Mark Ingram Key to Ravens’ AFC North Title Hopes?
NFL.com’s Tom Blair praised the Ravens’ signing of running back Mark Ingram in his analysis of where things stand in the AFC North heading into the NFL Draft.
While Blair went with the obvious pick in choosing the Cleveland Browns’ blockbuster trade for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as the best addition in the division, he touted the Ravens’ signing of running back Mark Ingram as his “sleeper addition.”
“A number of players could slot in here, including new Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and new Ravens safety Earl Thomas,” Blair wrote. “[Ingram is] a potential difference maker who might be flying somewhat under the radar in part because he is not named Le’Veon Bell.
“Whatever John Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Greg Roman are cooking up for [quarterback Lamar Jackson’s] sophomore campaign, Ingram will likely play a key role. Ultimately, depending on how things shake out, this acquisition could help determine whether or not Baltimore is able to hold off the Browns and defend its AFC North title.”
NFL Network’s Michael Robinson also showed some love for Ingram in his analysis of how running backs with new teams will fare in 2019.
“I think he’s going to have more production,” Robinson said. “Lamar Jackson is going to pull those extra defenders because he’s a viable threat running the football. You’re going to have some open seams and they have a big, big, dominant offensive line.”
Regarding the Browns and their status as AFC North favorites, Blair wrote that “with Beckham in the mix, suddenly it becomes downright reasonable to imagine the Browns playing in the Super Bowl,” but he cautioned against handing the division crown to them in April.
“In football, as in life, nothing is guaranteed,” Blair wrote. “The Browns could be derailed by injuries and some combination of the other weird, unforeseen complications that tend to color NFL campaigns. Pittsburgh still has a likely Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger driving its offense and hasn't recorded a losing season since 2003.
“And, you know, the team that actually won the division in 2018 has its own thrilling, young quarterback. Upon replacing veteran pocket-passer Joe Flacco last season, Lamar Jackson lit the Ravens on fire, losing just one of his seven regular-season starts and powering them to their fifth AFC North title.”
Marlon Humphrey Has a Jersey Number But Isn't Sharing
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey joined NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano on “Up to the Minute” yesterday, and of course the most pressing and first question was about his jersey number.
Humphrey gave up his No. 29 to Thomas, saying he respects what the Pro Bowl safety has accomplished in the league wearing that number.
Humphrey said he knows what number he’s going with but he didn’t want to reveal it just yet until it’s officially approved by the league.
“Maybe it could be 44. Maybe 37. Deion [Sanders] wore that with the Ravens,” Humphrey said. “There are a lot of different options, but it doesn’t really matter what number I wear as long as I have the last name on the back.”
Later on Twitter, however, Humphrey said he wants to be the first to wear 00. The number has been worn by NFL players in the past, but the league has not allowed anyone new to wear it since 1973.
Ozzie Newsome Still Involved in Draft Process
Former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome won’t be making the final decisions in the draft for the first time in the team’s history this year, but that doesn’t mean the architect of the Ravens’ two Super Bowl-winning teams won’t be involved in the process.
“Newsome, 63, has stepped aside to allow Eric DeCosta to take over as General Manager … but he still delivers a trusted voice,” ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. “Without the daily administrative duties of a GM, Newsome has watched more tape than he has the last couple of years and has been able to form more opinions on this year's prospects.”
Commenting on exactly how much Newsome will contribute in the draft room, DeCosta said: “I don’t know if he’ll be on every single pick. I imagine he would be. Maybe not in the seventh round because he likes to go work out.”
Hensley noted that Newsome has already had a positive influence on the Ravens’ offseason.
“Newsome made an impact last month for Baltimore in landing the team's biggest free-agent signing,” Hensley wrote. “He spearheaded closing the deal with Earl Thomas because he has a good relationship with the safety's agent.”
Wide Receiver, Edge Rusher Top Priorities in Draft
In taking a position-by-position look at the Ravens’ depth chart and prominent needs entering the draft, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec said the team “badly” needs to select a wide receiver.
“If general manager Eric DeCosta’s recent comments about the organization needing to take more swings at drafting receivers is any indication, they’ll select more than one,” Zrebiec wrote. “If the Ravens don’t grab a receiver with their first pick, they’ll almost certainly need to with at least one of their Day Two selections.”
NFL analyst Bucky Brooks has the Ravens taking two big-bodied wide receivers with their first two picks in the draft: Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf at No. 22 and Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside at No. 85.
“[The Ravens] want tough guys on the perimeter,” Brooks said. “With Metcalf and Arcega-Whiteside, the Ravens have increased the toughness in the wide receivers corps.”
As far as the Ravens defense, Zrebiec wrote that selecting an edge rusher in the draft is a necessity.
“A good case could be made that it’s the team’s biggest need following the offseason departures of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith,” Zrebiec wrote. “Defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale wants to run an aggressive defense, but he needs the horses on the outside to get to the quarterback. No secondary is going to hold up without a steady pass rush.
“The Ravens have to come out of the draft with at least one, if not two, pass-rushing prospects.”
In NBC Sports’ Peter King’s “Football in America” column, he has the Ravens trading down in the first round, which has become a popular sentiment.
“In Eric DeCosta’s first draft as GM, the safe thing to do — with just two picks in the top 100 — is what is in DeCosta’s blood: Trade,” King wrote. “If not, and if an explosive wideout like D.K. Metcalf is gone, the smart pick here would be a 10-year center — Erik McCoy of Texas A&M.”