Forecasting Ravens Draft Is 'Bigger Crapshoot Than Usual'
Mock drafts are nothing more than educated guesses, but the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson's contract situation makes forecasting this year's Ravens draft class especially challenging.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec acknowledged the conundrum in his first 2023 Ravens mock draft.
"As we get closer to Day 1 of the draft on April 27, we'll have a better idea of how the Ravens' stalemate with Jackson will play out," Zrebiec wrote. "But right now, we just have gut feelings, best guesses and mock drafts that may or may not address the team's biggest needs and the amount of draft capital the organization has to fill them.
"In other words, mock draft season in these parts feels like a bigger crapshoot than usual. We have no choice other than to project based on what the Ravens have and don't have right now. And what they have is only five picks in the draft and a handful of needs. … As of right now, the Ravens don't really have enough draft inventory to make an addition at the positions where they need help. That made this exercise even more difficult."
That said, Zrebiec mocked USC wide receiver Jordan Addison to the Ravens with the 22nd-overall pick.
"At 6-foot, 175 pounds, Addison is not the big and physical target the Ravens may most need to diversify their wide receiving group. However, he is a big-play threat who is a candidate to be one of the first receivers off the board," Zrebiec wrote. "Addison has elite speed, strong hands and good route-running ability. His size spurs some questions and Addison will likely play primarily in the slot at the next level, but he'd fit in really well with a Ravens team that needs more dynamic receiving options. That he's a Maryland native should help, too."
For the Ravens' next pick (third round, 86th overall), Zrebiec had the team address their other top need by selecting Syracuse cornerback Garrett Williams.
"Even with a very deep cornerback draft, it would be hard for the Ravens to bank on finding a starting-caliber corner on Day 3," Zrebiec wrote. "If the Ravens don't take one on Day 1 and don't find a way to recoup a second-round pick, there will be some pressure to add to their cornerback ranks by the end of the third round.
"[Williams] figures to come off the board at some point on Day 2, although a knee injury sustained four months ago could put him in the Ravens' range. He has good length (6-foot, 189 pounds), fundamentals and discipline. He didn't get called for a penalty in his final two years at Syracuse. He's also a physical and willing tackler who plays with confidence, intelligence and solid ball skills."
Zrebiec also participated in The Athletic's beat writer mock draft. With Addison having been selected by the Los Angeles Chargers one pick before the Ravens, Zrebiec mocked Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to Baltimore.
"This isn't necessarily settling because Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a good player who is projected as a first-round pick. However, how this mock played out wouldn't qualify as ideal for the Ravens," Zrebiec wrote. "Their two major needs are wide receiver and cornerback. The top three cornerbacks are gone and two wide receivers who have been connected to them also are off the board. =
"Smith-Njigba isn't a bad consolation prize. There are questions about his speed and his injury-marred 2022 season, but the former Buckeye has shown that he knows how to get open in the middle of the field and make contested catches. He's the kind of receiver that quarterback Lamar Jackson, who loves throwing the ball between the numbers, should get the most out of."
Could Ravens Have Interest in Just-Released Robert Woods?
As the Ravens look to upgrade their wide receiver room this offseason, a veteran who might interest them has become available, as Robert Woods was released by the Tennessee Titans in a cost-cutting move.
While Woods, who turns 31 in April, doesn't fit the "true No. 1 receiver" label, he is an established starter. From 2018-2020 with the Los Angeles Rams, Woods averaged 89 catches and 1,096 yards per season. He was on his way to producing similar numbers in 2021 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in mid-November.
Going from the pass-happy Rams to the run-heavy Titans last year, Woods had the least productive season of his 10-year career. He finished the season with 53 receptions for 527 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a career-low 9.8 yards per catch.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley noted recently that the Ravens signing a veteran wide receiver who is a cap casualty is more likely than the team trading for a big-name receiver (such as DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, or Brandin Cooks) or signing a receiver from a thin free-agent market.
"If the Ravens were willing to trade a pick this year (or swap picks this year and give up future ones), they would need to get new deals with Hopkins ($19.45 million salary in 2023), Allen ($15.5 million) and Cooks ($18 million), because they wouldn't be able to fit them under the cap," Hensley wrote. "The more likely scenario is signing an expected cap cut like [Adam] Thielen, Woods or [Michael] Thomas. Baltimore has a track record of adding wide receivers who are 30 or older, from Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin to Steve Smith."
Ravens Named Best Landing Spot for Free-Agent CB Jonathan Jones
Pro Football Focus ranked the top 50 free agents and identified the best landing spot for each.
Baltimore was named the ideal destination for two of them. Yes, Jackson — the top-ranked free agent — was one; the other was cornerback Jonathan Jones, ranked No. 32.
The Ravens are among the teams that rival Jones' current team — the New England Patriots — in their pursuit of Swiss Army knife defensive backs, and here we have Jones bringing his inside-outside flexibility to Baltimore," PFF's Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger wrote. "With Marcus Peters a pending free agent, Jones, cornerback Brandon Stephens and safety Kyle Hamilton give the Ravens a multitude of options in the slot. And Jones and Stephens are also capable of playing out wide. Jones is a sound tackler in run defense, as well, missing just 5.6% of tackle opportunities over the past two years and earning a 70.0-plus run-defense grade in four of his past five seasons."