Since taking the helm from Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has laid the foundation for a championship caliber roster.
After adding impact free agents Earl Thomas III and Mark Ingram last offseason, he selected a productive rookie class headlined by Marquise Brown. During the season, he traded for and then negotiated a contract extension with All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters.
DeCosta continued the tradition of retaining homegrown talent with Chuck Clark’s contract extension, applied the franchise tag to Matthew Judon, then re-signed Jimmy Smith, Jihad Ward and other pieces to fortify depth. And he used the first wave of free agency to remake the defensive line into a group capable of affecting both the run and passing game through the acquisitions of Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers.
With his savvy extensions, additions, re-signings and drafting, DeCosta has assembled a depth chart that ranks among the best in the NFL. The Ravens roster is well stocked entering the draft, but a few areas could benefit from reinforcements.
An ideal draft that doubles up on prospects at the four main positions of need would create the most balanced team in franchise history and enable the Ravens to dominate against any opponent or game script...
28. Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
Due to the retirement of future Hall of Fame blocker Marshal Yanda, an interior line that already had question marks has lost more production than any other group from the 14-win 2019 team. Matt Skura’s availability is unknown due to a a serious knee injury suffered in November. The other interior blockers on the depth chart - Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari and Ben Powers, a former 6th round pick, an undrafted free agent and a 4th round pick respectively - have a total of 23 starts between them.
Enter Ruiz, the consensus top interior lineman of the class. The former Wolverine has the total package, with intelligence, athleticism, strength, agility, heavy hands and a stout anchor. He boasts all the tools necessary to become a Pro Bowl pivot for the Ravens.
55. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
The Ravens have a decent trio of wide receivers in “Hollywood”, Willie Snead IV and Miles Boykin, but they have room to upgrade from the departed Seth Roberts. Adding a few more playmakers to Lamar Jackson’s arsenal would help the Ravens keep pace with quick strike offenses and overcome deficits when necessary. The draft pick acquired in the Hayden Hurst trade is a prime spot to take advantage of the depth offered by the 2020 receiver crop.
Aiyuk’s skillset meshes well with Greg Roman’s system. He is an explosive athlete with strong hands and dangerous after the catch ability. Aiyuk is also an accomplished return man, he would be an excellent addition to Baltimore’s ascending receiver room.
60. Malik Harrison, ILB, Ohio State
An impact linebacker may not be a necessity for the Ravens. The defense was outstanding last season with a cast of journeymen manning the position. Nonetheless, with a stacked secondary and deep front, they can afford to make a luxury pick at inside linebacker.
Harrison is the type of thumper they need to bring down power runners. With prototypical size and power, along with surprising athleticism and zone coverage experience, the former Buckeye could be a plug and play second round steal.
92. Jonathan Greenard, OLB, Florida
Baltimore’s edge rushers were more disruptive than given credit for last season and that production should only improve with the addition of defensive lineman who can help collapse the pocket. Yet with Judon and Tyus Bowser both uncertain to return after 2020, outside linebacker is a major need.
Greenard has one of the highest floors among outside linebackers in the draft cycle. His best attributes are his first step, bend and relentless motor. With some seasoning, Greenard could be a long term three-down starter.
106. Alton Robinson, OLB, Syracuse
The scarcity of cost effective edge rushers should entice DeCosta to stockpile developmental prospects every cycle. The mid rounds of the draft are the right place to create a pipeline.
With 19 sacks and five forced fumbles in three seasons at Syracuse, Robinson has the production Baltimore covets. He is not a refined prospect at this point, but has all the traits to develop into a quality edge defender who can both stop the run and harass quarterbacks.
129. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
The third tight end is more valuable in Greg Roman’s scheme than most. After jettisoning Hurst, his offensive flexibility would be hindered if Mark Andrews or Nick Boyle were to miss time.
Albert O was considered to be the best tight end in the class last preseason. He has room to improve his routes and blocking, but his combination of size, ball skills and red zone potency forecast a worthwhile fourth round project.
134. John Simpson, OG, Clemson
The Ravens probably have room to add two lineman to their regular season roster. While Ruiz has the flexibility to play guard, adding another talented prospect to the right guard competition would be prudent.
A burly mauler, Simpson was Clemson’s best lineman during the last two seasons. Despite his heavy feet, he can push lineman off the ball, connect on pull blocks and add physicality to combat formidable fronts.
157. Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
Another double dip at a position where the team has room for two additions. With Lamar under center, speedy receivers are more compatible than big bodied contested catch specialists.
A former track star with a compact build, Duvernay is another receiver with soft hands and long speed. His violent blocking and run after the catch ability would be assets to the offense.
225. Shaquille Quarterman, ILB, Miami
Inside linebacker may not be the greatest need in terms of impact, but it may be in terms of numbers. L.J. Fort, Chris Board and Otaro Alaka could stand some competition for playing time.
DeCosta showed a preference for former bluechip recruits on Day 3 of the 2019 draft and Quarterman was a high four star coming out of high school. He was a four-year starter at Miami and could serve as a two-down run stopper as well as a special teams contributor for Baltimore.