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Ravens News 4/13: Small School Gems and more

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL offseason head-scratchers, brilliant moves and power shifts: What we’ve learned about all 32 teams - Sheil Kapadia

Baltimore Ravens: The Lamar Jackson contract situation could drag out

Jackson is 25, has won an MVP, and the Ravens are 37-12 in the regular season with him as the starter. But Jackson missed five games last season, and Baltimore’s offense has failed to recapture the magic we saw in 2019. For now, he is set to go into the final year of his rookie deal without a new contract.

“If I were to put money on it, I’d say this is the ideal situation that ends up in multiple franchise tags before a deal gets done,” Fitzgerald said.

If the Ravens are uncomfortable paying Jackson near the top of the quarterback market, he could go the Kirk Cousins route and play on the franchise tag in 2023 and 2024. In theory, that would allow Jackson to get paid on a pair of one-year deals and then be eligible for free agency at the age of 28.

As for the 2022 season, the Ravens signed safety Marcus Williams, right tackle Morgan Moses and nose tackle Michael Pierce. They brought back veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell and fullback Patrick Ricard.

Just getting better injury luck could lead to a big rebound in 2022. No team was more impacted by injuries last year than Baltimore, according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric.

Offseason wins, concerns and draft predictions for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers - Jamison Hensley

This remains an area of concern: The pass rush. Baltimore’s top two outside linebackers (Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser) are coming off offseason surgeries. To make matters worse, two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith then backed out of an agreement with the Ravens. Baltimore, which hasn’t had anyone produce double-digit sacks since 2017, needs to find someone to go after Burrow and Watson.

Best guess at first draft pick: The Ravens need a pass-rusher or cornerback with the No. 14 overall pick. Purdue outside linebacker George Karlaftis has what the Ravens covet in defensive players — aggressiveness and a high motor. Karlaftis would form a young and explosive pass-rush duo with Oweh. Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie is another option, although he lacks ideal size.

Way-too-early prediction: The Ravens win the AFC North. Baltimore becomes the latest team to go from last place to first (it’s happened at least once in 14 of past 16 seasons). The Ravens are getting seven key players back from injured reserve, and they have a history of drafting impact players when selecting in the top half of the first round (Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey are the latest). Plus, with a healthy Jackson, the Ravens are as dangerous as anyone in the league.

2022 NFL Draft: Defensive line prospect superlatives - Michael Renner

BEST GET-OFF: NIK BONITTO, OKLAHOMA

Bonitto is one twitchy, undersized rusher. He has to be to get by at that size. Bonitto consistently forces offensive tackles to get out of their stance and is one of the best in the class at taking advantage of oversets. His absurd 1.53-second 10-yard split only confirmed that top-notch get-off.

BEST EDGE SETTER: JERMAINE JOHNSON II, FLORIDA STATE

Johnson has the ideal frame and play strength to stack offensive tackles on the outside all day. His 34-inch arms routinely separated from blockers, allowing him to make plays on ball-carriers at Florida State. Johnson should be a Day 1 impact player in run defense.

MOST VERSATILE: JOSH PASCHAL, KENTUCKY

Paschal may never be a true inside-outside player on early downs, but he can most certainly be a weapon as an interior player on run downs. He’s a loaded-up 6-foot-2, 270 pounds. That’s such a difficult build for taller offensive linemen to try and gain leverage on. Add in his 1.62-second 10-yard split, as well as his 30 bench press reps, and it’s easy to see why he’ll be a handful from a number of alignments. He took more snaps on the interior last season than he did outside the tackles.

2022 NFL Draft: 10 best small-school gems - Kambui Bomani

CB JOSHUA WILLIAMS, FAYETTEVILLE STATE

Williams had one of the top-five max speed performances at the Senior Bowl practices after reaching a whopping 21.75 miles per hour. After an underwhelming scouting combine, Williams ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, jumped 37 inches in the vertical and completed 12 reps on the bench press to re-establish his freakish athletic prototype as a small-school product.

The HBCU talent is a 6-foot-2 corner who has wide receiver roots dating back to his high school tenure. His speed and effortless ability to turn and run to the ball enable him to maximize his man coverage talent. NFL scouts were able to witness him hold his own against a deep pool of Senior Bowl wide receivers, which all but crystallized Williams as a high upside prospect.

CB ZYON MCCOLLUM, SAM HOUSTON STATE

At 6-foot-2, McCollum’s 4.33-second 40-time was an awe-dropping showcase in Indy. His 39.5-inch vertical added to to his stellar combine performance before he brought the house down with the highest broad jump (11-foot-0) among cornerbacks at the combine.

On the field, McCollum possesses a complete cornerback skillet. Committed to run defense, he registered his highest PFF run-defense grade of his career in 2021 (82.0). He bounced back after a down coverage season in 2020 with the second-highest coverage grade (79.1) of his Sam Houston State tenure. The boundary corner possesses the athletic tools to survive and thrive at the next level due to his physical and competitive nature.

2022 NFL Draft: Ideal top two picks for every team - Chad Reuter

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1: No. 14 overall — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Round 2: No. 45 overall — Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

Lloyd steps into the role of inside linebacker, enabling Patrick Queen to play free at “Will,” where he excelled at times in 2021. Either trading down in the first to select Tyler Linderbaum or snapping up the athletic, rugged Jurgens in the second round would fill a gaping hole left in the middle of the team’s offensive line by the free-agency departure of center Bradley Bozeman.

Potential 2022 NFL Draft Scenario For Ravens: Offensive Lineman - Ken Zalis

In the third round, the Ravens’ options are:

Cornerback:

• Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska

• Alontae Taylor, Tennessee

• Coby Bryant, Cincinnati

EDGE:

• Drake Jackson, USC

• Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati

• Sam Williams, Mississippi

Offensive Line:

• Abraham Lucas, Washington State

• Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State

• Cole Strange, Chattanooga

• Jamaree Salyer, Georgia