'High' Probability Ravens Will Draft Wide Receiver Early
If the Ravens don't draft a wide receiver in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft next weekend, consider The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec shocked.
He says the chances are "high" that Baltimore brings in a top-rated weapon from the early rounds to add to quarterback Joe Flacco's arsenal.
Top Ravens officials said it's "on our shoulders" to bring in enough pieces to build around Flacco and help him return to his championship-caliber play. They are committed to doing so this offseason, but Zrebiec points out they've only added running back Danny Woodhead. The offense has lost several key pieces while the defense has gotten most of the attention in free agency.
"That has to change in this draft," wrote Zrebiec.
"General Manager Ozzie Newsome says the Ravens won't hesitate to draft a first-round receiver even though that hasn't been a good formula for the team. If they don't use the 16th pick on a pass catcher, they almost certainly have to come out of Day Two of the draft with one."
The Ravens are just two years removed from using their first-round pick on wide receiver Breshad Perriman, but Newsome said Perriman will have no bearing on whether he drafts another first-rounder. If the top-rated player on his board is a receiver when he's on the clock at No. 16, then that's who he's taking.
The fact that Newsome has never drafted a Pro Bowl receiver won't deter him either. He and his scouts are evaluating the position just like they would any other, and are ready to bring one in if that's how the board falls.
And the board could fall that way …
"The Ravens will almost certainly have the opportunity to select one of the top three receivers available: [Corey] Davis, [John] Ross or [Mike] Williams. They've done their due diligence on all of them," wrote Zrebiec.
All three receivers have been projected to the Ravens in mock drafts.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler released his mock draft Tuesday, and he has the Ravens taking the combine's 40-yard dash record-breaker in Ross. Brugler wrote of the selection, "Adding Ross would give the Ravens a track team at wide receiver and plenty of toys for Joe Flacco to play with."
But Ross' injury history (surgery on both knees over the past three years) reminds some people of Perriman, who has* *sustained injuries to both of his knees since he was drafted two years ago. As a result, he missed his entire rookie year.
"[D]oes Ross strike as much fear in the Ravens as he does opposing defensive backs?" asked ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "It's valid to wonder whether this gives the Ravens some pause after what they went through with [Perriman]."
That said, Ross isn't the only receiver to have a complicated injury history.
NFL Media's Lance Zierlein has the big-bodied Williams falling to No. 16 in the mock draft he also released Tuesday. Williams sustained a small neck fracture after running into a goal post on a touchdown catch in 2015, but he returned to play all last season without an issue. "Let's give [the Ravens] a physical ball-winner who could become a heavily targeted favorite for Joe Flacco," Zierlein wrote.
Then there's NFL Media's former scout, Bucky Brooks, who has Baltimore selecting Davis and says the Western Michigan prospect should be a bona fide No. 1 receiver. Davis' stock may have taken a bit of a hit for some teams since the season ended because he didn't participate in combine or pro day drills due to a surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his ankle.
"Corey Davis is a litmus test for the trust the tape crowd," one NFL personnel source told TheMMQB.com's Emily Kaplan. "You look at his tape and I think everyone agrees he's a first-round grade, but you'll see how important the 40 time is for some. I think it varies from team to team."
Baltimore puts more stock in a prospect's college tape than his timed drills in shorts and a T-shirt.
That said, it's not a slam dunk for Baltimore to take a first-round receiver. There are plenty of other holes to fill, and another popular position projected to the Ravens is pass rusher.
The next-highest ranked receivers on draft guru Mike Mayock's board are Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp and East Carolina's Zay Jones. Zrebiec says Virginia Tech's Isaiah Ford, Southern California's JuJu Smith-Schuster and Purdue's DeAngelo Yance could also be on the team's radar.
"If the Ravens pass on a receiver in the first round and Smith-Schuster is still on the board in the middle of round two, the former Trojan who has drawn some comparisons to Anquan Boldin, would be a great fit," Zrebiec wrote. "The pressure is on Newsome and company to get Flacco some outside help."
Looking At History Of No. 16 Pick
When looking back at some of the players selected with the 16th-overall pick over the last 10 years, you'll find Pro Bowl players, solid starters and big misses.
"With the Ravens coming off an 8-8 season and a second straight non-playoff year, the pressure is on for this year's No. 16 pick to become a perennial Pro Bowl player like [Dallas' Zack] Martin and not a major disappointment like [Buffalo's EJ Manuel]," Hensley wrote.
Hensley categorized each of the last 10 players selected at 16 into one of five categories: bust, solid pick, good pick, very good pick and great pick.
Packers DT Justin Harrell (2007): Bust
Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2008): Solid pick
Chargers OLB Larry English (2009): Bust
Titans OLB Derrick Morgan (2010): Solid pick
Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan (2011): Very good pick
Jets OLB Quinton Coples (2012): Bust
Bills QB EJ Manuel (2013): Bust
Cowboys G Zack Martin (2014): Great Pick
Texans CB Kevin Johnson (2015): Good pick
Lions OT Taylor Decker (2016): Good pick
Separating Cornerbacks Into First- And Second-Round Prospects
We all know this draft is loaded with talented defensive backs, including a strong group of cornerbacks, which the Ravens have been clear about wanting to draft.
The depth of cornerbacks has left fans and media feeling like Baltimore can pass on first-round prospects and instead wait and focus on grabbing one in the second round or later.
Corners usually fly off the board early, however, and it's unclear who will fall to the Ravens at No. 42 in the middle of round two. Well, in the video below, NFL Media's Brooks and Zierlein play a game of "cluster buster" to help distinguish between the first- and second-rounders.
- American Airlines has dropped charter flights for six NFL teams, including the Ravens. The airline will also end agreements to fly the Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers for the upcoming season. It will continue serving the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. "We wanted to let you know of a strategic change to our NFL charter commitments this fall," a memo from the company wrote to its employees. "Network planning has advised we will have fewer aircraft available for charter flying in 2017 and after careful analysis it is necessary to reduce the number of NFL teams we carry this season." [Forbes.com]
- Among 15 bucket list experiences for football fans, the Travel Channel says one of them must be to see Baltimore's Marching Ravens. The website wrote: "Formed in 1947, the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band (later renamed Baltimore's Marching Ravens) are one of only two official marching bands in the entire NFL. Besides being great to watch live, what makes this band special is when the Colts franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984, the band stayed together and continued to perform despite not having a team to call their own. They fought for a football franchise over the next decade and were instrumental in helping to bring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996." [TravelChannel.com]