2018 Re-Draft Has Lamar Jackson Going Much Higher
Remember when the Ravens shocked everyone and traded back into the first round to grab Lamar Jackson with pick No. 32 in the 2018 NFL Draft?
I was at the Under Armour Performance Center and remember hearing what sounded like a stampede in the hallway above me as coaches/scouts literally charged back into the draft room.
It was a franchise-changing moment, and one that was only able to happen because the rest of the NFL was sleeping on Jackson's talent.
If it all were to happen again, ESPN predicts there's no way the Ravens would have had a shot at drafting Jackson – even with their original No. 16-overall pick.
In ESPN's two-round 2018 NFL re-draft, conducted by the NFL Nation reporters, Jackson went to the Miami Dolphins with the No. 11-overall pick. The Dolphins' actual pick was Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
"Fitzpatrick was a strong pick for the Dolphins, and he will be a central player for the defense for years to come," wrote Cameron Wolfe. "But they desperately need a young franchise quarterback. Jackson immediately speeds up the timeline on the team's rebuild, allowing a smooth transition from Ryan Tannehill."
Jackson was the fifth and final quarterback selected in the first round of the real draft. In the re-do, he's the fourth, still trailing Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall), Sam Darnold (No. 2) and Josh Allen (No. 3). Jackson was grabbed ahead of Josh Rosen, who went one pick after.
The rest of the re-draft for the Ravens is pretty interesting. At pick No. 16 (remember, the Ravens traded back twice), Baltimore selects Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley.
"With Lamar Jackson being selected in the top 10 instead of lasting until the bottom of the first round, the Ravens take the top wide receiver in the draft," ESPN wrote. "Baltimore has repeatedly needed more playmakers on the outside, and Ridley can make an immediate impact, especially in the red zone. Under this scenario, however, the Ravens wouldn't land their future franchise quarterback, and Joe Flacco likely remains the starter in 2019."
By the way, safety Derwin James, who was available to the Ravens at No. 16 in the real draft, went No. 7 to the Buccaneers in the re-do.
What's also interesting is that in the real thing, the Ravens had an opportunity to draft Ridley at No. 25 after trading back twice and took tight end Hayden Hurst instead. Ridley was selected by the Falcons with the next pick.
Without a tight end in the first round of the re-draft, the Ravens took – wait for it – Mark Andrews in the second round (No. 52 overall). In real life, Baltimore grabbed Andrews in the third round with pick No. 86.
"By not re-signing Benjamin Watson in free agency, the Ravens need to draft a pass-catching tight end. That's why Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst in the first round and Andrews in the third," ESPN wrote. "But the Ravens can't wait that late for Andrews, who was the most productive rookie tight end. He was the most consistent big-play target in the Ravens' passing game."
In the re-draft, Hurst was taken four picks after Andrews at No. 56 to the Buffalo Bills.
"Hurst was a disappointment as a rookie, but he represents better value late in the second round," Mike Rodak wrote. "Buffalo received little production from Charles Clay in 2018, putting his roster spot in jeopardy in 2019. Taking a swing on Hurst's talent would make sense here."
A fourth Raven was also selected in the first two rounds of the re-draft, as offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with pick No. 61. The Ravens got Brown in the third round at pick No. 83.
"The Jaguars said they had a first-round grade on [wide receiver DJ] Chark, but he was a big disappointment as a rookie because of ball-security issues and drops," Mike DiRocco wrote. "Brown is a nasty player who would have been a huge help after injuries devastated the offensive line, though it's highly likely he could have beaten out veteran Jermey Parnell in camp."
Of course, this is all just fun chatter. But it is interesting that in ESPN's eyes, Jackson, Andrews and Brown were huge bargains last year. Let's hope Baltimore can get some more in this year's draft.
Ozzie Newsome Doesn't Have a Title, But He's Still Very Involved
Ozzie Newsome isn't the Ravens' general manager anymore, and he has yet to take on an official title, but he's still very involved.
Yes, Newsome is at the Senior Bowl, as always. And multiple reporters noted his presence.
The Athletic's Dane Brugler said there was essentially a "receiving line" of front-office executives waiting to talk to Newsome.
"Mystery shrouds the nature of Newsome' role, but it appears he will aid Baltimore's quest to build around quarterback Lamar Jackson in some fashion," wrote Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz.
"By arriving this week in his home state of Alabama, where he rose to stardom as a tight end for the Crimson Tide, Newsome showed that he can stay visible and active even as [General Manager Eric] DeCosta begins to shape the Ravens in his own vision. Newsome's not in Mobile as a general manager. He hasn't disappeared, either."
Newsome previously eschewed questions about what title he would have with the team, just saying that he would still be involved in a variety of ways. At about this time a year ago, Owner Steve Bisciotti joked that Newsome would be the "highest-paid scout in America."
Newsome was also still part of the Ravens' contingent that went to Jupiter, Fla., to meet with Bisciotti at his home and lay the groundwork for Baltimore's 2019 offseason strategy.
Pundits around the NFL continue to marvel at what Newsome accomplished in Baltimore. NFL.com picked an unsung hero for every team in the AFC this season, and writer Nick Shook debated going with one of three Ravens linebackers: Patrick Onwuasor, Matthew Judon or Za'Darius Smith. Instead, he selected Newsome.
"The true hero here is Newsome, who snagged Onwuasor (undrafted free agent), Judon (a fifth-round pick in 2016) and Smith (a fourth-round pick in 2015)," Shook wrote.
"Newsome, who is stepping down this offseason from the role he's held since 2002, made a career out of plucking overlooked talents and bringing them to Baltimore to develop into reliable contributors. For one of his last acts, he helped retool the Ravens' defense, and now it's a suffocating group with a bright future. (Oh, and he also drafted potential franchise QB Lamar Jackson.) Build Newsome's statue next to the one of Ray Lewis."
Ravens Finish Sixth in Special Teams Rankings
The preeminent special teams rankings have been released, and the Ravens came in at No. 6 on Rick Gosselin's annual list.
Baltimore was just 1.5 points behind the Arizona Cardinals for fifth place, snapping a six-year streak of top-five finishes.
The Ravens have consistently had one of the premier special teams units under Head Coach John Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg. Good coaching is at the crux of the whole thing, and many players have done an excellent job as well.
This year, the Ravens finished No. 2 in field goals and No. 5 in extra point percentage (thank you, Justin Tucker), No. 4 in punting (thank you, Sam Koch) and No. 5 in punt returns (thank you, Cyrus Jones).
John Harbaugh May Be Looking for Coaches in Mobile
While checking out the top senior prospects in this year's draft is the primary reason for the Senior Bowl, the event is attended by coaches looking for work in the NFL.
The Ravens still have two openings on their staff at wide receivers coach and running backs coach. Bobby Engram moved to coach the tight ends and Thomas Hammock is now the head coach at his alma mater, Northern Illinois.
And could Baltimore have another possible opening as well with the departure of Marty Mornhinweg? After promoting Greg Roman to offensive coordinator, the Ravens offered Mornhinweg a different position on the staff, but he declined.
"[The Ravens] need to make sure they are doing everything possible to have a competent passing game," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote last week.
"That's not only on Jackson. The onus will fall heavily on Roman, whose ability to jumpstart the passing game will be highly scrutinized given his history. It's on Harbaugh, who needs to think about adding another piece or two on his coaching staff to help in that area."