The Ravens had one of the most stunning and exciting first rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft by making three trades and drafting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25 and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson at No. 32.
Below are 10 takeaways from the night:
1) Michael Vick Says Lamar Jackson Is Five Times Better Than Him
Can Lamar Jackson become the next Michael Vick?
Actually, if he continues on his current trajectory, Jackson could become better than Vick. That’s because the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was already “five times better” than Vick in college … says Vick.
"I could not believe what I had seen. I could not believe the things he was able to do. It was a spitting image of me," Vick said about Jackson while on the “Move The Sticks” podcast in February. "And the only thing that came to my mind was this kid is five times better than I was when I was at Virginia Tech, only because he was going against Florida State.
“If I was the GM, I would draft him. Whether it's first round or fourth round, you look at all the quarterbacks coming out of the draft, they're all projects. Nobody is guaranteed to do anything."
Flash forward a couple months, and now Jackson will be guided by Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who managed Vick’s career resurgence in Philadelphia from 2009-12. Mornhinweg also coached similarly-styled quarterback Donovan McNabb, and Assistant Head Coach Greg Roman coached Colin Kaepernick.
Despite being more productive than Vick coming out of college, Jackson was drafted with the 32nd-overall pick while Vick went No. 1.
Jackson scored 119 touchdowns (69 passing, 50 rushing) over three seasons at Louisville. Vick didn't post anywhere near that production at Virginia Tech, but he went on to become a four-time NFL Pro Bowler who rushed for 6,109 career yards and passed for 22,464 in 13 seasons.
2) If You Can Get a Transformational Player, You Go for It
What happened to all the “we have bigger fish to fry” talk?
That’s what Owner Steve Bisciotti told media following the season when he was asked if the Ravens would consider finding quarterback Joe Flacco’s successor in the draft.
What changed Bisciotti and the Ravens’ minds?
“Baltimore couldn't pass on an electric talent like Lamar Jackson sitting at the end of the first round,” wrote ESPN.
“If you can get a potentially transformational player at that spot, go for it,” added The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.
There are conflicting opinions on whether Baltimore paid too much to the Philadelphia Eagles to get Jackson. The Ravens got the 32nd and 132nd picks from Philly. Baltimore sent the 52nd and 125th, plus next year’s second-rounder.
“That’s a confusingly high price to pay considering Baltimore could have taken Jackson seven picks earlier instead of Hurst … but who cares?” wrote The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz. “Jackson, who might immediately be the most exciting player in the NFL, could replace Joe Flacco, who is definitely the least exciting player in the NFL.”
Was the price too high?
Essentially, Baltimore moved down seven spots in the fourth round and sacrificed next year’s second-rounder to jump up 20 spots to nab its potential next franchise quarterback. The Ravens wouldn’t have had the fourth-rounder to move down from in the first place had Newsome not previously traded back twice.
Had Newsome passed on Hurst and taken Jackson at 25, the Ravens GM may not have gotten his highest-rated tight end on the draft board. The Ravens would presumably still be looking to fill their biggest hole on the roster tonight with Hurst likely long gone before the Ravens got back on the clock in the second round.
“Regardless of how you feel about Jackson, to get a potentially franchise-altering player at pick No. 32 is great value,” The Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote.
3) Fanbase Was Desperate for Excitement, and Jackson Can Deliver
Despite Baltimore being in complete control of its playoff fate down the stretch last season, empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium were increasing, CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora points out in the video below.
La Canfora lives 12 miles from the stadium, and he knows how desperate the city has been for an exciting brand of football. As amazing and entertaining as Justin Tucker is, La Canfora says it’s not a good sign when a franchise’s most appealing player is a kicker.
“This market, this fanbase, the sponsors, the corporate community has been dying, DYING to have an identity of the future,” La Canfora said. “Dying to have some explosiveness, some blue-chip outrageous talent who people can wrap their arms around. And they got it [with Jackson].”
“Baltimore fans can rejoice,” added Heifetz. “Every other football fan can, too. This is going to be fun.”
4) In Many Ways, Lamar Jackson is the Anti-Flacco
Jackson is a dual-threat quarterback known for his athleticism. Flacco is a traditional pocket passer known for his big arm.
Jackson is an emotional leader who isn’t afraid to say big things like promising to win Super Bowls the night he’s drafted (watch video). Flacco is known as “Joe Cool,” who never gets too high or too low.
Both approaches have worked well for both players, as Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP and Jackson is a Heisman Trophy winner. Neither approach is right or wrong, but they’re certainly different.
“With Jackson, the Ravens now have a quarterback who's nearly the complete opposite of Flacco,” wrote CBSSports.com’s John Breech.
*5) Is This Joe Flacco’s Final Season in Baltimore? *
Anytime a team uses a first-round pick on a quarterback, the natural assumption is that he will eventually take over the offense and hopefully become a franchise signal-caller.
It was no different last night when the Ravens decided to draft Jackson, which just so happened to be the 10-year anniversary of when the team selected Flacco in the first round of the 2008 draft.
“[This] could eventually change the face of the team’s offense and facilitate Flacco’s departure from the organization, perhaps as early as next year,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.
“The bottom line is that Flacco is 33, has struggled for three seasons, and isn't exactly healthy,” added Breech. “Although Flacco will almost certainly be the starter in 2018, it will be interesting to see what the Ravens do after that. If Flacco struggles next season, Baltimore could choose to move on and let Jackson take over as starter in 2019.”
The Ravens can create $18.5 million in cap space in 2019 by designating Flacco as a post-June 1 cut, spreading his $16 million of dead money across two seasons.
But Head Coach John Harbaugh cautioned against assuming that’s the route Baltimore will take. He said Jackson could take over next year, but he could also be eventually traded like the New England Patriots did with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland laid out a few scenarios.
6) RGIII’s Place on the Roster Became Even Less Certain
The Ravens quarterback room has some very interesting talents.
Flacco is the veteran Super Bowl XLVII MVP. Jackson is the exciting Heisman Trophy winner. Robert Griffin III III is a former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Josh Woodrum is the practice squad player trying to catch on.
When Griffin signed with the Ravens last month, he saw it as his chance to jumpstart his career after being out of the league last year. Griffin will be a great resource to Jackson, who can learn from Griffin the importance of protecting himself, getting rid of the ball and not trying to do too much with his legs.
But what will happen after this summer when the Ravens have to whittle the roster down to 53?
"RGIII, you're out buddy,” former Ravens receiver and NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. said last night.
7) Jackson Wants to Prove Doubters Wrong and Landed in the Perfect Place to Work Out Kinks
As exciting, successful and athletic as Jackson is, he also comes with plenty of scrutiny, as all first-round quarterbacks do. All the negative talk has placed a big chip on his shoulder.
Analysts would like to see Jackson work out the kinks in his game, and many say he’s in the perfect situation to do so.
“While Jackson does possess plenty of arm strength and a quick release, scouts and executives are divided on his pro potential,” wrote NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling. “Although he does tend to stay in the pocket and see the play through before scrambling, some question whether he's more than a one-read passer with accuracy issues. There are also concerns about his ability to withstand NFL physicality as a runner.”
“[Jackson] needs to iron out his accuracy, and he may need to tweak his mechanics to throw from a wider, more balanced base — and he landed in a good place to do that in Baltimore, where he’ll sit behind starter Joe Flacco for a year or two before taking the field,” wrote The Ringer’s Danny Kelly.
8) Newsome Sets Ravens up for Future With One of His Boldest Moves Ever
Talk about going out with a bang.
Newsome gave the ultimate parting gift to Eric DeCosta, who will succeed Newsome as the general manager next year.
“In his final draft as Ravens general manager, Newsome gave the franchise its next quarterback of the future,” ESPN wrote.
Thursday night marked just the third time Newsome used a first-rounder on a quarterback. He selected Kyle Boller at No. 19 in 2003 and Flacco at No. 18 a decade ago. You couldn’t have greater differing results between the two, as ESPN called Boller one of the Ravens’ biggest draft busts, and Flacco won a Super Bowl.
How Jackson pans out over the next several years will greatly define the legacy of Newsome’s final draft.
“In Newsome’s first draft in 1996, he picked offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis in the first round, setting the foundation for the organization for years,” wrote Zrebiec. “In his final draft before he steps aside after the conclusion of the 2018 season, Newsome made one of his boldest moves to date.”
*9) Hurst Can Be an Immediate Playmaker *
The Ravens were able to fill the biggest hole on their roster by selecting Hurst, who was widely believed to be the best tight end in the 2018 class. Newsome was able to pick him up while improving his third- and fourth-round picks.
It’s good value for a guy that the Ravens expect to have an immediate impact on offense.
“Hurst can be a difference-maker for Baltimore because Joe Flacco loves throwing to tight ends, whether it's Todd Heap or Dennis Pitta or even 37-year-old Benjamin Watson,” ESPN wrote.
“While Hurst's stats are underwhelming (three career touchdowns), he is a mismatch for linebackers as well as some safeties and is sure-handed. What really impressed the Ravens is his ability to run after the catch. Hurst can be an immediate playmaker for the NFL's No. 29 passing attack.”
One of the biggest knocks on Hurst is his age, as he’ll turn 25 years old before the season starts after pursuing a professional baseball career before football.
“I’m a little concerned that he’s 25, but if he can help immediately, who cares?” wrote The Sun’s Ron Fritz. “The Ravens needed playmakers on offense and they got one who can operate in the middle of the field.”
10) It’s Obvious Ravens Weren’t Enamored with WR Class
The Ravens could’ve had their choice of any receiver their wanted, but instead traded back twice and got a pass-catching tight end.
Maryland’s D.J. Moore was available to the Ravens twice and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley was available three times, so passing should be an indication of how the team felt about them.
“I probably would have stayed at 16 and selected Florida State safety Derwin James,” wrote Zrebiec. “At 25, I probably would have picked Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.
“However, it was pretty obvious after signing three veteran receivers in free agency that the Ravens weren't enamored with the draft's wide receiver class.”