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What to expect from each of Ravens’ nine 2015 draft picks

Posted on 03 May 2015 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2015 draft, so what should we now expect from each of the Ravens’ nine selections?

Below is an early look at how each rookie fits:

WR Breshad Perriman
Drafted: First round (26th overall) from Central Florida

2015 projected role: The Ravens hope the 6-foot-2 wideout with blinding speed can immediately come in and pick up where Torrey Smith left off as a starter and deep threat opposite veteran Steve Smith.

Long-term view: Arguably more physically gifted than any receiver the Ravens have ever had, Perriman could become the authentic No. 1 receiver Joe Flacco has never enjoyed in his career. However, he’ll need to refine his route-running ability and improve his concentration level with his hands in order to do it.

TE Maxx Williams
Drafted: Second round (55th overall) from Minnesota

2015 projected role: General manager Ozzie Newsome moved up three spots in the second round to take Williams with every expectation of him being ready to start with Dennis Pitta’s future so uncertain.

Long-term view: The Ravens hope the talented 6-foot-4 Williams is the next in a line of impact tight ends that includes Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, and Pitta. It’s difficult not to be excited about his upside after he entered the draft following his redshirt sophomore season.

DT Carl Davis
Drafted: Third round (90th overall) from Iowa

2015 projected role: Davis will give the Ravens another run-stopping option who can ease the load on Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan on a rotational basis.

Long-term view: At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, Davis could play his way into a starting role, so it will be interesting to see where he best fits at the NFL level. He has a chip on his shoulder after sliding to the third round and expressed confidence that he was one of the best defensive linemen in the draft.

OLB Za’Darius Smith
Drafted: Fourth (122nd overall) from Kentucky

2015 projected role: With Pernell McPhee now in Chicago, the Ravens expect Smith to back up Terrell Suggs at the rush linebacker spot and to rush the passer on a situational basis.

Long-term view: Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are under contract for a few more years, but both are on the wrong side of 30, meaning Smith could have an opportunity to step into a starting role eventually. Courtney Upshaw is also a free agent after 2015, so the Ravens need this pick to work out.

RB Javorius “Buck” Allen
Drafted: Fourth round (125th overall) from USC

2015 projected role: Allen will compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro for touches behind starter Justin Forsett in the running game.

Long-term view: His one-cut running style and ability as a receiver would appear to put him in line to eventually become the starting tailback over the more straight-ahead running Taliaferro. There are concerns that Allen runs too high, but there’s plenty to like about the former Trojans rusher.

CB Tray Walker
Drafted: Fourth round (136th overall) from Texas Southern

2015 projected role: He will enter training camp competing with the likes of Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin for the No. 3 cornerback spot behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Long-term view: His 6-foot-2 frame is a plus, but it’s just too difficult to know how Walker will project after facing less-than-stellar college competition. Webb was a success, but the Ravens have completely whiffed on other FCS-level players such as David Pittman and Christian Thompson in the secondary.

TE Nick Boyle
Drafted: Fifth round (171st overall) from Delaware

2015 projected role: Boyle will likely settle in as the No. 3 tight end behind Williams and Crockett Gillmore on the depth chart.

Long-term view: At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Boyle is most appealing as a blocker, but he showed decent hands with the Blue Hens to keep him in mind for goal-line and short-yardage situations. The Ravens would be happy if he could eventually settle in as a reliable No. 2 tight end.

G Robert Myers
Drafted: Fifth round (176th overall) from Tennessee State

2015 projected role: With the Ravens loaded at the guard position, Myers will be used as depth and will probably be inactive on many game days if the offensive line is healthy.

Long-term view: After the Ravens tabbed Rick Wagner and John Urschel in recent fifth rounds, you should take notice of this pick. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo loves Myers and Kelechi Osemle and Marshal Yanda are both free agents next offseason, which could lead to a bigger role as soon as 2016.

WR Darren Waller
Drafted: Sixth round (204th overall) from Georgia Tech

2015 projected role: Waller will compete for a roster spot as a rookie and the Ravens could use his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame inside the red zone, but he has a lot to prove as a developmental player.

Long-term view: The Ravens would love to see Waller become another Marlon Brown — or better — but he’s probably more likely to be the next Tommy Streeter or Aaron Mellette. Unlike other receivers his size who are drafted late, Waller is credited for having solid hands, but his route-running needs major work.

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Puzzle pieces impressively fall into place for Ravens’ 2015 draft

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The smiles on the faces of the Ravens decision-makers said it all at the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft.

Entering the three-day event with 10 scheduled picks and an extensive grocery list of positions to address, general manager Ozzie Newsome was able to put a check mark next to nearly every item by the time Saturday evening rolled around. The Ravens may have stayed true to their draft board, but it’s difficult to recall a time when it aligned so closely with their biggest needs and wants.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I think, just in terms of if we had imagined this draft beforehand, we’d be very, very excited. We got it, and it looks great on paper. But hopefully, it looks good in person as well.”

Seven weeks after waving goodbye to Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Haloti Ngata, and Pernell McPhee, the Ravens said hello to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams, defensive tackle Carl Davis, and defensive end Za’Darius Smith with their first four draft picks. It’s a sequence of selections that would make you think the Ravens were drafting solely for need if not for the fact that all four prospects were projected to be taken earlier in the draft by many pundits.

Newsome followed that by adding a cornerback (Tray Walker) and a running back (Buck Allen) — two other positions of need in most minds — before finally building more offensive depth with tight end Nick Boyle, guard Robert Myers, and wide receiver Darren Waller.

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Time will tell how well these nine players pan out — history tells us at least a couple won’t — but it’s difficult not to be impressed with the manner in which the Ravens worked. Newsome only pulled off one trade to do it, forfeiting one of three fifth-round picks to move up three spots in the second round to take the consensus top tight end in Williams.

“We’re not done putting this team together right now,” said Newsome, adding that they had already begun the process of signing rookie free agents. “It’s still maybe four months before we have to play Denver [in the season opener]. As a personnel staff, we’re still going to be mining for players to make our roster to make us better.”

Of course, no draft is perfect as the fourth-round selection of Walker, a lesser-known player from FCS school Texas Southern, could be considered a reach with many projecting him as a late-round pick or priority free agent. His 6-foot-2, 191-pound frame is impressive for a corner, but he’s unlikely to quell concerns about the depth behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Then again, Walker’s performance at the College Gridiron Showcase game as well as his private workout with cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss left the Ravens very impressed, making you wonder if they’ve uncovered the latest diamond in the rough. Unsurprisingly, Newsome wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making other additions when he was inevitably asked about a secondary that endured a mountain of injuries in 2014.

The selection of two tight ends confirmed what we’ve known all offseason about the Ravens not counting on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who reiterated last week that he hopes to play again despite two serious right hip injuries in two years. Baltimore wasn’t going to forgo the opportunity to add the best tight end in the draft as well as Boyle, a physical blocking tight end from Delaware.

If Pitta can make his way back to the field at some point, a position of clear weakness before the draft could ultimately become of the Ravens’ biggest strengths. Having too many tight ends would be a good problem to have in the West Coast offense that will continue to be used by new offensive Marc Trestman.

“I still don’t know what’s going to happen with [Pitta],” Newsome said. “But Maxx Williams was way ahead of anybody that we had on the board when we picked him, and Boyle was the same way. We have a very tight end-friendly offense, so having one or two is not enough.

As always, the Ravens weren’t only drafting for 2015 as the selection of Myers provides insurance behind guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, who are both set to become free agents next offseason. And while Baltimore hopes Perriman becomes an immediate starter and the eventual No. 1 receiver, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Waller is an intriguing project to keep an eye on during training camp as the 204th overall pick and final Ravens selection of this year’s draft.

Beyond giving two thumbs up for addressing virtually every need and want on their list — safety and kick returner were the only real positions of interest to go untouched — you don’t grade a draft immediately after its conclusion despite the many who will try to. Three or four years from now, Newsome and the Ravens might look at this weekend fondly or they could cringe with regret.

The value and names are impressive on paper, but now these draft picks — along with a batch of rookie free agents to follow — must show how it translates on the field.

“Our needs and the types of things that are going to make our team better — specifically by position or by the type of player and where they were strategically found — I just thought it was masterful,” said Harbaugh in summarizing this year’s draft. “It’s a big success. Now we have to turn these guys into a football team.”

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Ravens pick intriguing Georgia Tech wideout Waller to conclude draft

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After addressing a plethora of needs and wants over the three days of the 2015 NFL draft, the Ravens tabbed an intriguing developmental prospect with their final selection.

Selected with the 204th overall pick, Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller brings impressive size (6-foot-6 and 240 pounds) and speed (4.46 second 40-yard dash time) despite underwhelming numbers in the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense. In 12 games as a senior, he caught 26 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns, but Waller shined in the Orange Bowl with a five-catch, 114-yard performance in a win over Mississippi State.

Waller was the second wide receiver chosen by general manager Ozzie Newsome after the 26th overall pick of the draft was spent on Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman. The Ravens have now chosen a receiver in the sixth or seventh round in four straight drafts.

If Waller can improve his route-running ability, he can better utilize his reliable hands as well as a frame that resembles a tight end. His best bet for contributing early would be as a red-zone threat with Newsome noting that teams are always coveting big receivers in that area of the field.

Projected by many as a possible mid-round selection, the Ravens had to feel pretty good about getting a receiver possessing so much upside with their final pick of the weekend. Wallter is the latest in a list of towering wideouts from Georgia Tech to go to the NFL with some finding overwhelming success — Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas — and others failing to develop — Stephen Hill — in the last decade.

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Ravens build more offensive depth with fifth-round picks

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — General manager Ozzie Newsome continued an offensive-minded 2015 draft in the fifth round with the selections of Delaware tight end Nick Boyle and Tennessee guard Robert Myers.

The 171st overall selection, Boyle was the second tight end drafted by the Ravens after they took Minnesota’s Maxx Williams with their second-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound lacks speed, but he possesses sound hands and will be counted on to primarily be a blocking tight end.

The selection of Boyle reinforces the idea that the Ravens can’t count on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who is still recovering from a second right hip dislocation and fracture suffered last September. Boyle caught 101 passes for 984 yards and 12 touchdowns in his four years with the Blue Hens.

Myers gives the Ravens depth on the interior line where standout guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are both set to become free agents at the end of the 2015 season. A Senior Bowl participant, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound lineman was a three-year starter at Tennessee State and was a favorite of Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo in the pre-draft evaluation process.

With Boyle and Myers both being taken in the fifth round, the Ravens drafted a total of three FCS-level prospects after selecting Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker in the fourth round.

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Ravens roll dice with Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Looking to add depth to their secondary following last year’s nightmarish run of injuries, the Ravens rolled the dice on Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker with the final pick of the fourth round.

At 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, Walker brings good size and could be used in press coverage. His selection continues the Baltimore tradition of not being afraid to draft FCS-level players as the organization has taken at least one in the fourth round in four straight years. In 42 career games at Texas Southern, Walker grabbed nine interceptions and made 159 total tackles.

As is frequently the case with players coming from the FCS level, Walker was not a well-known draft prospect and was projected by some to be selected in the final round or two or to be signed as a priority free agent.

“I was not highly recruited,” said Walker when asked about playing for the Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. “I was overlooked. I was a safety in high school.”

Cornerback was regarded by most as the Ravens’ third-biggest need behind wide receiver and tight end, the positions they drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively. Five cornerbacks ended the season on injured reserve including starter Jimmy Smith and No. 3 option Asa Jackson.

Without any further additions, Walker would likely compete with Jackson and Rashaan Melvin for the No. 3 cornerback job behind starters Smith and veteran Lardarius Webb.

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USC running back Buck Allen bolsters Ravens’ depth

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The unceremonious releases of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the last eighth months made another running back a clear wish for the Ravens in this year’s draft.

They added to that position with the selection of USC’s Javorius “Buck” Allen in the fourth round with the 125th overall pick. The 6-foot, 220-pound back rushed for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior season before declaring for this year’s draft.

Allen initially figures to compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro for the primary backup job behind Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett, but he could project as the long-term starter in Baltimore. He ran a 4.53 second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and is considered an ideal one-cut runner in the Ravens’ zone blocking schemes expected to continue to be used under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

“They pretty much said that they like the work I do out of the backfield and that I have great hands,” Allen said. “They said they were going to put my talents to use, so I’m ready to come there and do whatever I have to do to help the team win.”

He was the 11th running back selected in the 2015 draft.

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Ravens add Kentucky pass rusher Za’Darius Smith in fourth round

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began the final day of the NFL draft by filling the void of another free-agent departure with the selection of Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith.

Chosen in the fourth round as the 122nd overall pick, Smith is expected to help fill the pass-rushing void left behind by Pernell McPhee. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound rusher was named the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game and received a late invitation to the Senior Bowl.

In meeting with Smith, the Ravens made no secret about his versatility along the defensive line being an ideal replacement for McPhee. This gave the Alabama native a good idea about Baltimore’s interest in him.

“That’s all they talked about,” Smith said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “I’m going to follow in his footsteps. A lot of people are going to be hearing from Za’Darius Smith as a Baltimore Raven.”

Smith did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school, but the junior college transfer emerged as a two-year starter at Kentucky where he collected a combined 10 1/2 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss in 2013 and 2014.

 

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Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis added to Ravens’ defensive line depth

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally addressed their defense in the third round with the selection of Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis with the 90th overall pick.

And it’s clear the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman is out to prove to other teams that he shouldn’t have lasted so long on the board with some pundits previously projecting him to go as early as the end of the first round. Despite not having much contact with Davis during the evaluation process, the Ravens felt fortunate to have him fall into their laps.

“I feel like I’m one of the best defensive tackles in this year’s draft,” said Davis, who didn’t think he was on the Ravens’ radar. “I saw a lot of guys that got picked ahead of me, and that puts a chip on my shoulder. I feel like, especially when I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, there’s nobody that can stop me. I feel like I’m that much of a dominant player.”

In his senior season with the Hawkeyes, Davis was named second-team all-Big Ten after collecting 36 tackles (nine of them for a loss) and two sacks.

Davis is considered a strong run-stopping lineman who will help fill the void of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The Ravens will likely count on 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan to step into the 3-techinique spot, but his slighter build could be replaced by Davis in short-yardage situations next to nose tackle Brandon Williams. Davis expressed confidence that he’ll be able to play all over the defensive line, which is a valuable asset with defensive coordinator Dean Pees preferring versatility in the rotation.

The Ravens were impressed with Davis’ dominating performance at the Senior Bowl and were even more surprised to find his combination of size and speed available late in the third round. The defensive line faces a tall order in replacing Ngata’s production, but Davis sounded more than willing to embrace the challenge as the Ravens have now taken a defensive tackle in the second or third round in each of the last three drafts.

“Somebody has to carry the fire, somebody has to make the tradition go on, and why not be me?” Davis said. “I know they’ve got other guys up there [like] Jernigan. Those are terrific players. I plan on learning from those guys that have already been there and know and played next to Haloti. He’s a great player, but he’s human just like we both are. And if he can do it, I feel like I can do it.”

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Five questions pondering Perriman, Orioles bullpen, others

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or has Central Florida quietly produced some quality NFL players in the last 20 years? Not exactly known as a college football powerhouse, the Knights have played at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level for just under two decades, but their list of NFL players includes the likes of Brandon Marshall, Daunte Culpepper, Kevin Smith, Asante Samuel, Blake Bortles, and Mike Sims-Walker. First-round pick Breshad Perriman became the third former UCF player on the Ravens’ current roster, joining wide receiver Kamar Aiken and offensive lineman Jah Reid. Of course, Baltimore can only pray that Perriman works out a lot better than Reid, who has been a major disappointment as a third-round pick in 2011.

2. Is it just me or is Steve Pearce quickly becoming the new Melvin Mora? As if Friday’s opener as the “home” team at Tropicana Field wasn’t strange enough, the Orioles started Steve Pearce at second base for the first time in his professional career — majors or minors. Fielding questions aside, it’s a creative way to get Pearce in the lineup as he’s essentially been supplanted by the hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes over the last two weeks. Through the first 21 games of the season, Pearce has now started at five different spots — both corner outfield positions, first base, designated hitter, and second base. If you’re wondering what could be next, Pearce has also appeared at third base in his major league career and once at shortstop in the minors. That versatility is just another reason why Buck Showalter likes having Pearce on his roster, especially if his bat can heat up to 2014 levels.

3. Is it just me or do the Ravens always seem to land a high-value player in the second round? Baltimore clearly needed to add a tight end with Dennis Pitta’s future unclear and Owen Daniels now in Denver, but few would have expected Minnesota’s Maxx Williams to still be on the board when general manager Ozzie Newsome moved up just three spots to grab him at 55th overall. It hasn’t worked out perfectly every year in terms of results, but Torrey Smith (2011), Arthur Brown (2013), Timmy Jernigan (2014), and Williams (2015) were all players linked to the Ravens in at least a few first-round mock drafts before Newsome ultimately nabbed each one in the second round. Pretty strong value.

4. Is it just me or do the Orioles have too many attractive bullpen options at Triple-A Norfolk to waste much more time on the Jason Garcia experiment? Showalter offered an honest assessment of the Rule 5 pick last homestand in noting that his velocity has dropped from the spring, perhaps a sign of the organization having second thoughts about continuing to keep him on the roster. A peek at Norfolk might expedite that conclusion with a finally-healthy Steve Johnson posting a 0.73 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings this season. The Tides starting rotation also sports options with Mike Wright (2.29 ERA), Zach Davies (1.25 ERA), and Tyler Wilson (3.86 ERA) leading the way. Garcia has a 6.97 ERA and 8.61 FIP (fielding independent pitching mark), numbers so poor that you must ask if his potential ceiling is worth keeping him on the roster of a contending club.

5. Is it just me or does the NFL need to pick up the pace in announcing draft picks? One of my biggest pet peeves over the last few years is how easily the television presentation falls behind the pace of picks actually being turned in by the teams. Commercial breaks are unavoidable, but it becomes excessive when the announcement of a selection is delayed while the networks blabber on about something unrelated to what’s happening in real time. The NFL has effectively transformed the draft into a three-day marathon, but can we at least announce the picks in a timely manner to avoid logjams like what we experienced Thursday with the news of Perriman’s selection being out there for several minutes before it was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell? The event is long enough as it is without the additional dragging of feet.

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Ravens move up to take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome wasted no time addressing another major need as he selected Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams with the 55th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

A day after drafting Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round, Newsome traded his original second-round pick (58th overall) and a fifth-round pick (158th overall) to move ahead of Pittsburgh — also coveting a tight end — to grab the talented Williams. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound target was the top tight end in the draft after making 61 receptions for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Golden Gophers.

Williams said he tries to emulate the play of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and has also drawn comparisons to former Ravens tight end Todd Heap from many talent evaluators.

“I told everyone I was trying to be a starter right away,” Williams said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “You have to have your goals and what you want to go for, and that’s what I want. I want to be a starter. I want to go in and prove that I can make a difference and help win a championship.”

An impressive playmaker as a receiver, Williams needs to work on his blocking ability, but his skill set is a critical addition due to the uncertainty regarding Dennis Pitta’s future and the free-agent departure of Owen Daniels. Second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is more of a blocking-minded option at the position, making Williams the perfect fit for the Ravens’ West Coast offense.

Before running the 40-yard dash in an underwhelming 4.78 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February, Williams was considered a surefire candidate to be taken in the first round, but the Ravens were ecstatic to see him linger long enough in the second to move up to grab him. Seventy-seven percent of Williams’ 36 receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown during the 2014 season.

“Quite honestly, I never dreamed that he would be there for us even in that range of players,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We thought he’d be gone. We thought conceivably in the first round, but definitely [in the] top 40 picks in the draft. We were happy to get him.”

Williams is a second-generation NFL player as his father Brian enjoyed an 11-year career as a center for the New York Giants. His grandfather Robert played quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959, but he elected to instead go to medical school.

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