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Ravens list Andrews, Ricard as questionable for Kansas City game

Posted on 20 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed standout tight end Mark Andrews and defensive lineman/fullback hybrid Patrick Ricard as questionable for Sunday’s much-anticipated tilt in Kansas City.

Both are set to play against the Chiefs after practicing Thursday and Friday, but Andrews remained a limited participant with a lingering foot issue while Ricard (back) practiced fully Friday. Andrews’ effectiveness will be worth monitoring, but the ailment didn’t seem to hinder him much in Week 2 as he registered eight receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown in the 23-17 win over Arizona.

As expected, the Ravens officially ruled out safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (right knee) after neither practiced this week. Head coach John Harbaugh said Smith is making progress in his recovery from the Grade 2 medial collateral ligament sprain sustained early in the season opener at Miami.

“He’s doing well. He’s very positive,” Harbaugh said. “We can’t say for sure; he hasn’t run yet. But he’s close to that. He’s on schedule, and we’ll know more in the next probably two weeks.”

Smith’s status is more notable with the Ravens’ reported interest in Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who played in the Jaguars’ win over Tennessee Thursday night. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback was coveted by the Ravens in the 2016 draft and would require a substantial price in a potential trade as well as a lucrative contract to retain his services beyond the 2020 season.

Without Ramsey’s name being mentioned, Harbaugh was asked Friday how much he pays attention to potential player acquisitions and trade rumors.

“I see the direction we’re going with that,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I keep track of most of it. I don’t know anything about that, and obviously, you can’t and you would never comment on another player on another team. It’s just not what you do and it’s illegal, according to league rules.

“But I’m like fans; I read it. It adds a little interest because if someone gets traded to a team that we’re playing or away from a team that we play, that matters to us. If we’re ever involved in one of those, then that really matters to us. But it’s not something you could ever comment on anyway.”

The Chiefs are in a worse place than Baltimore from a health standpoint after officially ruling out three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill (shoulder), starting left tackle Eric Fisher (groin), and running back Damien Williams. Running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) was designated as questionable, but the veteran was able to practice fully Friday.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale downplayed the significance of Hill’s absence while complimenting the creative play-calling of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

“Let’s see, Hill runs about a 4.21 [40-yard dash]. They put in a guy that runs about a 4.22 40,” Martindale said. “So, they’re fast. And Andy Reid, we talk about all these young, innovative offensive coordinators. I hope he doesn’t get mad at me saying this, [but] he’s the grandfather. He’s the ‘O.G.’ of the innovators of offense. And the offense that he has there in Kansas City, everybody steals from.”

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Kansas City calls for rain and temperatures in the low 70s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour. Some heavy rain is possible, which would add an interesting twist to an exciting matchup.

“I heard that it could rain,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t really have any other thoughts on it other than we’ll just go play in it and try to make sure we do a good job with the ball handling and the footing and those kinds of things.”

Below is the final injury report for Week 3:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)

KANSAS CITY
OUT: OT Eric Fisher (groin), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), RB Damien Williams (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB LeSean McCoy (ankle)

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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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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 27-24 loss to Chicago

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their first home defeat to a rookie quarterback in 20 years in the 27-24 loss to Chicago, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After earning a stop-the-bleeding win last week, the putrid Ravens offense resurfaced and was responsible for just 11 of the team’s 24 points. Marty Mornhinweg may not deserve all blame, but he should take a cue from Chicago’s playbook that included a halfback pass. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

2. Forgive the baseball comparison, but we were reminded that the Ravens are to wide receivers what the Orioles are to starting pitching. This is a major weakness, but the organization never commits to fixing the issue for the long haul. Sunday was an embarrassing performance from that group.

3. Matthew Judon followed a strong Week 5 with the best game of his career by leading the defense with 12 tackles, two sacks, and two other tackles for a loss. With Terrell Suggs having just turned 35, the Ravens need their young edge rushers to grow up sooner than later.

4. In the first 21 seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens defense never finished worse than 23rd in rushing yards per game and only once (1996) finished worse than 10th in rushing yards per attempt. They currently rank 30th and 21st in those categories. Is this really only about Brandon Williams’ absence?

5. Supporters who refuse to find fault in Joe Flacco are as tiresome as those who want to blame him for everything, but I don’t know how anyone who actually watched the game can criticize him above everything else. He certainly made some mistakes, but did you see those receivers play?

6. Tony Jefferson was beaten for two touchdown passes and ranks 60th among safeties in Pro Football Focus’ grading system after finishing fifth last year. Fellow safety Eric Weddle has also struggled, but the Ravens need to start seeing a better return on the $19 million guaranteed to Jefferson in March.

7. I felt good for Bobby Rainey returning a kickoff for a touchdown after being hit by his own man and alertly getting up. Five years after signing with Baltimore as a rookie free agent and playing for three other teams, Rainey finally appeared in a game for the Ravens.

8. John Harbaugh didn’t offer a glowing endorsement of Bronson Kaufusi after the rest of the defensive line was overworked and he barely played Sunday. Ronnie Stanley certainly hasn’t disappointed, but remember the Ravens could have traded the pick used on Kaufusi to move up for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2016.

9. The rushing attack had another strong day, but is the ceiling high enough for it to all but single-handedly win games in a fashion similar to what the Bears did? Considering how inept the passing offense has been across the board, that’s what it might take to be successful.

10. Harbaugh isn’t the only coach with this problem and this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but it’s maddening how wasteful the Ravens are with timeouts. Burning one when you’re trailing by 11 points and about to attempt a 50-yard field goal with three minutes left is indefensible.

11. We’ll never know if Ozzie Newsome would have made another deal before the start of the season, but how delusional were the Ravens to even suggest they were confident at wide receiver before Maclin fell into their laps in mid-June? And, yes, I know I’m belaboring the point now.

12. The good news is the NFL reeks of mediocrity more than ever and the Ravens’ schedule appears even more favorable after the Aaron Rodgers injury. The bad news is that Sunday’s loss confirms that Baltimore could also lose any of its remaining 10 games. Yes, even the one in Cleveland.

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 23 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens face a familiar opponent in unfamiliar territory on Sunday.

Playing Jacksonville for the fourth consecutive season, Baltimore will play its first ever game in London at the famous Wembley Stadium. The Ravens seek their third 3-0 start of the John Harbaugh era while the Jaguars try to rebound from an embarrassing home loss to Tennessee.

Of course, poor health continues to be a major part of the story for the Ravens as a staggering 15 players have already been placed on injured reserve — along with practice-squad member Jeremy Langford — and four additional players have already been ruled out for Week 3.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its second consecutive win over the Jaguars, who still lead the all-time series with an 11-9 mark that largely stems from the days of the old AFC Central. The Ravens have won nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to the 2000 season.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Even without Brandon Williams, Baltimore will hold Leonard Fournette to less than 3.5 yards per carry. The Jaguars rank ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game while the Ravens defense has been leakier against the run than you’d expect at 4.0 yards per carry allowed. There was plenty of debate in the offseason about whether giving Williams a lucrative deal was the best use of cap resources when you considered the young depth on the defensive line that includes nose tackle Michael Pierce. We’ll find out how that group looks against a rookie running back with exceptional talent.

2. Mike Wallace and Allen Hurns will catch touchdown passes for their respective teams. The Baltimore receiver was sure to emphasize that he wants to win more than anything when he talked about wanting the ball more this week, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg does need to get the downfield passing game going. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is dealing with an ankle injury, which should leave his secondary vulnerable to a big play. Meanwhile, Hurns has been forced to pick up the slack for the injured Allen Robinson, and the Ravens have given up some yards through the air so far.

3. The Ravens will finish with under 100 rushing yards in their first full game without Marshal Yanda. Only Denver recorded more carries than the Ravens over the first two weeks of the season and the Jaguars have given up 136.0 yards per game on the ground, but the loss of a six-time Pro Bowl guard will impact any team’s ability in the trenches. Harbaugh has expressed confidence in new right guard Tony Bergstrom, but he struggled last week and will have his hands full with defensive tackle Malik Jackson. It also doesn’t help that starting running back Terrance West is dealing with a calf issue.

4. Tony Jefferson will record his first interception for one of two Ravens’ takeaways on the day. It’s incredible to think Baltimore has already surpassed its interception total from the entire 2015 season, but Jefferson is the lone member of the starting secondary not to grab one thus far, which has earned him plenty of ribbing from defensive teammates. The Jaguars will do everything they can to keep the game out of the hands of maligned quarterback Blake Bortles, but he’s thrown 53 interceptions in 48 career games and will be picked off by Jefferson at a critical moment of a low-scoring game.

5. Justin Tucker will shine in a grind-it-out 16-13 victory for Baltimore. The Jaguars’ experience playing overseas and the need to adjust to the five-hour time change are legitimate concerns for the Ravens, who were 2-6 on the road last season and haven’t played well away from M&T Bank Stadium for years now. It won’t be a pretty performance, but Tucker will hit a field goal from beyond 50 yards and add two more to put on a good show for the soccer faithful in London. With Pittsburgh and Oakland looming in the next two weeks, the Ravens would very much like to win this one.

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Ravens wouldn’t step up to get Ramsey in end

Posted on 02 May 2016 by Luke Jones

General manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed over the weekend that the Ravens attempted to trade up to the fourth overall pick to draft Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, but we now know more details about why a deal never came to fruition with Dallas.

According to Sports Illustrated, Dallas offered to trade the No. 4 pick to Baltimore for the sixth overall selection and a third-round choice (70th overall), but the Ravens only offered their first-round pick and their original fourth-round selection (104th overall) to move up. Of course, the trade never happened as the Cowboys took Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, Jacksonville nabbed Ramsey, and the Ravens selected Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

So, why wouldn’t the Cowboys move down two spots since Jacksonville was never considered a threat to take Elliott? Because they didn’t deem an extra fourth-round pick worth the risk of another team potentially calling the Jaguars to move into the fifth spot — ahead of Dallas — to take the best running back in the draft.

If you study the many draft trade value charts out there — which aren’t gospel, of course, but provide a nice guideline — the difference in value between the No. 4 and No. 6 picks in the draft comes to 200 points. The 70th pick that the Cowboys requested is worth 240 points, which Newsome and the Ravens considered to be too pricey. However, the 104th overall pick offered to Dallas is valued at just 86 points, making you understand why Dallas balked at a low-ball offer to move down.

Was the Cowboys’ asking price steep? A little bit, but it was more reasonable than the reported counteroffer made by the Ravens, making you question just how badly they wanted Ramsey.

In the end, the Ravens took Stanley at No. 6 and then Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi with that third-round pick instead of pulling the trigger to draft Ramsey. Newsome used the fourth-round pick he had offered to the Cowboys to select Temple cornerback Tavon Young with his first pick on Saturday.

We’ll see how that decision plays out over time, but the inability to pull off the trade contributed to the Ravens not drafting a cornerback in the first three rounds for the fifth consecutive year.

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Predicting the Ravens’ 2016 first-round pick

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Luke Jones

We know the names.

We’ve read the mock drafts — all 3,742 of them.

It’s time to go on the record as I offer a dream pick, the unexciting choice, a trade-down scenario, the safe selection, and my official prediction for the Ravens as they are slated to make their earliest pick since the 2000 draft.

The dream pick: Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey
Reasoning: The debate over whether he’s better suited to play cornerback or safety continues, but maybe Ramsey is simply meant to be a Swiss army knife around which you build an entire secondary. He’s a bigger, faster version of Tyrann Mathieu who can be a game-changing talent at a position of need. It’s difficult imagining him falling to No. 6, but the Ravens would jump at the chance to take him if they can.

The unexciting choice: Mississippi LT Laremy Tunsil
Reasoning: Tunsil has great physical gifts and might be the long-term answer the Ravens have lacked at left tackle since Jonathan Ogden’s retirement, but the track record of first-round tackles coming from spread offenses over the last several years is worrisome. Those touting Tunsil as the replacement for the oft-hurt Eugene Monroe seem to overlook the number of injuries he sustained in college.

The trade-down scenario: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson
Reasoning: It will be interesting to see if a quarterback-needy team is willing to trade up as high as No. 6 for Paxton Lynch of Memphis, but don’t sleep on Chicago at No. 11 attempting to jump up for Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner or Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Ravens could add an extra pick or two and walk away with Lawson, a good story and the draft’s second-best edge defender.

The safe selection: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
Reasoning: The Ravens have depth at the 5-techinique defensive end spot, but neither Lawrence Guy nor Brent Urban have shown enough to suggest you shouldn’t take a dynamic talent at the position. He isn’t the edge rusher Baltimore needs, but a starting base defensive line of Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and Buckner would easily be one of the best young units in the NFL.

My official prediction: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
Reasoning: We regularly hear that Bosa is no J.J. Watt, but who exactly is? His body of work in college had many projecting him as the top pick in the draft a few months ago, but underwhelming workout numbers turned him into the popular top prospect to bash since the combine. He might be better suited to play in a 4-3, but the Ravens will gladly take a high-motor player with his pass-rushing capabilities.

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Options aplenty, but no perfect prospect for Ravens at No. 6

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re a couple days away from the paralysis by analysis finally coming to an end.

As it stands, the Ravens will make their highest pick in an NFL draft since 2000 when they’ll be on the clock sixth overall. Or, they’ll trade up or down, which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility with three first-round trades having already been consummated long before teams arrive in Chicago.

But the Ravens are guaranteed to have a shiny new toy by the time the first round concludes late Thursday night.

To no one’s surprise, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization have been very quiet while everyone else tries to figure out exactly what the Ravens want to do. The good news is that when you’re coming off a 5-11 season and have multiple needs, you don’t have to be too desperate for the draft board to fall a certain way.

But that doesn’t mean a perfect prospect exists, either, as months of analysis and over-analysis have proven.

Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil was considered the favorite to be the No. 1 pick before Tennessee traded out of the top spot two weeks ago, but a few are now speculating that even Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley could pass him in the draft rankings despite neither having played a game since January. Even with Tunsil’s impressive physical gifts, Ravens fans salivating over the thought of him replacing the oft-injured Eugene Monroe could be looking past the lineman missing time with a knee injury, a torn bicep, a dislocated ankle, and a broken leg during his collegiate career.

With the injuries, some off-field concerns, and the underwhelming track record of top 10 offensive tackles making the difficult transition from college to the pros in recent years, Tunsil doesn’t quite feel like the “safe” pick many project him to be — even if he realizes his immense upside and winds up being much closer to Jonathan Ogden than Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher in his career.

Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey has the size and speed to play anywhere in the defensive backfield, but his underwhelming hands led to few game-changing plays in college and some believe his unspectacular change-of-direction skill suggests he’s better suited as a safety in the NFL, which isn’t generally what you’re looking for with the sixth overall pick.

Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa was regularly listed as the No. 1 pick in mock drafts before his stock took a dive in the pre-draft process with him lacking great straight-line speed and freakish athleticism. He’s a high-motor player and fits Baltimore’s pass-rushing need, but he doesn’t show great speed off the edge and is a little more of a question mark as a 3-4 outside linebacker than as a 4-3 defensive end.

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is a phenomenal fit on paper and would be the cover linebacker the Ravens need to pair with C.J. Mosley, but there’s just too much noise concerning his knee to not feel nervous about picking him so early. Baltimore cannot afford to have another Breshad Perriman situation play out if the medical team has any legitimate concerns about Jack’s knee.

And that brings us to Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, who probably feels the most like a “Ravens” pick despite there being little noise about the sides having much communication in the pre-draft process. Buckner might have the lowest bust rate of any of the aforementioned names, but the 5-technique defensive end spot isn’t a major need and he may not have as much upside as the others, which is a very fair concern when you’re making your first top 10 selection in over a decade.

In short, you can poke holes in any of these prospects if you want to, which is exactly what happens over the exhausting pre-draft process.

Of course, these are the names discussed most often by the outside world as the consensus top five non-quarterbacks in this year’s draft. We can’t be sure where the Ravens stand with the likes of Stanley, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, and Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson as any could be rated higher on Baltimore’s board than we anticipate.

After years of watching the Ravens pick toward the end of the first round — which is where you want to be — we should be reminded that there’s no such thing as a perfect prospect, no matter how high a team is choosing. If the Ravens did their homework, they’re all but guaranteed to come away with a really good starting player for years to come, barring injury. If they are really smart and lucky, they’ll turn in a card with the name of a multi-time Pro Bowl player written on it. And if Newsome and the Ravens hit the lottery jackpot as they did twice in their first ever draft 20 years ago, they’ll come away with a player who will be enshrined in Canton one day.

There isn’t a single pick they can make on Thursday that will make everyone happy. Every possible selection can make you take pause to some degree, but there may also be more than one correct answer from which to choose, which should ease concerns for Ravens fans.

As assistant general manager Eric DeCosta likes to say, the draft is more art than it is science.

With Thursday night almost upon us, the fun part is about to begin.

And the Ravens will officially take their shot at finding a game-changing player.

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