Kiper Praises Ravens Rookies in 2018 NFL Draft Re-Grade
Ozzie Newsome was left emotional during his final draft as general manager of the Ravens.
Newsome made six trades and acquired a 12-man draft class that had an immediate impact on the team's success last season.
ESPN's Mel Kiper took notice when he re-graded the 2018 draft classes for all 32 teams.
Kiper improved the Ravens' grade from a "B-plus" to an "A-minus."
The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts were the only two teams to receive higher grades.
"Because of how good the rookie classes looked in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Denver, this Ravens draft -- GM Ozzie Newsome's last -- went a little under the radar," Kiper wrote. "There are some really good pieces here, though."
The Ravens found key starters with their first four selections: Quarterback Lamar Jackson, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.
Jackson headlined the draft class and led the Ravens to six wins in the team's final seven regular season games.
[Jackson's] an elite athlete and runner, and there were times when he befuddled defensive coordinators," wrote Kiper." He hit some big throws as John Harbaugh & Co. changed their offense to play to the rookie's strengths."
Like many other pundits, Kiper offered similar critiques to Jackson's game. Kiper noted that Jackson will have to improve as a passer after only completing 58 percent of his throws last season.
Luckily, Jackson will have an entire offseason to work as the starter in a new-look offense.
Newsome's decision to move back into the first round at pick No. 32 didn't go unnoticed in Kiper's book.
By doing so, the Ravens picked up a coveted fifth-year option on Jackson's rookie contract.
Kiper sees Brown and Andrews as "starters" on offense moving forward and highlighted the upside of Hurst, despite being limited to just 12 games after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
However, the Ravens' draft class wasn't a top-heavy group – far from it.
A pool of late-round picks and undrafted free agents factored heavily into Kiper's grade. Newsome pulled off some magic in that area one final time.
Fourth-round cornerback Anthony Averett and linebacker Kenny Young impressed in limited defensive snaps among the league's top overall defense.
Sixth-round center Bradley Bozeman served as a key reserve on the offensive line.
Undrafted running back Gus Edwards seemingly came out of nowhere during the second half of the season and emerged the No. 1 running back. Edwards racked up 718 rushing yards and two touchdowns while linebacker Chris Board quietly led the Ravens with 356 special teams snaps.
Contributions from the rest of the class (Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, DeShon Elliott, Greg Senat and Zach Sieler) has yet to be seen, but the overall result from one season is a resounding success.
The Ravens are surely stockpiling young talent.
Terrell Suggs on Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady and Leaving Baltimore
Raise your hand if you think it's going to be weird seeing Terrell Suggs in a different uniform next season.
After signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, Suggs joined FS1's "Undisputed" on Tuesday and spoke about his decision to leave Baltimore.
"It was probably hands-down the most difficult decision I've had to make in my life," Suggs said. "At the end of the day, I just felt it was time to leave."
An unquestioned leader of the defense for 16 seasons, Suggs felt it was time for both sides to turn the page and let the next group of defenders make their mark.
"I'm kind of the last pillar from the last regime," Suggs said. "When a lot of things happen, a lot of guys end up leaving, I felt like I was the only thing preventing the team … I chose to leave so that they can turn the page and let the new guys build something for themselves."
Expectations are high for Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams to fill the void left by Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in the pass rush department.
Suggs also made sure to give plenty of love to his former team, including second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Having been a part of last season's change under center and everything associated with it, Suggs spoke highly of Jackson.
"It was Lamar time," Suggs said. "Joe did some great things for us last year … Lamar came in and gave us that spark. [He] took the team and got us into the playoffs."
Suggs hopes Jackson can bring Baltimore a championship, just not while he's still playing.
Of course, a man as entertaining as Sizzle didn't go out without a little trash talk about his friend Tom Brady.
The two have had their battles over the years in the AFC and Suggs got in his usual jabs.
But even he understood what six Super Bowls mean.
Jackson the Basketball Player?
March Madness is upon us and odds are, you're scrambling to put the finishing touches on your bracket.
Sports Illustrated's Andrew Perloff took a different route this year and ranked all 32 current NFL starting quarterbacks based on their basketball skills.
Jackson landed in the "Potential Cinderellas" category, along with veterans Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins.
"There's not a lot out there on Jackson's basketball game, other than reports that scouts were worried he was built more for hoops than football," Perloff wrote. "He did post a couple interesting clips on Instagram, including a full-court shot that appears to be on the first take. We know Jackson is quick and he has nice form on his three-point shot."
Not too shabby for one of the most electrifying rookie talents last season.
After all, Jackson hails from a basketball mecca (Louisville). Chris Mack and the No. 7-seeded Cardinals take on Minnesota Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the tournament.
Jackson still has one more year of collegiate eligibility … Are you connecting the dots?