It’s time for a bit of offseason entertainment by re-reading former NFL draft profiles covering Baltimore Ravens’ draft picks of the past few years. In this, we’ll analyze what their touted strengths and possible weaknesses were, and how they’re performing now. Who else to better start us off than the sixth-overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ronnie Stanley.
Ronnie Stanley, left tackle, Notre Dame
Races out of the starting blocks and into pass sets as well as anyone in the country. Has long arms and knows how to use them. Plays with quick hands and a well-timed punch. Never panics when he loses hand placement, simply resets them. Specializes in quick sets getting his hands into the pass rusher first helping him to control the flow of the snap. Well-coached with great hand placement. Wins with activity over power. Is not often beaten around the edge by speed. Hard worker who plays through the whistle. Flexible and athletic with plus change of direction ability against counter moves. Has quickness off the snap to get to challenging backside blocks on linebackers. Able to pull into space and hit moving targets to spring the big run. Fell off of too many blocks in 2014, but did much better job of bringing his feet under him this year to help him sustain his blocks. In run game, able to gain late victories when it looks like stalemate is coming. Durable and dependable. — From NFL.com
- Very athletic
- Fast for an edge protector
- Quick feet
- Ability to kick slide
- Adjusts to the inside
- Ideal size
- Good length
- Has strength
- Runs really well for a big offensive lineman
- Pulls well
- Fires to the second level
- Ability to stay on his feet
- Ability to sustain blocks
- Mobility for zone scheme
- Strength for man scheme
—List from WalterFootball.com
Both Lance Zierlein of NFL.com and Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com hit the nail on the head. Stanley is a quick-twitch tackle with great size and top-tier hand placement. He continues to be a smart technician at left tackle, whose work on the edge revolves around decision-making. Stanley moves with purpose. Each step, each hand placement and pivot is made as a chess-master slides pieces upon a board. I think each and every strength listed is still a strength for Stanley at the NFL level.
I’m nitpicking at one strength, but me not mentioning it wouldn’t be fair. Stanley’s durability is listed here as a strength. He has not played a full 16-game season. The left tackle has missed six games in the past three seasons, with three coming in his rookie season. That’s not a lot, no, but he’s such a critical component that the loss is crippling at times when absent. I think this is way too overblown by fans and critics, seeing as Stanley is playing one of the toughest positions in the NFL, while doing so in the physical AFC North. Injuries are going to happen. But fans act as if his absence rivals Jimmy Smith’s.
In need of more functional, core power. Has to hang on for a ride when engaging against a physical defender who plays with leverage. Will need to win with feet and technique. Doesn’t have upper body strength to maul when his rep gets off track. Has athleticism to recover when he’s beaten, but is just average at redirecting his man off-course once defender gets the advantage. Is more quick than explosive. Gives ground to bull rushers when his feet aren’t set at punch. Balance is average. — NFL.com
- Lacks physicality
- Doesn’t get consistent movement in the ground game
- Doesn’t have a mean streak
- Inconsistent pad level
- Inconsistent finishing off plays
- Teams question his passion for the game
- Can struggle with physical defensive ends
— List from WalterFootball.com
I personally dislike the ‘mean-streak’ infatuation. Not everybody needs to be Ryan Jensen or Ben Powers to play football. I appreciate the passion—don’t get me wrong—but it’s not a necessity to play football. I believe it’s a perk if it’s there, but it’s not an negative when absent.
As for the weaknesses now, it’s fair to say most are gone. Stanley is a physical player and gets the push on the ground game. I haven’t seen plays where he doesn’t battle until the whistle blows, which is far lengthier now due to Lamar Jackson finding extra space to make a play. He is getting to the second level on counter plays and getting down blocks and hook blocks for Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon.
I think the criticism of ‘will need to win with feet and technique’ is reasonable and still occurs today. It’s an enormous strength of Stanley’s—utilizing his athleticism and technical proficiency—rather than brute strength, but sometimes the power is needed.
Stanley is one of the better left tackles in the NFL and the unquestioned starter on the Ravens’ roster for a reason. He’s certainly lived up to his sixth-overall selection, as he’s provided great protection for both Joe Flacco and now Lamar Jackson. The Ravens picked up his fifth-year option for a reason.