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Ravens News 4/22: Defensive changes, draft predictions and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Why Big Defensive Changes May Be for the Best - John Eisenberg

The multiple departures definitely weren’t greeted with toasts at the Under Armour Performance Center. General Manager Eric DeCosta, in his first months on the job, already was facing a list of offensive needs and/or holes in the lineup that needed filling. The surprising exodus of defensive stalwarts only made his job of building the 2019 team that much harder.

Bottom line, there’ll be plenty of new faces in the defensive huddle and plenty of questions about new leadership. But Thomas is already asserting himself in the latter capacity, and my two cents, leadership is largely an organic element, i.e., one that develops naturally during a season. Young players such as Patrick (Peanut) Onwuasor, Matthew Judon and Michael Pierce are already exhibiting the right tendencies.

Yes, the exodus of familiar names was startling. But between their pre-existing depth and the new blood they’re gathering, the Ravens are quite capable of surviving.

The defense will be much faster at linebacker if Kenny Young, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser assume most of C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith’s snaps.

The Five Biggest Questions Ahead of the NFL Draft - Danny Kelly

The Ravens (no. 22) are another candidate. Likely to miss out on the early run at edge rusher, Baltimore could look to trade back and add to its war chest of eight selections—only one of which comes in the first 84 picks. “Our only problem right now is we don’t have enough draft picks,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh recently lamented. New GM Eric DeCosta echoed Harbaugh’s sentiments. “If there’s a great player there at 22, we’ll make the pick, and we’ll be very, very excited,” he said. “But one thing we’ve shown over the past years is we know how to manufacture picks. So if the opportunity is there, we’ll have a chance to trade back and accumulate picks.”

Kelly suggests the Seahawks, who own the 21st overall pick, are almost certainly aiming to trade back.

NFL Draft 2019: Predicting the five biggest surprises, including whether a QB will get picked by the Raiders - Ryan Wilson

D.K. Metcalf won’t be a top-20 pick

The good: Metcalf is a huge downfield target with an enormous catch radius, and he eats up cushion against cornerbacks. And despite poor shuttle and 3-cone times at the combine, he routinely shows the ability to put the foot in the ground and get and out of breaks. He’s good at creating separation with shoulder fakes and blazing speed. He also displays soft hands when hauling in long arcing throws, can high-point the ball on fade routes and has strong hands to fight off physical cornerbacks for the ball.

The bad: Drops are a concern -- are those concentration-related or indicative of a bigger issue? Metcalf also has struggled with injuries -- he played in just two games in 2016 and seven last season. Then there are the poor 3-cone and shuttle times at the combine.

We’ve had Metcalf landing with the Ravens in recent mock drafts and it’s a good fit; Baltimore is a run-first offense but that can change as Lamar Jackson continues to grow and with the addition of a legit deep threat -- and Metcalf qualifies for that more than any other pass catcher in this draft.

If available, Metcalf’s raw tools could entice another team to trade up into Baltimore’s first round draft slot.

Baltimore Ravens seven-round mock draft: Ferrell, Hardman would help address needs early - Aaron Kasinitz

1st round, 22nd pick: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson

Ferrell was easily the best outside linebacker option remaining in our simulation when the Ravens got on the clock. I’m guessing DeCosta would like to trade back in the draft order to accumulate picks, but if he sticks at No. 22, it’d be difficult to turn down a versatile edge rusher who piled up 11 sacks for Clemson last year. Ferrell could compete for a starting job immediately to help the Ravens replace departed vets Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith.

3rd round, 85th pick: Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia

The Ravens don’t have a traditional burner of a wide receiver on their roster who can stretch the field and make plays with the ball in his hands. Hardman, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine, would change that. Though he began his college career as a corner and remains raw with his pass-catching skills, Hardman offers the Ravens an explosive playmaker to pair with quarterback Lamar Jackson for the long term.

3rd round, 102nd pick: Beau Benzschawel, G, Wisconsin

A first-team All-American who played tackle and guard for the Badgers, Benzschawel could compete for immediate playing time in Baltimore. If he didn’t win the left guard job right away, he could learn behind seven-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda and eventually take over at right guard.

4th round, 113th pick: Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon

4th round, 123rd pick: Saivion Smith, CB, Alabama

5th round, 160th pick: Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma

6th round, 191st pick: Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

6th round, 193rd pick: Germaine Pratt, ILB, N.C. State

This mock does a nice job of addressing the Ravens positional needs. However, Benzschawel in the third round might be a reach. Lance Zierlein projects the Wisconsin blocker as a fifth round prospect.