Win Costs Ravens Five Draft Spots
It felt so good to sweep the Steelers this season that you may have found yourself walking into work Monday morning like:
"But it did come at a cost," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
With Sunday's glorious victory, the Ravens' record improved to 5-10, which was enough to push them down the draft board five spots. They went from the No. 3 overall draft pick to No. 8.
What does that mean in terms of talent they could be missing out on?
Well, Hensley estimates that General Manager Ozzie Newsome will no longer have a shot at selecting the draft's top-rated cornerback in Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, or top offensive tackle in Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil.
The teams currently projected to pick in front of the Ravens are: Tennessee Titans (3-12), Cleveland Browns (3-12), San Diego Chargers (4-11), Dallas Cowboys (4-11), San Francisco 49ers (4-11), Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) and Miami Dolphins (5-10).
The chances of Baltimore getting back into the top 5 are 20.6 percent, whereas they had an 88.9-percent chance before beating the Steelers, per Hensley. The good news is, win, lose or draw, Baltimore is "essentially locked into" a top-10 pick at 99.9 percent.
Was the win over Pittsburgh worth the five draft spots?
"I have to say the win was well worth it. A good general manager like Ozzie Newsome will pick a great player for us, whether at 3 or 8 or 15," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Yitzi Weiss. "Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Joe Flacco are all players he has picked for the Ravens between pick 10 and 20."
Marlon Brown's Future In Baltimore Uncertain
Wide receiver Marlon Brown isn't on injured reserve, but his season is done. And his future in Baltimore is now cloudy.
"Has wide receiver Marlon Brown played his last game with the Ravens?" asked CSNMidatlantic.com's Clifton Brown.
For the second consecutive year, Brown's season ended in disappointment, as it was cut short by a back injury. He hasn't played since Week 11, and Head Coach John Harbaugh already ruled him out of the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Harbaugh said he and Brown gave up hope about two weeks ago that his back injury would respond well enough to treatment to allow him to play again this year. The head coach guessed that the third-year receiver was never placed on injured reserve because Newsome couldn't find a corresponding roster move.
"So where does that leave Brown? Not in the strongest position," wrote C. Brown.
In his rookie year, the 6-foot-5 Brown busted onto the scene as an undrafted rookie and a hopeful red-zone target by notching seven touchdown receptions. But his production has trailed off each season since then, going from 524 yards, to 255 and now 112. He hasn't scored a touchdown since his rookie season.
With so many injuries plaguing the wide receiver position this year, several other players have gotten opportunities and may deserve a roster spot over Brown in the future.
"The Ravens will have stiff competition at the wide receiver position, regardless of what happens in the draft, and even if Steve Smith retires," wrote C. Brown.
The competition includes another up-and-coming big-bodied wide receiver in Chris Matthews, who came to Baltimore after a standout Super Bowl performance with Seattle. He was cut this year from the Seahawks roster.
Matthews played his biggest role with the Ravens on Sunday against the Steelers, notching three catches for 19 yards and a touchdown.
"That production] does not make a career, but Matthews provided something the Ravens only had in spurts with now-injured tight end Crockett Gillmore this year: a tall, high-point red zone target,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli. “That might have been Breshad Perriman’s job before he was hurt, and Brown didn’t fill that role well. Now, [it can be Matthews’ role."
In addition to Perriman and a possible return of Smith Sr., Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, Darren Waller and Daniel Brown will also be in the mix for roster spots.
"Brown's size figured to make him an effective red-zone and third-down receiver, but that has not materialized," wrote C. Brown. "Brown will be a restricted free agent after the season, leaving his future with the Ravens uncertain."
Was Jimmy Smith's Phenomenal Performance A 2016 Preview ?
Daaaaaang, Jimmy Smith. Where did that come from?
The Ravens' top cornerback matched up several times in one-on-one situations with the top-producing receiver of the league (heading into the game) in the Steelers' Antonio Brown. Brown was limited to just 61 yards after averaging 145 in the last six games. Pittsburgh's No. 2 receiver, Marcus Wheaton, was limited to three catches for 41 yards.
Lardarius Webb, Shareece Wright and Kyle Arrington all played a part in that too, but Smith stood out among them all.
"Did Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith give people a glimpse Sunday of what to expect from him next season?" asked CSNMidatlantic's Brown.
"Smith had his best game of the year, rising to the [challenge] of defending perhaps the NFL's best receiver corps."
One has to wonder how much Smith's Lisfranc surgery has been bothering him this year. He has never used it as an excuse, but Harbaugh mentioned it Sunday after the game, saying Smith has been battling the foot injury all season long.
Finally, he broke out against the Steelers, notching one interception that easily could have been three picks, including a pick-six that was wiped off the board due to a neutral zone infraction on Courtney Upshaw.
"Prior to his Lisfranc surgery, Smith was being mentioned among the NFL's top cornerbacks," wrote Brown. "The Ravens hope Smith returns to that level in 2016 after an offseason of rest. His play has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, and when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw at Smith, he usually answered.
"Smith hopes to close the season on an upbeat note next weekend in Cincinnati, facing another premier receiver in A.J. Green of the Bengals, who had 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 3."
Sunday's Matchup Featuring Mallett vs. Wenning?
In the Cincinnati Bengals' primetime loss to the Denver Broncos Monday night, backup quarterback A.J. McCarron hurt his left wrist on the final play of the game.
McCarron will reportedly have an MRI on his wrist Tuesday morning.
With starter Andy Dalton already sidelined (thumb injury), this could mean Keith Wenning starts* *for the Bengals when the Ravens come to visit for the Week 17 AFC North showdown.
The Bengals signed Wenning after the Ravens released their 2014 sixth-round draft pick this offseason.
Harbaugh's Decision To Bench Allen Paid Off
Harbaugh's decision to bench rookie running back Buck Allen last week after two fumbles in as many games was questioned by several media members.
Allen responded admirably, however, gaining 79 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also added five catches for 35 yards.
"What I liked about Harbaugh’s approach was his immediate assurance that Allen would not remain in his dog house," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "Allen bore the weight of his mistakes like an adult, and Harbaugh treated him like an adult.
"We already knew Allen had a promising future because of his run-catch versatility. Now we know he can adapt to the ups and downs of a turbulent season. As much as Ravens fans have carped about the team's 2015 draft, Allen is a keeper."
For the second straight week, backup left guard Ryan Jensen was the Ravens' highest-graded offensive player, by Pro Football Focus.
Only three NFL players got higher grades than Jensen this week. Who were they? Just Pro Bowlers J.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Kawann Short.
Below are the overall offensive and defensive grades:
Every one plays in December it's January and February genius https://t.co/3NveY1779R — Steve Smith Sr.(@89SteveSmith) December 29, 2015
"I'm glad you're not playing tonight" Marvin Lewis to @raylewis, probably. pic.twitter.com/ir3ElYRAdS — ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) December 28, 2015