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Analyzing the Ravens defensive roster heading into the 2020 NFL Draft

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Can we gain insight from observing the pre-draft roster?

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With the NFL Draft at the end of the month, it’s time to examine the Ravens’ roster and assume their draft direction. If you haven’t, please check out the first article where I do the same regarding the offensive roster.


Safety

  • Earl Thomas
  • Chuck Clark
  • DeShon Elliott
  • Jordan Richards

The Ravens starters are set for 2020 but the depth is highly questionable. Unfortunately, DeShon Elliott hasn’t played due to injury and while the potential is still there for the young player, I don’t see Eric DeCosta leaving the draft without a safety, especially after he stated safety is a strong-point of this draft. Also, Thomas is turning 31-years old prior to the season starting and while he’s still a force, it’s better to find a player early to develop behind a dominant playmaker than find one too late.

Cornerback

  • Marlon Humphrey
  • Marcus Peters
  • Jimmy Smith
  • Tavon Young
  • Anthony Averett
  • Iman Marshall

Quite possibly the greatest strength of the entire roster is cornerback. The Ravens two starting corners are both All-Pro players and were recently ranked as the best cornerback tandem per NFL.com Analyst Bucky Brooks. Behind them on the depth chart is long-time playmaker Jimmy Smith followed by Tavon Young, who suffered a season-ending injury prior to the 2019 NFL season. However, his 2018 season included an interception, two sacks, three fumble recoveries in which he scored two touchdowns. That kind of play earned him a three-year contract extension. This could be the best secondary in the NFL in 2020.

Inside Linebacker

  • L.J. Fort
  • Chris Board
  • Otaro Alaka
  • Anthony Levine Sr.

After looking over the overwhelming talent at cornerback, it’s only fair to peer at the opposite at inside linebacker. With both Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor signing elsewhere this offseason, the Ravens are back to building this position group once more. Many have the Ravens selecting a middle linebacker in the first round of their respective mock drafts and it’s obvious why. It would be rather shocking if the Ravens ended Day 2 of the NFL Draft without a linebacker, let alone the entire draft.

Outside Linebacker

  • Matt Judon
  • Tyus Bowser
  • Jaylon Ferguson
  • Mike Onuoha

The edge group is more solid than inside linebacker with franchise-tagged Pro Bowler Matt Judon in the lineup but there are question marks about everyone else. Tyus Bowser performed well in 2019 as he produced five sacks and 10 quarterback hits but he’ll need to step up once again in his fourth season. Good news for him as he’s in a contract year and there’s no better time to show out.

I also liked what I saw from the rookie Ferguson and can easily see him improve.

As for the upcoming draft, I see the Ravens going edge rusher if a player falls early. With nine picks as of now, they could easily go edge on Day 2 with one of their two second- or third-round selections. I wouldn’t be stunned if they didn’t select an outside linebacker as the trade for Calais Campbell coupled with the big-name free agent additions will likely take a lot of focus off the young pass rushers and give them a great opportunity in the 2020 season.

Defensive End

  • Calais Campbell
  • Derek Wolfe
  • Aaron Adeoye

A bonafide All-Pro in Campbell followed up with a strong playmaker when healthy, this position group looks rather strong heading into 2020. Though, the team may likely take a swing here as they continue the cycle of drafting and rotating through numerous trench players.

Defensive Tackle

  • Brandon Williams
  • Jihad Ward
  • Justin Ellis
  • Daylon Mack

Four returning players as the Ravens re-signed both Ward and Ellis this offseason; the Ravens clearly liked what these two brought in. I don’t see a great need for drafting a defensive tackle for 2020 but 2021 is a different story. Cutting Brandon Williams from the final year of his deal saves $9.5 million. That would leave only Mack as the lone defensive tackle under contract. Couple that with the Ravens’ draft history of 18 defensive lineman in 10 years and it’s easy to see the Ravens taking a swing or two in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft.