Late for Work 2/12: Bold Prediction Has Ravens Signing a Top Free-Agent Guard

021221-LFW
Free Agent G Joe Thuney

Bold Prediction Has Ravens Signing a Top Free-Agent Guard

An annual offseason exercise for ESPN is to have its NFL Nation reporters make one bold prediction for the teams they cover.

The predictions are intended to be outside the box, but Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley has been right on the money the past two years.

In 2019, he called the Ravens signing free-agent running back Mark Ingram II. Last year, he forecasted the team acquiring defensive tackle Calais Campbell.

If Hensley is correct for the third straight year, Joe Thuney, one of the top guards in free agency, will be headed to Baltimore in 2021.

"The bigger splash would be landing wide receiver Allen Robinson II. But the bigger priority is bolstering the offensive line, based on what Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta said this offseason," Hensley wrote. "Thuney, who played in New England last year under the franchise tag, has been among the most underrated interior linemen in the league.

"With his durability, grit and high character, Thuney would help fill the void of retired Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, which Baltimore never really did last year. He's also an elite technician, allowing three sacks in the past three seasons. This will go a long way in improving the pass protection for Lamar Jackson."

Thuney, who has been a starter since Day 1 as a rookie and never missed a game, is rated the 13th-best free agent overall and second-best free agent at his position by Pro Football Focus. Washington's Brandon Scherff is PFF's top-rated free-agent guard.

"Thuney has developed into one of the best guards in the game and should fit in well in any system," PFF.com wrote.

Versatile Michigan OL Goes to Ravens in The Athletic's Mock Draft

The possibility that two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will be traded this offseason has made the offensive line an even bigger priority than initially thought.

With that in mind, The Athletic's Dane Brugler has the Ravens selecting Michigan guard/tackle Jalen Mayfield in his latest mock draft.

"A college right tackle, Mayfield has the body type, movements and power that translates very well at guard, giving Baltimore an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line while also providing tackle insurance," Brugler wrote.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said the pick makes sense because of the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Mayfield's versatility, a quality the Ravens value in their offensive linemen.

"The Ravens can pencil him in as the starting right tackle if they do indeed trade Brown, or they could pop him inside at guard depending on what else they do in free agency in the draft," Zrebiec wrote.

Mayfield's lack of experience would be the biggest concern, according to Zrebiec. Mayfield played in just two games this past season because of the COVID-19 abbreviated campaign and has 15 college starts.

"Mayfield showed the form of a potential first-round pick in his two games this past season, but that's an extremely limited sample size," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens were comfortable last year selecting LSU middle linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round even though he didn't have a ton of college experience and wasn't even a Week 1 starter for the Tigers.

"However, Queen played his best football late in the season against the top opponents, and Mayfield never got that opportunity. Mayfield is also considered more of a technician than a physical mauler, and the Ravens will have to decide if he's the best fit for their run-heavy approach."

Analytic Shows John Harbaugh Is Among Best Head Coaches of Past 35 Years

Harbaugh is widely regarded as one of the top head coaches in the NFL today, but one prominent analytic shows he is among the elite head coaches of the past 35 years.

Harbaugh has the eighth-highest average DVOA, the main statistic used by Football Outsiders to measure performance, among head coaches with a minimum of four years experience since 1985. If the minimum is increased to five years, Harbaugh is No. 4, trailing only George Seifert, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.

DVOA breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.

"[Harbaugh is] also sixth since 1985 in cumulative DVOA, adding up his number over the years, which rewards coaches who both have high peaks and longevity," NBC Sports' Ryan Wormeli wrote.

Ravens' Rookie Class Gets B-Minus Grade

The Ravens rookie class was solid this season, but it came in a few notches below the rookie classes of division rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland on NFL.com's AFC North rookie grades.

Baltimore's rookies were given a B-minus grade, while the Bengals' and Browns' first-year players received an A-. The Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie class also got a B-minus.

Running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike received the most praise among the Ravens rookies.

"Dobbins was an excellent pick and fit perfectly in Baltimore's offense. In fact, veteran Mark Ingram ended up inactive down the stretch in favor of Dobbins, who ripped up 805 yards on the ground, averaging 6.0 yards per carry and scoring nine touchdowns," NFL.com's Nick Shook wrote. "Madubuike recorded 19 tackles (two for loss) and a sack, but his play outside of traditional stats didn't go unnoticed, as PFF gave him a grade that put him alongside the likes of teammate Brandon Williams and Washington's Daron Payne."

Queen, the 28th-overall pick, finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, but "he'll need to improve in coverage and become a more consistent tackler in order to fulfill his draft billing," Shook wrote.

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