3 draft needs for the Baltimore Ravens
The last time the Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs was in 2014, and as a franchise that had become used to being in the playoffs, anything short of a return to the postseason in 2017 would be considered a failure, and one that may see changes at the top in Baltimore. Their roster has plenty of talent, and they have done a solid job filling most of the needs they have so far this offseason, but there is still work to be done to shore up the roster both for 2017 and beyond on draft weekend.
Need: Right tackle or left guard
The Ravens lost starting right tackle Ricky Wagner to the Detroit Lions in free agency, unable to compete with the salary he commanded on the open market. That leaves a big hole on the offensive line heading into the 2017 season, though the team will be counting last season’s fourth-round draft pick from Nebraska, Alex Lewis, can take over as the starter, the question is just at what position. Lewis didn’t allow a sack in three starts at left tackle last year, but did allow four hits and 17 hurries, and looked far better at left guard, and might make more sense as a starter at that spot next season.
Early-round target: Forrest Lamp, T, Western Kentucky
There are two players who fit in the first round for the Ravens, and while Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is considered the more natural fit at right tackle, Lamp would have the potential to start at either guard or tackle in 2017. A gifted pass-blocker, Lamp allowed just three sacks, 10 hits and 18 hurries on 1,622 pass-blocking snaps over the past three seasons. Many see Lamp as a guard at the next level, citing his 32 1/4-inch arms as too short for tackle. Keep in mind though, that longtime Ravens guard Marshal Yanda’s arm length measurement was 31 1/2 inches, and Yanda had a PFF grade of 90.3 at right tackle as a rookie in 2007, so it’s not crazy to suggest that Lamp could start at either spot in Baltimore.
Mid- or late-round target: Robert Leff, T, Auburn
Leff might not be the most dominant tackle in this draft class, but he has improved consistently on a season-by-season basis, seeing his PFF grade rise from 68.3 to 73.5 to 81.7 over the past two seasons. An impressive run-blocker in Auburn’s offense, Leff is arguably at his best when transitioning to the second level, showing the ability to locate and lock onto linebackers. He does need to improve in pass protection, allowing two sacks, one hit and 10 hurries on 345 pass-blocking snaps this season, but fits as a late-round prospect.
Need: Edge defender
With the release of Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens definitely need to address their pass rush fairly early in the draft process this year. Even if they hadn’t released Dumervil, with Terrell Suggs not getting any younger, the time to address the position is now. They need a short-term boost to their pass rush if they are to make a serious playoff push in 2017, and long term they need to find someone who they can rely on to be their top pass-rusher for the future.
Early-round target: Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
Lawson is a really good fit if they are looking for someone to use in the Dumervil role in year one. While he still has a lot of work to do as a run defender, he will be a pass-rush threat from day one in the NFL after averaging a sack, hit or hurry once every 5.4 pass-rushing attempts in 2016. With the ability to win as a pass-rusher inside, outside, on bull rushes and spin moves, he is the ideal first-round target for the Baltimore Ravens.
Mid- or late-round target: Joe Mathis, Edge, Washington
A mid-season injury has left Mathis somewhat forgotten in a very deep edge defender class, but his production before the injury in 2016 is reason enough to believe that someone could get a huge steal if they were able to pick him up on day three of the draft. With five sacks, four hits and 20 hurries from his outside linebacker spot on 114 pass-rush snaps through the first six weeks of the season, his 20.2 pass-rushing productivity rating was the highest of any 3-4 outside linebacker in this draft class.
Need: Inside linebacker
The retirement of Zach Orr has left the Ravens with an immediate need to find a starter at inside linebacker to pair with C.J. Mosley, who had the best season of his three-year career in 2016, with a PFF grade of 85.8 that ranked 11th at the position. Right now, Patrick Onwuasor would be the starter, but with just 62 snaps on defense to his name, an early draft pick makes a lot of sense.
Early-round target: Jarrad Davis, Florida
If the Ravens wanted to target Alabama’s Reuben Foster or Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham, they’d likely have to spend a first-round draft pick, but waiting until the second round and snagging Davis from Florida would make a lot of sense. He has the speed to cover running backs out of the backfield, and is willing to take on blockers in the running game. He does need to improve his tackling, with his tackling efficiency of 6.1 attempt per miss ranking just 209th among FBS inside linebackers last year.
Mid- or late-round target: Alex Anzalone, Florida
If the Ravens aren’t willing to spend an early draft pick at the position, they could do a lot worse than taking a long look at Davis’ Florida teammate Anzalone in the later rounds. Anzalone impressed in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and had a solid season all round, registering 24 tackles resulting in a defensive stop. Those 24 stops included three sacks, and he totalled 16 total pressures as a blitzer in 2016.