Late for Work 5/5: Ravens' AFC North Rivals Hate the J.K. Dobbins Pick

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RB J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins 'Won't Be Fun to Face Two Times Per Season'

The Ravens adding Ohio State star J.K. Dobbins to an already potent backfield has not gone unnoticed by those who cover Baltimore's AFC North rivals.

Dawg Pound Daily's Randy Gurzi named Dobbins one of three AFC North rookies the Cleveland Browns should be worried about facing.

"While there were picks made before him in the AFC North, Dobbins could end up being the best rookie in the division," Gurzi wrote. "He's a dominant runner that will be joining a team that commits to the ground game like no one else. For that reason, Cleveland needs to be very concerned about him going forward. He's not a player who will be fun to face two times per season."

Facing Dobbins twice a season could be even more painful for Steelers fans, since Pittsburgh -- which had been linked to the running back in some mock drafts -- passed on Dobbins with its first pick at No.

49 overall and selected Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool instead.

"Listen, the Steelers are to be trusted on wide receivers. They draft them better than anyone, and this kid has enticing talent. But I would have gone for Dobbins," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Joe Starkey wrote.​ "The Ravens, of all teams, take Dobbins. They were already the best running team in NFL history. It'll be mighty interesting to track his progress vs. Claypool's."

Report: Ravens Have Made Contract Offer to Pernell McPhee

Former Raven Pernell McPhee is frequently mentioned as a veteran pass rusher Baltimore could target in free agency. According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, the team has made a contract offer to McPhee, who played with the Ravens last season and from 2011-2014.

"What isn't clear is whether the holdup is McPhee mulling offers elsewhere or the challenges of getting a physical in this climate," Zrebiec wrote. "McPhee is a good fit because he's a vocal leader, and he knows the Ravens defense. The latter can't be dismissed given the abbreviate nature of this offseason.

The Ravens have enough new pieces up front who are going to have to learn the defense."

McPhee had three sacks in seven games last season before suffering a season-ending triceps injury.

If the Ravens don't sign McPhee, other veteran edge rushers available in free agency include Clay Matthews, Everson Griffin, Cameron Wake and former Raven Terrell Suggs, among others.

"Barring a few cost-saving moves, the Ravens don't currently have the cap space for Jadeveon Clowney," Zrebiec wrote. "However, they could probably afford the others."

Draft Haul Sets Up Ravens to Compete for Super Bowl in 2020 and Beyond

The Ravens are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this coming season, but their approach in this year's draft was indicative of a team that's set on competing for the Lombardi Trophy not only in 2020, but in the ensuing years as well.

That's the conclusion reached by Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens in his analysis of the Ravens' draft strategy, and it's easy to see why.

One of the main reasons the Ravens received sterling draft grades from pundits is because General Manager Eric DeCosta managed to address the needs of a team that went 14-2 last season while simultaneously setting it up for future success.

The most obvious example of the latter is the selection of Dobbins in the second round despite Baltimore returning its top three running backs from last season's team, which set an NFL single-season record for rushing yards.

"With the Ravens' run-heavy offensive scheme, having guys waiting in the wings to take over is a wise strategy," Stevens wrote. "When Baltimore is ready to move on from [Mark] Ingram, they won't have to hope a player they love as much as Dobbins is available for them to pick. They won't have to potentially reach for a running back or spend valuable cap space on a free agent simply because it's a pressing need. In the end, that saved draft capital and money can go to building up other positions and further making the Ravens' roster better."

Stevens compared the selection of Dobbins to when the Ravens drafted Marlon Humphrey in the first round in 2017 even though cornerback was not a pressing need.

"Humphrey got some playing time as a rookie but largely spent his first two seasons in a backup role before securing the starting job last season and turning in an All-Pro performance," Stevens wrote. 

"Though Dobbins is surely going to get some playing time as a rookie, he could see a similar entrance to the NFL as Humphrey. With Ingram in front of him, Dobbins will likely be relegated to more of a rotational role early and as he continues to learn the intricacies of the position, he'll see an increase in playing time. By the time Dobbins actually starts, he should be primed for a Pro Bowl season."

The Ravens' draft strategy this year is consistent with the organization's "best player available" philosophy that was established by previous GM Ozzie Newsome.

"Baltimore filled what would have been some of their biggest needs next offseason, adding cheap, long-term options on both the offensive and defensive lines as well as finding a starter at running back," Stevens wrote. "Instead of being forced to scramble at this time next year, spending their money and draft picks to hopefully keep up with the rest of the pack, they're letting rookies grow into their roles and extending their Super Bowl window safely.

"This is the type of draft the Ravens have prided and built themselves on. It's why they've been so successful over the last 24 seasons and why they're likely going to be one of the best teams in the league for their 25th and beyond."

Jaylon Ferguson Is a Post-Draft Winner

One Raven who benefitted from the draft is second-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

"The third-round pick had a quiet rookie season with 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits, but his grip on keeping a starting job strengthened after the Ravens surprisingly didn't select an edge rusher with any of their 10 draft picks," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore passed on A.J. Epenesa and Yetur Gross-Matos in the first round and chose not to take Zack Baun or Josh Uche in the second. The Ravens could sign a veteran pass-rusher before the season, but the draft provided a vote of confidence in Ferguson."

Ferguson, the all-time NCAA leader in career sacks (45), played in 14 games last season, including nine starts, and became more of a factor as the season progressed. Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler ​believes "Sack Daddy," as Fergsuon was known while playing at Louisiana Tech, could make a significant leap in 2020, just as Matthew Judon did in his second season with the Ravens in 2017.

"It's important to remember that when Ferguson came into the NFL, he was used to being the most dominant athlete on the field," Schisler wrote in February. "At the next step up, it wasn't as easy. It was going to take a little time for Ferguson to dominate off the edge. He could go from a rookie with some promising flashes to a surprisingly dependable part of the Ravens' pass-rushing production."

James Proche Has Connection With Two Former Ravens

New Ravens wide receiver James Proche will see at least one familiar face in Baltimore: former Ravens linebacker and current defensive coaching analyst Zach Orr.

Proche grew up in Dallas playing football with Orr's younger brothers, Nick and Chris.

"Zach's like a big brother to me," Proche said on Glenn Clark Radio.​ "To have family in Baltimore and somebody I can go to as a big brother and seek knowledge, wisdom and apply it to my daily life, I'd be an idiot not to seek knowledge from him."

The SMU star also has a relationship with another former Raven in Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Proche attended Sanders' Prime Prep Academy in Texas during his sophomore and junior years.

"Deion was like a father figure, uncle, coach, whatever hat I needed him to wear he did," Proche said. "I learned so much about being a pro. I did a lot of things wrong. He taught me about being emotionally mature at a young age. He gave me a lot of wisdom from trying to be the guy and how to handle everything. I owe a lot to him. I fell in love with football around that time."

Proche said he won't hesitate to seek advice from other former Ravens stars.

"I feel like I'm going to learn how to be a pro," Proche said. "That's what I'm most excited about. To learn how to establish myself, establish my routine and get to talk to guys like Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin and just get wisdom from them. I feel like all those guys are pros' pros that come to the Ravens."

Quick Hits

  • Justin Tucker made NFL.com's All-Paid Team, which consists of the highest-paid players in the league at​     each position. "Justin Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.8 percent) and has made the Pro Bowl in three of the last four seasons," NFL.com's Anthony Holzman-Escareno wrote. "The Ravens rightfully made him the NFL's highest-paid player at his position."

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