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Ravens News 4/19: Preference for Pressure and more

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Cincinnati v Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Five-year NFL Draft analysis: Ravens, Chiefs, Saints continue to nail it - Brian Costello

1. Ravens (1)

Pro Bowlers: 6

Best Pick: Lamar Jackson (2018, 1st round)

Worst Pick: Hayden Hurst (2018, 1st)

The Ravens repeat as our top drafting team. Jackson, an MVP, is their top pick, but they have nailed many picks in recent years, from Ronnie Stanley to Marlon Humphrey and Orlando Brown.

50 Words or Less - John Eisenberg

I’m guessing the Ravens weren’t thrilled to see Jadeveon Clowney land with the Cleveland Browns. Clowney doesn’t have big sack stats, but with Myles Garrett on the other side, the Browns don’t need Clowney for sacks as much as a strong edge against the run, which he can provide.

The Ravens could have kept Clowney from the Browns by signing him, of course, but his price was a tad high and the Ravens’ needs are different. They don’t need another edge-setter as much as a pass rusher who can rattle quarterbacks. I see Justin Houston as a better fit.

The Ravens will face quite a gauntlet of elite quarterbacks in 2021. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are MVPs. Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow were No. 1-overall picks. Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer. Justin Herbert was last year’s Rookie of the Year.

Ravens draft preview: Trevon Moehrig headlines the safety class, but where does he fit? - Jonas Shaffer

What do the Ravens need at safety?

Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s preference for pressure is evident in his defense’s most common coverage: Cover 1, a man-to-man scheme typically supported by a center-field safety. With only one deep-lying safety, Cover 1 defenses give Martindale an extra defender to perplex or, more likely, pressure the quarterback.

That means Ravens scouts have one more trait to evaluate. Clark and Elliott finished sixth and seventh, respectively, among safeties in pass-rush snaps last season, according to PFF; no other team had two safeties with at least 60 blitzes recorded in 2020. (Elliott finished with 2 ½ sacks, more than outside linebackers linebackers Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson.)

It helps to be comfortable in the box. Because of how often the Ravens employed single-high-safety shells last season — nearly 57% of opposing passes came against Cover 1 or Cover 3 defenses, according to Sports Info Solutions — Clark and Elliott often lined up as if they were linebackers or nickelbacks. From there, they were expected to blitz, execute their run fits, drop into zone coverage, or mark tight ends and running backs in man coverage.

Sometimes the Ravens operated as if they had three safeties on the field, with cornerback Jimmy Smith lining up over tight ends or occupying a deep-middle zone. That could be what the Ravens ask of an early-round pick: Do everything well enough, and you’ll become an interchangeable (and invaluable) part of the defense.

2021 NFL Draft: 3 Surprise Players Who Could Go In Round 1 - Jordan Reid

ALEX LEATHERWOOD, OT, ALABAMA

If you were a general manager and someone told you that there was an offensive tackle that started multiple seasons in the SEC at both tackle and guard, was a part of national championship-winning teams, and finished as a 90th percentile athlete, there would be a lot of intrigue early on for him.

The former Crimson Tide left tackle has his warts as he’s a bit stiff and mechanical in his lower half—which leads to him lunging into some blocks and facing challenges with resetting his base—but considering the success that he had at both guard and tackle, it’s easy to see some team taking a chance on outside of the top 20.

CREED HUMPHREY, IOL, OKLAHOMA

Humphrey was the anchor of the Sooners offensive front and started in 36 straight contests (37 games played). Although he appeared to be a marginal athlete on the field, he tested as a high-level athlete across all events. “Solid” is one word that was commonly used to describe the former Sooners center to me by an area scout.

“He fits all of the run of the mill draft cliches. 10-plus year starter, lunch pail worker, hard type guy, you name it. He’s that.”

NFL Draft 2021 Big Board Top 200: Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in top 10, wideouts and corners galore - Chris Trapasso

For full transparency, here’s how I rank the importance (and supply/demand) of each position on the field in today’s NFL.

Quarterback

Offensive tackle

Edge rusher

Wide receiver

Cornerback

Safety

Interior offensive line

Interior defensive line

Tight end

Linebacker

Running back

21. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State (OT3)

22. Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern (CB3)

23. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State (LB2)

24. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (OT4)

25. Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (EDGE3)

26. Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington (DL1)

27. Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest (EDGE4)

28. Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas (EDGE5)

29. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss (WR6)

30. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (CB4)

31. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (WR7)

32. Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse (CB5)

This could be labeled as the freaky specimen group. Jenkins is a nasty dude at right tackle who tested like a cemented first-round pick. He’s balanced. Fundamentally sound with his hands. High floor. High ceiling. Newsome is another freaky specimen who’s best in off man and zone coverage and flips his hips like he’s a nickel corner. Slater is even more of a technician than Jenkins and has elite physical tools. Phillips is the most complete edge rusher in this class, and Ossai and Basham have All-Pro flashes, but their best football is in front of them, always a great phrase to read during draft season.

4-Round NFL Mock Draft 2021: History made as quarterbacks dominate first round - Oliver Hodgkinson

27) Baltimore Ravens: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

Azeez Ojulari may not be considered a true scheme fit — he was an outside linebacker for Georgia — but he possesses the ability to line up from anywhere in the defensive front seven and be an immediate impact. Athletic and strong, Ojulari’s draft stock has skyrocketed this season due to a productive campaign for an impressive Georgia defense.

Some analysts consider him to be the best edge prospect in the class. Therefore, he provides excellent value for the Ravens at the back end of the first round.

58) Baltimore Ravens

Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

104) Baltimore Ravens

Ar’Darius Washington, S, Texas Christian

131) Baltimore Ravens

Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston