Would Ravens Really Draft Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray?
The decision by Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray to officially enter his name into the NFL draft made Monday headlines. Murray has yet to declare whether he will play professional baseball or football, but some NFL scouts view the former Oklahoma quarterback as a first-round pick.
Murray (5-foot-10) is shorter than Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (6-foot-2), but like Jackson, Murray is a running threat at the position. That skill set makes Matt Bowen of ESPN wonder if the Ravens, who have the 22nd pick in the draft, would consider taking Murray if he is available. Bowen rates Baltimore as the third-best draft fit for Murray behind the Titans and Saints.
"Why would Baltimore add another quarterback after drafting Jackson in the first round last April?" Bowen writes. "For starters, it gives John Harbaugh and his staff an opportunity to build up their depth and develop another player in the system. And it gives the Ravens some insurance with the number of runs -- and hits -- Jackson already has taken. He has carried the ball 127 times for 605 yards and three scores this season. Since he became the starter in Week 11, Jackson has 99 carries -- an average of 16.5 per game. That's a huge number for an NFL quarterback."
It would be an unlikely gamble for the Ravens to draft Murray when they have needs at other positions. But with Jackson as the new franchise quarterback, the value of the team's No. 2 quarterback is greater. Joe Flacco was extremely durable during most of his 10-plus seasons as a starter. But will Jackson be as durable, running more often than perhaps any other starting quarterback in the league?
The Ravens may re-sign Robert Griffin III to back up Jackson, giving them a veteran quarterback who fits their offensive system and who is already familiar with it. But if Griffin were to sign elsewhere, would Murray become a more attractive option if he were to decide on an NFL career? The thought seems unlikely, but in January, it makes for intriguing speculation.
"I expect the Ravens' system to expand with Jackson in 2019," Bowen offered. "They have an entire offseason to build the passing game to facilitate more development. But the QB runs will always be a weapon for the Ravens, and that makes them a tough offense to plan against. Adding another quarterback who displays the upper-tier speed and open-field ability of Murray fits the offensive system in Baltimore."
Mark Andrews Named Top NFL Rookie Tight End
Drafting Mark Andrews with the 86th pick worked out very well for the Ravens.
Andrews was the Ravens' most productive tight end with 34 catches, 552 yards and three touchdowns, earning him a place on ESPN'S NFL all-rookie team.
Making ESPN's honorable mention list of rookie tight ends behind Andrews were Dallas Goedert of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dalton Schultz of the Dallas Cowboys.
Three tight ends were selected in the 2018 draft before Andrews, including the Ravens' Hayden Hurst, who was the first tight end off the board at No. 25. Hurst didn't have the rookie year people expected (13 catches, 163 yards, one touchdown) after suffering a foot stress fracture in August that kept him out until Week 5.
But in Andrews, the Ravens found their impact rookie tight end. He was solid from Week 1 until the season ended, and he produced 308 of his receiving yards after Jackson became the starting quarterback in Week 11.
Andrews' quick assimilation to the NFL gives the Ravens more reason to believe their tight end position will remain solid, even with Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams set to become free agents. Hurst figures to take a step forward if he stays healthy heading into next season. Before his injury, Hurst was the team's best tight end during training camp and preseason. Jackson likes throwing between the numbers, meaning Andrews and Hurst should remain important offensive pieces.
After taking Hurst in Round 1, the Ravens could have easily passed on Andrews and targeted another position. Instead, Andrews became part of a strong rookie class that produced some memorable moments. His 68-yard touchdown reception from Jackson during a crucial Week 16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers was one of the Ravens' biggest plays this season.
Is Marshal Yanda Coming Back? Ravens Sure Hope So
Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun recapped how well Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda played at age 34, and how important he remained to the team's offensive line.
"Yanda, 34, had a season for the ageless," Shaffer wrote. "According to PFF, he played 535 run-blocking snaps, 44 more than the NFL's runner-up, and 1,222 total snaps, also the most overall at guard. He ranked No. 3 among players at the position, was named a Pro Bowl starter and earned second-team All-Pro honors."
Shaffer feels that hoping Yanda returns for at least one more season is one of the Ravens’ top offseason priorities.
With one year left on his contract, Yanda gave no hint of his future plans following the playoff loss to the Chargers. However, Yanda stayed healthy this season, the Ravens made the playoffs for the first time in four years, and he loved the run-heavy offense after Jackson became the starter. Yanda has reasons to return for another year, and the Ravens certainly hope he does.
More Run-After-Catch Yards By Receivers Would Help Ravens Offense
While the Ravens upgraded their receiving corps in 2018, WNST's Luke Jones believes there is more work to be done.
"Watching the divisional round reiterated how badly the **Ravens need more talented pass catchers** who can gain yards after the catch," Jones observed. "They ranked 27th in the NFL in yards after the catch this season after their wide receivers ranked 31st in that category in 2017.
John Brown was the Ravens' fastest wide receiver, but his numbers declined dramatically once Jackson became the starter. Willie Snead IV and Michael Crabtree aren't known for creating huge separation or breaking tackles after making catches. For the second straight season, Baltimore did not have a 1,000-yard receiver.
- Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak finally has a new destination. He's headed to Minnesota, where he will join the Vikings as assistant head coach/offensive advisor, according to the NFL Network.