Best- And Worst-Case Scenarios For Ravens' First-Round Pick
Yes, it's finally here. It's draft day.
But for those who had trouble sleeping last night because of the draft (I know I'm not the only one), it's because of this.
It's thinking about either the best-case or worst-case scenario for the Ravens in the first round.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec put together a well-thought-out preview of what the Ravens could do in tonight's first round. Here are some of the highlights:
Let's start with the good.
An early run on quarterbacks with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson's DeShaun Watson and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes would cause talented players at other positions to fall down the board.
There's been recent buzz on all three, and the Ravens would love nothing more than to see them all go in the top 15. The Cleveland Browns (No. 1), San Francisco 49ers (No. 2), Chicago Bears (No. 3), New York Jets (No. 6), Buffalo Bills (No. 10), Browns (No. 12) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 13) could all be landing spots.
If quarterbacks go early, this is what it could look like for the Ravens, per Zrebiec.
"When the Ravens are on the clock, they have the choice between the draft's top two receivers (Mike Williams and Corey Davis), the draft's top three offensive linemen (Ryan Ramczyk, Forrest Lamp and Cam Robinson) and one of the better linebackers/edge rushers (Derek Barnett, Haason Reddick)," he wrote.
"That gives the Ravens the option of taking the best player on the board or trading back and picking up another mid-round draft pick or two because they know one of the guys they covet will still fall to them."
If only one or no quarterbacks are taken in the top 15, the Ravens could see their draft board look a little more sparse.
Williams, Davis, Barnett and Reddick could all be plucked before No. 16 in that scenario.
"None of the players expected to go in the top-10 drop, so teams aren't overly interested in trading up to the Ravens' spot at 16," Zrebiec wrote.
"As a result, the Ravens have to choose between taking an offensive lineman, one of the second-tier cornerbacks (Marlon Humphrey, Kevin King) or one of the pass rushers (Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley) who seems more suited to go later in the first round."
Usually teams don't get everything they want, and their draft board also doesn't get completely picked over.
So here's what Zrebiec thinks is the most-likely scenario the Ravens will find themselves in when they're on the clock.
"While Williams goes in the top 15, Western Michigan's Davis is still on the board, giving the Ravens the option of taking a first-round wide receiver," he wrote.
"One of Barnett, Reddick or Alabama's Reuben Foster falls, presenting an opportunity to take a linebacker. And the Ravens have the full complement of offensive linemen to choose from."
Those aren't bad options. Any way the board falls, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has been clear that the Ravens will be ready to pick at No. 16.
Here are the other highlights from Zrebiec's preview:
Player who just fits: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
X-factor: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
Dark-horse candidate: DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Be surprised if: Ravens take a first-round running back
Don't be surprised if: Ravens pick an offensive lineman early
Streak that figures to continue: Ravens will draft a defensive lineman
Ravens Aren't Scared To Take A WR
The Ravens could very well draft a wide receiver in the first round.
There's Clemson's Williams, Western Michigan's Davis and Washington's John Ross (though the man they'd be helping to replace, Steve Smith Sr., thinks only Davis and Ross are worthy of pick No. 16).
That's why the issue of the Ravens' draft history at the position has been pointed out by both ESPN's Jamison Hensley and The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker this week.
The Ravens have drafted 25 wide receivers since their inaugural 1996 season. There have been no Pro Bowlers and one 1,000-yard season (Torrey Smith, 2013) among them.
"According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only team that comes close to that futility is the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose drafted receivers have produced one Pro Bowl appearance and one 1,000-yard season over that same period," Hensley wrote.
"This is one of those head-scratching peculiarities for a franchise that is often lauded for its drafting under Newsome, who has selected 18 Pro Bowl players in 21 drafts."
The Ravens have used a first-round pick on a wide receivers three times in 21 drafts. There was Travis Taylor in 2000 (No. 10), Mark Clayton in 2005 (No. 22) and Breshad Perriman in 2015 (No. 26). Taylor never panned out, Clayton had mild success and the jury is still out on Perriman as he enters a critical third season.
So will the Ravens give it another shot? It's unknown, but they won't be afraid to do so. Newsome said last month that drafting Perriman in the first round two years ago has no bearing on whether they'll invest such high currency to do so again.
But it's not an easy task to hit a winner. Receivers have a giant leap from college football to the pros, perhaps more than other positions.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock felt it had become easier to draft wideouts three years ago when prospects such as Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills), Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Odell Beckham (New York Giants), Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints/New England Patriots) and Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers) all came out of the first round.
Since then, the 2015 and 2016 draft classes at receiver have been plagued by injuries and struggles. Now Mayock isn't so sure.
"Since that class in '14, the last two classes as far as immediate impact have been minor at best," he said. "So it looks like '14 was more of an aberration than a trend."
Sirius XM analyst and former Dallas Cowboys draft guru Gil Brandt, who Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta grew up admiring, told Walker that he doesn't see an immediate star in this year's wide receiver class.
"I think this is a good overall wide receiver class. I think there's a lot of good players in there," Brandt said. "But there isn't anybody that really jumps out to me as a guy that's going to come in and catch a lot of passes, 80 to 85 passes or so, as we've had those types of guys in the past."
Pressure Is On 'More Than Ever' In This Year's Draft
Everybody knows the Ravens have missed the playoffs three times in the past four years.
And for that reason, as well as some recent high draft misses, Zrebiec believes this is a critical draft for Baltimore.
"As Newsome and the Ravens front office enter another draft Thursday night, the pressure is on perhaps more than ever before to cash in on their seven picks and fill several holes on a roster that hasn't been good enough to make the playoffs in three of the past four years," he wrote.
Newsome said at the team's pre-draft luncheon that he always feels the need to get better. This year is no different.
While there have been some rumblings about recent high picks, keep in mind some of the later-round gems the Ravens have found. Every March, teams are signing the Ravens' homegrown talent, which speaks to Baltimore's drafting acumen and player development.
Take the 2013 draft as an example. First- and second-round picks Matt Elam and Arthur Brown didn't work out. But third-round defensive tackle Brandon Williams, fourth-round fullback Kyle Juszczyk and fifth-round tackle Rick Wagner were huge hits.
Still, some of those early misses sting. Imagine if that 2013 class had a couple of big hits at the top (though the entire first round in 2013 was, generally speaking, weak).
"The process in 1996 was the same as it was then, and it's the same as it is today," Newsome said when asked about some of the recent draft misses. "We try to refine it. We put pressure on ourselves to get better, but to sit here and say why that happened, I can't pinpoint it."
Ravens Will Face Marshawn Lynch Next Season
Baltimore may want to keep beefing up that defense in the draft.
The Ravens will have to face running back Marshawn Lynch on Oct. 8 in Oakland after Lynch came out retirement Wednesday to sign with his childhood team.
Lynch, who grew up in Oakland, now makes the Raiders the early leaders for the best offense in the NFL, writes NFL Media's Charley Casserly.
So, how good will Lynch be coming out of retirement? There's a track record of success.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert put together a list of the un-retired all-stars, including former Ravens cornerback Deion Sanders. While Lynch spent just one year away from the game, Sanders returned after three years in retirement. Sanders signed with the Ravens in 2004 and took the jersey number 37 to match his age.
He was mostly a reserve defensive back, but in 25 games (six starts), he intercepted five passes and returned one for a touchdown. The Ravens missed the playoffs in both seasons he played and Sanders permanently hung up his cleats in 2006.
The Ravens also had running back Ricky Williams for the final season of his career (2011). Williams spent one year away from football in 2004 but returned to play seven more years in the NFL.
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