Daniel Jeremiah Explains Why a First-Round Running Back Makes Sense
Could the Ravens really draft a running back in the first round?
It's been a point of discussion after NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mocked Georgia running back D'Andre Swift to Baltimore with the 28th-overall selection. Because it's not a top area of need for the Ravens this offseason, the pick received some push back from fans and media.
"I really like Jeremiah's work and his insight shouldn't be ignored given his history with the organization, but the Ravens taking a running back in the first round would be a tough sell," WNST’s Luke Jones wrote. "There's only one football to go around, and this team barely got Justice Hill involved as it was."
Jeremiah, who worked as scout for the Ravens from 2003-2007, explained himself.
"I worked there for four years so I know all the people in that building and I know how they think and I know what they value," Jeremiah said. "They are a best-player-available team. They don't get caught up in need.
"... They had Shannon Sharpe and they drafted Todd Heap. They didn't need a tackle, they had two of them, and they drafted Jonathan Ogden. They didn't need a pass rusher because Terrell Suggs wouldn't even start his rookie year … They draft him, he doesn't start, [and] he's still Rookie of the Year. This is what they've always done. You take the best available player."
The Ravens were historic on the ground last season, averaging 206 rushing yards per game. They also had almost 100 more attempts than the next closest team.
With more pressing needs this offseason, the idea of strengthening one of your deepest positions isn't a popular take, but NFL Network's Bucky Brooks likes the idea of adding Swift to eventually help take the load off Lamar Jackson.
"I actually like the pick with Swift going there," Brooks said. "I know people go crazy like, 'Oh, we can get a running back any time.' Imagine what that offense could look like if you get a high-end player to do that? You're talking about being able to eventually take some of the load off [Lamar] Jackson when it comes to running. You don't want him running to this level his entire career. At some point you want to be able to dial it back."
Best-player-available and the Ravens seem synonymous when it comes to the draft, but Eric DeCosta said during his pre-draft press conference last year that the mantra can be overstated.
"We always factor need in," DeCosta said. "I think that is a little bit of a misconception that some people have. Of course, we look at need every single year. The whole offseason is really based on need. We're trying to figure out how we can be the best football team, and if you don't have an awareness of your own needs, it's hard to build a team. The idea would be that you're not going to pass up on a fantastic football player to take a good football player. We're never going to do that. But, when you have two players close together, and one player is a need position and the other player is not a need position, of course, if they're that close, you're going to always address with a need player, a need-based pick."
Nate Burleson: Ravens Are '100 Percent' Favorites in the AFC North
This season, the Ravens will try to do what no team in the AFC North has ever done – win the division three years in a row. According to BetOnline, they're the odds-on favorite (-250) to win it again this season.
When asked if Baltimore should be the favorites in the division, "Good Morning Football's" Nate Burleson didn't hesitate.
"Yes, 100 percent," Burleson said. "I feel like this would have been a different postseason if they weren't so banged up at the end of the year … When it comes to this division, Big Ben is going to try to make things happen, but we don't know how that's going to work out. The Bengals are always there, and the Browns, I'm going to say that they'll win some games again and I'll probably be wrong. But right now, the Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North."
Right now, the Ravens might be the only sure commodity in the division. The Steelers face questions as Ben Roethlisberger recovers from an elbow injury that forced him to miss last season. The Bengals are expected to land Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow with the first-overall pick, but they're still rebuilding under second-year coach Zac Taylor, and the Browns have new leadership after not living up to lofty expectations last season.
"The Ravens are coming off the best regular season in franchise history, finishing 14-2 and won the AFC North crown for a second straight year," Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich wrote. "Baltimore also earned the top seed in the playoffs for the first time. So, there was plenty of momentum heading into this offseason despite another one-and-done performance in the playoffs."
Vic Beasley Is a Realistic Free-Agent Target
The last time the Ravens selected a pass rusher in the first-round of the draft, it was Terrell Suggs. That worked out pretty well, and now they're looking to add another talent on the edge this offseason.
"It'll be interesting to see if Baltimore can add a pass-rusher to complement its high-priced defensive backfield," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote.
Ideally, the Ravens want to keep Matthew Judon on a long-term deal. But whether he stays in Baltimore or not, the pass rush still needs help.
Prospects like Iowa's A.J. Epenesa have been linked to the Ravens by Hensley and other pundits. The Ravens likely won't have the cap space to pursue Jadeveon Clowney or other top free agents, but Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox thinks former Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley would be a realistic option.
"The Ravens have enough cap space to also pursue an edge-defender in free agency," Knox wrote. "... However, the Ravens don't have enough cap space to throw money at the position. A budget option may be necessary, and Beasley, who recorded 8.0 sacks in 2019, could be an ideal choice. An opportunity to revive his career could be appealing enough for Beasley to take a lesser deal."
The Ravens added a few pass rushers through free agency last season and Beasley would make sense. He could sign a "prove-it" deal after being cut departing from Atlanta and it likely wouldn't count against the compensatory formula, something Baltimore values.
Eagles Looking to Draw Success From Ravens Offense With Marty Mornhinweg
Former Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg helped revamp Baltimore's offense around Jackson in 2018. The Eagles hired Mornhinweg as a senior offensive consultant last week, and Head Coach Doug Pederson is hoping to duplicate some of Baltimore's success next season.
"I think from that standpoint it helps from an ideas perspective – how they used Lamar, what they were doing with their tight ends," Pederson said. "The run game is a little different and unique than what ours is. From that standpoint, having that information and knowing that structure can enhance what we're doing by bringing an idea or two from that system."
It's not often that teams completely change their offense, let alone during the middle of the season. That's what the Ravens did, and they won six of their seven regular-season games to clinch the AFC North title and a playoff berth.
The Eagles too have a talented young quarterback in Carson Wentz, but they ranked 14th in total offense last season. They also fired Offensive Coordinator Mike Groh and Wide Receivers Coach Carson Walch in January.
Mornhinweg spent 10 years in Philadelphia, and pundits believe his offensive influence could help the Eagles.
"Mornhinweg is one of the most experienced coaches in the league and has certainly evolved with the changing NFL," CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr wrote. "Adding some fresh concepts from the Ravens will expand what is expected to be a new-look Eagles offense in 2020."
- "The Ravens would be well served to come out of this draft with a young offensive tackle that they can start developing," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "... With James Hurst suspended for the first four games of 2020, the Ravens don't have an obvious backup at tackle either. This is touted as a pretty strong offensive tackle class, so that could allow the Ravens to get a decent prospect early on Day 3."
- ESPN says Matthew Judon is the best scheme fit for the Ravens.