Three Positions the Ravens Could Be Focusing on With Their No. 14 Overall Pick
The consideration for who will be the Ravens pick at No. 14 overall has a lot to do with their current needs along the roster.
Though the Ravens tend to stick to a "best player available" model, there's always been some bend in the ideology, freeing them to take the "best player available for the Ravens."
ESPN's Jamison Hensley broke down the Ravens' first round decision into three categories.
"This isn't just a need, it's the top one. Let's start with the fact that the Ravens' top returning outside linebackers underwent offseason surgeries: [Tyus] Bowser (Achilles) and Odafe Oweh (shoulder)," Hensley wrote. "Even with Bowser and Oweh, Baltimore ranked 25th in pressure percentage last season. The Ravens produced pressure on 27% of pass plays, their lowest mark since 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information."
Memorable stat: "The Ravens were held to nine sacks during their season-ending, six-game losing streak, including a total of two from outside linebackers (Bowser had 1.5 and Houston had a half-sack). Only six teams had fewer overall sacks over that span."
"Some would argue that cornerback is a more pressing need than edge rusher," Hensley wrote. "Humphrey (torn right pectoral muscle) and Peters (torn ACL) are coming off season-ending injuries, and there are no proven cover guys behind them. What if Humphrey or Peters has to miss time this season? What if a team like the Bengals spread out Baltimore with four wide receivers? "
Memorable stat: "The Ravens' current reserve cornerbacks (Kevon Seymour, Robert Jackson, Kevin Toliver, Iman Marshall) have combined for 10 starts and no interceptions."
"[Ronnie] Stanley, who protects Lamar Jackson's blind side, is the biggest injury question on the team after only playing in one game since injuring his left ankle on Nov. 1, 2020," Hensley wrote. "[General Manager Eric] DeCosta acknowledged his biggest mistake last season was expecting Stanley to return at full strength. He indicated there will be a stronger contingency plan this year. "
Memorable stat: "Alejandro Villanueva, who replaced Stanley at left tackle, finished with 17 sacks allowed last season. That's the second-most given up by an AFC North offensive lineman in the last five seasons. In 2017, the Browns' Spencer Drango allowed 20 sacks."
Draft Simulators Have the Ravens Picking an Offensive or Defensive Lineman in Round 1
While Hensley pointed to pass rusher and cornerback as the top two needs, draft simulations have the Ravens going in a different direction at No. 14.
The Athletic's Larry Holder, who simulated 40 drafts, with 20 each on Pro Football Network (PFN) and The Draft Network (TDN), the Ravens picks were mostly narrowed down to an offensive or defensive lineman.
PFN — Trevor Penning 5, Charles Cross 3, Trade 3 (Cross, Bengals; Penning, Giants; Jameson Williams, Packers), Ikem Ekwonu 2, Derek Stingley Jr. 2, Garrett Wilson 2
TDN — Jordan Davis 9, Andrew Booth Jr. 6, Zion Johnson 2
"The PFN gears turned toward having Penning, Cross or Ekwonu in place of [left tackle Ronnie] Stanley in case he's still not ready," Holder wrote. "Morgan Moses would be the team's option, right now, at right tackle. TDN assumes Davis will end up either in Minnesota or Baltimore given that 19 of the 20 simulators pushed the nose tackle to those two teams."
Davis has steadily become some pundits' preferred pick for the Ravens, with Jeremiah taking the defensive lineman from Georgia on both podcast appearances mentioned previously. CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso also mocked Davis to the Ravens, with a short-but-sweet explanation on why it makes sense.
"Davis and Calais Campbell together in Baltimore," Trapasso wrote. "Yes, please."
While some are concerned about taking Davis, who currently fits the mold of a two-down defensive lineman, The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer considers why Davis could be more than "an elite run-stuffer."
"Davis' pass-rush production is limited, but his potential is intriguing," Shaffer wrote. "He never had more than 2 ½ sacks in any of his four seasons at Georgia, relying mostly on a powerful bull rush. Davis also played just 25 pass-rush snaps on third or fourth down last year, according to SIS, owing largely to his poor conditioning and the Bulldogs' wealth of pass rushers. But Georgia coach Kirby Smart said at the team's pro day last month that Davis 'absolutely' could have been a three-down lineman for the team and noted that Davis flashed his pass-rush ability regularly in practice."
Why Lamar Jackson's Contract Extension Talks Are So Captivating
So frequently, Lamar Jackson has captivated the nation with his one-of-a-kind abilities on the field. But this offseason, Jackson has been the epicenter of the NFL world for his contract negotiations.
Unlike Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Jackson didn't reach a deal when it was first made available for both parties to negotiate and agree on an extension. And now, with each new quarterback contract signed (and there have been plenty of them this offseason) it's quickly propelled into, "How does this impact Jackson's contract talks?"
The reason for such reaction? Jackson is also one-of-a-kind in his approach to his extension, and The Athletic's Mike Sando offered five takeaways on, "what makes [Jackson's] situation different and compelling."
1. Jackson could become the first quarterback in the fifth-year option era to play out his rookie deal with the team that drafted him when an extension was realistically available.
"Teams drafted 25 quarterbacks in the first round from 2011 through 2018," Sando wrote. "Fifteen of the 25 never signed second contracts with their original teams. Of the remaining 10, seven had already signed extensions before they got as deep into their rookie deals as Jackson has gotten. … Andrew Luck and Cam Newton signed their second contracts in June before their fifth seasons. Jackson will go even longer than them without an extension if he does not sign one before training camp. This would not necessarily be a crisis, but it would be different – unprecedented in this era."
2. Jackson has no agent.
"There could be greater potential for hurt feelings during an eventual negotiation, depending upon whether Jackson takes personally aspects that an agent might insulate him from," Sando wrote. "There also could be advantages. For example, both parties can be assured that nothing is lost in translation. Additional levels of secrecy also could be realistic in the absence of an agent who might have relationships with reporters. … Whether or not having no agent is helpful, hurtful or a non-factor, it's different — another unpredictable variable."
3. Traditional fears about needing to get a deal done for long-term financial security seem overblown, another reason Jackson could have an opportunity to capitalize from gains made by others while he waits.
"Annual average salaries for top quarterbacks are increasing by roughly $4 million per year, a trend that could continue as other deals get done, including potentially between [Russell] Wilson and Denver," Sando wrote. "The APYs for the highest-paid quarterback and the five highest-paid ones on average have increased by about $7 million since Jackson became eligible for a new contract following his third season (2020). … Agents and execs think Jackson's patience could become very profitable for him, with minimal downside."
4. Sometimes even perfect marriages end in messy divorces. While Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal provides a precedent Jackson surely will try to maintain, it's unclear what fights lie ahead.
"The question now becomes, will any owner push back against a star quarterback by drawing a hard line and waiting him out? Could any owners consider selling their teams at huge profit, in part to avoid funding these types of deals?" Sando asked. "Jackson has placed himself in position to test these limits, especially if he enjoys a strong season with the Ravens in 2022. Does he ask for $50 million a year fully guaranteed? How about $55 million?"
5. The league has arguably arrived at what one agent called "an inflection point" that a player of Jackson's stature can use to his advantage.
"As [one NFL] agent put it, 'Basically, we are at an inflection point, really because of social media, where certain players are now on par or bigger than the shield. That is the bottom line. That means a whole new world of leverage and opportunity.' It's not clear what opportunities within that world Jackson might leverage," Sando wrote. "Perhaps there will be no drama at all. Perhaps Jackson plays out his contract's final season and re-signs without fanfare or complication. That might be the biggest surprise ending of all after recent events in an evolving NFL."
Daniel Jeremiah Shares Haloti Ngata Draft Day Story
It was a busy week for former Baltimore Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah, as he joined our own podcast, "The Lounge", and also took part in "Around the NFL," where he shared a story about how former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome ensured defensive tackle Haloti Ngata would be the Ravens' first-round pick in the 2006 NFL draft.
"When I was in Baltimore, we were going to take Haloti Ngata," Jeremiah said. "Cleveland was right in front of us, and we thought they were going to take Kamerion Wimbley, which they eventually did. But they called us and said, 'We're going to take Haloti Ngata,' and everybody in the room thought, 'No, they're not.' But Ozzie [Newsome] was smart enough to say, 'Okay, if we just give them a sixth-round pick, it guarantees we get Haloti Ngata.'"
The Ravens went ahead and traded up one spot for Ngata by parting with a sixth-round selection, securing the eventual five-time All-Pro defensive lineman, who was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor in 2021.
As for the Browns, they gained the No. 181 overall pick as compensation, which became defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo, who played only three games for the Browns. Wimbley had a nine-year career with no Pro Bowls.
Could the Ravens Make Two First-Round Picks*?*
The value of picking in the first round is critical, as each team has the highest chance of finding a difference-making player among the top prospects.
But another great value of first-round selections is the fifth-year option. For that reason, Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox considered if the Ravens would trade back into the first round if center Tyler Linderbaum fell to the end of the first round.
"If Linderbaum, who is the 12th-ranked prospect on the B/R board, falls to the bottom of Round 1, it would be a shock if a team didn't trade back into the first round to grab him," Knox wrote. "The Baltimore Ravens could be a squad to watch. They traded back into Round 1 to grab Lamar Jackson and his fifth-year option in 2018. They also lost 2021 starting center Bradley Bozeman in free agency. If the Ravens can move up from 45th overall to land Linderbaum in the first, they may make the jump – assuming, of course, that Baltimore doesn't take him at No. 14."
It's an interesting theory, as DeCosta has expressed on many occasions that he enjoys making trades, but the question more pertains as to whether the Ravens have significant enough interest in Linderbaum.
Early in the offseason, Linderbaum was heavily connected to the Ravens at No. 14, but the talk has cooled since then, with many speculating the Ravens are more interested in improving other areas of the roster and questioning whether Linderbaum's smaller size makes him an ideal fit.
- NBC Sports’ Peter King spoke to 12 different NFL GM's, and one of them believes the Ravens' middle-round picks are "absolute gold," saying, "One of our analytics guys was talking about how Covid made this draft richer," the GM said. "Look at all the picks Baltimore has in the third and fourth rounds. [The Ravens have seven in the third and fourth combined.] Those picks are absolute gold. They are going to have a great draft. Five years from now, that will be the story to look back on."
- The Ravens offseason program begins today, and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, who is coming off a torn Achiles, is looking good.