Late for Work 5/12: Pundit Says Ravens Are Runaway Favorite in AFC North

051222-LFW
QB Lamar Jackson

Pundit Says Ravens Are Runaway Favorite in AFC North

There is no consensus favorite in the AFC North. Some oddsmakers favor the Ravens, while others have either the Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals as the team most likely to win the division.

For Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr, the choice is clear.

"[The Ravens] are, at the moment, my runaway favorite in the AFC North," Orr wrote in his post-draft power rankings, where he placed the Ravens at No. 8.

Even though Orr has Baltimore two spots behind the defending AFC champion Bengals in the rankings, he believes the Ravens' heralded draft class helps make them the most dangerous team in the division.

"It's difficult to imagine a better draft for the Ravens, who seemed to be spinning the entire board like a lazy Susan, having a premium player of need land in their laps in every round," Orr wrote. " … When a team knows itself as well as the Ravens do, they can create some real art on draft night. Imagine a 400-pound Daniel Faalele securing the edge for Lamar Jackson on boot action runs this year."

Orr also pushed back on criticism the Ravens have received for not drafting a wide receiver.

"People are going to complain about a lack of help at the wide receiver position, though I'd argue that if wide receiver was a position central to their near-future plans, they would not have let Hollywood Brown go," Orr wrote. "They also wouldn't have drafted about 13 tight ends."

On a side note, Orr isn't nearly as bullish on the Browns as the oddsmakers. He has them at No. 20 in his rankings, one spot behind the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Calais Campbell Talks About the Important Role His Wife Played in Him Re-Signing With Baltimore

During Calais Campbell's appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show," the six-time Pro Bowl defensive linemen reiterated that the sole reason he is returning for his 15th season is because he badly wants a Super Bowl ring before he retires.

Campbell, who reportedly had interest from several other teams this offseason, revealed that his wife, Rocio, played a vital role in his decision to re-sign with the Ravens.

"She knows how bad I want to win a championship and how much time and effort I put into it, and I think she's in agreeance with how good the Ravens can be this year," Campbell said. "She was like, 'We have a house there; we don't have to move.' … She likes Baltimore a lot, too. The place we're at in Baltimore, she likes the area. So she decided about going back, which is nice, because if she didn't sign off on it, it wouldn't be happening."

Campbell said that in addition to the Ravens having a potent offense and a generationally talented quarterback, the defense is another reason why he has confidence in the team's ability to contend for a Super Bowl title this season.

"I think what really puts us over the top is our defense," Campbell said. "We got a lot better in our secondary; we already had a really good secondary. Our linebackers are getting older – Patrick Queen is becoming a lot wiser in Year 3. … And [we have] young, talented guys on the D-line who are developing and maturing."

Campbell also talked about relishing his role as a mentor to younger players.

"When it comes to actually helping people, I feel like you have to keep the game strong," Campbell said. "You have to share your knowledge. What good is it to accumulate all this knowledge if I just take it with me when I leave? … I can't help myself. I'm a teacher by nature. I like helping people."

Ravens Poised to Be 'Matchup Nightmare' on Offense and Defense

Russell Street Report's Darin McCann said the perception that the Ravens have weaknesses at wide receiver and edge rusher is not without merit, but he contends that by investing in the tight end and safety positions, the team has created mismatches on both sides of the ball.

Despite having arguably the best pass-catching tight end in Mark Andrews and best blocking tight end in Nick Boyle, the Ravens used fourth-round picks on tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely.

"This is not the sexiest package of weapons to hit the NFL in terms of dash and flash, but it is a matchup nightmare that can line up against any defense, and — maybe even more importantly — can dictate what kind of packages opposing defenses can roll out there from play to play," McCann wrote. "Load up with defensive backs to try to negate the Ravens speed with Jackson and J.K .Dobbins? Here comes the thunder on the edges. Bulk up to try to stop those battles, and watch a tight end get matched up against a linebacker one-on-one in coverage."

Even though safety was not a position of need, the Ravens drafted Kyle Hamilton in the first round, adding him to a group that includes prized free agent signee Marcus Williams, three-year starter and team leader Chuck Clark, veteran Tony Jefferson, and promising young players Geno Stone and Ar'Darius Washington

"The Ravens should be able to play deep cover-two in certain situations, as well as push Williams to a center field role while guys like Hamilton, Jefferson and Clark can provide coverage matchups inside against tight ends or big slots, while also being able to offer something with the blitz," McCann wrote. "In a matchup league, where defenses in particular are looking for an advantage in this offense-favored time, this group of safeties could prove to be game-changing for the Ravens going forward — particularly if they are able to get out to leads and start throwing a zillion different looks at pass-heavy teams trying to score points in a hurry."

Pundits Expect Several Ravens Draft Picks to Make Impact in 2022 and for Years to Come

Members of the Ravens' draft class continue to be praised by pundits.

ESPN's Matt Bowen named Hamilton one of 10 rookies who landed with the perfect team.

"With new coordinator Mike Macdonald in Baltimore, expect Hamilton to be deployed as a disruptive force at multiple levels of the defense," Bowen wrote. "I'm looking for late rotations, disguise and post-snap movement to put Hamilton in a position to finish on the ball."

Bowen identified Kolar as a value pick who could make an immediate impact.

"Kolar doesn't have high-end third-level stretch ability, but the Iowa State product wins with his 6-foot-6 frame and leverage to separate as a middle-of-the-field chain-mover," Bowen wrote. "That's a really good fit for a Baltimore offense that utilizes two- and three-tight-end sets in the pass game. Paired with Mark Andrews (and fellow rookie Isaiah Likely), Kolar can produce as another reliable target who can uncover and find open grass for quarterback Lamar Jackson."

Meanwhile, NFL.com's Marc Ross put center Tyler Linderbaum and outside linebacker David Ojabo on his list of 10 rookies who are in the best situations to succeed in 2022 and beyond.

"This might not be the sexiest pick, but Baltimore is the perfect place for Linderbaum — who, in my opinion, is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft class," Ross wrote. "Linderbaum joins a run-first offense in which he'll thrive, as he earned a 96.6 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021, leading all Power Five O-linemen with at least 200 offensive snaps."

On Ojabo, Ross wrote: "OK, this might not be an instant impact, but the longer play is extremely promising. The Ravens have regularly developed playmakers and produced Pro Bowlers, and the defense is stable enough in the short term to allow Ojabo time to recover from his Achilles injury. The second-round pick is in a perfect situation as he reunites with new Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who helped Ojabo blossom into a double-digit sack menace in 2021 at Michigan. With a full recovery and time to refine his skill set, Ojabo should wreak havoc off the edge early in his career."

Jarvis Landry Continues to Be Linked to Ravens

Add ESPN's Bill Barnwell to the list of pundits who think the Ravens will sign veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

"I'd like to see Baltimore add something more of a downfield threat, with William Fuller V still an open-market option, but the Ravens could use Devin Duvernay as that speedy third wideout and add Landry as a chain-mover for quarterback Lamar Jackson," Barnwell wrote.

Barnwell believes the Ravens and Indianapolis Colts are the two most likely destinations for Landry, but he gave the advantage to the Ravens because they "are typically more aggressive in this window when it comes to adding veterans."

Barnwell projected a one-year deal in the $6 million range for Landry. The Ravens currently have $7.1 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap. DeCosta has said, however, that he likes to enter the season with a nest egg to be able to make midseason trades.

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