Between the hashes, Ravens coordinators Greg Roman and Don Martindale are known for schemes predicated on deception. Eric DeCosta’s front office, however, is earning a reputation for swimming with the tide.
In 2019, they prioritized pass coverage above run defense and selected prospects to fill their most immediate needs in the early rounds of the draft. The trend has continued this offseason, Baltimore took full advantage of the veteran market to improve their defensive line and made the obvious move of franchise tagging Matthew Judon.
Judging by recent mocks, the Ravens could conceivably land impact prospects at each of their three immediate-need positions - receiver, interior blocker and inside linebacker - in the first and second rounds. If they are so fortunate, DeCosta would be in position to select developmental players with his remaining draft capital.
Outside linebacker is arguably Baltimore’s principal long term need. With Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jihad Ward all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2021, Jaylon Ferguson could be the only edge defender under contract next offseason.
Baltimore should aim to create a succession plan with this draft. And the middle rounds will probably be the sweet spot in terms of value at edge defender. Outside linebackers with a variety of skillsets, shapes, sizes, ceilings and floors are projected to be available in the third, fourth and fifth rounds.
Beyond Chase Young, every pure outside linebacker in this class requires some level of development, including potential top-50 picks K’Lavon Chaisson, Yetur Gross-Matos and Julian Okwara. The Ravens have an impressive track record of developing middle round edge defenders who outperform players selected higher in their respective draft classes.
Depending on how the board falls, athletic Michigan product Josh Uche, high ceiling Alabama edge Terrell Lewis and dependable former Gator Jonathan Greenard could be available in the third round round. Potential fourth round options include overlooked former Volunteer Darrell Taylor, Syracuse’s linear pass rusher Alton Robinson and combine darling Jabari Zuniga from Florida. High floor Alabama prospect Anfernee Jennings, jumbo Auburn edge Nick Coe and raw former Hurricane Jonathan Garvin might become firth round targets.
General consensus indicates the 2020 draft crop does not offer great quality at outside linebacker in the first and second rounds, but the middle rounds boast intriguing prospects. Considering the premium that the NFL places on edge rushers and the large amount of long-term uncertainty the Ravens have at the position, DeCosta would be wise to select a pair of mid-round outside linebackers.
Baltimore’s front office has displayed a thorough understanding of the NFL’s positional supply and demand economics. Drafting multiple mid-round edge defenders should be another avenue towards maximizing value while building the best possible roster.