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Late For Work 3/31: Mel Kiper's 2016 Draft Re-Grade Keeps Ravens Among NFL's Best


Mel Kiper's 2016 Draft Re-Grade Keeps Ravens Among NFL's Best

Kamalei Correa or Bronson Kaufusi's development this season could be the difference between the Ravens having a really solid 2016 draft grade and an excellent one.

With a year to evaluate all 32 NFL teams' 2016 draft classes, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper issued new grades, and the Ravens went from an "A" to a "B-plus."

While the Ravens' 11-man class fell just short of Kiper's original expectations, the new grade still ranks among the NFL's best. Only five other teams received higher marks (Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons).

"There isn't one standout here, but really early on you have a bunch of players who either contributed or are certain to stick, not to mention a new left tackle, so it's hard to knock the grade down too far," Kiper wrote.

Here's what Kiper, a Baltimore native, likes about the Ravens' rookie class:

1) Three immediate starters were found: left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Alex Lewis and cornerback Tavon Young. In fact, Young made fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's "12 best value picks" for making 11 starts and playing on the outside 71 percent of the time despite his 5-foot-9, 183-pound frame. That's more production than usually expected out of a fourth-rounder in Year 1.

2) Stanley looks like a franchise left tackle. Wrote Kiper: "[I]f you feel you have your future at left tackle nailed down in a league where there are so few really good ones, you're thrilled."

3) The Ravens found two notable sleepers: fifth-round outside linebacker Matthew Judon and undrafted nose tackle Michael Pierce. There was also an immediate contributor in fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon, whose progress was slowed by a knee injury.

The reason for the overall downgrade is because the Ravens got little out of their second- and third-round picks.

It's only been one year, however, and Correa and Kaufusi can still become starters in the defense as soon as this upcoming season.

"[A]s General Manager Ozzie Newsome has repeatedly said, it takes four years to truly gauge the impact of a draft," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

"This class could end up being an ‘A’ if [Correa or Kaufusi] can establish themselves as starters. Correa, the biggest disappointment of this Ravens draft, has a shot to replace retired Zach Orr at inside linebacker and Kaufusi, who missed all of last year with a broken ankle, will compete with Brent Urban for a starting spot at defensive end."

2016 Ravens Draft Picks

Round 1 (No. 6): OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

Round 2 (No. 42): OLB Kamalei Correa, Boise State

Round 3 (No. 70): DE Bronson Kaufusi, BYU

Round 4 (No. 104): CB Tavon Young, Temple

Round 4 (No. 107): WR Chris Moore, Cincinnati

Round 4 (No. 130): OT Alex Lewis, Nebraska

Round 4 (No. 132): DT Willie Henry, Michigan

Round 4 (No. 134): RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

Round 5 (No. 146): DE Matt Judon, Grand Valley State

Round 6 (No. 182): WR Keenan Reynolds, Navy

Round 6 (No. 209): CB Maurice Canady, Virginia

If Joe Flacco Wins Another Super Bowl, He'll Be In Exclusive QB Club

Head Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that the goal with quarterback Joe Flacco has always been to win "multiple" Super Bowls.

If Flacco accomplishes that goal, he will become a member of a very exclusive quarterback club, says Hensley, who noted that only 12 QBs have won the Super Bowl multiple times in the championship game's 51-year history.

"If Harbaugh is right with his prediction, Flacco will one day add his name to a distinguished list that includes the likes of Tom Brady, Joe Montana and John Elway," wrote Hensley.

Flacco already has one Lombardi Trophy, and there are reasons for optimism and skepticism about the chances he'll get his second. The reasons for doubt? The 10-year veteran has failed to make the playoffs in three of the past four years. Coming off ACL surgery, Flacco ranked 24th in the league in quarterback rating last season.

"But what's often overlooked is Flacco's success in the postseason," wrote Hensley. "Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco has won 10 playoff games. Only Brady has won more (11). Since 2010, Flacco has thrown 24 touchdown passes and just four interceptions for a 104.1 passer rating.

"Flacco had one of the most remarkable runs for a quarterback in 2012, when he guided Baltimore to a Super Bowl championship by throwing for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions that postseason. But one can make the argument that Flacco nearly led the Ravens to the Super Bowl on two other occasions."

The two other occasions both came in New England. In 2011, wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass with 22 seconds remaining in the AFC championship game. In 2013, Flacco led his team to two 14-point leads over the Patriots, but the defense couldn't prevent a Brady-led comeback.

Here are the 12 quarterbacks in NFL history that have two or more Super Bowl rings: Brady (5), Terry Bradshaw (4), Montana (4), Troy Aikman (3), Bart Starr (2), Bob Griese (2), Roger Staubach (2), Jim Plunkett (2), Elway (2), Ben Roethlisberger (2) Eli Manning (2), Peyton Manning (2).

Will Trade Talk Motivate Timmy Jernigan?Count The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec among those who think trading defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan is "unlikely."

We’ve been over this before, but Zrebiec thinks that unless somebody offers the Ravens a second-day draft pick, there's no reason to part ways with the 24-year-old defender.

Zrebiec noted that Jernigan's level of play fell off last season after notching five sacks over his first nine games, but none over the final seven.

"That's inconceivable for a player of his caliber," Zrebiec wrote. "Jernigan clearly wasn't happy with his reduction of snaps, and it seemed to affect his play, which had to open some eyes in the organization.

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