Baker Mayfield Trade Reinforces How Strong Ravens' 2018 Draft Was
With the Cleveland Browns trading former No. 1-overall pick Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers yesterday, Lamar Jackson and the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen are now the only quarterbacks of the five taken in the first round of the 2018 draft who are still with the teams that selected them.
Getting Jackson with the final pick of the first round obviously was a steal for the Ravens, but what Ozzie Newsome did on Days 2 and 3 of his final draft as general manager also was impressive.
In the wake of the Mayfield trade, NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter ranked the top five classes of the 2018 draft with the hindsight of four seasons in the books, and he put the Ravens' haul at No. 1.
"You don't see NFL MVPs selected with the last pick of the first round too often," Reuter wrote. "The Ravens get a lot of credit for landing Jackson, who won the award in 2019, 32nd overall, even if they did pick tight end Hayden Hurst (who was traded to Atlanta after two disappointing seasons) seven picks earlier."
The Ravens did not have a second-round pick — they traded it to the Philadelphia Eagles to nab Jackson — but they had 10 subsequent picks and nailed almost all of them.
"Picking Orlando Brown in Round 3, despite his poor NFL Scouting Combine performance, was considered a smart move at the time, and proved to be — even though he eventually asked for a trade and was dealt to Kansas City last offseason," Reuter wrote. "Doubling down on former Oklahoma Sooners was fruitful, as [tight end Mark] Andrews is a two-time Pro Bowl selectee. Grabbing guard/center Bradley Bozeman in the sixth round turned out to be wise, as well. He was a full-time starter for the Ravens before signing with Carolina in March.
"Baltimore found starter-quality players in cornerback Anthony Averett and linebacker Kenny Young in the fourth round as well as contributors in safety DeShon Elliott (sixth) and defensive lineman Zach Sieler (seventh), although all four now play for different teams."
It's worth noting that even though Hurst, Brown and Young are no longer with Baltimore, trading those three netted the Ravens J.K. Dobbins, Odafe Oweh and Marcus Peters.
Buoyed by the selection of Allen with the seventh-overall pick, the Bills came in at No. 2 on Reuter's list.
The Cases for and Against Signing a Veteran Wide Receiver
To sign or not to sign a free-agent wide receiver, that is the question for the Ravens ever since Marquise Brown was traded in April.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed and Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi weighed in on the debate. Reed believes the Ravens should bring in a proven veteran receiver, naming Emmanuel Sanders, Will Fuller V, DeSan Jackson, T.Y. Hilton and John Ross III as prime candidates, while Lombardi thinks the team should give their young receivers an opportunity to prove themselves.
"There's plenty of faith in 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman and the other in-house options, all of which are on rookie contracts. However, the position group could benefit from a veteran presence that can produce and lead by example, on and off the field," Reed wrote. "The offense could also use a proven deep threat that can stretch the field. Someone who opposing defenses respect enough to open up space at the intermediate level for All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews and others to make plays."
Perhaps the most compelling name on Reed's list — which excluded multi-time Pro Bowlers Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. — is Ross, who was drafted ninth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.
Ross is far less accomplished than the other four players Reed mentioned, but he's the youngest.
"The former Top-10 pick has yet to live up to expectations but still possesses blazing speed that could prove useful and inexpensive," Reed wrote. "He averaged over 20 yards per reception in 2021 with the New York Giants and 14.4 prior to that during his four-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals. Ross has never topped more than 28 catches or 506 receiving yards in a single season. At 26 years old, though, he's still young and could find a role for himself in an offense that needs a vertical field-stretcher — like the Ravens."
Lombardi said the Ravens need to learn from the lesson of signing Sammy Watkins last year and "let these young receivers show us what they say they are made of."
"Last season the Ravens brought in Sammy Watkins who did little other than take snaps away from young receivers who could have matched Sammy's limited productivity while gaining valuable regular season experience," Lombardi wrote. "Why repeat that with players like Fuller or Hilton or Sanders — assuming of course any would agree to come to Baltimore?
"It's time to change the approach at wide receiver. It's time to let the draft capital invested in the position play out."
Ravens Get a B+ Offseason Grade
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich handed out offseason report cards for the AFC North teams, and he gave the Ravens a B+.
Karpovich praised the Ravens for their impressive draft haul, as well as signing safety Marcus Williams, offensive tackle Morgan Moses and defensive lineman Michael Pierce in free agency and re-signing defensive lineman Calais Campbell.
The biggest question remaining for the Ravens, according to Karpovich, is whether their pass rush will be better than it was last season, when Baltimore finished with 34 sacks, which was tied for 22nd in the league.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also said the pass rush is the Ravens' biggest concern heading into training camp.
"The Ravens will likely sign a veteran like Justin Houston or Jason Pierre-Paul before training camp, and they expect a big second-year jump from Odafe Oweh," Zrebiec wrote. "However, it still feels like they didn't do enough to add an impact pass rusher after Za'Darius Smith backed out of a free-agent deal with them. That was the case even before Jaylon Ferguson's tragic death."
Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark Among NFL's Most Underrated Players
Safeties Williams and Chuck Clark landed on separate lists of players who should be getting more attention.
Sky Sports’ Cameron Hogwood named Williams one of six members of the NFL's "unsung club."
"The Baltimore Ravens will proudly flaunt the downfield camouflage that sees Williams arrive on scene from nowhere to break up a pass, and the shrewd decryption of flood and mesh concepts underneath, with the fluid hips and body placement to back-peddle with deep routes and the re-adjustment speed to feint double teams in order to lure quarterbacks towards his desired assignment," Hogwood wrote.
Clark was Football Outsiders' Robert Weintraub's choice for the Ravens' most underrated player.
"The signing of Marcus Williams and drafting of Kyle Hamilton has Ravens fans giddy about the future of the safety position. Clark, though, proves there is nothing wrong with the present, Weintraub wrote on ESPN.com. "Clark is a strong safety who made big plays (15 defeats, second on the team), was sturdy against the run (his run stop rate was 17th among safeties) and is a strong presence in the pass game (12 passes defensed, including a pair of interceptions)."