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

April 28, 2017 | 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.