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.