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What to expect from each of Ravens’ seven 2017 draft picks

Posted on 30 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2017 draft, so what can we now expect from the Ravens’ seven selections?

Below is the early look at how each rookie fits:

CB Marlon Humphrey
Drafted: First round (16th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: One of the youngest players in the draft, Humphrey will compete with Brandon Carr for the starting job opposite Jimmy Smith and will serve as needed outside corner depth at the very least.
Long-term view: Having left other highly-touted players on the board, the Ravens better feel that Humphrey will eventually become a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. He has the size and pedigree that you like to see in a corner, but his struggles with the deep ball are something to monitor in his development.

LB Tyus Bowser
Drafted: Second round (47th overall) from Houston
2017 projected role: With Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster and Albert McClellan the only established veteran behind Terrell Suggs, Bowser will compete for playing time at outside linebacker.
Long-term view: He is raw, but Bowser is a terrific athlete who has experience dropping into coverage, something the Ravens like in a starting “Sam” linebacker. His pass-rushing skills need further development, but his upside is very high for someone selected in the middle of the second round.

DE Chris Wormley
Drafted: Third round (74th overall) from Michigan
2017 projected role: Wormley will have every opportunity to compete with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot after Lawrence Guy’s free-agent departure.
Long-term view: The Ravens should have a good read on Wormley after he played for Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, and he has the skill set to become a dependable starter in the base defense. He would further enhance his value if he can become a productive interior rusher in passing situations.

OLB Tim Williams
Drafted: Third round (78th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: Williams has a long way to go to be considered an every-down player, but his pass-rushing ability off the edge should put him in the mix for situational snaps in sub packages.
Long-term view: His off-field concerns and limited experience playing the run caused his slide down the draft board, but Williams showed impressive explosiveness off the edge playing in the SEC. He may only be a one-trick pony in the NFL, but getting to the quarterback is a premium skill for any team.

G Nico Siragusa
Drafted: Fourth round (122nd overall) from San Diego State
2017 projected role: A three-year starter at left guard for the Aztecs, Siragusa has the size and power to compete for a starting job if the Ravens move Alex Lewis or even Marshal Yanda out to right tackle.
Long-term view: The Ravens have had recent success selecting Day 3 offensive linemen as both Lewis and former right tackle Rick Wagner blossomed into starters in a short period of time. Siragusa’s physicality is his strength, making him a logical fit for Greg Roman’s power running game schemes.

OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Drafted: Fifth round (159th overall) from Texas A&M
2017 projected role: Considering Eluemunor didn’t play football until high school and was only a one-year starter for the Aggies, expecting him to offer more than depth as a rookie would be ambitious.
Long-term view: The 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman lacks experience and needs developing, but his rapid improvement from junior college player to SEC starter bodes well for his ceiling. Eluemunor has a long way to go to become an NFL starter at tackle or guard, but his physical tools make it a possibility.

S Chuck Clark
Drafted: Sixth round (186th overall) from Virginia Tech
2017 projected role: With the high-profile names ahead of him on the depth chart, Clark will be competing for a spot on the 53-man roster as a special-teams player and developmental defensive back.
Long-term view: A three-year starter for the Hokies, Clark has good instincts and is a good tackler, but little about him screams future NFL starter. With Lardarius Webb serving as the current No. 3 safety, Clark figures to have a decent chance to stick around if he can shine as a special-teams player.

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Revamped Ravens defense better live up to expectations

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens stayed true to their board, but that doesn’t change reality after going defense with their first four picks of the 2017 draft.

This is an unbalanced roster with the heaviest lifting of the offseason now in the books. Yes, general manager Ozzie Newsome reminded us again Saturday that the Ravens aren’t done building this year’s team, but there are only so many viable free agents still out there to move the meter in any meaningful way. Right now, Baltimore has a below-average offense that’s going to be difficult to improve dramatically without some substantial improvement from players already on the roster.

The Ravens may still add Nick Mangold or bring back Anquan Boldin, but there’s a reason why they’re still out there. They’re not “Plan A” guys anymore.

Of the seven Ravens players selected in the first three rounds over the last two drafts, just one — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — was an offensive player. It’s difficult to improve on that side of the ball if you’re not spending free-agent dollars or investing early draft picks, which will make life more difficult for quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as they will likely lean on unproven talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Asked about the state of his offense after the first wave of free agency last month that included lucrative contracts for nose tackle Brandon Williams and safety Tony Jefferson and another deal for cornerback Brandon Carr, Newsome fairly pointed to the draft as the way to build the rest of the roster. But the Ravens came away with fourth-round guard prospect Nico Siragusa and fifth-round developmental right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor as their only picks for that side of the ball.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Ravens should have reached to draft offensive players purely out of need as they did appear to get good value with their picks, but the 2017 draft being so rich in defensive talent was a reason why the offense should have been a bigger focus in free agency. The outcome is an offense that’s lost a starting wide receiver, a starting right tackle, a starting center, and a Pro Bowl fullback and has netted only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead and two Day 3 offensive linemen.

Which side of the ball had its coordinator fired again last year?

Like it or not, the Ravens prioritized building a great defense above anything else this offseason. The unit collapsed down the stretch in 2016, but the primary cause of that was the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith as John Harbaugh’s team went 2-5 in games in which he missed meaningful time.

When Smith was on the field, the Ravens had a strong defense despite an underwhelming pass rush. And even with the resources used in both free agency and the draft to revamp the secondary and the pass rush, Smith’s availability remains arguably the biggest key for defensive success.

On paper, the Ravens defense does look better than the 2016 edition, but it will need to be great — possibly even special — to justify the use of so many resources and to make up for an offense with a ton of question marks. Taking that kind of a leap is no sure thing, especially in the modern NFL that is geared toward offense.

Will some combination of the pass-rushing group of Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams be ready to step up with Terrell Suggs set to turn 35 in October and Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster? Is first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey going to be ready to play at a high level if Smith goes down again for some period of time? Can Kamalei Correa hold down the inside linebacker spot vacated by the retired Zach Orr? Will defensive coordinator Dean Pees use so many new pieces effectively and maximize their versatility?

The excitement for the defense is understandable with so much youth and potential at every level, but remember there isn’t a 25-year-old Ray Lewis leading this group before waxing nostalgic about replicating the 2000 Ravens. Even if we’re looking for a more contemporary comparison — it’s a different game than it was nearly two decades ago — the 2015 Denver Broncos had a generational talent in Von Miller and two 1,000-yard receivers on the other side of the ball.

A winning blueprint leaning so heavily on defense is very difficult to execute.

But it’s where the Ravens find themselves after free agency and the draft.

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Back to the future – recap of Baltimore Ravens 2017 NFL Draft

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

After the Baltimore Ravens selected Chuck Clark with their last selection in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL draft, the vision that the front office and scouting staff had for the 2017 season began to come into focus.  Clark – a defensive back from Virginia Tech – was one of 5 picks for the defense versus 2 for the offense.  In fact Joe Flacco, Marty Mornhinweg and company had to wait until day 3 of the draft before hearing an offensive player’s name called.

Based on Joe Flacco’s performance last year, his penchant for the untimely turnover, coupled with the defense’s inability to hold a 4th quarter lead in 4 November and December games, led to the defensive windfall. It looks to me that they will try to do all they can to “Dilferize” the offense, limiting turnovers, and relying on the defense and special teams to win games.  They will put a premium on field position, and they will scrap the zone blocking scheme for one that is of the  power blocking hat on hat variety.

Justin Tucker will take over the role that Matt Stover had in 2000.  The 4 defensive players (the Ravens took 5 but I do not expect Chuck Clark to make the team) will have to have an immediate impact, as will newly signed free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr.  Of course this defense will not be anywhere near as good as the historically good 2000 version was, but it should be dramatically better than last year’s which couldn’t hold a lead.

Georgia’s Tuys Bowser (2nd round pick) and Alabama’s Tim Williams (3rd round pick) will both get opportunities to rush QBs from the edge, while Michigan’s Chris Wormley will see playing time at defensive tackle as a 5-technique end (lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle).  First round pick Marlon Humphrey will see get some valuable time early in the season, in case Jimmy Smith’s legs do not hold up as has been the case the past two years.

The Ravens also selected guard Nico Siragusa (absolutely no relation to Tony – although how great is it going to be to yell “Goooooooose” at M&T Bank once again:) a huge guard out of San Diego State in the 3rd round, and fellow guard Jermaine Eluemunor out of Texas A&M.  Eluemunor was told he was going to compete for the right tackle position, presumably against holdovers De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot and James Hurst.

Siragusa in particular is very intriguing.  He is a mauling guard who excels at pulling and blowing up defenders are the line of scrimmage as well as turning up field.  The fingerprints of new run coordinator Greg Roman are already evident. This team will employ a similar power running scheme that the 49ers used effectively back in 2012, when they played the Ravens in the Super Bowl.  It is a scheme that allows offensive linemen to pin their ears back and fire off of the ball.

The key is going to be who’s going to start on the offensive line and how quickly it comes together. Perhaps the Ravens will sign former Jet Nick Mangold to anchor that line from the center position, or maybe former Duke center Matt Skura – with one year in an NFL weight room – has progressed enough to man the position.

The Ravens have enough running backs to get the job done. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Buck Allen, Ken Dixon and Stephen Houston are all solid between the tackles, and Danny Woodhead offers the team a great change of pace back as well as a third down threat. This scheme also requires a fullback that’s very much an anvil, and currently they don’t have one on the roster.  Moving TE Nick Boyle (6’4, 265 pounds) may be an option, but look for the Ravens to be very active in the undrafted free agent market for a couple of stout blocking fullbacks.

In the NFL if you run the ball effectively, if you don’t turn it over, and if you have a great defense and special teams you will win a lot more than you lose. It is a formula that worked in 2000 and it looks like the Ravens brass are hedging their bets that it will also work in 2017.

I was also thinking about titling this blog “Saving Joe Flacco from himself.”  That’s what the Cowboys did with Tony Romo a few years ago.  They put a huge offensive line around him, and then they had DeMarco Murray run in excess of 400 times behind it.  The end result was a 12-4 record, and after three successive 8-8 seasons they finally made the playoffs.

Joe Flacco does not need to put the ball up 40-50 times a game.  That’s a formula for disaster.  The Ravens need to run the ball effectively.  This way the safeties come up in the box, the cornerbacks come closer to the line of scrimmage, and then Flacco can do some serious damage.  Plus he’s always been a “chunk” quarterback.  He has a big arm and he is not wired for a West Coast offense.  He excels when the Ravens are running the ball effectively (as they did in 2102 with Ray Rice), where he can plant his feet and let if fly downfield.

The last thing is that the Ravens final roster is nowhere near complete.  There will be the June 1 cuts, and there will be several veteran players available that can help the team. No need to panic at this time that there are no clear starters at inside linebacker next to CJ Mosley, or at right tackle and center.  The Ravens will address all of those needs well before the pre-season commences.

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Ravens finally address offensive line on draft’s final day

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After taking defensive players with their first four picks of the 2017 NFL draft, the Ravens have finally taken steps to address their offense on the final day.

Making his first addition to that side of the ball since signing veteran running back Danny Woodhead at the start of free agency on March 10, general manager Ozzie Newsome selected San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa with the 122nd overall pick on Saturday. Though no relation to former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive lineman brought size and power to the Aztecs to pave the way for running back Donnel Pumphrey to set a new FBS record for career rushing yards.

Baltimore selected Texas A&M offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor in the fifth round.

Siragusa was a three-year starter at left guard for San Diego State, playing in 54 career games and making 42 starts. He was a two-time first-team all-Mountain West pick as well as a third-team All-American selection by the Associated Press. His ability as a run blocker would appear to be a good fit with the Ravens’ stated intent of wanting to improve their running game this season.

With two openings along the Baltimore offensive line, it remains to be seen whether Siragusa will remain at guard or potentially try working at center, which is one of the Ravens’ biggest needs following the trade of veteran Jeremy Zuttah. Siragusa told reporters that he’s never played center beyond intramural football, but he would be open to the challenge of a new position.

This marks the second straight year in which the Ravens have selected an offensive lineman in the fourth round. Alex Lewis was the 130th overall pick in the 2016 draft and started eight games as a rookie.

Eluemunor is an interesting prospect after living in England until age 14 and only beginning to play football in high school. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman started four games at right guard and seven games at right tackle for the Aggies last season and saw action in 13 games as a junior in 2015.

The Ravens told their raw fifth-round pick that he will compete at right tackle, the spot vacated by veteran Rick Wagner after he signed with the Detroit Lions last month.

Of course, Eluemunor expressed excitement about the Ravens playing their first ever game in London this fall when they face Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 24.

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Ravens do not select immediate starter – Draft Grade “C”

Posted on 28 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

When it came time for the Ravens to make their selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, there were 2 Alabama players that were in the top 10 in most of the mock drafts.  In fact defensive tackle Jonathan Allen was a consensus top 5 pick, while talented but troubled middle linebacker Reuben Foster was a lock as a top 10 pick.

Foster had an incident at the combine with a medical staff member, and a couple of days before the draft a story broke out that his combine drug screen specimen had come back diluted.  This is why he was still there at 16, and didn’t come off of the board until the 49ers picked at 31.  He also had a history of injuries, but I thought for sure Foster would have been a Raven this morning.  He is the closest thing I’ve seen on tape to one Ray Lewis.  I know it’s a lofty comparison, and only time will tell who got the best of this deal.

Allen has some arthritic shoulder concerns, and he slid to Washington one pick after the Ravens took Marlon Humphrey, a talented cornerback from Alabama who should become an eventual starter.  And that’s what I have come concerns with, to say the least.

For a team that has to win now, I do not know why they wouldn’t draft a player that could potentially start right away.  As long as Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr are healthy, Humphrey will not start, at least not this year.  Tavon Young played on the outside last year, particularly when Jimmy Smith was lost to injury, but at 5’9″ he’s more suited to play inside in the nickel and dime packages, and cover slot receivers. He is height challenged and that limits him from playing on an island.

The Ravens certainly needed depth at cornerback, and this is one of the deepest drafts at that position in the last decade.  There’s going to be great value there in rounds 2-4, and that’s where the Ravens should have found their eventual starter at cornerback.  In fact, the two corners from the University of Florida quickly come to mind.  Teez Tabor or Quincy Wilson would have been solid second round picks for the Ravens, and they may have even more upside than Humphrey.

Humphrey does check all of the boxes in terms of character, health, etc.  He even has an NFL pedigree as his father was former Dolphins running back Bobby Humphrey.  He has all of the necessary physical tools and may develop into a shutdown corner. However there are some concerns.  He doesn’t have long speed, doesn’t track the ball well in the air, and he may be better suited to play safety as he is at his best when things are right in front of him.

Now I get that the draft isn’t nowhere near over, and that the Ravens still have 6 picks left. But this is a team that finished 8-8 and lost a starter at WR (Steve Smith), RT (Rick Wagner), C (Jeremy Zuttah), ILB (Zach Orr), and Edge (Elvis Dumervil).  You’d think they would address one of these positions with their first pick.  The receivers came flying off of the board, and in my opinion it wouldn’t have made sense for the Ravens to have traded up for any of them, particularly with the glut of defensive talent that was sliding down to them.

This is a draft that is extremely short of starting quality receivers and offensive linemen, and although there wasn’t a run on 0-linemen, 3 receivers went in the top 9 picks.  This is also a draft that is deep in cornerbacks and edge rushers, and that is precisely why there was no need to take a player at either position at 16. Nothing but the old Economics 101 rule of supply and demand in process here.

Two tackles went in the first round, Garrett Bolles from Utah to the Broncos at 20, and Ryan Ramczyk to the Seahawks at 32.  Both could have started at right tackle for the Ravens on opening day.  Ozzie Newsome said they had fielded some calls to trade back, but they really liked Humphrey and kept the pick. I don’t know what the offers were, but if faced with picking Humphrey or trading back, I would have traded back and picked up one of these two tackles, or Forrest Lamp out of Western Kentucky.

Yesterday I heard former Ravens Director of Personnel and Browns General Manager Phil Savage say that a team should never draft a guard in the first round.  I couldn’t disagree more with that statement. Marshal Yanda blows that theory right out of the water.  Here is a potential Hall of Fame guard, who has played center as well as right tackle at a high level when called upon.  I guarantee you if we went back a decade and redrafted that class, Marshal Yanda would be selected a lot higher than the third round that he went in.  He would have been a top 5 choice for sure.

That is why the Ravens should have traded back for Lamp.  Lamp  is a left guard and would have been great right next to Ronnie Stanley.  I don’t think he drops to 47 today, and I do not think the Ravens will trade up for him – although they absolutely should.  As a left guard he could slide to left tackle in the event that Ronnie Stanley suffered an injury.  There is a dramatic difference with which side an offensive lineman plays on.  The footwork is different. It’s akin to being right handed and holding a fork with you right hand, then switching to the left to eat.

Lamp could play all 3 offensive line positions, and would be a day one starter at guard or center, and possibly even right tackle.  And he would have filled the need created by departed starter Rick Wagner.  Maybe he could have played left guard and Alex Lewis right tackle.  I don’t know. All I know is that if I was making the pick, I would have taken Foster, and if I had traded back, I would have taken Foster or an offensive lineman. Either way I would have selected a player that could start immediately.

The Ravens still own pick 47 in the second round, and picks 74 and 78 in the third round.  Hopefully they can select players that can start from day one – they’re out there.  As a die hard Ravens fan I always wish them the best, but when it comes to analyzing their moves I do take off my purple colored glasses, and I cease drinking the purple Kool-Aid.

I also want to address the notion that somehow Ozzie Newsome gets some “inside information” or “information that no one else does” from the Alabama coaching staff simply because he is a highly decorated alumni.  The Ravens have drafted exactly 7 players since the franchise’s inception in 1996.  They are DB Ralph Staten, TE Terry Jones, LB Jarrett Johnson, FB Le’Ron McClain, DT Terrence Cody, LB Courtney Upshaw, and LB CJ Mosley.

From that group McClain made 2 Pro Bowls and Mosley has made 1 so far. Off of the top of my head Staten was talented but had some serious off-field problems, Jones was a nice guy 3rd tight end type, JJ was a solid player, McClain flashed for a bit before going to KC, Cody was drafted in 2010 and he is out of football, Upshaw was a decent player but has never lived up to his draft position, and it looks like Mosley has a bright future.  I don’t see where Newsome’s Alabama picks have shined.

Furthermore, a couple of years ago Nick Saban publicly proclaimed that Landon Collins was “the best DB he had ever coached.”  He was counting safeties and corners in that group.  You’d think the Ravens would have been paying attention! Not only did Collins slide down the draft board, but the Giants traded up to get him with the very first pick of the second round.  After an uneven rookie season, Collins has developed into a Pro Bowl safety, who would have looked awfully good in a Ravens uniform. So much for Newsome’s perceived “inside information.”

I think Humphrey has a chance to be a solid NFL starter.  I understand that the team still needed a young corner due to Jimmy Smith’s recent inability to stay healthy.  In a draft full of quality corners, I thought they could have waited and selected one in a later round. They found Tavon Young in the fourth round last year, pick #104.  They could have drafted a quality corner at 47, 74 or 78.  That’s why I have a bit of heartburn today.  They absolutely passed on a day one starting caliber middle linebacker and offensive lineman.

 

 

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Ravens choose depth, upside over immediate need by picking Humphrey

Posted on 28 April 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For years, the Ravens didn’t invest much in the cornerback position.

Since taking Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft, Baltimore hadn’t selected a corner before the fourth round in five consecutive drafts, instead going with late-round projects and cheap veteran band-aids to fill out the depth chart behind the injury-prone Smith and a declining Lardarius Webb. The strategy resulted in the secondary remaining an annual weakness as the likes of Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, Kyle Arrington, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright were asked to fill meaningful roles at one time or another.

That’s why I can’t be too critical of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to take Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the 16th overall pick of the 2017 draft on Thursday night. At six feet and 197 pounds, Humphrey’s upside as an outside corner is obvious as he’s only 20 years old and played at a high level for the best program in the nation over the last two seasons. But talent evaluators acknowledge his raw technique and struggles defending the deep ball with a few even wondering if he’s better suited to play safety at the next level. That’s not exactly a dream endorsement for your newly-branded first-round cornerback.

In other words, it’s far from a sure thing that Humphrey will be a starter in 2017, especially with the free-agent acquisition of reliable veteran Brandon Carr last month. There would be no shame in that, of course, as plenty of talented cornerbacks didn’t start as rookies.

There’s no disputing that the secondary is loaded, but did the Ravens maximize their value when you consider their bigger needs and the other highly-rated prospects who remained on the board?

If we’re sticking with Newsome’s Alabama connection alone, defensive end Jonathan Allen and inside linebacker Reuben Foster would have been slam-dunk Week 1 starters and tight end O.J. Howard could have been a much-needed play-maker for quarterback Joe Flacco. Pass rushers such as Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton, Charles Harris, and T.J. Watt were also on the board.

Of course, the top three wide receivers were snatched up long before the Ravens were on the clock, but the offensive line also has major holes to be filled.

Would they have been better served grabbing a talent at one of these other positions and waiting to take a cornerback with this draft considered so deep at the position?

Newsome acknowledged Thursday night that the Ravens took calls from teams wanting to move up to the 16th spot, but the proposed returns weren’t appealing enough for him to make a deal. Humphrey was certainly a consensus first-round pick, but it may not have been out of the question to still land him later in the round while picking up an extra pick or two to use in a deep draft.

When the Ravens had better overall rosters five or six years ago, the addition of Humphrey would have been praised as a luxury pick with huge upside. But a team needing immediate help at multiple positions may not feel a great impact from him in his rookie season, putting even more pressure on Newsome to nail his three Day 2 picks.

Humphrey may prove to be a terrific cornerback, but the Ravens drafted for depth and upside instead of filling a more pressing need. It’s an interesting choice for a franchise at a crossroads after missing the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Time will tell whether it works out.

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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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Baltimore Ravens 2017 Mock Draft – Final Edition

Posted on 25 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

My fellow Ravens fans and draftniks, the 2017 NFL draft is finally upon us.  After much self debate – arguing with yourself is not as easy as it sounds – I’ve come up with what I think the Ravens will do, based on how the board plays out relative to their needs.  Got that? Good!

So without further ado, here it is:

Round 1, pick #16 – Haason Reddick, Edge, Temple – I mocked him to the Ravens right after the Senior Bowl and there’s absolutely nothing’s that’s happened ever since to change my mind.  With freakish athleticism, Reddick replaces Zach Orr and Elvis Dumervil all at once.  He can play inside or outside linebacker plus he’s lightning quick off of the edge.  In fact he’s so fast that he doesn’t even bother to look at the blockers, because he knows he can blow right by them. Joe Flacco brought the Ravens back from deficits time and time again in the 4th quarter last season, and the defense couldn’t get off of the field and close out the game.  Reddick can get to the QB plus cover backs and Tight Ends.  He’s a 3-down linebacker all of the way and would be a great addition to an already good defense.  The sheer pressure he’ll provide will instantly make the secondary much “stickier” to boot.

Round 2, pick #49 – Ethan Pocic, C, LSU – A monster center at 6’6″ with lots of hard-nosed SEC experience. Not only is he scheme versatile, he can also play guard or tackle.  I can envision him starting the season at right tackle while the Ravens sign a veteran center such as Nick Mangold, who’s been unable to finish the last several seasons due to injuries.  That would give the Ravens time to develop another right tackle – more on that later. Pick 49 is a little early to draft Pocic, but due to his versatility combined with the Ravens needs (plural) on the offensive line, they simply cannot afford to miss out on the player.  Better a tad earlier than risk losing him to another team later.

Round 3, pick #74 – Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan – You really didn’t think that there wouldn’t be a Harbaugh connection in this year’s draft – did ya?  Ravens get a good interior lineman here who fits perfectly in the 5-technique role.  Equally strong against the run as he is rushing the QB, he can do some serious damage with his 6’5″ 300 frame.  Defense still wins championships – particularly in the trenches – and he should be the best player available at this spot.

Round 3, pick #78 – Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia – He is 6’2″ and led the nation with 8 interceptions. Great ball awareness and skills, he excelled in zone coverage and can develop press coverage skills.  The Ravens still lack depth at CB, and this is a terrific young corner that can be brought along as the year progresses.

Round 4, pick #122 – ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama – It wouldn’t be a Ravens draft without them picking an Alabama player now – would it? As much as I would love for them to have picked JuJu Smith-Schuster, I’m relatively confident that he will be gone by the time the Ravens got on the clock and I don’t think there’s a huge difference between him and Stewart (although admittedly they’re different type receivers with different skill sets); at least not big enough of a difference for the Ravens to have traded up.  Stewart is a great “consolation” prize if you will, with great explosiveness and YAC as he averaged better than 10 yards per catch last year. This is exactly the type of receiver the Steelers have hit on the past few drafts.

Round 5, pick #159 – Eric Smith, OT, Virginia – Pretty good pass blocker at UVA, he has a chance to develop as a starting right tackle at some point this year or next year. Ravens have to keep building up their offensive line and hopefully Smith can give them what Rick Wagner did a few years ago.

Round 6, pick #186 –  Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming – Big tackle breaking back with 30 breakaway runs last year.  Scheme versatile as he excelled in zone and power blocking schemes. At 6’1″ and 220 pounds he is a load.  He had only 5 fumbles on 357 touches.

To summarize, I’ve selected Edge, C, DT, CB, WR, OT, and RB.  3 defensive players and 4 offensive players.  Admittedly it’s not a sexy draft, but one that makes sense and without mocking players that are ranked higher and will not be there by the time the Ravens get on the clock for each pick.  You can bet the Ravens will also be on the market for some priority undrafted free agents.  I expect them to sign some fullbacks and defensive backs.  One name to keep an eye out for – if he doesn’t get drafted – is the University of Maryland’s CB Will Likely.  One year removed from an awful knee injury, Likely has outstanding return skills and could also excel as a dime back.

 

 

 

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Ravens to play three prime-time games as part of 2017 schedule

Posted on 20 April 2017 by Luke Jones

A 2017 schedule that includes the Ravens’ first ever trip to London will feature three prime-time games in the regular season.

After playing 11 of their last 12 Monday night contests on the road, the Ravens will finally welcome ESPN’s national telecast back to M&T Bank Stadium for a meeting with the Houston Texans on Nov. 27. This marks the first time since the 2012 opener that the Ravens have had a Monday home game, and it’s only the second one of the John Harbaugh era.

The Ravens will host Miami for a Thursday night game on Oct. 26 and will travel to Heinz Field to take on Pittsburgh for their only scheduled appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football on Dec. 10. Baltimore will also welcome Indianapolis to town in a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon contest on Dec. 23.

Beginning their 22nd campaign in Baltimore and 20th season at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens will open their season in Cincinnati on Sept. 10 and host Cleveland for the home opener on Sept. 17.

It was known months ago that the Ravens would play Jacksonville in London on Sept. 24, and the NFL has granted their wish not to have their bye immediately after that with the Steelers coming to Baltimore on Oct 1. The Ravens will then travel across the country to face Oakland on Oct. 8 to conclude arguably their most challenging stretch of the season.

Their bye will fall in Week 10.

The schedule concludes with two straight home games for the first time in franchise history, which should help Baltimore’s bid to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Ravens will host the Bengals in Week 17, marking the seventh time in eight years that these AFC North rivals have faced off in the regular-season finale.

The Ravens will play seven games against playoff teams from last season: Pittsburgh (twice), Houston, Miami, Oakland, Green Bay, and Detroit. They have six games against opponents who finished below .500 in 2016: Cincinnati (twice), Cleveland (twice), Jacksonville, and Chicago.

Baltimore’s 2017 opponents had a combined .461 winning percentage last season, which would give them the ninth-easiest schedule in the NFL entering the year. Of course, playing the 1-15 Browns twice skews that percentage a good bit.

For now, 10 of the Ravens’ 16 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but many of those games are subject to flexible scheduling (see below).

2017 SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 10 at Cincinnati — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: You mean the Ravens aren’t required by law to conclude every season at Paul Brown Stadium? This marks only the second time in the last seven years that they won’t be in Cincinnati for Week 17. 

Sunday, Sept. 17 vs. Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Browns have dramatically improved their offensive line, but that only matters so much until Hue Jackson finds the right quarterback to lead his football team. 

Sunday, Sept. 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars (London) — 9:30 a.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Playing the first game in franchise history outside the United States, the Ravens need to be ready to start fast with a breakfast kickoff time back home.

Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Steelers will once again be the favorite to win the AFC North, but they’ve lost four straight at M&T Bank Stadium with Charlie Batch being the last Pittsburgh quarterback to earn a win in Baltimore.

Sunday, Oct. 8 at Oakland Raiders — 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Playing a road game against the young and talented Raiders appears daunting, but it will be interesting to see how Oakland fans respond to a team officially set to move to Las Vegas.

Sunday, Oct. 15 vs. Chicago Bears — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Pernell McPhee received a huge contract when he left the Ravens, but Chicago pushed him too hard in 2015 and his well-documented knee issues limited him to just nine games last year.

Sunday, Oct. 22 at Minnesota Vikings — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Brett Favre was the Vikings quarterback when the Ravens last visited Minnesota, but this one will be played at the extravagant U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season.

Thursday, Oct. 26 vs. Miami Dolphins — 8:25 p.m. (CBS/NFL Network)
Skinny: The Ravens demolished Miami by 32 points last December, but the Dolphins earned the last laugh by nabbing the final wild card in the AFC and are moving in the right direction.

Sunday, Nov. 5 at Tennessee Titans — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: It’s been a long time since the Titans were relevant, but young quarterback Marcus Mariota looked more and more like the real deal last year while nearly getting his team to the playoffs.

Sunday, Nov. 12 BYE

Sunday, Nov. 19 at Green Bay Packers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens have never won a game at Lambeau Field, and you have to wonder what the weather will be like come the second half of November.

Monday, Nov. 27 vs. Houston Texans — 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: Bill O’Brien’s team is still a good quarterback away from being a serious contender in the AFC, but his defense was very good even without All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt last season.

Sunday, Dec. 3 vs. Detroit Lions — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: Former right tackle Rick Wagner and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will return to Baltimore for their first regular-season game against the Ravens.

Sunday, Dec. 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: These bitter rivals will square off in a nationally-televised contest for the 11th straight year and on Sunday Night Football for the sixth time in the last nine years.

Sunday, Dec. 17 at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Make fun of the hapless Browns all you’d like, but the Ravens haven’t won a game in Cleveland by more than one possession since 2012.

Saturday, Dec. 23 vs. Indianapolis Colts — 4:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
Skinny: Former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was the last man standing in the strained relationship with Ryan Grigson, but it’s tough imagining him surviving another non-playoff season.

Sunday, Dec. 31 vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens ended their five-game slide against Cincinnati last year, and the Bengals’ streak of five straight trips to the playoffs was also snapped, making you wonder if their window has closed.

Notes: In a move that was initiated three years ago, flexible scheduling can now be applied in Weeks 5 through 9. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by moving a Sunday afternoon game into prime time and moving the Sunday night game to the afternoon.

Another recently-implemented wrinkle will be a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring certain games to wider audiences.

Flexible scheduling will still be used in Weeks 10 through 17 as it has been in past years. In Weeks 10-16, the master schedule lists games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the originally-scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon time.

Flexible scheduling may not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday, or Monday nights.

A scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Jan. 1.

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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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