Using The Draft Network’s mock simulator, I’m going to attack the 2020 NFL Draft board and breakdown my thought process behind each area of the board, which players I choose between and then breakdown my selection and how they would fit into the Ravens scheme.
For my first mock draft, I will be using The Draft Network’s mock draft machine.
Without further adieu . . .
Round 1, No. 28
With five wide receivers and Cesar Ruiz going off the board, there are a few intriguing options to me.
Grant Delpit has elite instincts, range and coverage ability. He would provide immediate depth to Earl Thomas, who has injury history and is on the other side of 30. The Ravens defense could crumble without Thomas.
Michael Pittman Jr. is a receiver that I have a first round grade on. He has a flawless game with hardly any weakness. He can separate, win above the rim, has some of the best hands in his class and plays with supreme physicality.
A.J. Epenesa would immediately be able to play the 5-tech and line up as a defensive end in nickel packages. Epenesa is an elite run stopper and polished pass rusher who is only 21-years-old. Epenesa could be used similarly to Za’Darius Smith and provide great depth, potential and character early on.
Jalen Reagor and Brandon Aiyuk both present vertical speed and YAC ability that would thrive in the Ravens offensive scheme. Both have flaws, but I believe will be immediate playmakers with the ball in their hands.
The pick: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Epenesa would complete the Ravens defensive front while being able to learn from Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. Epenesa had a bad combine, where it seems he attempted to drop weight and in turn lost explosiveness, but GM Eric DeCosta mentioned Terrell Suggs and Orlando Brown’s poor combine performances when asked about Epenesa, who tested extremely similarly to Calais Campbell at the combine.
I have a bad feeling about passing on Grant Delpit, who has All-Pro ability because of his outstanding range, I.Q. and ball skills. The Ravens could covet Delpit due to their obsession with strong secondary play and Delpit providing blanket ability as a single-high safety.
I would be surprised if both of those players were on the board still. Tough call.
Round 2, No. 55
After taking Epenesa in the first round, I’m a little disappointed to see Marlon Davidson and Raekwon Davis on the board. I believe the Ravens need to have an offensive-centric draft, making it difficult to pass on those players, especially Davidson. However, the 49ers have had no complaints about too many quality defensive front players.
I’m excited to see both Pittman and Aiyuk, two receivers who could easily have been first round selections. Having another pick at No. 60 overall means that I will have an extremely high chance to land one of the two, so I’m going to look elsewhere.
Malik Harrison is intriguing, who had elite athletic testing and led Ohio State in tackles his final two years. Harrison had more NFL-level coverage responsibility than Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray and will be a quality inside linebacker.
Jordyn Brooks is another high-level linebacker who earned all conference honors in all four years playing at Texas Tech. He has strong instincts, great range and showed flashes in coverage, although he had a very limited role. I really like both Brooks and Harrison. The latter played in bigger games against better competition, but Brooks might simply be a better tackler.
Robert Hunt has guard and tackle ability, plays under control with his feet and eyes while being a road-grader. The Ravens desperately need depth at tackle and along the interior offensive line. Hunt’s pass sets were shaky at times as a tackle, but he will be less exposed playing inside and has the natural strength and body control to anchor well.
Julian Okwara and Josh Uche are both intriguing as well.
Okwara has absolutely lethal ability as a pass-rusher but low I.Q. as a run defender. Okwara can win with length, speed, power, speed-to-power and bend as a pass-rusher. He possesses elite run and chase ability when he’s free to hunt the ball-carrier.
Uche had the highest pass rush win rate in college football last season and possesses a Von Miller-like ability to dip underneath of tackles when running the arc. He also can carry a tight end 20 yards up the seam and played a fair amount of off-ball linebacker.
Both have injury concerns, while Okwara’s are more recent.
I understand why DeCosta wanted to get the 55th pick from Atlanta, this is such a deep class. . .
The pick: Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
I started typing Malik Harrison, who I really like as a prospect, but I can’t pass on Davidson. His combination of physicality, quickness, incredibly high effort and pedigree combine to have the makings of a fan favorite. Combining Davidson with Epenesa to learn behind Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Matt Judon is too good to pass up.
Davidson blocked a kick in back-to-back games in 2018, has chased down ball carriers over 40 yards downfield multiple times, makes blockers pay for over setting and is a general bad ass.
The Ravens now have a kick-ass defensive front paired with an elite secondary.
Round 2, No. 60
Michael Pittman Jr. went off the board, leaving Brandon Aiyuk as the top receiver available. I’m running to the podium and nabbing a vertical threat with separation skills and elite YAC/return ability.
The pick: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Aiyuk has one currently concern: he has minimal experience against press coverage and severely struggled when he was pressed.
Other than that, Aiyuk is a clean prospect who can separate, stretch the field, has solid hands and is a threat to score whenever he opens up in space. Steve Smith Sr. has called Aiyuk an underrated superstar, and is extremely confident in Aiyuk’s ability at the next level. I hold Smith’s opinions on talent highly.
The Ravens can put Aiyuk off-ball, put him in motion and use other strategies to prevent Aiyuk from being pressed early. He’s also shifty, strong and agile, which should translate to improving against press.
Aiyuk will also have to face Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith in practice, feeding him to the press man sharks.
Aiyuk has an absurd wingspan and length that give him a deceptively massive catch radius, which help him reel in some poorly thrown deep balls. Aiyuk is the returner from day one, who will upgrade over De’Anthony Thomas immediately. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown gets a vertical threat to free him up some.
Round 3, No. 92
At this point, I see three linebackers that I like.
Logan Wilson is a MIKE, has nearly perfect form and approach as a tackler and made 24 plays in coverage (10 interceptions, 14 passes defended) to go along with over 400 career tackles at Wyoming. Wilson ran a 4.6 at the combine and tested well for his size, but doesn’t quite have the range some of the other top linebackers do. Wilson needs to open up a bit more in space and played against mainly lower level competition, but made plays on the ball and is rock solid against the run.
Troy Dye also has outstanding tackle production, length and is able to carry a seam and make plays in coverage better than most of the linebackers in this class. Dye has a long frame and pundits are concerned about his ability to keep weight, but he is incredibly smooth in coverage. Dye is best suited to play as a weak-side linebacker who is excels on third down.
Akeem Davis-Gaither is in the mold of Isaiah Simmons and Jeremy Chinn. ‘ADG’ played inside backer, outside packer, edge, slot corner and did all of them well. He slips blocks, rarely lets blockers get two hands on him, has explosive range, tackling ability and is outstanding patrolling underneath coverage zones. He has strong instincts and fluid feet that allow him to jump passing lanes.
There is great irony in the internet scouting world. Some players are called versatile, position-less and matchup defenders. Others are called ‘tweeners’ who lack a position.
For me, it’s simple. Do they have instincts in coverage? Do they successfully defeat blocks? Are they tough to fool with play fakes? Can they tackle in space consistently?
If the answer is yes, they have a place on my defense. ‘ADG’ does all of these things well. He plays well against the run, rarely finding himself out of place, gives explosive speed and block slipping off the edge and makes impact plays in coverage. He’s the definition of a “modern linebacker.”
ADG aligned at slot corner, off-ball linebacker and edge over 200 times each in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. That sort of versatility bodes well in the Ravens defense.
The other player that I’m eyeing up is WR Van Jefferson from Florida. Jefferson is an elite separator with strong hands and good long speed. He’s also an elite route-runner and has sky-high I.Q understanding leverage and coverage.
The pick: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
The Ravens need linebackers. Not one, multiple. Say what you want about their defensive scheme, they put two on the field on 55% of their defensive snaps.
Akeem Davis-Gaither can stay on the field for all three downs. He has a tendency to overrun tackles from time to time, but his ability against the run, in coverage and rushing the passer will make him able to find the field early.
If I’m able to pair him with Logan Wilson in a few picks, I’ll be excited. Wilson is more stout against the run as a traditional MIKE linebacker, which made it tough to pass on him. Akeem Davis-Gaither just figures to bring a little more versatility.
Round 3, No. 106
At this point in the draft, I have acquired an offensive playmaker, rounded out the team’s defensive front with two versatile players who have experience inside and on the edge, then nabbed an athletic and versatile linebacker. I’ve successfully addressed some needs, but also made sure to simply pick up good football players. That philosophy carried me into picking Marlon Davidson.
There is one area of the team that still must be addressed and that’s interior offensive line. Ideally, I would’ve liked to get a player in the first three picks but the board just didn’t fall that way ... it happens.
Now, the board has opened up and “The Draft Network” has a wide range of players slotted all across the board with values that I frankly disagree on. So, I won’t be posting more images of the board, just discussing the players. . .
Looking to the interior offensive lineman, I see Michigan’s Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu, Clemson’s John Simpson and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz on the board. All three players have starting experience against top level competition.
I wouldn’t mind adding secondary depth, where K’Von Wallace and Geno Stone are still available. A second linebacker, like Joe Bachie or Chris Orr, would be nice too. Tight end and wide receiver are still both certainly available and meet a need as well.
Albert Okwuegbunam, Josiah Deguara, Devin Duvernay and Quintez Cephus all tickle my fancy.
The pick: John Simpson, G, Clemson
Simpson has his downfalls but he is a snowplow as a run-blocker, showed great work in scoops, pulls, screen blocks and climbing to the second level.
Simpson has insane length, strength, explosiveness and tested really well at the combine. He’s late out of his stance and needs to improve his feet. I believe Simpson brings a different element to the Ravens guard position than they already have between Powers, Bozemen and Mekari. He’s not quite as mobile, but has way more functional strength.
Round 4, No. 129
Needs are filled. Let’s get good football players.
Guys that qualify? Joe Bachie Jr., Anfernee Jennings, Tyler Johnson and Geno Stone.
Bachie is a freaky MIKE linebacker who craves contact and lives in the backfield. Johnson is a slant god who PFF loves, posting insane receiving grades in back to back years. Stone is another PFF favorite.
The pick: Anfernee Jennings, LB/OLB, Alabama
Jennings is a damn good football player. He produced two or more pressures in every one of Alabama’s games last year. His run defense and pass-rushing grade both were over an 88 according to PFF.
Jennings has an uncanny ability to bat passes when his pass rush stalls, batting 11 over the last two years and registering 18 passes defended in that time. He can win inside, has an awesome long arm move and can play off-ball a bit. Steal at this point, if you ask me.
Round 4, No. 134
The pick: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
Johnson is a clone of Jarvis Landry, if you ask me. Incredibly shifty releases from the slot, toughness at the catch point and after the catch. Tyler Johnson makes his money on slants and go routes. Slant passes encompass 26.1% of his targets over the past two years, according to PFF. He earned a 96.1 grade on slants, the best in all of college football.
Good news, the Ravens love running RPO slants.
Johnson is also successful on go routes and in contested catch situations. He has an incredible knack for zone coverage, which the Ravens face more than any other team in the NFL due to Lamar Jackson’s legs.
Johnson wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl, which indicates that NFL teams aren’t overly interested in him, but if he’s available in the fourth round to pair with Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Mark Andrews over the next few years. . . sheesh.
Round 5, No. 157
The Ravens need multiple linebackers. Drafting Akeem Davis-Gaither in the third round was a fine selection, but the Ravens would only have ADG, L.J. Fort, Chris Board and Otaro Alaka on their roster. What happens when one misses time? Only Fort has any substantial NFL defensive snaps, but has never even been a full time starter.
The pick: Chris Orr, LB, Wisconsin
Insert Chris Orr. The younger brother of former Ravens All-Pro LB Zach Orr, Chris plays with the same extremely high football I.Q.
Orr is a tad undersized, but has put a plethora of guards and backs in pass pro on their rear ends. He hits like a hammer and is competent in coverage. Orr notched 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss as Wisconsin’s MIKE linebacker last year, which is why it’s absurd that he wasn’t invited to the combine.
Orr had a great pro day, while his 40 time was a 4.65, pro day 40’s are always taken with a grain of salt. Orr posted a 36.5 inch vertical jump and good agility times as well, including a 6.99 three cone and 4.08 short shuttle (short shuttle would’ve ranked first among LB at the combine).
Orr played in an extremely similar scheme to what the Ravens run at Wisconsin, where former Ravens safety Jim Leonard is the defensive play caller.
Orr can play a true MIKE while Davis-Gaither is used in the slot, as a WILL or off the edge. The team’s linebacker room suddenly looks a lot better than it did before the draft.
I won’t be making a seventh-round selection because I truly have no clue what teams do in the final round. The Ravens could take a camp arm, punter, or anything else.
Overall, The Ravens walk out of my mock draft with the following haul:
- A.J. Epenesa, EDGE/IDL, Iowa
- Marlon Davidson, EDGE/IDL, Auburn
- Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
- Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
- John Simpson, G, Clemson
- Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama
- Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
- Chris Orr, LB, Wisconsin
This draft didn’t address the offensive line the way I wanted it to, which is a concern. I would’ve liked to address the offensive side of the football more, but the cookie simply didn’t crumble that way, with many of my preferred offensive prospects coming off the board before the 92nd pick.
I still added two receivers and a guard, which are desperately needed.
The defensive front has turned into a unit capable of dominance in the immediate as well as down the road. Calais Campbell, Matthew Judon, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Marlon Davidson, A.J. Epenesa, Anfernee Jennings, Tyus Bowser, Jihad Ward, Jaylon Ferguson, Akeem-Davis Gaither, L.J. Fort, Chris Orr and company will present a deep, talented AND versatile defensive front that is greatly improved from last season.
The Ravens would consider anything less than being the top defensive unit in football to be a failure.
I’m worried about passing on Grant Delpit in the first round and Robert Hunt in the second round, as both players have big time potential. I would’ve liked to have added more pieces in the secondary and along the offensive line, but the board didn’t end up in my favor.
While the offense has experienced a massive loss with Marshal Yanda retiring, the Ravens will need to look to add more veterans along the front in this draft. The receiver and running-back rooms are filled, while adding another tight-end would be welcome, although 2019 UDFA Charles Scarff could be in the Ravens plans moving forward.
Overall, the offense will be more explosive, but certainly miss Yanda. The defense will be nearly impossible to beat for four quarters, let alone four possessions.
I will be diving into a mock draft using Pro Football Focus’ draft simulator in my next article sometime this week.