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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest pre-draft needs

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL draft is now less than a month away. While free agency technically is not over and there are still plenty of unsigned players on the market, the focus is now beginning to shift towards the draft.

The Ravens may very well make an additional move or two via free agency between now and April 26. Their draft strategy is still subject to change. However, we have a good idea of where their biggest needs are on the roster are.

Let’s break down which positions represent the most pressing needs for the Ravens to fill or address ahead of the draft — ranked from least to most.

1. Quarterback

Quarterback is the most important position in the sport and the Ravens are fortunate to be in a good place. Lamar Jackson is likely already back to 100% health and the Ravens tendered Tyler Huntley, ensuring the backup spot will be filled for 2022. They’ll want another body later in the offseason but using draft capital on a No. 3 QB is a not necessary.

2. Tight End

It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Ravens to draft a tight end on Day 2 or 3. Having another pass-catching threat to complement Mark Andrews could be a nice asset on offense. However, in terms of dire need, tight end is not one. This is especially true if Nick Boyle can return to full form next season. FB/TE hybrid Patrick Ricard is also back in the mix after re-signing with the team on a three-year deal. If anything, they’d be searching for an upgrade over Josh Oliver.

3. Safety

Before free agency started, acquiring a free safety was one of the Ravens’ biggest offseason needs. They quickly addressed this with the signing of Marcus Williams, who will pair with Chuck Clark as the team’s new starting safety duo. Williams replaces DeShon Elliott in the starting lineup. The Ravens could potentially add another safety later in the draft but it’s no longer a pressing need. Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone, Tony Jefferson II and Ar’Darius Washington makes for solid depth behind Williams and Clark.

4. Running Back

This a tricky position to evaluate. On paper, running back is not much of a need at all because J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards is a more-than-formidable duo. Justice Hill or Ty’Son Williams are fine as No. 3 options on the depth chart. Because Dobbins, Edwards and Hill are all coming off season-ending injuries in 2021, though, the Ravens may look to add another running back into the mix via a mid-round draft pick. They don’t need a starter or backup here but more so just insurance.

5. Wide Receiver

Last offseason, wide receiver have been the Ravens’ biggest need. That has been the case in previous pre-draft cycles as well. Today, though, the Ravens a solid young core of receivers and don’t necessarily need to exhaust an early-round draft pick on one. At full strength, a starting trio of Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay is formidable. They could use another big-bodied threat on the outside to replace Sammy Watkins and potentially Miles Boykin, if the Ravens move on from him as rumored.

6. Inside Linebacker

If the Ravens sign Bobby Wagner in free agency, which is a real possibility per the latest rumors, this position moves much further down the list of needs. Even so, it’s not necessarily a dire need as is. Patrick Queen will return as a starter and Malik Harrison offers some untapped upside. If they miss out on Wagner, they could easily pivot and re-sign a familiar veteran like Josh Bynes or L.J. Fort. Adding another linebacker in the draft, in the mid-to-late rounds, is a possibility. The Ravens don’t have a ton of depth at the position as is but again, that may very well change via a free agent signing.

7. Interior Offensive Line

After losing Bradley Bozeman in free agency, the Ravens have a vacancy at their starting center spot. It’s possible, if not likely, that Patrick Mekari slots in there. However, the Ravens could look to draft a center and utilize Mekari as a multi-positional, sixth man-type role. If so, it makes this position group much more of a need because they’d be lacking a quality option at center. Either way, they’re set at one guard spot with Kevin Zeitler returning. The other guard position should be a competition between Ben Powers, Tyre Phillips and Ben Cleveland. They could probably find an upgrade to these three in the draft, but it would take an early pick to do and isn’t quite worth the capital.

8. Cornerback

Like at running back, the Ravens have a top-end cornerback duo in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters but injuries have clouded the situation. Not only do the Ravens need some insurance because of that, but even more so because their depth is somewhat depleted at the position now. Anthony Averett and Tavon Young are out, who will take their place? Jimmy Smith is also likely to retire. The Ravens could potentially draft a cornerback in the first or second round. Or, they could double-dip also. Either way, they need cornerback reinforcements in a big way. Kevin Seymour is currently No. 3 on the depth chart. It’s possible that Brandon Stephens slides into a nickel role, but even so the Ravens still upgraded depth.

9. Defensive Line

You can probably make an argument that cornerback is a greater need than defensive line. But at full health, the latter is much more of a strength than the former for the Ravens. Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams remain un-signed in free agency. Re-acquiring Michael Pierce was a fine acquisition but doesn’t necessarily move the needle. The Ravens need a greater pass-rushing presence from their interior defensive line regardless of if they re-sign Campbell or not. Derek Wolfe is recovering from hip surgery and Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington and company is not necessarily amazing depth.

10. Offensive Tackle

In reality, it was less than two years ago that the Ravens had a Pro Bowl offensive tackle duo in Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. It feels like much longer. Last season, their weakness at the position was one of the downfalls of their six-game losing streak to conclude the year. Signing Morgan Moses was a good move to upgrade and solidify the right tackle spot. The key is Stanley’s health. If he can return to good health and form, the Ravens’ offensive line will be in good shape. But the Ravens can’t afford to take the risk banking on that for a second straight offseason.

They lack a true swing tackle on the depth chart with left-right versatility. The Moses acquisition likely preludes them from taking an offensive tackle at No. 14, but they can’t exit the draft without taking at least one. Adding to the magnitude of this position as a “need” is the fact that it’s one of the most valuable and important positions on the roster.

11. Edge Rusher

This wouldn’t be the Ravens’ biggest need if Za’Darius Smith had not backed out of his four-year deal in free agency. But he did, and the Ravens have yet to pivot to add another edge rusher. That could change but as of now, outside linebacker is a glaring need. Odafe Oweh is a rising star and Tyus Bowser is fresh off a career-best season. Oweh had offseason shoulder surgery, though, and Bowser suffered a torn Achilles in the regular season finale.

Justin Houston is an unrestricted free agent, leaving Daelin Hayes and Jaylon Ferguson as the only other edge rushers currently under contract. This could very well be where the Ravens go with their first-round pick and they could also double-dip with draft picks at the position. They need more pass-rushing talent on the edge.