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Ravens comprehensive 2021 NFL Draft prospectus

Who fits the mold of “playing like a Raven”

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

With the 2021 NFL Draft on the horizon, we have have finally reached the point of analysis paralysis. Comments from consensus top prospects are being dissected word by word. Folks on twitter are arguing over mock drafts. It’s peak draft season.

With Orlando Brown Jr. dealt to the Chiefs for a handsome return of draft capital, as well as likely signing Alejandro Villanueva and perhaps Justin Houston, the Ravens needs have been defined. They need an edge rusher. They need an offensive tackle. Other than that? They need impact players to forge competition on the practice field and force sharpened players to emerge.

As things stand, the Ravens possess nine draft picks with five or six roster spots to fill.

With that being said, the Ravens have their “types” in different ways. For instance, since 2010, every OT Baltimore has drafted measured at least 6054 (6-foot-5 and 4/8 inches) with 34 inch arms or longer (Ramon Harewood’s 33.125 inch arms the lone exception.)

In terms of edge rushers, Baltimore seems keen on length as well. Under John Harbaugh the Ravens have selected 10 total edge rushers. Only two edges (Za’Darius Smith and Courtney Upshaw) have had under 33-inch arms. Six had 16.5 sacks or more throughout their college career, while eight had at least eight sacks in a single collegiate season. Each except Za’Darius Smith logged 22 or more tackles for loss. Only Tyus Bowser ran a sub 7.00s three-cone, with only three (Bowser, Tim Williams and John Simon) jumping 34-inch verticals or 10-foot broad jumps. No Baltimore edge rusher drafted has run faster than a 4.62 in the 40-yard-dash. It seems that length, sack and tackle for loss production reign supreme in the Ravens edge selections, while explosion, agility and speed carry less weight.

With that in mind, let’s look at some edges and tackles that fit the respective thresholds at both positions. That includes tackles measure 6055 or taller with at least 34-inch arm length.

  • Stone Forsythe, Florida, 6080, 34.375.
  • Larnel Coleman, Massachusetts, 6062, 36.25.
  • Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State, 6056, 34.
  • Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa, 6082, 34.75.
  • Carson Green, Texas A&M, 6061, 34.5.
  • Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M, 6055, 34.5.

There are three other options who barely miss out on one of the thresholds. Teven Jenkins is tall enough, but his arms are a half-inch too short. Alex Leatherwood’s arms are 34.25-inches, but he’s just under the height threshold at 6051. Walker Little is plenty tall (6071) but his arm length falls just shy at 33.75-inches. Those three should also be considered, as they fall close enough where excluding them would be preposterous.

Among all of the tackles listed, the only one who may not be available by the time the Ravens are on the clock is Teven Jenkins, who, of course, would be the most glove-like fit. His drive off the ball and tenacity would be welcome additions to the Ravens offensive persona. Jenkins also has experience at guard, where he could provide an upgrade until taking the reins. If Jenkins is on the board at 27, he would be difficult to pass on.

The rest of the lot are much more unpredictable. Let’s take a deeper dive at some of the intriguing options.

Stone Forsythe Relative Athletic Score
@MathBomb

Stone Forsythe blocks out the sun at 6-foot-8 with strong movement skills and coordination considering his build. He has calm feet in pass protection with a wealth of experience in true pass sets playing in Florida’s spread offense.

Forsythe’s quick feet lead to strong mirror skills in pass protection. He has aggressive and precise hand placement that thwart rushers as he forces them to wash out around the arc if he can’t lock them up at the POA. He’s a bit too high cut in the run game, but has flexibility and movement skills that indicate there’s plenty of room for growth. The giant tackle stonewalled potential first round pick Azeez Ojulari for four quarters in their 2020 matchup, showing his ability to deal with explosive speed rushers utilizing his mirror skills and smooth feet.

Going from Florida’s spread, pass happy offense into the Ravens power pistol man/gap rushing, while also flipping from left to right tackle would present challenges. The Ravens would likely be unable to snag Forsythe without trading back. With Alejandro Villaneuva likely coming in, the Ravens might not feel desperate enough to take a tackle in the first round considering the depth later in the draft. Although, considering how barren tackle depth has been over the past few years, there could be a run on tackles in the first and early second round that quickly wipes out much of that depth.

Spencer Brown is a wild card in this draft. His testing and workout numbers are possibly the best in recorded history for a tackle prospect.

Brown’s 6.96s 3-cone is honestly laughable. It shows up on film as well, where no edge rusher was ever able to win the corner on him.

Brown also has a mean streak, where he systematically beat down on FCS level competition and finished plays. With his length and strength, if he initially wins the battle of hand placement, the defender is done. He does appear to leave his chest open a bit too much, which explosive bull rushers and the NFL might be able to expose early on. Brown needs to keep his hands tighter and ready to disrupt stabs. He could also be susceptible to inside counters as he transitions to a higher level of competition.

Brown opted out of the 2020 season and went to the Senior Bowl to knock off the rust, like many other opt-outs. He showed that he can certainly compete at a high level. With his size, length, bend and athletic profile, he has some of the highest upside of any tackle in this class. At the same time, he certainly needs reps against high level competition to work through counters and re-fitting. If Brown were available when the Ravens picked in the third round, I would be surprised. Again, they might have to trade back into the second, or up from the 90’s to reach Brown.

Moving onto Dillon Radunz, who hasn’t lost a competitive football game in six years. . .

Radunz is a silencer of pass rushes. He consistently thwarts rushes within three steps, and leaves pass rushers in awkward clamps where they’re unable to disengage. His feet are pneumatic, while his hand strikes are well timed with grip strength. Radunz showed a high level of blitz recognition at NDSU, the only concern was his weight. While he’s a bit lighter (304 pounds) than the Ravens traditionally go for, it doesn’t show up on tape, nor did it at the Senior Bowl. In fact, Radunz was voted Player of The Week by his Senior Bowl peers, an honor bestowed upon Justin Herbert the year prior.

Radunz has excellent hand placement in the run game as well, striking low when down blocking to create movement and clear rushing lanes. He relentlessly hounds second level defenders through the whistle, and is a pure athlete in space when pulling outside the numbers or working on explosive runs. He might not have ideal drive off the ball yet, but getting him into an NFL strength and conditioning program couldn’t hurt. Radunz, yet again, likely will fall somewhere after the Ravens first two picks and before their third round picks.

Without getting too deep into the rest of the bunch, Alex Leatherwood is certainly the highest profile of the lot. He’s an absolute mauler in the run game who was extremely sound in Alabama’s man/gap run scheme. He has strong length and a beautiful gallop like kick slide in pass protection. His hand placement is extremely inconsistent and the timing of his strikes sets him up for failure as well. Leatherwood seems to struggle to be suddenly violent, with too much buildup into his strikes in pass protection.

In terms of edge rushers, the Ravens have several enticing options who all seem to have unique characteristics. Baltimore doesn’t seem to be keen on the 3-cone or explosive jump testing when they’ve drafted edges in the past. The only recent edge defender that the Ravens have signed to a second contract following their rookie contract is Tyus Bowser, who was by far the most agile and explosive tester of the 10 edges drafted dating back to John Harbaugh’s hiring. Seemingly valuing production over testing, perhaps it’s time for the Ravens to try a new approach.

The broad jump measures explosiveness, which relates to a pass rusher’s get off. The 3-cone measures a player’s ability to shift their weight and change directions quickly. This relates to a pass rusher’s ability to hunt down a quarterback in pursuit and corner around blockers tightly. The only two edges drafted in the Harbaugh era to meet those two metric thresholds are John Simon and Tyus Bowser. Simon struggled to stay healthy during his time in Baltimore, before finding a starting role in New England and carving out a nice career for himself.

Perhaps it’s time for the Ravens to bring in edges that have a mix of production and testing prowess. Within the 2021 edge class, the following players recorded a 9-foot-9 broad jump and ran a sub 7.2s 3-cone.

  • Kwity Paye, Michigan: 6.5s 3-cone, 9-foot-10 broad jump.
  • Jaelan Phillips, Miami: 7.13s 3-cone, 10-foot-5 broad jump.
  • Carlos Basham, Wake Forest: 7.13 3-cone, 10-foot-2 broad jump.
  • Jayson Oweh, Penn State: 6.9 3-cone, 11-foot-2 broad jump.
  • Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame: 7.17 3-cone, 10-foot broad jump.
  • William Bradley-King, Baylor: 7.1s 3-cone, 9-foot-11 broad jump.
  • Quincy Roche, Miami: 7.2s 3-cone, 9-foot-11 broad jump.
  • Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa: 7.11s 3-cone, 10-foot-7 broad jump.
  • Shaka Toney, Penn State: 7.00s 3-cone, 10-foot-8 broad jump.
  • Romeo McKnight, Charlotte: 7.06 3-cone, 9-foot-10 broad jump.
  • Patrick Johnson, Tulane: 6.96s 3-cone, 9-foot-11 broad jump.

The loophole applies to players that didn’t participate in one of those tests. Houston’s Payton Turner posted a 7.01s 3-cone and a 35-inch vertical, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt on the broad jump, as the rest of his results were outstanding. Texas’ Joseph Ossai didn’t participate in agility drills, but crushed the rest of his workout. Washington’s Joe Tryon missed the broad jump threshold by one inch, while Notre Dame’s Daelin Hayes missed the 3-cone threshold by 0.01s. We can give them the benefit of the doubt considering the insanely narrow margin.

As previously mentioned, the Ravens typically draft edges that have recorded at least eight sacks in a single season, 16 or more career tackles for loss and have at least 33-inch arms. Among the edges that met the testing thresholds, the following meet the Ravens production thresholds and didn’t opt out.

  • Jaelan Phillips: 23.5 TFL, 8 sacks in 2020, 33.25-inch arms.
  • William Bradley-King: 29.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks in 2019, 33.5-inch arms.
  • Elerson Smith: 32 TFL, 14 sacks in 2019, 33.25-inch arms.

The three players we will give the benefit of the doubt to are Joe Tryon, who opted out of the 2020 season after recording an eight sack season with 12.5 tackles for loss, then barely missed out of the broad jump threshold by one inch. Tryon has 34-inch arms and gave Penei Sewell a tough matchup in 2019. The second is Kwity Paye, who opted out after four Michigan games, where he recorded three sacks in four games, totaling 23.5 career tackles for loss with 33-inch arms. That leaves us with Phillips, Bradley-King, Smith, Tryon, Turner and Paye.

While I’ve been wrong before and certainly will be wrong again, I don’t believe the Ravens will have a shot at drafting Paye or Phillips. Paye is my top rated edge defender, who you’ll rarely see lower than third on anyone’s rankings. His strength, movement skills, change of direction and stacking ability come without durability concerns. He was No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s 2020 freak list, and isn’t as raw as the Jayson Oweh’s of the world. I don’t think the Ravens would be able to sniff him without trading up, which I don’t expect them to do.

Phillips was the No. 1 defensive end in the country when he committed to UCLA, and didn’t get to truly showcase his ability until he transferred to Miami in 2020. He lit the world on fire, showing a polished, diverse, professional tool box to rush the passer. He can win with side scissors, rips, swims, long arm bull rush and string moves together with rhythm. He’s an elite athlete that showed the ability to close. He has medical red flags from concussion history, but all the big wig reporters are stating teams aren’t worried. He’s too talented to fall to 27. That leaves the rest of the lot.

Payton Turner and Joe Tryon are both enticing fits in Wink Martindale’s defense. Tryon possesses a lethal long arm, explosiveness and impressive open field movement/pursuit ability. He’s somewhat reminiscent of Matt Judon. He aggressively closes to the flats and is a finisher in space. Tryon used get off, length, a nasty long arm, swim and speed chop to win. While he hasn’t developed counters and doesn’t possess elite ankle flexion, Tryon is a high effort pass rusher who makes himself skinny with swim moves and harasses quarterbacks. He held his own against Penei Sewell, making several plays against the highly touted left tackle. Tryon used his 34-inch arms to get Sewell airborne on a long arm bull rush, which forced Sewell to hug Tryon.

We haven’t seen the Husky on the field since 2019. He tested well, and figures to add strength as he continues to mature and fill out. He’s an intriguing, versatile, enthusiastic option that could help in the immediate while continuing to develop refinement in his pass rush. His versatility to drop in coverage and close, rush the passer from different alignments and effectively set the edge make him a great fit in a Wink Martindale defense where he could fill SAM and RUSH providing sound depth as he matures into a full time starting role.

Like Tryon, Payton Turner would be the tallest (6054) and longest (35.375-inch arms) edge selected in the Harbaugh era. Turner’s athletic testing was through the roof. A 35-inch vertical and 7.01s 3-cone at 268 pounds are both elite scores.

Turner’s 3-cone shows up on tape. He has balance and fluid change of direction that allow him to corral slippery quarterbacks. His length provides a massive tackle radius in pursuit of the run. Turner holds a firm edge and consistently locks out to establish control and shed to the ball. He’s a black belt certified hand fighter by my standards, who will string together combinations to establish leverage towards the play. Turner is a predator with versatility to kick inside as a 3-tech on third down.

Turner didn’t have the Senior Bowl performance he would’ve liked, where he spent a significant portion of his reps at 3-tech. The only real concern for Turner is the increase in level of competition. He was moved around early in his career at Houston, fluctuating in weight before settling at around 270-pounds in 2020.

Turner has an ideal frame and skill set for the RUSH position, where he could set and collapse the edge, with versatility to play 3-technique. He has experience standing and would bring prodigious length to Baltimore’s front. Being able to learn behind Calais Campbell while establishing more consistency against the run would make Turner an exciting short and long term option, similar to Tryon.

William Bradley-King might be the most intriguing Day 2-3 prospect in this entire draft class, let alone among the edges. “WBK” is an extremely polished technician who connects his stabs and bull rushes with exact hand placement and shocking drive. He might be the most refined pass rusher in terms of reacting and stringing combinations together to win and beat blocks. He’s sturdy against the run and recognizes inside concepts quickly, establishing himself and ending plays regularly. An older prospect, the 23 year-old is polished. He put on a show at the Senior Bowl, taking many by surprise. Mislabeled by lazy narratives, you’ll find a litany of scouting reports that say he lacks athleticism. That’s not the case.

King showed explosion in his jumps and agility in his short drills. His 1.59 10-yard split showed burst as well, while he doesn’t have great long speed. . . but as Brian Billick once said, “If (Suggs) is chasing quarterbacks 40 yards downfield, we’ve got other problems.”

The former Arkansas St. star is one of the more violent players in this entire draft class. The only red flag is that he can occasionally get lost on counter or misdirection concepts in the run game. King might be a tad underweight for the RUSH role, but he plays with enough violence and length to give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, weight isn’t strength. With his length, hand violence and full pass rushing repertoire, WBK would be an awesome option in the third round if the Ravens fail to find edges on day one or early in day two.

Moving away from the edge and tackle positions, the rest of the board is wide open. The Ravens only have one safety under contract after 2021 in Chuck Clark, so finding a viable option there would make sense. With Clark and Elliott able to play rat roles or in the box, a single high safety with strong cover skills would maximize their skill sets more. The safeties that come to mind are Trevon Moehrig, Richie Grant, Andre Cisco and Jamar Johnson. Jevon Holland is probably a bit redundant, but perhaps could develop as a deep middle safety with time.

Grant and Moehrig both possess elite off-coverage skill, while Grant even showed strong press man prowess at the Senior Bowl. Moehrig’s ball production has been prolific, and he would make a ton of sense for the Ravens in the first round.

Cisco and Johnson are a bit riskier. Johnson is an abhorrent open field tackler who takes poor angles and misses tackles nearly as often as he makes them. Cisco is coming off of a major injury and that’s always a slippery slope. Either of them could be intriguing options in the third round.

The Ravens could very well find a center in a class that has quite a few options. In the Harbaugh era, they’ve only spent a 4th (Gino Gradkowski), 6th (Ryan Jensen) and 5th (John Urschel) on centers. Creed Humphrey and Landon Dickerson would both be outstanding scheme fits. Humphrey would be the fifth Oklahoma Sooner offensive player selected by the Ravens in the last four draft classes. Dickerson has a laundry list on injuries but has historic size for a center prospect. Either would be an improvement in terms of consistent snaps and drive off the ball, what the Ravens have had since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback. David Moore of Grambling St. is an enticing mid round option with freaky length for being 6-foot-1 and 350 pounds. He beat folks up at the Senior Bowl and would fit the Ravens man/gap scheme well with his physicality and grip strength.

With Sammy Watkins signed in addition to Devin Duvernay, James Proche Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, the Ravens likely won’t double dip at the receiver position. If they pass on Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore or Terrace Marshall Jr., on day one, Josh Palmer would be a nice fit later on. Palmer was coached by Tee Martin at Tennessee and plays with physicality and suddenness.

Palmer was plagued by atrocious quarterback play in Knoxville, but performed well when the ball was on target. The former Vol had 33 receptions and zero drops on catchable targets in 2020. He fits the physical profile that the Ravens receiver room has lacked recently, with strong stacking, contested catch ability and body control. He has strong hands and squeezes the ball overtop of defenders on jump balls, while showing some explosiveness through his stems.

Palmer possesses solid size and length with decent testing across the board. If he’s taken, it would be hard to imagine Tee Martin wasn’t a major advocate behind the selection. If Baltimore decides to attack the offensive and defensive fronts early, Palmer would be a nice consolation price late on day two or early on day three.

Some other intriguing late round options in the receiver room are Cornell Powell, Frank Darby, Trevon Grimes and Seth Williams. Each of the three play with size and have experience operating on the boundary. Adding some level of physicality to the Ravens receiving corps would be a welcome addition.

Antonio Nunn from Buffalo is also a mighty intriguing late round flier with natural movement and ball skills.

Let’s look at some defensive positions that aren’t necessarily immediate need. The final two prospects that could be appealing in trade back scenarios, or perhaps as the best player available late in the third round, are Washington’s Elijah Molden and North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill.

Molden has extreme processing and play speed as a nickel defender who might translate to safety well. He’s a jungle cat like pursuit player who clips receivers before they can turn upfield and process space. He has strong ball skills and pesky physicality in coverage. Molden’s intensity epitomizes Washington’s defensive energy and would translate well into the Baltimore Raven defensive mentality. His intelligence and preparation are reminiscent of some lofty comparisons that I won’t mention, see the tape instead.

Molden feels like the classic prospect that is a tad undersized, didn’t test the best at his pro day, but does nothing but produce in the NFL and leaves everyone feeling foolish for not having a higher grade on him. The dude can straight up defend. His teammates gravitate to him and he performs in the clutch. All of the cliches apply.

In the Ravens defense, Molden would fit the alpha defensive back mentality. With Tavon Young recovering from major injury for the second time, Molden would allow Marlon Humphrey to finally return to the boundary where he can do what he’s paid to do. Molden is a turnover creator who could blitz with his hair on fire for Wink Martindale.

Alim McNeill’s player comparison is Godzilla. He melts double teams, pulverizes centers and regularly penetrates three yards into the backfield. His 49% forced bounce rate on designed runs into his gap leads this draft class, per Sports Info Solutions. He has length and can scoot for a 320-pound nose guard. He’s capable of getting pressure and wrangling a few sacks as well, giving him three down value. At only 20 years-old, McNeill is already a dominant, polished run defender who could take the torch from Brandon Williams and perhaps even pressure the quarterback.

There has to be a contingency plan for a post Brandon Williams Ravens defense. They’ve valued Williams so much for so long despite his ineptitude rushing the passer that they’ve made him one of the highest paid nose tackles in NFL history. Williams has been awesome taking on double teams and holding the line. McNeill would provide immediate depth above that of Justin Ellis, while continuing to refine his strikes and A-gap (which is now short for Alim’s gap) dominance.

All in all, the Ravens have quite a bit hanging in the balance ahead of this draft. Whether they sign Alejandro Villaneuva and Justin Houston or not, both are stopgap signings. While they would both help immediately, the Ravens only have 29 players under contract for the 2022-23 season (excluding Mark Andrews and Lamar Jackson).

The conundrum is that it’s hard to find nine roster spots currently. Regardless, the Ravens need to continue adding to their foundation. That’s why I would be surprised to see them make pick twice Thursday in lieu of trading back for more day two capital. I anticipate that the Ravens move one of those picks out of the first round, then use their plethora of late day two and day three picks to find a happy medium in the top-100.

Eric DeCosta has his work cut out for him, but if he can add starter level players in some combination at edge, tackle, center or receiver, then the Ravens will be in a good place in the immediate as well as the future. As the kids say, “in DeCosta we trust.”