OWINGS MILLS, Md. — All signs point to first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley being a rock-solid pick for the Ravens.
A three-year starter at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman had been linked to the Ravens as an option throughout the pre-draft process and head coach John Harbaugh has a lengthy relationship with Fighting Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The debate will continue whether general manager Ozzie Newsome passed on a superior talent in Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but you could hardly blame the Ravens if they did shy away from the latter’s off-field baggage that was on display to the entire world via social media on Thursday night.
Some draft pundits considered Stanley the better prospect anyway and the Ravens apparently agreed.
“Our scouts get a lot of information,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome when asked if the released Twitter video of Tunsil smoking from a bong influenced his decision. “When things happen, a lot of the time we’re not surprised. We took the best player, the player that was rated the highest on the board at that point. But I cannot neglect the importance of the work that our scouts do in the fall and in the spring getting information for us.”
You can understand the Ravens’ desire to move on from incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe as he’s been held to just 17 starts over the last two years and appears more interested in medical marijuana advocacy than football these days. It’s also never a bad idea to emphasize protecting the blindside of your franchise quarterback coming back from a serious left knee injury.
But the night still felt like a bummer.
Maybe it’s because the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted to trade up to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey before he was claimed by Jacksonville just a pick before they were on the clock. Top pass-rushing target Joey Bosa also came off the board immediately after the two quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks of the night.
It’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens could have traded down a few spots and still tabbed Stanley while picking up an additional pick or two, but the opportunity didn’t come to fruition — Newsome said he didn’t receive a single call while Baltimore was on the clock — and it’s not as though the 22-year-old tackle was viewed as unworthy of a top 10 choice.
Drafting Stanley may have been the prudent move, but the organization still had to use its earliest pick since 2000 at a position where they invested a five-year, $37.5 million contract — $17.5 million of it guaranteed — just two years ago. It still feels more like fixing a mistake than dramatically improving your football team, even if Stanley can adjust more quickly to the NFL than other top 10 left tackles who have struggled in recent years.
“When you watch his maturation throughout his career and his ability to adapt to the different things they do, you just feel confident in his ability to be able to pick things up,” said director of college scouting Joe Hortiz about Stanley coming out of Notre Dame. “They run a multiple offense, they do a lot of different things, and they change it up in the middle of the games and series of what they’re doing. [Stanley] really adjusts well. I think from intelligence, maturity, and the way he’s grown, he gives you confidence going forward.”
If we’re being completely honest, left tackle just isn’t a pick that will fire up a fan base whose team is coming off a rare losing season and needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But that’s when the Ravens will remind you that they were in a similar position 20 years ago when they took a left tackle out of UCLA named Jonathan Ogden, who was far from the most exciting choice for a team in a new city. It proved to be a home-run decision, of course, and the organization has been trying to find the 2013 Hall of Fame inductee’s long-term replacement since his retirement after the 2007 season.
Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Monroe all proved to be no better than temporary placeholders. The Ravens hope they’ve finally found their long-term solution in Stanley.
To expect him to be another Ogden would be unfair, but he needs to be a player the Ravens can pencil in at left tackle and not have to worry about for a long time if this is to be a successful pick at sixth overall. At the very least, you hope Stanley can be closer to Ogden than Oher, who didn’t cut it at left tackle despite being a first-round pick in 2009.
“We’re going to have high expectations for him, but it’s going to be up to him to get the job done,” Harbaugh said. “He has to win the job just like anybody else would have to.”
No, Stanley may not have been the best-case scenario for the Ravens, but they think he can finally anchor the position that was the least of the franchise’s worries for more than a decade and has now been a headache for nearly as long now.
That’s a long-term outcome that would easily outweigh any lingering disappointment from Thursday night.