Eisenberg: Most Offensive-Minded Draft Since 2008


The Ravens lasted longer in the 2014 playoffs than either of their chief AFC North rivals, but heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, they definitely didn't have as many young offensive playmakers as the Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals.

They faced an explosiveness deficit of sorts, if you will.

The Steelers have running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, and the Bengals have running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard and receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu – all homegrown talents. The Ravens, meanwhile, had to import Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Owen Daniels, the veterans who were their most productive running back, wide receiver and tight end last season at ages 29, 35 and 31.

I thought it was time for the Ravens to try to make up some of that explosiveness deficit; time to take a shot at bolstering their offense with homegrown playmakers, young guys who become part of the woodwork, lessening the team's need to keep scouring the open market for veteran solutions.

Their drafting of speedy wide receiver Breshad Perriman in Thursday night's first round was a major step in that direction, and the Ravens seemed just as excited Friday night when Maxx Williams, widely regarded as the top tight end prospect in this year's draft, fell to them in the second round.

Williams brings a big-play pedigree even though he played just 25 games at the University of Minnesota. He caught 36 passes last season, and all but eight resulted in a touchdown or first down. Ravens Assistant GM Eric DeCosta said he reminded the team's braintrust of both Todd Heap and Owen Daniels, smart, sure-handed tight ends who played for the Ravens.

With Williams and Crockett Gillmore, a 2014 third-round pick who came on strong late last season, the Ravens seemingly are set at tight end for the foreseeable future. And of course, they're hoping Dennis Pitta is able to come back and play after suffering a second straight season-ending hip injury last year.

Regardless if Pitta is able to play, Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman could have all sorts of fun tinkering with the multiple tight end sets that his predecessor, Gary Kubiak, installed and left behind.

Actually, Williams didn't "fall" all the way to the 26th pick in the second round, the 58th overall pick, where the Ravens originally were scheduled to pick Friday night. Shortly before they were on the clock, they made a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to move up four spots, just ahead of the Steelers, who reportedly also wanted Williams and tried to trade up to get him.

It might go down as one of GM Ozzie Newsome's slicker in-draft maneuvers if Williams becomes the contributor the Ravens envision. Not only did they fill a need with the pick, they also stole Williams from their biggest rivals.

If there were a race to determine who in the organization is most excited about it, Trestman and quarterback Joe Flacco would finish in a dead heat, with Head Coach John Harbaugh also in the photo.

The Ravens finally addressed the other side of the ball late Friday night with their third-round pick, Carl Davis, a defensive tackle from Iowa who dominated his peers at the Senior Bowl in January. With the departure of Haloti Ngata last month, Newsome obviously wanted to make sure his defensive interior was still stout. The Ravens seemed surprised to find Davis available near the end of the third round.

But it's their offensive picks that are making headlines this year. This is officially the Ravens' most offensive-minded draft since 2008, when they took Flacco in the first round and running back Ray Rice in the second round and essentially started from scratch on that side of the ball.

These picks don't constitute that much of a re-boot, but it's a significant overhaul for a team that had drafted only one pass catcher with a first-round or second-round pick since 2008. Perriman turns 22 in the fall. Williams just turned 21. There's room for both to immediately contribute, bringing a jolt to what had been a veteran-dominated huddle, and they'll be around for awhile, giving Flacco a new home run hitter and new chain-mover to target.

Harbaugh called the Ravens quarterback late Friday night to give him the news and reported that Flacco was "fired up."

"With these picks," Harbaugh said, "Joe realizes that he's got some guys he can throw to."

Some new guys. It was time.

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