Grades, Reaction To Ravens' First-Round Pick
Ravens fan T.J. Onwuanibe, the local Make-A-Wish teen who announced the Ravens' first-round pick Thursday night, was certainly a fan of the selection of Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
The fist pump says it all.
Not everyone online had the same enthusiasm as T.J., but the Ravens' selection was widely given a thumbs up.
The Ravens didn't appear in any of the "winners" or "losers" columns by pundits such as ESPN's Mel Kiper, NFL Media's Gregg Rosenthal, or CBS Sports' Will Brinson. As my colleague, John Eisenberg, wrote, the pick isn't sexy, but is very sound.
Here are the grades and instant analysis from around web:
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.– No grade"Talent. You see athletic ability, you see 4.41 recovery speed. He's over 6-feet tall, he's nearly 200 pounds. He fits the physical and athletic criteria you want. What he needs to do is locate the ball better. There were some hiccups in coverage at Alabama this year. He had five career interceptions, he's tough as nails, he'll tackle. Nick Saban is a defensive back, defensive guru, so you know complex schemes have coached him up. This year in coverage he lacked some consistency. I don't think he played up to the level of his talent. But he's got a ton of ability and he will tackle. You're not playing with 10 guys with Marlon Humphrey. When forced against the run he will throw that body around, and when he was on top of his game, he looked like a top-10 pick in the first round."
FOX Sports' Dieter Kurtenbach – A-"Humphrey bolsters the Ravens' new-look secondary in an exciting way. Cornerback was a position of need and he is a scheme fit as well. An outside linebacker might have been the better play here, but Baltimore did well."
NFL Media's Chad Reuter – B
"Ozzie Newsome once again went back to his old school, picking cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The corner's physical play and better-than-expected long speed locked up a mid-first-round pick."
NFL Media's Bucky Brooks – B
"He's tough, he's physical. He doesn't mind putting his face in the fan. He will make big hits on runners at the line of scrimmage. I love the way he smacks people coming up. In coverage, he's athletic enough to stay with anybody. … His biggest issue is playing the ball down the field against bigger guys."
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco – B
"They need a corner, so I get it. The Alabama connection with Ozzie Newsome helps this pick."
USA Today's Steven Ruiz – B
"The Ravens set out to improve their secondary this offseason, and they certainly have after picking up the Alabama corner. He'll need to refine his technique, but Humphrey has the physical tools to become a shutdown corner."
The Washington Post's Mark Maske – B
"GM Ozzie Newsome likes Alabama players and this pick fills a major need for the Ravens, who had to bolster their secondary and did just that."
Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier – B
"Marlon Humphrey is the best cornerback in this class within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He's a nasty run defender who also rips wide receiver screens to shreds. He jams receivers well and is smart and rangy in underneath zones. Trouble arises when Humphrey is forced to cover receivers deep, however. He will bite on fakes, and he sometimes loses position against his man.
"Humphrey is a solid player and not a bad selection, but the Ravens sat tight through a run of offensive players who could have helped them, then grabbed one of many very good cornerbacks left on the board when players at other positions are becoming harder to find.
"My guess is that Ozzie Newsome saw four or five draftable Alabama players, couldn't make up his mind, and took the eenie-meenie-miney-mo approach. Not really. Newsome is a savvy personnel guy. And he knows the Tide program like Nick Saban's shadow, so he may have passed on some players for very good reasons."
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke – C* *"Cornerback was a need for the Ravens, even after they signed Brandon Carr this off-season. Was it more of a need than other spots on the field, like offensive tackle or pass rusher? Was Humphrey a better value than, say, a tumbling O.J. Howard? It doesn't feel like it right away. Humphrey fits the physical prototype at cornerback, but he has a lot of technique clean-up to do before he can be trusted by his lonesome vs. premier NFL receivers. The ceiling is high, without question, but how long will it take him to get there? Ozzie Newsome has been known as a staunch best-player-available GM come draft time. Not sure he hit that mark here."
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec– No grade"The Ravens weren't kidding when they said this offseason that they wanted to upgrade their secondary. You can never have enough cornerbacks, but there were better fits out there. I would have taken any of Humphrey's three college teammates: Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster or O.J. Howard. Humphrey has all the physical traits of a quality NFL cornerback, but he struggled with consistency problems at Alabama and will probably start the season as the No. 4 CB. How about a No. 2 pass rusher or a No. 1 weak-side LB?"
ESPN's Jamison Hensley* – No grade *"Why they did it: The Ravens continue their trend of building one of the NFL's top secondaries. Baltimore takes the draft's second-best cornerback in Humphrey after signing safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency. It's interesting that Humphrey is often compared to Jimmy Smith, the last cornerback selected by the Ravens in the first round (2011).
"Biggest question: Why didn't the Ravens address a more immediate need on defense? The Ravens could've selected two other Alabama prospects -- defensive end Jonathan Allen or inside linebacker Reuben Foster -- who would've filled voids in the starting lineup. It's surprising Baltimore didn't trade back in the first round and get more picks."
Pro Football Focus' Josh Liskiewitz – No grade"Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made a habit of drafting Alabama prospects throughout his tenure, and he had his pick of several this year. Humphrey is susceptible to the big play at times, but gave up 50.0 percent completions into his coverage each of the last two seasons, and defended a total of 17 passes in that span. In his last five games for the Crimson Tide, he gave up just five total receptions on 13 targets. The Ravens had significant issues in the secondary last year, thus targeting a cornerback with this pick is no surprise."
Why The Pick Surprised Many, Including Humphrey
Humphrey admitted that he was caught off guard when the Ravens drafted him.
"I did not think I had a chance of going to the Ravens at that point," he said. "To be honest, I wasn't even really paying attention to what was on the screen. That's just how surprised I was when my name got called."
Humphrey did not have a pre-draft visit with the Ravens (Baltimore had its eye on him even before he took the field at Alabama). Plus, Newsome can get all the info he needs from Saban.
Humphrey said he wasn't paying attention at that point because he was so shocked by where Clemson's DeShaun Watson fell in the draft (No. 12, behind two other quarterbacks).
But why were many pundits and fans surprised by the pick?
"The draft broke perfectly for the Ravens, with three quarterbacks and three gifted but perhaps flawed wide receivers going in the first 12 picks. And then they swerved everybody by taking Marlon Humphrey," wrote The Sun's Childs Walker.
"I thought the Ravens would go with a defensive player from Alabama, but didn't expect it to be Marlon Humphrey," wrote The Sun's editor, Ron Fritz.
Here's why the pick was somewhat surprising (though it shouldn't have been).
Cornerback was a major need entering the offseason and the Ravens made that clear. They signed veteran cornerback Brandon Carr to give them a strong trio with Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young, which made it seem like less of a need. The Ravens still have open starting spots at right tackle, inside linebacker, outside linebacker and wide receiver.
But Baltimore has learned it can never have too many corners given their propensity for injuries.
Many fans and pundits were fully on-board when mock drafts projected Washington's Sidney Jones to the Ravens before he tore his Achilles.
So why be surprised by Humphrey? He's an Alabama prospect, which Newsome and the Ravens love. Plus he's big, physical, fast, smart and has NFL bloodlines. Those check many boxes for the Ravens.
In this case, it may be because of mock drafts. Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster and tight end O.J. Howard were all projected to go higher than Humphrey by nearly every mock draft.
Early mocks had Humphrey going in the first round, but that changed in the past couple months and didn't return until very recently. The cornerback projections changed wildly, as NFL front offices and mockniks prepared for an unpredictable first round.
This is a case where the draft analysts and NFL evaluators weren't on the same page. The NFL had a higher opinion of Humphrey, and that started to come out as the draft drew closer.
The Monday Morning Quarterback's Albert Breer reported as such on Tuesday in his "10 things I'm hearing 48 hours before the 2017 NFL draft" story.
"Two cornerbacks I think the NFL likes more than the public knows: Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, USC's Adoree Jackson," Breer wrote.
Humphrey ended up at No. 14 in Todd McShay's overall rankings and he was the No. 2 cornerback on Kiper's board.
"Humphrey wasn't a reach," Hensley wrote. "He was a lock to be taken in the first round."