The Ravens’ roster looks far different than it did after their playoff game in January. They’ve added safety Earl Thomas, running back Mark Ingram, and cornerback/special teams player Justin Bethel. They’ve re-signed Robert Griffin III, an important move to secure the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Lamar Jackson.
A host of veterans are gone, like quarterback Joe Flacco, linebackers Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Za’Darius Smith, safety Eric Weddle, and wide receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree.
How has free agency affected the Ravens’ draft priorities? Here are some thoughts, with the draft about a month away:
Finding a pass rusher looks like a priority
It wasn’t a surprise to see Smith depart in free agency. But losing Suggs as well made finding a pass rusher all the more important.
Here’s something to keep in mind regarding pass rushers. Since 2012, only two players have reached 10 sacks as a rookie – Bradley Chubb who had 12 sacks for the Denver Broncos last season, and Joey Bosa who had 10 ½ sacks for the San Diego Chargers as a rookie in 2016.
It often takes time for pass rushers to hit their stride, and the Ravens are hoping that happens with returning linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser. However, some top edge rushers who could be available for the Ravens at No. 22, include Clelin Ferrell of Clemson, Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech, and Brian Burns of Florida St. It would not be shocking to see the Ravens grab one of those three if they are still on the board especially since the most proven free agent pass rusher, Justin Houston, signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday.
The Ravens still seem likely to draft a wide receiver. But will it be in Round 1?
Most recent mock drafts project the Ravens taking a wide receiver at No. 22. With the loss of Brown and Crabtree, Willie Snead IV is the only wide receiver on the roster with at least 50 catches in his career. If there’s a wide receiver available at No. 22 who the Ravens like, they’ll have to consider taking him.
However, if the Ravens do draft a wide receiver in the first round, it will be fascinating to see which one they choose. Who would help quarterback Lamar Jackson most, a deep threat like Parris Campbell of Ohio State or Marquis Brown of Oklahoma? Or a bigger-body possession target like N’Keal Harry of Arizona State or Hakeem Butler of Iowa St.? Or a receiver with both size and speed, like the two first-round prospects from Ole Miss - D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown?
The Ravens will mull those questions over the next few weeks. But this draft is deep at wide receiver, which is a positive for Baltimore. Even if they don’t take one early, they can find help at that position later in the draft.
If the Ravens don’t grab a wide receiver or pass rusher in Round 1, there are other options
We know the Ravens plan to be run-heavy offensively, so if a top offensive lineman is available at No. 22, would the Ravens go that route? Lance Zierlein of NFL.com believes so, and sees the Ravens taking North Carolina offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury.
After losing Mosley, the Ravens could covet Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush if he falls to No. 22, although his stock appears to be rising after the combine.
And does the acquisition of Ingram mean the Ravens won’t draft a running back early? That’s one way of thinking, but what if Baltimore really likes Alabama running back Josh Jacobs and he is still available? Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated still thinks the Ravens could draft Jacobs and have a monster backfield led by Ingram, Jacobs, and Gus Edwards.
The Ravens still have time to narrow down their draft day decisions. But after addressing some of their needs during free agency, there are still many options for them to consider.