Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has been quite busy during the first wave of free agency. His main accomplishment has been remaking the defensive line by acquiring veterans Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. DeCosta has also been able to retain many unrestricted Ravens, including Matthew Judon, Jimmy Smith and Jihad Ward. These maneuvers have formed one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL at this juncture of the offseason.
Baltimore Beatdown contributors were asked to identify the Ravens greatest remaining needs heading into the 2020 NFL draft...
Kyle P. Barber:
The Ravens look woefully thin at inside linebacker. With the in-season trade of Kenny Young followed by the offseason departures of Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes, the franchise has been left with only three inside linebackers plus hybrid defender Anthony Levine Sr. to make up the snaps. This isn’t the only need for the team as they’re also attempting to replace Marshal Yanda. There may be an answer already on the roster but one can expect the team to also seek out an interior lineman early in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Ravens biggest needs remain largely the same after free agency. Inside linebacker and interior offensive line are still the biggest holes on the roster and will most likely be addressed in the first four rounds of the draft. Wide receiver is still a need as well, but given the lack of quality receivers on the market and the historically deep class in the draft, it was always expected that Baltimore would abstain from filling the need in free agency.
Edge rusher and defensive line should also both be addressed in the draft. A third tight end is a sneaky need now that former first-round pick Hayden Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. In particular, Baltimore needs another capable blocker for their multiple tight end sets which coordinator Greg Roman loves to run. A mid-to-late round pick in the draft should suffice.
Frank J. Platko:
On paper, it’s fair to argue that inside linebacker is the biggest weakness on the Ravens roster currently. However, in terms of positional value, adding another guard and/or center to upgrade the interior offensive line is the most pressing need in my mind.
Marshal Yanda is gone and Matt Skura’s health is still a big question mark. Going into the season with a starting duo of Patrick Mekari and Ben Powers at center and right guard is a risky proposition. Adding someone like Cesar Ruiz in the draft would be optimal to replicate the success of the offensive line in 2019. Otherwise, they will be placing a lot of pressure on the bookend tackles to play near-perfect football and Lamar Jackson will have far less time to throw than he did last year.
Additionally, adding a playmaker at wide receiver is certainly a need, too. Eric DeCosta could also stand to add another defensive back and/or defensive lineman for depth purposes.
The Ravens still need to address the wide receiver position. Although the group has really nice potential, it would be smart to use the draft and add another playmaker who can take the load off of Mark Andrews, who was banged up towards the end of last season.
With a thin wide receiver market in free agency, the Ravens will look to the draft to address the position. The team may add a receiver as early as the first round with there being so much wide receiver talent in this class. Some have suggested adding another burner to pair with Hollywood Brown, which I would not be at all opposed to. With the Ravens having plenty of draft capital to trade up in the draft, I would not be surprised to see Eric DeCosta make a big jump to secure the receiver he covets.
After losing Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor, the Ravens are extremely thin at inside linebacker. L.J. Fort is still on the roster, but Otaro Alaka and Chris Board are the only other inside linebackers. Neither of them are proven players. Alaka and Board had only 10 combined tackles between them last season.
After entering the 2019 season with Onwuasor, Board, and Kenny Young, the Ravens recognized that group was holding them back from reaching their full potential. They signed Bynes and Fort, and the defense dramatically improved as a whole. Considering that, I expect the front office to target the position early in the draft.
Guard also remains a large need. Veteran James Hurst was released following Marshal Yanda’s retirement.
The Ravens are in a good place with talent overall, possessing high end players at quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback and edge defender. Those are generally the cornerstone positions that teams seek to acquire talent for long-term and use as their base.
Wide receiver is also on that list, where the Ravens will most likely add another separator who fits their vertical passing game in the draft.
The inside linebacker room is barren, yet the Ravens have a plethora of options to consider in the upcoming draft. There’s a strong case that drafting players like Logan Wilson, Evan Weaver or Chris Orr in the mid to late rounds is a better move than adding players like Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen in round one. Either way, the Ravens will address the position.
The interior of the offensive line also needs bolstering after Yanda’s retirement. They need a “plug and play” center or guard that they can hang their hat on. I would be surprised if the Ravens don’t take an interior blocker with one of their first three selections.
Depth across the board is also needed, particularly in the defensive and offensive front.
In my view, DeCosta should devote most of his draft capital to the offense. The depth chart at inside linebacker is concerning, the Ravens certainly need to add competition to the position. However, the addition of much needed interior disruptors Campbell and Wolfe, coupled with the re-signing of Jimmy Smith should ensure the Ravens field a top flight defense regardless of their quality at inside ‘backer.
On offense, Marshal Yanda’s presence cannot be replaced. Ideally, DeCosta will select an interior blocker who has the ability to start in Week 1 within the top-60 overall. On the bright side, Matt Skura appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from his serious knee injury. And Roman as well as offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris have a proven track record of scheming-up and coaching-up interior blockers.
Therefore, I believe supplementing the receiver room would make the greatest impact. Baltimore’s offense must evolve in order to maintain their dominance. Marquise Brown turned in a strong rookie campaign, Willie Snead IV is a dependable veteran and Miles Boykin has untapped potential. Overall though, the Ravens wide receiver group does not stack up particularly well against their AFC competition or in comparison to the other premium position groups on their own roster.
In addition to helping establish the lead early in games, another playmaking receiver will increase the Ravens comeback chances when necessary. A prospect who works the middle of the field, brings sticky hands and is a dangerous runner after the catch suits Lamar Jackson best. DeCosta obviously should not reach for any position in the first round. Nonetheless, an explosive receiver would be the most beneficial position to target considering the current roster composition.