Why Ravens, Seahawks Were Underachievers in 2021 - Robert Weintraub
1. Baltimore Ravens (1.40 Below)
Projected Wins: 10.5; +1.23 Standard Deviations
Actual Wins: 8; -0.17 Standard Deviations
Yes, the Ravens season was defined by injury, including several damaging hits that took place before the first kickoff (Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards). Nevertheless, Lamar Jackson managed to David Copperfield his way to victory after victory in the front part of the campaign, pulling out miraculous come-from-behind wins against the Chiefs and Colts.
With the wild game of musical chairs going on in the NFL this month, it is easy to forget about the Ravens, but they should be well-placed for a rebound. The injury tsunami is unlikely to happen to such a magnitude again, and the return of dynamic playmakers such as Jackson, Dobbins, and Peters should augment studs such as tight end Mark Andrews and emerging wideout Rashod Bateman to return the offense to its accustomed spot near the top of the DVOA table (after finishing first in 2019 and 11th in 2020, Baltimore was 17th in 2021). Star safety Marcus Williams was signed to a rich deal to fill a position of need in the secondary, and a back four of Williams, Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Chuck Clark is among the best in the league (if healthy). The Ravens will also benefit slightly from a last-place schedule.
But don’t automatically assume a huge bounceback in Charm City. Jackson, despite his late-game heroics, had a mediocre season before the injury, finishing 19th among quarterbacks in DVOA. His return to form is more critical than ever given the amount of star power at the quarterback position in the AFC. Just as worrying was the trench play—or, perhaps more accurately, the edge-of-the-trenches play. Although Baltimore was first in the NFL in adjusted line yards on defense, they were 31st in adjusted sack rate as Calais Campbell aged and several developmental players failed to evolve in the manner Ravens pass-rushers generally have in the past (a fact that may have cost defensive coordinator Wink Martindale his job). Meanwhile, the offensive line was tied for 29th in adjusted sack rate allowed as All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley continued to struggle with injuries and retreads like Alejandro Villanueva couldn’t stem the tide. (Morgan Moses was signed to play right tackle, which should be an upgrade, if a slight one.)
1. Outside linebacker
What they need: High-impact edge rushers
Chances that Ravens address position in draft: 100 percent
The question isn’t whether the Ravens will draft an edge rusher. It’s when they will and how many they’ll take. Oweh (shoulder) and Bowser (Achilles) are coming off offseason surgeries and Ferguson and Hayes didn’t have a sack last year. The Ravens likely will sign or trade for a veteran pass rusher at some point before training camp, but it’s also imperative that they come out of this draft with an expected Day 1 difference-maker on the edge. If there’s a guy they love available at 14, like say Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, they should run up the card. The Ravens run defense is always stout. Their secondary has a lot of front-end talent. Yet, if they can’t get a consistent pass rush and don’t have guys up front capable of making game-changing plays, it’s tough to project a defensive turnaround.
What they need: Two starting-caliber corners and depth
Chances that Ravens address position in draft: 100 percent
3. Offensive tackle
What they need: A contingency plan for Stanley and depth
Chances that Ravens address position in draft: 90 percent
As the Ravens reported for the start of voluntary workouts Monday morning, one key rehabbing player stood out just for the way he walked in.
About three months removed from surgery to repair the Achilles he injured in the season finale, Tyus Bowser reported on Day 1 of workouts and is seemingly moving well.
Bowser was the Ravens’ sack leader last season with a career-high 7.0. Baltimore will add an edge rusher in the NFL Draft or free agency, and Bowser’s return will be critical for that position group.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this offseason that he expects Bowser will be back for training camp.
GEORGE PICKENS, WR, GEORGIA
One of college football’s standout performers as a freshman in 2019, George Pickens’ stock has mirrored that of LSU standout corner Derek Stingley Jr. After multiple seasons of injuries and limited production, the flame surrounding his projection simmered. However, following an excellent pre-draft circuit where his recovery from a torn ACL looks to have him at 100%, we could see a bidding war at the backend of the first round for teams looking for an uber-athletic wideout with Pro Bowl potential dripping off of his 6-foot-3 frame.
ARNOLD EBIKETIE, EDGE, PENN STATE
Similar to the arc that Mafe has enjoyed, Arnold Ebiketie’s stock has a jetpack attached to it in the home stretch of the pre-draft process. Like we saw with Oweh last year, teams tend to bet on traits, and the twitched-up Ebiketie has the necessary skill set to become one of the premier rushers in the rookie class.
A transfer from Temple, Ebiketie’s game soared to new heights in Happy Valley and is only improving with each snap he earns. Whether he progresses into a true three-down defender or begins his career as a designated pass-rusher on long down and distances, you can never have enough guys that can push the pocket, and Ebiketie fits the script.
2022 NFL Draft bold observations: Eight unconventional takeaways from studying this draft class - Chris Trapasso
Jordan Davis belongs in the second round
My rationale here is twofold. There aren’t many positions less valuable or more easily replaceable than nose tackle and I simply don’t think Davis is nearly as awe-inspiring on the field — especially in pass-rushing situations — as he was at the combine with one of the best workouts in event history.
Davis doesn’t play with discernible pass-rush moves, a foundational concern for any defensive lineman. And at nearly 6-7, he has a naturally high center of gravity that unfortunately robs him of some of his inherent power. Plus, he’s not quite as explosive as his 4.78 time in the 40-yard dash would indicate. Will he be an impactful run defender who occasionally pushes the pocket? Sure. Can you find a strong, wide-bodied run-stuffer who can be a similarly impactful pass rusher much later in the draft? Absolutely. Because of that, I can’t jump on board with Davis super early in Round 1, or, really, in the first round at all.