With the initial craze of free agency now behind us, it is time to look forward to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Ravens currently have 10 picks, including the No. 14 overall pick — their highest since drafting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in 2016.
One of the team’s under-the-radar remaining needs is at tight end. The Ravens need a complementary pass-catching threat at the position to take some pressure and attention off of First-Team All-Pro Mark Andrews.
An ideal third tight end in the Ravens offense would a player that can not only contribute in the passing game catching the ball but also be a factor in the run game as a blocker. One such prospect that showed he could do both in college is Virginia’s Jelani Woods.
After being mostly utilized as a blocker at Oregon State for his first three years, Woods broke out in his senior season after transferring Virginia. In his final season alone, he eclipsed the combined total of the major receiving statistics he recorded for the Beavers with career-highs in receptions (44-31), receiving yards (598-361) and touchdowns (8-4).
The 6-foot-7 giant proved that he can be much more than blocker with the Cavaliers in 2021 as he provided a big target for Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong over the middle and down the seam of opposing defenses during his most productive season to date. Woods averaged over 13 yards per catch and was hard to bring down in the open field because of his size and ability to play through contact, run away from defenders and bulldoze over would-be tacklers.
.@UVAFootball tight end Jelani Woods is one of the best in this class.— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) April 13, 2022
Consistently ranked in the top-4 among teams. And as high as #1.
Special athlete (10.0 RAS), experienced blocker, and makes plays like this (⬇️). Highest upside of any TE in the class. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/WISn86fwWa
The well-built 253-pounder looks like a power forward in cleats and tested off the charts during the pre-draft process for a prospect of his size at the position. His blazing time of 4.61 in 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL scouting combine was fastest by a tight end at his height since 2003.
He was originally recruited to Oregon State as a dual threat quarterback but made the position switch during his redshirt freshman season after shining as a tight end on scout team. The Beavers asked him to do his best impression of Andrews ahead of a big matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners in 2017. While his team would go on to lose a 62-52 shootout and Andrews recorded 102 receiving yards on just three receptions, Woods got a jump start on the transition that would ultimately give him the best shot of advancing to the next level.
Woods has the size and length to excel as an in-line tight end but he is still a bit lanky and could benefit from adding some more muscle mass to his frame to improve his strength at the point of attack. His 34-inch arms meet the ideal benchmark for offensive tackles and will serve him well in a traditional ‘Y’ role when he is tasked with taking on defensive ends in the run game or in pass pro in max protection situations.
I knew during an initial watch of the Virginia offense that things got interesting but love seeing all different types of variations. Motion the right tackle to the slot and Jelani Woods steps in & holds his own on this block. Brings his pad level down some & displays active feet pic.twitter.com/DdF9fqcgD6— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) April 18, 2022
He isn’t the smoothest or most refined route runner but he uses his size to his advantage by preventing defenders from making plays on the ball in coverage. Woods possesses the speed and long strides to run past and away from linebackers down and over the middle field.
Given that he has only been catching passes for five years and wasn’t even doing so on a regular basis at his first school, he isn’t a natural catcher of the football and his hands can be inconsistent at times. Both are traits that can improve over time with coaching and more reps. He didn’t display much elusiveness on tape but at his size, he’d be better off lowering his shoulder to run someone over rather than waste time trying to make them miss.
Woods played in the East-West Shrine game and had a strong showing with three receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown where he slipped behind the defense in the red zone.
The Ravens could use a player at the position with Woods’ upside and ability to play in a multifaceted role as the third tight end behind Andrews and blocking specialist Nick Boyle. He is projected to come off the board somewhere in the middle rounds where General Manager Eric DeCosta has seven picks at his disposal including five in the fourth alone.