Baltimore didn’t need to blow up its conditioning program and start over. As Saunders said, “philosophically, the program still stands on its own merits.” In 2018, the Ravens had the NFL’s fewest adjusted games lost because of injuries. They were 16th in 2019 and eighth in 2020.
It’s good to see linebacker Patrick Queen and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike at voluntary workouts, as they’re both entering critical seasons. Both have flashed enormous potential, but they know they have the tools to become defensive centerpieces. It’s their first true offseasons after COVID stole the first two.
Wide receiver Rashod Bateman could be a strong YAC guy. I was impressed with his ability to make defenders miss last year and he has the explosiveness to get up the field. An offseason in the weight room could add some more physicality to his game too.
On the “Move the Sticks” podcast, Daniel Jeremiah and I have previously discussed how scouts will stand on the table for guys they believe will outperform their draft status. In the scouting world, these players are called “red star” guys because they are destined to make their mark in the league, despite circumstances.
Wyoming · LB
The Wyoming product is an athletic tackling machine with a versatile game that makes him a natural fit as a three-down linebacker. Muma’s potential to impact the game as a blitz specialist or cover linebacker could make him a standout performer from Day 1.
Houston · CB/PR
There is always room in the league for a playmaker with a knack for putting the ball in the paint. Jones is an explosive punt returner with nine career scores while also showcasing exceptional ball skills and awareness at cornerback.
Jackson State University · Edge
The explosive pass rusher is a unique find as an off-ball linebacker with A-plus pass-rush skills. Houston is a play-making specialist who should thrive in a defense that deploys him as a Swiss Army knife in sub-packages.
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Not many nose tackles can provide legitimate value as pass-rushers. It’s part of what makes the Kenny Clarks and Vita Veas of the world so valuable. Jones has the potential to not only solidify a team’s run game but also generate pressure when lined up over center.
Across three seasons at UConn, Jones earned PFF run-defense and pass-rushing grades above 83.0. He’s not simply someone who is going to hold the point of attack and eat double teams, though he can do that; Jones is an impressive athlete for his size with the potential to be a difference-maker on the interior. It would be a mistake for teams to let him fall out of the first round.
The edge defender position is the highlight of this year’s draft class. It might not have the “can’t-miss,” All-Pro talent at the top like Myles Garrett or Nick Bosa, but both high-end talent and depth are there to be had. The sheer number of names in the first-round mix makes it easier to overlook someone like Ebiketie.
There are three general boxes you’re looking to check for an edge defender prospect: size, athleticism and production. Ebiketie ticked the final box with 88.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grades in each of his final two seasons and a 2021 pass-rush win rate that held up well against other top names in the class.
Ebiketie also emphatically checked the athleticism box with 80th-plus percentile finishes in every drill, save the bench press. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder comes in slightly below average for the position, but his 34-inch arms (81st percentile) help.
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Jones would be a welcomed addition to the Ravens’ rotation. Though the Ravens did bring defensive tackle Michael Pierce back to Baltimore during the free agency period, outside of that, there does not seem to be another viable option to take snaps. Jones’ stoutness against the run and violence against the run will free linebackers Odafe Oweh and Patrick McQueen to make plays around him. His violent hands and cranked motor makes him an ideal fit in Baltimore as they look to return to their dominant defenses of the past.
Not dismissing wide receiver
But with the Ravens taking two first-round receivers in the last three years, there’s just no reason to be talking about it. Right? Well. Not necessarily.
I’d love to see the Venn diagram detailing the Ravens fans who “don’t think the Ravens should sign Hollywood Brown to a long-term extension” and “don’t think they should draft a receiver in the first round.” I think Brown and Rashod Bateman are a quality duo but, 1) let’s not pretend they’re Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and 2) Brown’s long-term future in Baltimore is in doubt.
NFL Network Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on Glenn Clark Radio April 14 that Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and USC’s Drake London would both be worth the Ravens using the 14th pick on a receiver should those players fall. As much as I want to listen to the argument that the Ravens need to focus on their younger receivers beyond the top two, the price of doing business at the position makes star first-round picks a tremendously valuable commodity.