It’s that time of the year my fellow draftniks as we count down the days to April 27 for the annual National Football League draft! The Ravens have 7 picks (4 in the first 99) and with lots of holes to fill, they should be able to fill their needs in a draft deep of cornerbacks and edge rushers. So…..without further ado, we roll out our second edition of our annual draft predictions:
First pick, round one, #16 overall. Haason Reddick -OLB Temple. You can bet the Ravens brass was on the receiving end of some inside intel from Reddick’s teammate just one year ago – Tavon Young. The Ravens hold Young in high regard, and hope to have the same (or more) success by going back to the well in back to back years by drafting a defensive player from Temple. Reddick had an outstanding Senior Bowl followed by a terrific combine. By selecting him, the Ravens actually fill two needs – linebacker (due to Zack Orr’s retirement) and rush end. Reddick can do it all. He can stack, shed, break down, burst, sift through the trash and he can get to the quarterback. Standing 6’1″ and close to 240 pounds, he ran a sizzling 4.52 at the combine. With the addition of Tony Jefferson, Dean Pees will be salivating by all of the multiple combinations he can throw at offenses with these great athletes. Reddick is a three down sideline to sideline linebacker, one who will never need to come off of the field. He’ll look absolutely great next to CJ Mosley. We all know that the Ravens have their share of offensive woes (and holes), and they will no doubt get addressed. But…..Baltimore is all about defense, and even with all of the Star Wars Fantasy/Arena Football offenses out there, defense still wins games when it counts the most. Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta know this, and they will stay true to form here.
Second Pick , round two, #47 overall. Taylor Moton – OT Western Michigan. Football games are won in the trenches, where the “big uglies” reside, and franchise quarterback Joe Flacco needs to stay vertical if the Ravens are to have a shot at the playoffs. Admittedly this is several spots too high for Moton, but the team has to replace Rick Wagner, as there is no one currently on the roster capable of manning that spot. Like Reddick, he also had an outstanding Senior Bowl. At 6’5″ and 325 pounds, he is thick, long and – as we used to say back in the day – country strong. He is a better run blocker that pass protector at this point, and needs to work on his footwork. But the raw material, the moldable clay is all there.
Third pick, round three, #78 overall. JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR USC. Big, physical wide receiver. Think Anquan Boldin. 6’2 and 222 pounds with great hands. Doesn’t have elite speed but runs crisp routes, has a high football IQ, and is tough as nails. The Ravens must select a wide receiver relatively high, and if he’s gone by this spot look for them to select Carlos Henderson out of Louisiana Tech. When you watch film of him he absolutely jumps off the tape. Plus he’s a heck of a kick returner.
Fourth pick, round three, #99 overall. Ethan Pocic – C LSU. In this spot Ozzie Newsome drafts his first player ever out of LSU. That’s not a typo, and it’s hard to believe the Ravens have never drafted a player from this perennial SEC powerhouse, but it’s true. He stands 6’6″ and over 300 pounds, and would replace the now departed Jeremy Zuttah. You say the Ravens won’t start two rookies on the offensive line, but they did it last year with Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis, and the will do it again this year with Moton and Pocic.
Fifth pick, round four, #122 overall. Howard Wilson – CB Houston. This redshirt sophomore had 5 picks in 13 games. Would have been drafted higher had he stayed one more year in school. Great size and speed combo (6′ 185), fluid hips, tracks the ball well. Signing Brandon Carr was a great move by the Ravens, but they still need more corners and Wilson’s athleticism and potential are too much for them to pass up at this spot.
Sixth pick, round five, #159 overall. James Conner – RB Pitt. Physically he has the same dimensions as Le’Veon Bell. This remarkable young man also battled and beat Hodgkin lymphoma. At 6’1″ 235 pounds he can move a pile, and with 4.65 speed in the 40 he can also take it to the house from almost anywhere on the field. With Ken Dixon’s 4 game suspension, the Ravens would be wise to draft Conner.
Seventh pick, round 6, #186 overall. Sam Rogers – FB Virginia Tech. He ran a slow 40 at the combine which is why he’ll be available this late in the draft. He is a solid blocker, and fills the void at fullback created by the departure of Kyle Juszczyk. At 5’10” 235 he also has solid hands, and can create some mismatches with linebackers out of the backfield. You can bet that Greg Roman will find many creative ways to use him, as the Ravens are sure to run the ball a lot more in 2017 than they did in 2016.
There you have it folks – LB, OT, WR, C, CB, RB, FB. 2 players for the defense and 5 for the offense. The first 4 picks have a chance to be day 1 starters, and that’s what you want.