Ravens Still Expected to Target Receivers Early in Draft
The Ravens added to their wide receiver corps Friday afternoon, agreeing in principle to a one-year contract with Seth Roberts, pending a physical.
Roberts was released by the Oakland Raiders and the Ravens quickly jumped on the opportunity to add the 28-year-old wideout.
General Manager Eric DeCosta didn’t dismiss the idea of signing a free agent before the NFL Draft at the team’s press conference last week, but pundits don’t expect the Roberts addition to change the Ravens’ draft strategy.
“Bringing in Roberts doesn't preclude the Ravens from drafting a wide receiver as high as the first round at the end of the month,” ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote.
“I doubt anybody that’s been signed has changed the draft strategy for the offense,” Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle Barber wrote. “Eric DeCosta is an Ozzie Newsome disciple. He’s studied and mentored behind one of the NFL’s best general managers in history and has also been his top co-counsel for years. The draft strategy is often ‘best player available’ and that won’t be changed by any addition, from Mark Ingram, [Earl] Thomas and Roberts to the re-signing of Robert Griffin III or Nick Boyle.”
After recent struggles drafting at the wide receiver position, DeCosta said the Ravens need to take “at-bats and swing.”
“It’s hard to be a .400 hitter if you’re only at bat twice,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got to take some chances. We’ve got to find some guys that we like and try to appreciate the really good football players, the guys that make plays.”
The bulk of Roberts’ production has come from the slot. Paired with Snead, also a slot threat, the duo brings a gritty 1-2 punch to the passing attack.
However, Barber still believes the Ravens should be searching for a No. 1 receiver.
“Somebody to not only move the chains, but become a threat to score early and often,” Barber wrote. “This strongly suggests that if a receiver like D.K. Metcalf or Parris Campbell were to still be on the board at 22, Baltimore will make the pick.”
Jury Still Out on Ravens’ Running Backs?
The Ravens’ mid-season transition to a run-first offense grabbed the attention of many.
Now, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is preparing to replicate the success for a full 16-game season.
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr ranked the running back situations for all 32 teams and the Ravens landed at No. 23.
“This is a backfield I expect will improve in the draft,” Orr wrote. “John Harbaugh was clear in his desire to add running backs who can protect the ball and get upfield, especially if Baltimore is all in on this new attack helmed by Lamar Jackson.”
For the rest of the AFC North, the Browns came in at 20, Bengals at 12 and Steelers at 11.
The Ravens averaged 152.6 rushing yards per game last season and used a committee of backs in the process. They were by far the top rushing team in the league once Lamar Jackson took over.
Gus Edwards broke out as an undrafted rookie while Kenneth Dixon served as a complementary piece in the backfield. Jackson had the most rushing yards of any quarterback in the NFL despite just seven starts.
Following Alex Collins’ release in March and Ingram’s addition soon after, the Ravens have a mix of young and veteran talent. It’s a productive group, but one that may not be finalized just yet.
“The Ravens have always believed in a running back by committee or at least by tandem approach,” wrote Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler. “Even when they had Ray Rice, they had Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. The Ravens are going to be one of the most run first teams in football in 2019. Running backs may be easier to find than some other positions, but an elite running back could make more of a difference in Baltimore than anywhere else.”
The Ravens reportedly worked out former Packers and Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy on Friday. They’ve also been linked to Alabama’s Josh Jacobs in mock drafts. So they may not be done bolstering the position, as Orr alluded to.
“I like the idea of adding a shifty, third-down, home-run type hitter guy,” Harbaugh said in March. “We might have him already. … I wouldn’t be surprised if we added a back into the mix and let him compete. It could be the type of back you’re talking about because obviously we have some really good downhill runners.”
Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews Were Top Draft Risks That Paid Off
Almost a year later, Ozzie Newsome continues to earn high praise for his final draft as general manager of the Ravens.
Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey highlighted five draft risks that showed early returns during their rookie seasons. A pair of Ravens’ third-round picks, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews made the list.
“Brown ended the season with a 66.6 overall grade lined up at right tackle, ranking 19th among 36 qualifiers at the position,” Linsey wrote. “He was particularly impressive in pass protection; in 378 pass-blocking snaps including the playoffs, he only allowed 18 pressures. That pressure rate allowed of 4.8 percent finished eighth-best among all right tackles. Coming from a third-round rookie tackle, that performance is promising for his future development.”
Brown was projected by pundits as a first-round pick before struggles at the Combine dropped his stock. Thus, the Ravens leveraged their draft capital to land a steal.
Brown graded as the highest pass blocking rookie tackle with at least 100 snaps last season, per PFF. He didn’t allow a sack in 10 starts.
Linsey considered Andrews as a risk after the Ravens drafted tight end Hayden Hurst in the first round.
Newsome and the front office clearly didn’t see it that way and Andrews set a franchise record for receiving yards as a rookie tight end with 552.
“Among 70 qualifying tight ends, Andrews’ overall grade ranks 13th and his receiving grade ranks 11th,” Linsey wrote. “His 199 receiving yards on passes 20-plus yards downfield finished behind only Travis Kelce, as Andrews offered a legitimate field-stretching threat for a run-centric Ravens offense. … The Ravens realized his value comes as a receiver, and that is how they’ve used him thus far. It appears they have finally found a tight end to stick on.”
The Ravens have two third-round and fourth-round selections this year, setting them up for a chance to find even more draft gems.
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