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Possibilities wide open for Ravens in 2017 draft

Posted on 26 April 2017 by Luke Jones

Despite months of mock drafts, workouts, visits, and rumors, anyone invested in the Ravens is still asking the same question with the 2017 NFL draft nearly upon us.

Who will they take with the 16th overall pick?

Frankly, I don’t think the Ravens even have a good idea this year.

There’s always volatility when 15 other players are to be picked before you’re officially on the clock, especially in a year when there are no slam-dunk quarterbacks at the top of the board. Even last year when the Ravens were picking sixth, how many correctly predicted that they would select left tackle Ronnie Stanley? Even fewer thought the then-San Diego Chargers would take edge rusher Joey Bosa with the No. 3 pick, illustrating how little truthful information most teams give away to outsiders.

Adding to that unpredictability is a deep talent pool lacking clear definition beyond the top few projected selections. Ask 15 different draft experts to rank the No. 6 through No. 25 prospects in order and you’ll likely find less common ground than in typical years. That’s not a bad thing with many considering this the deepest collection of talent in a number of years, but predicting who might be there in the middle of the first round feels even more like a guessing game than usual.

It’s no secret that the Ravens have a number of pressing needs, which is both a blessing and a curse. Needing immediate help on the offensive line and at wide receiver, edge rusher, and inside linebacker and still wanting to enhance its depth at cornerback, Baltimore should have no reason to reach for a prospect over the first few rounds. Of course, that lengthy list of needs also reflects an incomplete roster and a lack of success since Super Bowl XLVII, making it even more important that the Ravens build on their encouraging 2016 draft with another strong class.

Their list of reported visits and meetings reflects those aforementioned needs and offers possible clues, but I’m reluctant to put too much stock into those encounters. It was only last year that the Ravens drafted Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa after spending a total of 15 minutes with him at the scouting combine and never contacting him again until he was selected in the second round two months later.

Trading back in the first round would hardly be the sexiest development on Thursday night, but it could be the best one in a year when the Ravens have only seven scheduled picks. The problem could be finding a partner wanting to move up as reports this week have indicated that a number of teams are looking to trade back to take better advantage of a deep talent pool. As is typically the case, movement will likely depend on the fascination with the top three or four quarterbacks.

Because I’ve been asked, my official guess prediction is that the Ravens select Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the 16th overall pick, which probably means 10 other prospects are now more likely to be taken there. His skill set as an intermediate receiver is exactly what Joe Flacco and the passing game need, and his familiarity with Flacco’s brother, Tom, from college also makes for a fun story.

It also didn’t go unnoticed at the pre-draft press conference earlier this month that Eric DeCosta barely made mention of Davis when discussing the top receivers, instead talking more about Mike Williams of Clemson and John Ross of Washington. With Davis then taking an official visit a couple weeks later, was that perceived lack of interest a bit of a smoke screen from the assistant general manager?

If the Ravens do stay put at No. 16, there should be at least a few really good prospects staring them in the face, regardless of how the first 15 picks play out.

If they’re convinced that Davis — or Williams — will be that true impact receiver that the offense needs, they shouldn’t waste time turning in their card, regardless of their rough draft history at the position.

If Derek Barnett or Takkarist McKinley feels like the successor to Terrell Suggs, then go for it.

If they see Temple’s Haason Reddick as a dynamic linebacker, draft him and then carve out a flexible role to best utilize his talents.

And with this draft class not having good offensive line depth, the Ravens shouldn’t dismiss taking Cam Robinson if he can immediately be a stud right tackle or Forrest Lamp if they’re convinced that he’s the next Marshal Yanda. Protecting Flacco and improving the running game are too important to this team’s success to pass up the right offensive line prospect in the right spot.

In other words, there can be more than one right answer for the Ravens at 16th overall.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens just can’t afford to be wrong.

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Flacco unfazed by lack of offseason additions to Ravens offense so far

Posted on 19 April 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s no secret that the Ravens have invested heavily in revamping their defense this offseason while an offense that was below average in 2016 has been forced to wait.

With 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead being the only free-agent addition and right tackle Rick Wagner, wide receivers Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and center Jeremy Zuttah no longer on the roster, you could understand if Joe Flacco felt anxious, especially when a theme from the Ravens brass’ season-ending press conference was a desire to see better play from the veteran quarterback. But Flacco expressed little concern when asked about the holes that remain on his side of the ball with the NFL draft only a week away.

“It’s the NFL. We have a lot of good guys around here that we are focused on getting better and going out and winning football games with,” Flacco said. “I never really expect too much to happen in the offseason, and whatever does happen, happens. I have been around long enough to know that guys change teams and you get new guys and that can happen all the way up to the time the season starts. You never know.”

Flacco expressing confidence in the players currently on the roster is hardly surprising — it’s the appropriate public stance to take — but two openings on the offensive line and the lack of an intermediate receiver don’t exactly inspire confidence for a team trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

So, if the 32-year-old signal-caller isn’t concerned, has he at least approached general manager Ozzie Newsome with suggestions regarding a particular free agent or a positional need?

“If they ask my opinion, then I will give it to them,” said Flacco, who acknowledged hope that the Ravens would bring back former teammate Torrey Smith before he signed with Philadelphia last month. “But I don’t necessarily go up there and push one way or another. Obviously, there are certain things that I can feel strongly about.”

Asked about the possibility of the Ravens bringing back veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Flacco chose his words carefully while acknowledging that he had a great on-field relationship with the 36-year-old and that he could still help any team.

Reiterating his confidence in his current teammates, Flacco even went as far as saying he doesn’t think that the Ravens need another wide receiver.

“I think we have a lot of young, talented guys that are ready to make a name for themselves and are going to work really hard this offseason to get that done,” Flacco said. “Whenever you have guys that are working really hard and you have that camaraderie out here and everyone is looking to get better, you are just developing relationships. I think that is all going to help when we get to the field.”

It would be tough to fathom the Ravens not adding another wideout between now and the start of the season, but the organization is clearly counting on 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman and 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore to take steps forward this season. Veteran receiver Mike Wallace went out of his way to express his belief that Moore will surprise observers this season despite catching only seven passes as a rookie.

As for the draft, Flacco hasn’t watched any tape of the top prospects, but he did receive some unique perspective on Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis, who was a teammate of Flacco’s brother Tom. Considered one of the top three receiver prospects in the draft along with Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross, Davis visited with the Ravens earlier this week and would bring the intermediate skill set that they currently lack at the position.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior and finished his collegiate career with over 5,000 receiving yards and 52 touchdown receptions.

“My brother said, ‘Listen, this is all I know, but he was at another level,’” Flacco said. “He was a really good player. He thought he had really good hands. He thought he was really strong; he could run really well. That is all he knows, but he could definitely tell the difference between him and the guys he was seeing week to week.”

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