Todd McShay Has Ravens Selecting 'Baby Beckham' in 2018 NFL Draft
It's way too early to start looking at 2018 draft picks.
Except, it's never too early. It's way too much fun.
That's why ESPN already has its draft guru, Todd McShay, publishing his first 32-team mock draft despite there being three games left in the season, playoff seeding undetermined, and the draft order totally up in the air. Oh, team needs, player grades, free agency and underclassmen declaring for the draft will all affect this too.
But we won't let all those minor details [sarcasm] get in the way.
With the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, McShay has the Ravens selecting Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk.
If you don't know much about Kirk, his nickname "Baby Beckham" ought to pique your interest. Of course, it refers to New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who surpassed 1,300 receiving yards in each of his first three NFL seasons.
Right now, wide receiver looks to be a need in Baltimore.
Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro are scheduled to become free agents this offseason, 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been a healthy scratch three of the last four games, and Jeremy Maclin has only one year left on his contract.
The Ravens passing offense ranks No. 30 in the league right now.
"Kirk, who has not yet declared for the draft, has all the qualities to be a No. 1 target in the NFL, which is why there have been comparisons to All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr." writes ESPN. "Kirk is an explosive slot receiver who can turn a slant into a touchdown. He's a deep threat who can run past corners. He's an all-around pass-catcher who is known for his route-running as well as punt return ability."
The reason Kirk could drop to the bottom half of the first round is because of his size. His 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame doesn't make scouts salivate, but it doesn't necessarily mean he can't be successful either. Beckham is almost the exact same size (just two pounds lighter) as Kirk, and Steve Smith Sr. is two inches shorter and five pounds lighter.
With McShay projecting the Ravens to the No. 22 spot, it means he expects the Ravens to make the playoffs and be ousted in the wild-card round.
McShay says the knock on Kirk is that he can be inconsistent. He's coming off his least productive season, making 58 catches for 730 yards. He caught at least 80 passes for 900 yards in his previous two seasons. That said, Texas A&M had a change at quarterback this year, which could've affected Kirk's output.
"The Ravens have a poor history when it comes to taking a wide receiver in the first round," writes ESPN. "They've done it three times in their history, and Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Perriman rank among their biggest busts.
"But the priority has to be adding playmakers to what has been a struggling offense for most of the season. That means potentially picking a wide receiver has to be in play in the first round."
Even With Alex Collins' Emergence, What About Drafting a Top Running Back?
Let's keep this draft talk going …
The Ravens may have found their long-term solution at running back with Alex Collins. He's scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, and then a restricted free agent the year after that. It essentially means he'll be in Baltimore through the 2019 season at a bargain price.
But even with him on board, ESPN believes it still might be a good idea for the Ravens to use one of their picks from the first three rounds on a running back. They haven't done that since 2008 when they used their second-rounder on Ray Rice.
"Adding a highly drafted running back shouldn't be considered a slight on Collins," the website writes. "Many teams have two top-notch running backs from New Orleans (Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara) to Atlanta (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman) to Carolina (Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey).
"… [T]his draft is expected to be loaded at running back."
While the Ravens have bigger needs at wide receiver and tight end, pairing Collins with a guy like LSU's Derrius Guice is an intriguing possibility. Or how about Notre Dame's Josh Adams, Georgia's Nick Chubb, Auburn's Kerryon Johnson, Stanford's Bryce Love or USC's Ronald Jones II?
Collins has been the Ravens' top offensive playmaker, and without him, they may not be in playoff contention right now. That said, they haven't given him more than 20 carries per game. Keeping him at a lighter load with another playmaking running back could be the key to longevity.
"The Ravens' use of Collins has worked," ESPN wrote. "He's been one of the [most] explosive yet efficient runners in the league."
Keep an Eye on Tennessee … Another Wild-Card Spot Could Open
Remember when it was assumed two playoff spots would be gobbled up by the AFC South?
The Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) and Tennessee Titans (8-5) have been considered near post-season locks, with the division runner-up taking one of the wild-card spots and only leaving one other for the Ravens (7-6), Buffalo Bills (7-6) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-6)/Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) to fight over.
What a difference one upset game makes.
The Titans surprisingly lost to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, 12-7, and they don't have an easy schedule going forward.
"The Titans suddenly don't look like a playoff lock," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "They are 8-5, but they still have a road game against the suddenly formidable San Francisco 49ers along with home games versus two first-place teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Jaguars. Struggling Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is also now dealing with a minor knee injury.
"This is looking too far ahead, but it's too enticing to pass up: If the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jaguars and Ravens all win their final three games, there's a decent possibility the Ravens could face the New England Patriots in a No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup in the first round of the playoffs. The Patriots could fall into the third seed behind both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville if they lose to the Steelers on Sunday and the Steelers and Jaguars both take care of business the rest of the regular season."
With WR Injuries and Maclin's Struggles, Ravens May Dress Breshad Perriman
The Ravens have gotten away with dressing just four wide receivers the last couple of weeks, but that may need to change in Cleveland.
While nobody is expected to be ruled out this week, Wallace missed Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury and Chris Moore was limited with a hip injury that knocked him out of the Steelers game. Maclin wasn't listed on the injury report, but has worked through several ailments this season and analysts say he doesn't look to be on the same page as quarterback Joe Flacco.
Maclin has been targeted 24 times in the past three games, and only eight have been completed.
"You have to wonder whether the disconnect stems from a lack of practice time together," wrote Zrebiec. "Flacco missed all of training camp with a back injury. Maclin has missed two games and a lot of practice time with myriad physical problems, including back and shoulder soreness. There have been times, including in recent weeks, when Maclin has barely been able to practice.
"Whether that's the reason or not, the lack of chemistry between quarterback and receiver has been a problem that's preventing the team's suddenly effective offense from reaching another level."
Combining the injuries with Maclin's struggles, Zrebiec suggests the Ravens dress more receivers this Sunday. That could mean a return of Perriman to the gameday roster.
"[T]hey're playing with fire keeping such a low number at the position," Zrebiec wrote.
Should Ravens Give Maurice Canady More Snaps at Outside Corner?
There have been all sorts of ideas about how the Ravens can help absorb the loss of Jimmy Smith, especially after Antonio Brown went off for more than 200 yards last Sunday.
Some said that rookie Marlon Humphrey should've shadowed Brown, which I completely disagree with, as you can see in the Unscripted video to the right.
However, just as Gerry Sandusky says in an earlier Unscripted segment, getting Maurice Canady involved more on the outside wouldn't be a bad idea. The second-year player was activated from the injured reserve list in Week 9.
He's played plenty, seeing 58 of the Ravens' 89 defensive snaps Sunday. A lot of that has been on the inside, but he's capable of moving outside when needed.
"I see him playing a lot in the upcoming games, and it will probably be inside and outside as we go by package and by need," Harbaugh said before the Steelers game.
- Logan Levy looked at how tight the Ravens-Browns matchups have been the last four times they've played in Cleveland. Baltimore is 3-1 in those contests, which were decided by five, six, two and six points. "Although the Browns have yet to register a win this season, this matchup certainly will not be a 'cakewalk' for Baltimore," Levy wrote. [Baltimore Beatdown.]
- Linebacker C.J. Mosley downplayed the ankle and neck injuries he's been dealing with. "It's sad to say that those are normal football injuries," he told Edward Lee. "For whatever week we're in, I feel pretty good. Every year is always a different story on your body and how you feel mentally. It all changes, but overall health-wise, I feel pretty good. … I hate missing snaps. Being hurt definitely sucks because I want to play to my full potential, and sometimes the injuries prevent that. And there are some things that you've got to be smart about. I had to make sure that everything was going fine with my neck, but it was just one of those stingers. So once we got that cleared, I was good to go." [The Baltimore Sun]
- "Watching how much space the Steelers and their tight ends had in the middle of the field Sunday reminded me of just how much the Ravens miss retired weak-side linebacker Zachary Orr," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens also certainly wouldn't be so reliant on a clearly banged-up C.J. Mosley if Orr were playing, too." [The Baltimore Sun]