patriots selected Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. From 2010 to 2012, Gronkowski and Hernandez formed the best tight end duo in the NFL, combining for 87 receptions, 1,109 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in their rookie year alone. With Alge Crumpler as the only other tight end on New England’s roster that year, Hernandez and Gronkowski were given both the pressure and opportunity to make an immediate impact. The Ravens are in a similar situation, with an open depth chart outside of Boyle’s presence. In 2010, Todd Heap was the veteran leader for Dickson and Pitta. However, Heap was miles beyond Boyle as a pass catcher.
While Baltimore does not have the same offensive pedigree as the Patriots, like Gronkowski and Hernandez, Hurst and Andrews are likely to be targeted significantly as rookies. It is unrealistic to anticipate that they will replicate the production of New England’s rookie duo, but finishing the season even in the vicinity of their success would greatly lift Baltimore’s offense. It helps that Joe Flacco connects well with tight end pairs, having success with both Pitta and Dickson in 2011 and with Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore in 2014. In the end, only one tight end panned out from the Ravens 2010 and 2015 drafts. This year, Baltimore will hope they identified two strong candidates in Hurst and Andrews. Both will have plenty of chances to showcase their abilities in the upcoming season.