The day is upon us. Let’s do it.
The Ravens won’t trade up more than a few picks barring an unlikely blue chip player sliding. Trading back feels like a 50/50 proposition.
If the Ravens sit pat at 28, I expect the primary targets to be:
Cesar Ruiz, IOL, University of Michigan.
Ruiz is only 20-years old, but has over two seasons of experience starting in the B1G. He’s scheme versatile, smooth, mobile and a rock in pass pro. Sign me up.
Patrick Queen, ILB, Louisiana State University.
Queen is also a youngster, who doesn’t turn 21 until July. He’s shown the highest I.Q. of any inside linebacker in the past two classes, can run sideline to sideline and flashed outstanding coverage ability. Queen is a true “four-down linebacker” who hasn’t had a huge toll on his body and his pre-snap recognition screams “film room junkie.”
Kenneth Murray, inside linebacker, Oklahoma University.
Murray is a hunter. He runs hard, fast and determined to blow up ball carriers. He needs work on the refinements of play recognition and block shedding but he possesses a special skill set that is similar to Saints standout linebacker Demario Davis. Murray can run and chase in year one, then become a more complete player in year two and three. Star potential.
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa University.
Epenesa has been a grown man from the age of 14. He’s massive, long and strong with advanced hand usage and pass rushing intelligence. Iowa relied on Epenesa to be a rock in the run game last season, where he progressed against double teams as the year went on. Epenesa’s blend of size, strength, length and technique make him an early starter type.
Receivers, various colleges.
Michael Pittman Jr., Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims and Brandon Aiyuk are all playmakers in their own right. At least two of them will be on the board.
After hearing Eric DeCosta state his affection for the day two and three receivers, then considering Marquise Brown was the first round pick last year, I see the Ravens passing on a receiver in the first round if Ruggs, Jeudy, Jefferson and Lamb are all taken off the board early. They could easily trade back if an offer presents itself and acquire one of these playmakers while accruing more draft capital to attack players in later rounds.
The pick: Cesar Ruiz.
Lamar Jackson stated that he hopes the Ravens do their best to replace Marshal Yanda. Following a season where the Ravens broke one of the NFL’s long-standing records, the NFL team rushing yardage total, the smart move is to get a versatile, scheme versatile, young, high caliber player. Ruiz was one of the top players in the nation coming out of the football factory known as IMG Academy, took reps as a true freshman and was nothing short of rock solid since. Give your MVP quarterback the best line possible and he will score points, plain and simple. Ruiz ensures talent, depth and versatility across the Ravens offensive line, allowing them to address needs at linebacker and wide receiver with their remaining four, day-two picks.
The Ravens have leveraged themselves with outstanding trade opportunity on day two. With both the 55th and 60th selections, the Ravens have ample ammo to trade up to the top of the second round to nab a player they covet who slides.
Ideally, the Ravens pick up an NFL ready linebacker and playmaking receiver to pair with Ruiz, allowing them to pick freely for the remainder of the draft.
55) Malik Harrison, linebacker, Ohio State University.
Harrison is one of five linebackers to meet the following metrics at the NFL Combine:
• Measure 6-foot-3 or taller.
• Weigh 245-pounds or heavier.
• Jump 36 inches or higher.
• Run a sub 6.85 three-cone drill.
The others? Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser.
Harrison is big, strong, fast, smart and explosive. He plays through blocks and can lay the hammer on blockers and ball carriers alike.
He had a ton of responsibility in coverage for Ohio State, playing man, zone and match coverage. He also identified screens well. Sometimes smaller, faster running backs can elude his tackles in space, and he can be a bit lumbering when defending shifty slot options. Harrison was strong when playing against RPO concepts and showed the ability to turn and run up the seam effectively at times. Harrison can come in and run, hit, blitz without being a liability in zone coverage. He’s NFL ready.
60) K.J. Hamler, receiver, Penn State.
Hamler is electric. Fitting a similar profile to Hollywood Brown, Hamler is a little more stocky and contact friendly. He played exclusively in the slot, but the Ravens run a ton of motion and Hamler has the speed, quickness and savvy to get off against some press looks. Team are forced to play a lot of zone against Lamar Jackson, and Hamler’s ridiculous explosion off the line will beat defenders to their marks, where he can score from any area of the field. Hamler struggled with drops in 2019, which is concerning, but only dropped three passes in 2018. He adds lethal return skill and insurance behind Hollywood Brown.
Two jitterbug track stars will prevent defenses from stacking the box to stop the run.
The Ravens are often wheeling and dealing by this time in the draft, so I doubt they pick at both 92 and 106, but here are my ideal picks.
92) Akeem Davis-Gaither, linebacker, Appalachian State University.
Malik Harrison is somewhat old school. Big, strong, contact heavy.
Akeem Davis-Gaither is new school. Fast, agile, slips blocks and excels in coverage.
Davis-Gaither played over 200 snaps each at inside linebacker, edge and slot corner in 2019. He is an explosive tackler who can flip his hips, run, and play the ball with great instincts. His speed and aggression make him a terror from hash to sideline, who specializes in rushing the passer, destroying screens and erasing passes up the seam.
‘ADG’ was clocked at over 20 mph at the Senior Bowl, the 15th fastest player including receivers and defensive backs. He sustained a foot injury preventing him from running, but he certainly would’ve run in the 4.45-4.55s range. Wink would have fun with a more explosive and athletic version of Anthony Levine, who would contribute immediately on special teams and be a weapon for Wink Martindale’s defense on third down.
106) Van Jefferson or Bryan Edwards, receivers, SEC schools.
Edwards and Jefferson have both been overlooked, both can play inside and outside, are savvy, tough and underrated. They both also have sustained foot injuries which prevented them from participating in the combine.
Edwards is a chiseled, tough and strong receiver who is surprisingly smooth selling double moves and is outstanding both at the catch point and after the catch. He needs some runway to get to his top speed, but he can certainly blow by defenders in space.
Jefferson is an elite level route runner who does a great job varying pace, selling vertically and snaps off his routes flat, with insane agility.
Jefferson torched LSU’s star freshman Derek Stingley Jr. countless times and shows a great feel for zone coverage. Jefferson is an old rookie who will be 24-years old by the time the season starts.
Both Jefferson and Edwards present outstanding value at their position due to depth, which Eric DeCosta stated that he was looking to capitalize on. Lamar Jackson would be happy with either.
Day three picks.
After doubling up at receiver and linebacker, while addressing the interior offensive line, the Ravens can truly take the best players available.
Guys that fit the description for me. . .
129) McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas.
Bull. In. A. China. Shop.
Agim only played inside for one year for the Razorbacks, but exploded when he had good leverage and devastated blockers off the snap. He’s raw inside, but has all the tools to become an impact defender. He fits the culture. He’s a Raven.
134) Anfernee Jennings, edge, Alabama.
Jennings started for Nick Saban’s defense across the past two seasons, with heavy usage three years ago before a terrible knee injury. Jennings is a stout and smart run defender, who simply ends plays. He also is a savvy pass rusher, who uses an awesome long-arm bull rush to shock blockers, then uses chops and other counters to attack passers. PFF graded Jennings above an 88 against the run and pass. Jennings has also broken up 18 passes over the past two seasons, with an uncanny ability to bat passes if his pass rush stalls. Jennings plays like a Raven and comes from their Alabama pipeline.
170) Geno Stone, Safety, Iowa University.
Stone follows former Hawkeye Desmond King as a versatile, aggressive, do it all defensive back. Stone didn’t have the incredible production that King did, but showed smarts and decisiveness in coverage that is typical of Iowa defensive backs. Stone can provide depth at safety while figuring to excel on special teams.
225) Zach Sammartino, IOL, Dartmouth.
Sammartino never gave up a sack during his career at Dartmouth but might’ve earned a few paychecks from IHOP because all he did was give out pancakes. Sammartino has slow feet but they’re efficient. He played in both gap and zone schemes where his tenacity and downright nasty attitude are just fun to watch.
A late-round flyer on a hard working small-school dude.
The Ravens also look to add a 20+ man UDFA class. In 2019, the Ravens featured 19 former UDFA players on their active roster, which outnumbered the next closest “round” by eight.
Let’s see if one name on this list ends up on the Ravens draft card. Doubtful, but in the words of Kodak Black, “I hope so.”