Re-Draft Has Lamar Jackson Going Third Overall
Can you imagine Lamar Jackson wearing one of the New York Jets' new "Gotham Green" jerseys? Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr has.
In a re-drafting of the 2018 NFL Draft, Orr has the Ravens quarterback going third overall to the Jets. In real life, the Jets traded up three spots to select Sam Darnold. In the re-draft, Orr has Darnold going at No. 2 to the New York Giants and the Jets moving up for Jackson.
"You're [then-Jets Head Coach] Todd Bowles, Sam Darnold is off the board, you have a platoon of capable running backs, a coaching staff who likes to run the football and a good defense," Orr wrote. "Installing something similar to what the Ravens did for Jackson a year ago would have made this team fascinating.
"It's not all about the running game with Jackson. He's a big-game quarterback who got better every week last year. He can create moments with his arm that other players in the league simply can't."
The Ravens, who traded back into the first round to get Jackson at No. 32, also had the No. 16 pick last season. They traded down to twice and picked tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25.
Orr has the Ravens trading down to No. 29 to select safety Terrell Edmunds, who was taken at No. 28 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a rookie season derailed by a foot injury, Hurst wasn't in the first round in Orr's re-draft.
"Edmunds can play situationally behind Eric Weddle and fill the void when he moves on the following year," Orr wrote.
Speaking of re-drafts, ESPN had all of its team reporters pick one do-over from the past five drafts, and Jamison Hensley went back to Baltimore's first-round pick in 2015.
Instead of selecting Breshad Perriman at No. 26 overall, he instead has the Ravens taking fellow wide receiver and Maryland product Stefon Diggs, who ended up being picked in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings.
"The Ravens were looking for a playmaking downfield target and chose to go with a prospect with questionable hands over someone who played a short drive from their stadium," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore wasn't the only team to pass on Diggs, who lasted until the fifth round because of durability issues. But this represents another cringe-worthy misstep at wide receiver for the Ravens, as Diggs has totaled 3,493 yards (or 2,577 more than Perriman)."
Just How Close Earl Thomas Was to Going to K.C.
Earl Thomas and his family were packing last month in preparation for a flight aboard a private jet headed for Kansas City, where he planned to sign a one-year deal to play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
As Ravens fans are well aware – and undoubtedly very thankful for – the three-time All-Pro safety never got on that plane.
"I actually had got off the phone with [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy Reid the night before I found out the news about the Ravens," Thomas said during an appearance on the "Rich Eisen Show" yesterday. "I woke up the next morning and my agents told me that Baltimore really wanted me and they offered me a mega-deal, and I took that."
It's not the first time Thomas has mentioned this, as he told our Garrett Downing after his signing that he was going to ink a short-term deal with K.C. and "better myself and hit the market again" in 2020. But yesterday's comments show just how close Thomas came to being elsewhere.
Thomas, who signed a four-year, $55 million deal with the Ravens, acknowledged that he had a lot of negative feelings towards his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, but he told Eisen he has resolved those feelings.
"When you look at the blessing that the Ravens organization has believed in me and gave me this mega-deal, I put all that stuff behind me and started to focus immediately on the Ravens organization," said Thomas, who added that he envisions signing a one-day deal with Seattle after his playing career is over to officially retire as a Seahawk.
Now Thomas is packing for another trip. This weekend, Thomas will fly from his home in Austin, Texas to Baltimore ahead of the first day of the Ravens' voluntary offseason workout program on Monday.
It will mark the first time Thomas has participated in a team activity for anyone but the Seahawks, but he said he has already gotten comfortable with his new team.
"I think I got the first-time jitters out of the way," he said. "When we had the press conference, I got to see The Castle, I got to see some of the staff. I introduced myself to everybody. With my teammates, I've been talking to these guys through group chats, so I'm getting myself very familiar with everybody around the building."
Other subjects Thomas discussed with Eisen included the Cleveland Browns being pegged as the favorites to win the AFC North, thanks in large part to their acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who will be catching passes from talented quarterback Baker Mayfield.
"They got a nice receiving corps, nice quarterback, but we got the best secondary in the league, man," Thomas said. "I feel like the way we're going to study, the way we're going to understand our position on the field, it's going to be very hard [for opposing offenses]."
When asked about the new rule going into effect this season in which pass interference – both offensive and defensive – will be a reviewable penalty, Thomas said he thinks "it's a great idea, especially in the playoffs."
"I just want it to be called fair," he said. "[Defensive players] want it to be an even playing field. Everybody knows it's an offensive league. Everybody wants to see touchdowns. … We just want a fair shot."
How Ravens Can Get 'A' Grade From Mel Kiper
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. revealed his "Grade: A" three-round mock draft, in which he made selections based on what's best for each team (as opposed to projecting picks), and he went with Texas A&M center/guard Erik McCoy for the Ravens in the first round at No. 22.
"McCoy could start at guard or center for the Ravens, who in 2019 are likely to be one of the most run-dominant teams again," Kiper wrote.
Kiper assigned the draft's other highly regarded center, North Carolina State's Garrett Bradbury, to the Los Angeles Rams at No. 31. Kiper told "The Lounge" podcast that he took McCoy over Bradbury because McCoy could also play guard, so he's more versatile. Kiper thinks Bradbury is a better true center.
As for wide receiver prospects, Kiper went with just two in the first round: Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf to the Green Bay Packers at No. 12 and Oklahoma's Marquise Brown to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 26.
The first-round wide receiver market seems to be cooling, and there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the top group will stack up. In his latest positional rankings, NFL Network's Bucky Brooks has Marquise Brown atop the list and Metcalf at No. 4.
Kiper did pick a wide receiver for the Ravens with their first third-round selection (No. 85 overall; they don't have a second-round pick): Georgia's Mecole Hardman.
"Hardman, one of the fastest prospects in this draft, could be a deep threat for [quarterback Lamar Jackson], and he's also an excellent punt and kick returner," Kiper wrote.
With the Ravens' other third-round pick (No. 102), Kiper selected Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill.
"Hill tested well at the combine and could join the Baltimore running back rotation with new signing Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards," Kiper wrote.
Michael Pierce 'Just Getting Started'
Defensive lineman Michael Pierce has been a steal for the Ravens, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Samford in 2016, and Pro Football Focus' Ben Cooper wrote that Pierce "appears to be just getting started" after his breakout season last year.
Pierce graded out as the fifth-best interior defender in 2018 (91.0) and the fourth-best against the run (92.0 run-defense grade), according to Pro Football Focus.
"Pierce's unrealized potential lies in his pass-rushing game," Cooper wrote. "His 68.9 pass-rushing grade in 2018 was a new career-high, but it ranked merely 26th among interior defenders. That's a perfectly fine place to be among 110 qualifying players; however, there's a reason to believe that Pierce is still far from his best.
"Pierce has the opportunity to follow a similar — albeit slower — trajectory [as Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald]. Donald has improved his pressure total each year in the league, and so has Pierce. While Pierce's is on a much, much smaller scale, it shows an ability to develop.
"Pierce doesn't need to be the all-around prototype that Donald is, and he won't be. But his numbers suggest he could follow in the star's footsteps and make a significant leap in the pass-rush game while maintaining stalwart status against the run."
Ravens: From Wild-Card Loss to Super Bowl?
Of the four teams who lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season – the Ravens, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks -- NFL Network's Michael Robinson said the Ravens have the best chance to win the Super Bowl this season.
"I'm a huge Lamar Jackson fan," Robinson said. "It's about the offensive system. They force you to play 11-on-11 football, and then they have Greg Roman calling the plays. … He's very innovative at flooding gaps and creating run lanes for the young quarterback."