Welcome to the Baltimore Ravens team needs committee. Let’s start with breaking down what transpired last season before addressing how the Ravens can add some pieces to improve.
The Baltimore Ravens had a disappointing end to the season this past year that culminated with a loss to the Bills in the AFC Divisional Round. The Ravens expect to compete for championships every season. When that doesn’t happen, coaches and players start to be questioned. The hottest topic in Baltimore right now is Lamar Jackson. Despite Jackson being the league’s MVP just two years ago, the fact of the matter is that Jackson struggled with his accuracy for the majority of the season.
Was it really all on Lamar Jackson, though? Or was it a combination of Jackson struggling while only having one somewhat legitimate target at the receiver position in Hollywood Brown? And, no I didn’t forget about Mark Andrews. You need guys that can win on the outside.
As mentioned above, the Ravens need some receivers. Some key components of Baltimore’s defensive pass rush left in free agency and it is looking like the Ravens will be addressing their departures through the draft. The Ravens are also in need of a free safety and a center. Corner is not a huge concern for Baltimore at the moment, however, they could use some insurance at the nickel position.
The jury is still out on whether Marquise Brown has the capability to be a number one receiver in the NFL. I would lean towards he’s more of a two than a one. Baltimore just signed Sammy Watkins to a one-year deal worth a cool $6 million. Watkins played in 10 games for the Chiefs last season and only managed to total 421 yards receiving. The Ravens were wise to offer Watkins a one-year prove-it deal considering the many injuries he’s suffered over his career. In three seasons with the Chiefs he had 1,613 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, not very inspiring.
Another big question mark for the Ravens at the receiver position is Devin Duvernay. Baltimore drafted Duvernay out of Texas in the third round in last year’s draft. There’s no question that Duvernay possesses track speed, but as a rookie, his production in the passing game was next to non-existent. He caught 20 balls for 201 yards over the course of the season and towards the end of the year wasn’t really apart of the offense. If Duvernay can emerge in year two as a reliable option in the passing game, it would really open up Baltimore’s offense. Can you bank on that? Probably not.
Rashod Bateman is a 6’2″ wide receiver out of the University of Minnesota. Bateman has elite hands, runs crisp routes, and does a great job of high pointing the ball. The only knock on Bateman is that he doesn’t possess elite-level speed. The Ravens are in desperate need of a true number one receiver, and at pick 27 in the first round, Bateman is their guy. If this comes to fruition, Lamar Jackson will finally have a true number one on the outside.
Read More: Rashod Bateman: Ready To Rumble
I could make another heading for this, but I’m just going to toss it in right here. The Ravens should add more than one receiver in this year’s draft. T.J. Vasher is one of the more controversial prospects, but the athletic tools are there. He’s 6’6″, 215 pounds, has a ridiculous catch radius, and frequently made circus catches in college. So, I’m sure you are wondering why isn’t this guy garnering consideration as a first or second-round pick?
Well, character concerns, work ethic issues, and a number of off-field problems. In a team needs article for the Chiefs, I suggested they should take a chance on Vasher in round four. At this point, it’s looking like he would be lucky if a team took a flyer on him in rounds six or seven. That being said, teams are willing to overlook a lot of issues when a guy has talent. He could be worth a gamble for the Ravens in round six or as an undrafted free agent. Vasher’s a low-risk, high reward prospect at this point. If it’s not working out the Ravens can move in a different direction without having sacrificed too much. Call me an optimist, but I really like Vasher’s game and I hope he can figure it out at the next level. If he does, he’s going to be a problem for defenses in the NFL. Don’t take my word for it, look at that GIF below, dude’s got talent.
Both of Baltimore’s edge rushers that led the team in sacks last season have left Charm City. Yannick Ngakoue signed a two-year deal with the Raiders and Matthew Judon inked a four-year contract with the Patriots. Combined, those two players made up for nine Raven sacks last year. It’s safe to say that edge rusher is a high priority for the Ravens heading into the draft.
Joseph Ossai is an edge out of the University of Texas. He’s a phsyical player that stands 6’3″, and 245 pounds. He has good straight line speed, he comes off the edge hard, and when he gets his hands on the quarterback he usually finishes violently. An added plus is that he’s solid in the run game. His best fit will be as a 3-4 outside linebacker. The Ravens have the 58th pick in the second round of this year’s draft. Depending on who you ask, the pass rushing talent starts to drop off after the second round so Ossai could be a player worth trading up a few picks for.
The Ravens are lacking a free safety that excels as a centerfield type player. They currently have physical enforcers in Chuck Clark and Deshon Elliot, but those guys are a bit spotty in coverage. If nothing else, adding some depth at the safety position would give the Ravens options in different sets and an insurance policy if anyone goes down. The talent pool at the free safety position is deep in this year’s draft.
I feel like a broken record at this point talking about Ar’Darius Washington. I’ve written a scouting report about him and this is the second team I’ve linked him to in the draft. I could have gone with guys like Andre Cisco or Richie Grant here, but we’re rocking with Washington again. Washington has elite ball skills, plays big, and is exactly what you are looking for if you need a centerfielder at the free safety position. If he’s available at pick 104 when the Ravens are selecting, they should pull the trigger.
A big part of why the Ravens lost to the Bills in the Divisional Round was because Lamar Jackson exited the game in the third quarter with a concussion. However, people forget that Ravens center, Patrick Merkari, struggled to snap the ball accurately in shotgun all game long. He was inserted in the starting lineup because starter Matt Skura had been relegated to the bench after two consecutive games of struggling with bad snaps.
Trey Hill, a center from Georgia, is a perfect candidate for the Baltimore Ravens. He finished his Junior year by starting every game and was named All-SEC 2nd Team. Hill is a larger center at 6’4″ and 330 pounds. He excels in run blocking which is something the Ravens emphasize with their offensive linemen. With his size, he could also play guard at the next level, so that’s some nice added versatility for any team. Hill would instantly slide in as the starting center for the Ravens. He could be the pick for Baltimore in round four.
The Ravens will be running it back with Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey blanketing opposing receivers next season. Nothing wrong with that, right? However, Jimmy Smith is now 32 years old, and Baltimore’s nickel, Tavon Young, suffered a season-ending knee injury in September of last year. Back in 2017, Young also tore his ACL, so the injuries are starting to rack up for him. It might be time to go shopping for some cornerbacks. Luckily the Ravens still have about $17 million left in cap space and there are still some cornerbacks out there on the market.
Carrie spent last year in Indy and had a great season that earned him a 70.8 PFF Grade. From a Baltimore’s perspective, Carrie fits a need and he would slide in nicely alongside Peters and Humphrey. Nickel backs are frequently undervalued in the NFL, but when you have a good one, it’s amazing how valuable they are to a team. Carrie made a little over $1 million last year, and I’d happily offer him a two-year deal worth a little less than $4 million. He’s worth it.
The AFC North is no longer a two-horse race as it has been for a large part of the last two decades. The Browns are showing real progress under Stefanski, the Steelers do what they do year-in and year-out, and the Bengals have the promise of Joe Burrow. Year four is a huge season for Lamar Jackson to prove to himself and the critics that he can find consistency from the pocket. It’s not just on him, Baltimore’s front office needs to go get him some alphas at receiver that can win when it matters in big-time situations.
Baltimore’s defense is going to look a bit different too. The departures of Ngakoue and Judon will impact how the Ravens go about getting a pass rush. Wink Martindale is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and I have little doubt that he’ll be able to beat offensive coordinators in the X’s and O’s. That aside, it’s imperative that the Ravens add a pass rusher in one of the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Things start to get really difficult on defense when you can’t get to the quarterback.