While there have been some relatively disappointing rookie classes in Baltimore over the years, the Ravens have developed a reputation for finding valuable contributors in the draft during the Ozzie Newsome era.
Now, with Eric DeCosta taking over as GM and Lamar Jackson becoming the starting quarterback, this upcoming draft is perhaps more important than any in recent memory.
Despite winning the division last year, the Ravens have several areas of need on their roster. Luckily, this draft class is fairly deep at several positions, and Baltimore has a good chance to make the most of their seven picks.
With this in mind, let’s examine the most pressing needs and some potential prospects the Ravens could target to address them.
1) Offensive line
In order to build a dominant running game and keep Lamar Jackson protected, bolstering the offensive line is a necessity this offseason. To be more specific, the Ravens could stand to upgrade at the center and right guard positions, where the performances of Matt Skura, Alex Lewis and James Hurst have left much to be desired.
Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. appear to be a long-term tandem at left and right tackle, respectively, and Marshal Yanda likely has at least another year or two left of high-quality play before he heads for retirement. While 3/5 of the offensive line is strong, the remaining interior spots are due for an upgrade. There are plenty of quality lineman in this draft class and targeting one with the 22nd pick in the first round seems like an efficient proposition.
Potential Prospects: Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Garrett Bradbury (NC State), Chris Lindstrom (Boston College), Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State)
2) Wide receiver
It wouldn’t be a Ravens offseason if we weren’t talking about the wide receiver position as an area of weakness on the roster. With Michael Crabtree out of the picture and John Brown likely to head elsewhere in free agency, the receiver depth chart is currently projected to feature Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, which, to be kind, doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing defenses.
While budding tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst will be heavily featured in the passing game, the Ravens desperately need to surround Jackson with capable playmakers on the outside. Eric DeCosta has stressed the importance of bringing in young receivers to develop alongside Jackson, and doing so in this years’ draft would be a great place to start.
Potential Prospects: D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss), N’Keal Harry (Arizona State), Marquise Brown (Oklahoma), Kelvin Harmon (NC State)
3) Pass rusher/EDGE
Although Terrell Suggs will likely be back in Baltimore next season, it could potentially be his last season. Still, he’s no longer the dominant force he used to be and is more of a rotational piece at this stage in his career. Considering this and Za’Darius Smith’s pending free agency, adding some additional pass rushers this offseason is shaping up to be a priority.
Tim Williams and/or Tyus Bowser could potentially take a leap forward next season, but banking on them suddenly becoming consistent impact players seems like a risky proposition. You can never have too many capable pass rushers on a roster and the Ravens are in a good spot to add some talent on the edge in the draft. There’s a decent chance that most, if not all, of the names listed below will be off the board before the Ravens pick at 22, but if any of them managed to fall, then Baltimore would be wise to consider going pass rusher in the first round.
Potential Prospects: Brian Burns (Florida State), Jachai Polite (Florida), Clelin Ferrell (Clemson), Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
While the position doesn’t receive as much attention as some other on the roster, safety is quietly an offseason need that DeCosta should address. There’s a good chance that Eric Weddle isn’t on the roster next season, meaning the Ravens will need to find a new starting safety for the first time in three seasons. Even if Weddle is brought back for another year, he’s been on record saying it’d be his last season before retirement.
Weddle’s leadership and IQ are invaluable qualities, but in terms of on-field ability, his declining athleticism has compromised the Ravens defense in certain situations over the past two seasons. Tony Jefferson is a great run-stopper and plays well in the box, but his coverage skills leave much to be desired. Whether or not DeShon Elliot or Chuck Clark will prove to be viable in-house options to replace Weddle remains to be seen, but selecting a safety at some point in this years’ draft would be a smart move. This class appears to be a bit top-heavy at the position, but there are some talented players nonetheless.
Potential Prospects: Nassir Adderley (Delaware), Jonathan Abram (Mississippi State), Deionte Thompson (Alabama), Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida)
Retaining C.J. Mosley appears to be the Ravens top priority in free agency, but there’s a decent chance his price tag will be too high for Baltimore to bring him back. If Mosley leaves, replacing him at middle linebacker immediately becomes a top priority, especially if the Ravens also lose the play-calling and recognition abilities that Eric Weddle brings to the table.
Patrick Onwuasor came on strong over the second half of last season, and Kenny Young flashed high upside during his rookie campaign, but could either of them step up to fill the void that Mosley’s departure would leave? Possibly...however, the Ravens would almost surely look to add another linebacker in the draft. This isn’t a particularly talented class at the position outside of Devin White, but there are a couple of other projected first-rounders that could be a good fit.
Potential Prospects: Devin Bush (Michigan), Mack Wilson (Alabama)