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Some draft criticism unfair, but sum of parts still not adding up for Ravens

Posted on 16 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Some of the commentary from Ravens fans watching the divisional round of the playoffs was predictable.

All these years later, some still squawk about general manager Ozzie Newsome selecting Morehouse offensive lineman Ramon Harewood a pick before Pittsburgh took Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown with the 195th overall selection of the 2010 draft. At this point, ESPN might as well make a “30 for 30” special on the two individuals just to torment Ravens fans.

Yes, the Steelers were so much smarter than Baltimore that they passed on the eventual best wide receiver in the NFL eight different times in that draft and took such studs as Crezdon Butler and Stevenson Sylvester before finally grabbing Brown in the sixth round.

It’s no secret that the Ravens could have traded with Dallas in 2016 to move up from the sixth spot to take future Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey fourth overall, but Newsome didn’t want to part with his third-round pick that was used on defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who’s played all of three games in two years. In a vacuum, it’s easy to call that a bad decision, but let’s remember quarterback Joe Flacco was rehabbing a torn ACL at the time and the Ravens didn’t have a trustworthy left tackle on the roster after the big contract awarded to Eugene Monroe two years earlier had turned out to be such a failure. Even if Ramsey becomes a Hall of Famer and Ronnie Stanley is never anything more than a reliable left tackle, it’s tough to be outraged by such a move if you’re someone who’s also blasted the organization for repeatedly neglecting its offense since Super Bowl XLVII.

Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack intercepting a Ben Roethlisberger pass Sunday prompted some to point out that the Ravens passed on him, electing to trade back two different times to eventually take the disappointing Kamalei Correa in the second round of that same 2016 draft. However, the Ravens were far from the only team to pass on Jack, who was projected by some to be a top 5 pick if not for major concerns about the health of his knee. They also came away with starting outside linebacker Matthew Judon and strong special-teams contributor Chris Moore with those trades while Jack hasn’t been anything more than a solid starter for the Jaguars to this point.

If you really want to be mad about that second round, instead point to the Ravens taking Correa five picks before New Orleans drafted Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas, who’s caught a whopping 197 passes in his first two years.

And then there’s Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the former University of Maryland standout who caught the miracle 61-yard touchdown from Case Keenum to send the Vikings to the NFC championship game. Even before Sunday’s heroics, this one had been reignited by the recent Sports Illustrated article citing Diggs’ mother telling Newsome that he should have been fired for not taking her son.

There’s no question that the Ravens should have had an advantage on intel about a prospect playing 40 miles down the road, but there were fair concerns about Diggs, ranging from his injury history in College Park to questions about his maturity. As a result, this was a player passed over multiple times by every team in the league, so the Ravens weren’t alone and Washington didn’t take the local kid either.

In the same way that I have a difficult time heaping too much praise on the Ravens for “discovering” Alex Collins when they were one of 31 teams who didn’t claim him on waivers at the end of the preseason and initially promoted Jeremy Langford from the practice squad over him, I struggle to criticize the organization too sharply for passing on Diggs — even if you wish they would have taken a chance on him rather than the little-known Tray Walker at the end of that fourth round.

The truth is you can go back in time to any draft and nitpick why Player A was taken over Player B over and over and over. Even after selecting two future Hall of Famers with his first two picks of the 1996 draft, Newsome took underwhelming cornerback DeRon Jenkins six spots before future nine-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins went to Philadelphia in the second round.

See how easy that was?

These arguments are easy to make with hindsight and lack context unless you’re talking about a clear-cut example such as two quarterbacks being taken with the first two picks of the draft. Even then, do you ever notice how you struggle to find anyone who would have drafted Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning in 1998 despite that being a major debate at the time? Most critics aren’t so eager to point out the ones they were wrong about years later.

(For the record, I leaned toward Leaf as a know-it-all 14-year-old.)

As much as teams try to make the draft a science, much of it remains art with too many variables to possibly control. Even at their best, the Ravens never batted 1.000 in the draft, so there will always be picks to critique as many are doing now.

The real problem isn’t passing on these aforementioned players, but it’s that the Ravens haven’t been making enough great picks of their own in recent years to make these second-guessing exercises a moot point. At the macro level, it’s more than fair to argue that the Ravens have too frequently played it safe, relied on quantity over quality, and possibly even conformed with too much groupthink in recent drafts.

Sometimes you have to take a risk to come away with a truly great playmaker or two, which is something the Ravens desperately need on the offensive side of the ball and have for a long time now. You also can’t allow a failed pick like Breshad Perriman deter you from being bold when appropriate.

It’s not a secret that the organization has slanted much more toward defense with 13 of their 17 Day 1 and 2 picks since Super Bowl XLVII being on that side of the ball. That’s enough of a lopsided ratio to make you question whether the Ravens are valuing defensive players too much in favor of truly picking “the best player available” when on the clock.

Their recent drafts haven’t been as disastrous as some want to claim — the Ravens have still found plenty of good value in the latter half of drafts despite recent Day 1 and 2 problems — but they’ve merely been much more ordinary after years of the draft being considered a major advantage for Newsome and the Ravens over other teams.

Even if many of the decisions appeared sound at the time, the sum of the parts has still added up to too much mediocrity, the same place the Ravens are trying to escape.

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Maryland wideout Diggs reportedly out for rest of regular season

Posted on 10 November 2014 by WNST Staff

Already facing the reality of playing Michigan State without the suspended Stefon Diggs, Maryland could be without its star wide receiver for the rest of the season.

According to multiple outlets, Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney in the win over Penn State on Nov. 1 that will likely keep him sidelined for at least the remainder of the regular season. The 6-3 Terps have three regular-season games remaining and already have bowl eligibility for the second straight season.

Diggs was injured in the fourth quarter against Penn State, but the junior returned to the game. The junior wideout had already been suspended one game by the Big Ten for his role in a pre-game scuffle with the Nittany Lions, so head coach Randy Edsall and the Terps were already planning on being without him for Saturday’s game against Michigan State.

In his third year with the Terps, Diggs has made 52 catches for 654 yards and five touchdown catches.

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Maryland WR Diggs receives preseason All-America recognition from SI

Posted on 13 August 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Sports Illustrated has named Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs to its 2014 Preseason All-America Team, the publication announced Tuesday. SI selected Diggs as a second team returner on special teams.

It is the third All-America team Diggs has been named to this preseason. The junior wide out also earned a spot on the Athlon Sports and Phil Steele All-America teams.

Last season, Diggs finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

To see the full All-America team, visit si.com.

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Edsall says Diggs “100 percent” as practice opened Monday

Posted on 04 August 2014 by WNST Staff

Head Coach Randy Edsall

COLLEGE PARK, Md. –

 

On the freshman:

“They’re all here. We’ll find out about them here in a little bit. They’re for the most part in good shape. It’s amazing how some of the guys fill out from the time that you sign them until now. There are a lot of them that look good. I don’t want to single any of them out. You’ll see for yourself. I’m anxious to see what they do out here. I told them beforehand just to go out here, and we know they’re going to make mistakes, but just go full speed and have fun and learn the playbook. If you learn the playbook and learn all the techniques and fundamentals that go with it, the better your opportunity to show you can get on the field.”

 

On the practice schedule:

“We have five practices; two in helmets and then two in helmets and shoulder pads and then full pads on Friday. It’s just getting everything installed. Today we’ll do some red zone and start to install all of our base things offensively and defensively and then just continue to through the rest of the week to try and get everything installed by the time that we get around to our scrimmage on practice eight.”

 

On if Stefon Diggs is fully recovered:

“He has. He’s cleared and 100 percent and ready to go. I know he’s eager to get going again. He’s very focused and very determined. He wants to get back out here and start playing the game he loves.”

 

On Nigel King’s departure:

“We wish Nigel well. He graduated, which is the number one priority for him. We’ll just wish him well and focus on the guys that are here.”

 

On the guard and running back competitions:

“It’s no different than where it was at the end of spring because we haven’t done anything. We’ll see how it all plays out and I’m hoping that somebody stands out, just like at running back. I’m hoping that somebody at running back takes the bull by the horn this preseason and says, ‘hey, I’m the starter’ and they separate themselves. That’s what we’re looking for at guard and running back as well.”

 

On the tight end competition:

“Andrew and Derrick had really good summers. Again, you’d like to have a tight end that can do it all for you, rather than having situational guys. I think that’ll start to shakeout. Andrew had a really good summer and he’s a guy that can give us those opportunities. Derrick is getting better, putting on weight. P.J. didn’t have as good a summer as those guys so hopefully separation will take place early in camp.”

 

On the tight end, guard and running back competitions:

“Those would probably be the biggest [competitions]. When you look at the depth chart and saw the or’s on there, that’s probably the biggest. But that doesn’t mean something couldn’t happen at the other positions based on people’s ability and what they do out here or lack of production from somebody who was already a starter.”

 

On Sal Conaboy:

“Sal is very steady. He’s smart and a really hard worker. It’s good to see him get that recognition. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s a guy that’s the leader of our offensive line and a guy that we have high expectations for this year. He understands his role and what he has to do from a leadership standpoint and you just see him getting better and better each year as an offensive lineman and a center.”

 

“He’s smart. He really understands what’re doing and can make all the calls. The biggest thing that he’s got to do is just get better with his footwork and his technique and hand placement. He’s made strides, but those are things he’s got to get better at.”

 

On Yannick Ngakoue:

“You can see that he’s had a good summer. He’s worked hard. Now it’s the same thing. I thought we had a good summer. Drew Wilson and his staff did a great job. Our guys are in shape. They’re ready to go and now what we’ll do is see if they can translate what they did this summer, getting bigger, faster, and stronger, and put it to work on the field and do the things they’ve got to do from and productivity and assignment standpoint to show that they’ve made improvement from a mental aspect as well as a physical aspect.”

 

“He’s gotten better. He has a very good approach to what’s going on. He came in here and thought it might be a little easier than what it was, and he’s matured quite a bit. That’s the biggest thing. He’s matured a lot over the last year and now he understands the process that you have to go through to be good. I think that’s the biggest improvement that he’s made.”

 

On C.J. Brown

“C.J. has done a good job of understanding everything that goes into it and has a better feel for what we are doing. I think you’ll see he’s just got so much more command and confidence than he ever has. He’s done a better job of being a leader. Those are the things that are important. Again, he’s worked on all aspects of his game but I think the leadership and the comfort with what’re doing offensively is something where he’s really enhanced his game.”

 

“The biggest thing for him is to be more consistent in everything he does. His accuracy, his decision making and understanding when to pull it down and when to throw it and doing those different things. He’s got a lot more confidence going into this year than he did at this time last year.”

 

On the limited personnel turnover from last season:

“It’s comforting going into the season having the depth and the experience that we have coming back. But in terms of what we want to get done installation wise, that hasn’t changed. We have a couple of guys now who understand and know how to practice and how to do those things. That makes it a little bit easier.”

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Terps WR Diggs named “Player to Watch” by Big Ten

Posted on 28 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Big Ten Names Diggs a Player to Watch

 

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been selected to the 2014 Big Ten Players to Watch list, the conference announced Monday.

The preseason Players to Watch list is selected by a media panel and consists of five student-athletes each from the East Division and West Division.

The Gaithersburg, Md., native finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

Diggs enters the 2014 season averaging 156.0 career all-purpose yards per game, which is the second-most nationally among returning FBS players.

Including the Big Ten’s Players to Watch list, Diggs has been named to five preseason watch lists. The junior wideout is also under consideration for the Biletnikoff Award, the Maxwell Award, the Paul Hornung Award and the Walter Camp Award.
The complete list of Big Ten football preseason Players to Watch appears below:

EAST DIVISION

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

 

WEST DIVISION

Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Rob Havenstein, RT, Wisconsin

 

Big Ten Media Days begin Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET from the Hilton Chicago with BTN presenting over five hours of live coverage of the event beginning at10:30 a.m. ET. Opening media sessions for all 14 head coaches will be broadcast live with Maryland head coach Randy Edsall scheduled to address the media at 1:15 ET.

 

– Maryland –

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Maryland WR Diggs named to Walter Champ Player of the Year Watch List

Posted on 18 July 2014 by WNST Staff

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been named to the 2014 Walter Camp Award Watch List, given to college football’s player of the year, the Walter Camp Foundation announced Friday.

Diggs is one of 50 players and one of only eight wide receivers to be named to the watch list for the nation’s fourth-oldest individual college football accolade.

In addition to the Walter Camp Award Watch List, Diggs has been named to three others during the preseason: the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, the Maxwell Award Watch List and Paul Hornung Award Watch List.

The Gaithersburg, Md., native finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

Diggs enters the 2014 season averaging 156.0 career all-purpose yards per game, which is the second-most nationally among returning FBS players.

The watch list will be narrowed to 10 semifinalists in mid-November. The 2014 Walter Camp Player of the Year recipient, which is voted on by the 125 NCAA Bowl Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors, will be announced live on ESPN SportsCenter on Thursday, Dec. 11.  The winner will then receive his trophy at the Foundation’s annual national awards banquet onJan. 17, 2015, at the Yale University Commons in New Haven.

For more information on the award and to see the complete watch list, visit waltercamp.org.

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Maryland WR Diggs named to Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Posted on 15 July 2014 by WNST Staff

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been named to the 2014 Biletnikoff Award Watch List the Tallahassee Quarterback Club (TQC) Foundation announced Tuesday.

Diggs is one of 55 receivers included on the initial list and one of only five receivers from the Big Ten to make the cut. The Biletnikoff Award annually recognizes the most outstanding receiver in college football.  Any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back, and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.

In addition to the Biletnikoff Award, Diggs was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List and Paul Hornung Award Watch List last week.

The Gaithersburg, Md., native finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

Diggs enters the 2014 season averaging 156.0 career all-purpose yards per game, which is the second-most nationally among returning FBS players.

The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, Inc., will announce the 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists on Nov. 17, following a vote by the 221 members of the Biletnikoff Award National Selection Committee.

Likewise, the three finalists will be declared, following a vote, on Nov. 24. The winner will be presented live on Dec. 11, on The Home Depot College Football Awards Show to be broadcast at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

For more information on the award and to see the complete watch list, visit biletnikoffaward.com.

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Maryland WR Diggs named to Maxwell, Hornung Award watch lists

Posted on 07 July 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been named to the 2014 Maxwell Award Watch List and the 2014 Paul Hornung Award Watch List as announced Monday by the Maxwell Football Club and Louisville Sports Commission, respectively.

Diggs is one of 19 wide outs included on the 74-man watch list for the Maxwell Award, which honors the nation’s top collegiate football player. The junior is also one of 10 players from the Big Ten to be selected to the watch list.

The Gaithersburg, Md., native is one of 47 players to be named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, which is given to the most versatile player in major college football, and one of 10 players from the Big Ten.

Diggs finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

Semifinalists for the Maxwell Award will be announced Nov. 3, while the three finalists for each award will be unveiled Nov. 24. The winner of the 2014 Maxwell Award will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 11. The formal presentations of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala on March 6, 2015.

Fan voting will factor into the Paul Hornung Award finalists and winner. Voting will run through the regular season and again during the bowl season. Fan voting will open in late September.

The winner will be honored at the official Paul Hornung Award Banquet held at the Galt House Hotel and Suites in Louisville, Ky., in late January-2015.

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Maryland WR Diggs gets preseason All-Big Ten recognition from Sporting News

Posted on 25 June 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been selected to Sporting News 2014 preseason All-Big Ten team, the publication announced Wednesday. Diggs earned first team honors at wide receiver.

Diggs has received numerous preseason accolades recently. The junior wideout was tabbed by Athlon Sports as a second team All-American and a first team All-Big Ten honoree. Phil Steele named Diggs a third team All-American and first team All-Big Ten.

Last season, Diggs finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

To see the full All-Big Ten team from Sporting News, visit sportingnews.com.

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Maryland WR Diggs gets preseason All-America recognition

Posted on 23 June 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been to Athlon Sports 2014 preseason All-America team, the publication announced on Monday.

Diggs, who was named a first-team member of Athlon’s All-Big Ten team, earned second team All-American honors as an all-purpose performer.

Last season, Diggs finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite missing the last five games with a leg injury. In seven games, Diggs had 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 83.9 yards receiving per game.

To see the full All-America team, visit athlonsports.com.

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