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Ravens News 3/23: Targeting WRs, prospect questions and more

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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens NFL draft history: What positions have they targeted most in early rounds? - Aaron Kasinitz

The Ravens often draft defensive linemen and outside linebackers in the opening three rounds, a trend that’s especially important this year. Baltimore’s in need of pass-rushing help after losing Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, and this draft class is considered to have a deep and talented group of defensive ends.

While the Ravens haven’t drafted many wide receivers in the early rounds, they used a first-round on Breshad Perriman in 2015 and a second-rounder on Torrey Smith in ‘11. If outside linebacker doesn’t stand as the Ravens’ biggest need this year, than receiver does. It’ll be interesting to see if and when they pluck a receiver — the one position they’ve larger ignored or blundered on draft days in recent springs.

New general manager Eric DeCosta will hopefully prioritize the receiver position more than his predecessor Ozzie Newsome. During the last seven drafts, Perriman is the only receiver Baltimore selected in the first three rounds.

5 Things to Know About Earl Thomas - Clifton Brown

Like Ed Reed, Thomas plays safety with a unique style

Reed had a Hall of Fame career with the Ravens, and Thomas may join Reed in Canton one day. Those who sensed Thomas’ potential for greatness saw the same quality in him that scouts saw in Reed – a nose for the football that you can’t teach. Give props to Oakland Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock, who worked for NFL Network in 2010 and had this to say about Thomas before the draft.

“I’ve probably watched 300-400 snaps apiece and in my opinion, Earl Thomas is the most instinctive free safety I’ve seen on tape in five or six years,” Mayock said. “He’s a playmaker, he’s got loose hips, and he’s got the best range of any centerfielder I’ve seen coming out of college football in a long time. When I watch tape of these kids, I want to see how quickly they react to what their read is, and that’s what I believe separates Earl Thomas.”

Earl Thomas was voted by his peers as the 42nd best player in the league last summer. Fellow newcomer Mark Ingram placed 43rd, C.J. Mosley was the Ravens lone representative (98th).

Biggest Questions Still Surrounding Top 2019 NFL Draft Prospects - Tyler Brooke

Is Josh Jacobs (Or Any Running Back) Worth a Top Pick?

This year’s running back class isn’t as strong as previous ones, and Alabama’s Josh Jacobs has begun to stand out as the position’s top player.

Jacobs had a strong year with the Crimson Tide while sharing the backfield with Damien Harris and Najee Harris, but his explosive plays in the College Football Playoff helped him stand out even more. According to Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner, he led all of college football last season by gaining a first down or scoring a touchdown on 41 percent of his carries.

Though he doesn’t possess top-tier explosiveness, he’s a near-complete prospect in all other facets of the game. He does a great job making people miss, can fight through contact for extra yards and is a dangerous threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

But this isn’t just about Jacobs.

Given the continued emergence of the by-committee approach, the value of running backs around the league has continued to shrink. The question now revolves around the efficacy of taking a ball-carrier in the first round rather than Jacob’s status as an NFL-caliber back.

Jacobs may have lost some luster after mediocre testing results at his Pro Day. One analyst believes he is the fifth best back in the class.

3 TRADES THAT ABSOLUTELY SHOULD HAPPEN IN THE 2019 NFL DRAFT - Trevor Sikkema

BALTIMORE TRADES UP WITH MIAMI FOR WR

As explained in the section before, I don’t think Miami is going to be a player when it comes to trading up for anything, including a quarterback. I think the Dolphins are in full long-term rebuild mode and are planning to acquire picks not only later in this draft but in future drafts, too.

For Baltimore to make the jump form No. 22 to No. 13 it would likely take a third round pick this year and a second round pick next year, but that’s something that I could see both teams agreeing upon, especially if it’s for a position the Ravens desperately need in wide receiver. I believe the two prospects that they will be coveting are D.K. Metcalf and Hakeem Butler.

The Ravens’ wide receiver room right now looks completely uninspiring, and with free agency nearly over, they’ll have to focus their attention towards the draft to make upgrades. Washington, Carolina, New York, Tennessee and Pittsburgh could all be destination for Metcalf and Butler, so if one is off the board by No. 13 (likely Metcalf), Baltimore will need to get aggressive to acquire the other.

Trading up for a receiver seems counterintuitive considering the general consensus that this wideout class has better depth than top flight talent.

NFL Mock Draft 2019 – Two Rounds (4.0) - Mike Tagliere

22. Baltimore Ravens – Devin Bush (LB – Michigan)

It’s popular to mock the Ravens a wide receiver here, though it doesn’t make much sense for a run-first team who just lost a ton of starters on defense. Snagging Earl Thomas helped, but replacing C.J. Mosley has to be atop their wish list. It’s possible that Bush goes before this after dominating the Combine, but if he’s on the board, it’d be a great pick for a team with a clear need at his position. Not having a second-round pick also has to be factored in, as this is not considered a strong linebacker class while wide receiver is deep.

If the top edge rushers and offensive guards are off the board, Bush could be the best player available.