There's a growing consensus among mock drafts regarding who the Ravens will select at pick No. 22 overall, and I think fans are going to like this one.
Meet "freakish" Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.
ESPN’s Todd McShay, The Athletic's Dane Brugler, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and Kristopher Knox, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso and R.J. White, and The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer ALL have Metcalf to the Ravens in their latest mock drafts.
There's a lot of groupthink that happens with mock drafts, but having eight pundits from major news sources all pick the same player isn't typical. (We'll release our full Mock Drat Monitor 2.0 tomorrow, which will show there are some other projections too.)
So, who is this Metcalf guy and why do so many people think he'll be headed for Baltimore?
"First-year general manager Eric DeCosta has an interesting offseason ahead of him with an aging defense and an offense in need of upgrades," Brugler wrote. "One of the priorities should be helping Lamar Jackson become a better passer, and a freakish talent like Metcalf would do that."
"The Ravens definitely upgraded their receiving a bit this season, but they still lack a real game-changer," wrote McShay. "Metcalf missed a chunk of time this season with a neck injury, but he's a big, vertical threat. He'd give Lamar Jackson a reliable option, especially in the red zone."
"Before suffering a neck injury in October, D.K. Metcalf was looking like one of the top wide receivers in the 2019 class. Now that he's been cleared by doctors, he's back with a Round 1 grade on my board. That's great news for the wide receiver-needy Baltimore Ravens," Miller added.
"One of the keys to helping a quarterback without great accuracy is to give him speed to stretch the field vertically or size with an extended catch radius. Metcalf (6'4", 230 lbs) will give Lamar Jackson that big, long target he needs on the outside to haul in passes that might not hit the mark."
So, the big red flag here is the words NECK INJURY. Neck injuries can be complicated, and certainly give teams an extra level of caution. Metcalf underwent surgery on Oct. 20, ending his junior season.
However, he's since been totally cleared for football activity, and will be a full participant at the Combine, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The medical aspect of the combine, where Metcalf will be examined by team doctors, will still be huge.
Many players have had injury red flags in college and the combine and been just fine. A back injury scared teams off of Rob Gronkowski in 2010 and he's had a pretty nice career.
Then again, teams will be leery that Metcalf could be the next Mike Williams. Williams suffered a neck injury in college, returned to have a huge season and was taken seventh-overall by the Chargers. He then sat for much of his rookie NFL season because of a back injury and finished with just 11 catches for 95 yards. He turned it on last season, however, with 664 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
When he's been on the field, Metcalf has been a touchdown machine. His only two catches as a true freshman both were touchdowns. He posted 39 catches for 646 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, then 26 grabs for 569 yards and five scores as a redshirt sophomore.
He has a perfect blend of athleticism and size that typically would see him drafted much earlier if not for the injury concern.
If he tests well, he could be long gone by this pick," White wrote. "But if available, he'll give the Ravens a huge target with No. 1 receiver upside to develop along with Lamar Jackson."
Metcalf isn't the only big-bodied wide receiver pundits are projecting to the Ravens. In this year's draft, there are several such targets that could fit Baltimore's Jackson-led offense well.
DraftWire’s Luke Easterling has the Ravens picking Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry (6-foot-4, 213 pounds) at No. 22.
"The Lamar Jackson era has officially begun in Baltimore, and the Ravens need to build a better supporting cast around their new franchise quarterback," Easterling wrote. "First on the list? Finding him a true No. 1 receiver, with the big frame and complete skill set Harry brings to the table."
The Draft Network’s Joe Marino projected N.C. State's Kelvin Harmon (6-3, 214) to Baltimore.
"I really like all the things Harmon can bring to Baltimore's offense and how he would mesh with Jackson," Marino wrote. "He features blue chip play strength and can truly over-power defensive backs. He is an alpha at the catch point, has good length and dominant ball skills. And don't sleep on his ability to run smooth routes and separate."
Other potential big-time wide receivers include Iowa State's Hakeem Butler (6-6, 219), Metcalf's Ole Miss teammate A.J. Brown (6-1, 225) and Oklahoma's Marquise Brown, who is in a different speedster mold at 5-10, 168.
Mel Kiper's Big Board Released
Staying on the draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper has released his first big board with the top-25 prospects and position rankings.
In continuing to talk about wide receivers, it's interesting that he has Marquise Brown as his top-rated target, followed by A.J. Brown and then Metcalf. Harry comes in at No. 4 and Harmon is all the way down at No. 10.
If every team were to pick according to Kiper's rankings, the Ravens would end up with the No. 22 player on his big board, which would be Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, who could shift inside to guard.
Only Two Ravens So Far in PFF's Top 101 Players of 2018
The Ravens aren't getting much love from Pro Football Focus (PFF) in grading their top players from 2018.
PFF has released No. 11 to 101 thus far (top 10 will come out tomorrow), and only two Ravens barely made the list.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey came in at No. 97 and guard Marshal Yanda landed at No. 99.
"The second-year cornerback out of Alabama improved on his stellar rookie season with an overall grade of 80.0 in 2018," PFF wrote. "His 52.5% catch rate allowed was the seventh-best in the league this season, and his 22.5% forced incompletion rate was third-best."
"Yanda battled back from his 2017 ankle injury to log the most snaps among guards in the 2018 regular season at 1,162," PFF wrote. "Including the postseason, he earned the fourth-highest overall grade among guards at 75.2, allowing just 15 total pressures and zero sacks."
- MMQB's Conor Orr says the Ravens' biggest storyline of the offseason is the Jackson-led offense. "The fringe of their free agency, where many teams work to acquire scheme-fit role players, will be a major tell on which direction this offense is going."