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Late for Work: Ray Lewis Picks a Side in Tom Brady-Peyton Manning Debate

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis talks with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) after the Ravens won 38-35 in overtime of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver.
Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis talks with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) after the Ravens won 38-35 in overtime of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver.

Ray Lewis Picks a Side in Tom Brady-Peyton Manning Debate

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning engaged in a rivalry for the ages, and the debate over which of the quarterbacks is the GOAT has continued.

Perhaps no defensive player is better suited to weigh in on the subject than Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who battled both Brady and Manning numerous times, including six meetings in the playoffs.

During a recent appearance on "STAT Sports with Rob Lepelstat," Lewis gave the nod to Manning.

"I would say from a quarterback, from a student level of the game, [Manning] made me alter my game," Lewis said. "He made me watch more film and that's what I call the greatest quarterback, to me, me and his battle. Brady, of course, rings, but when you talk about just walking out there and seeing a man knowing that, whoo, here we go again, Peyton Manning was rough."

Pundit Says Ravens 'Need to Hit a Home Run' With First-Round Pick

In an offseason that has had far more roster subtractions than additions for the Ravens, the draft has taken on greater significance as the team looks to reload for another deep playoff run.

The 33rd Team’s Marcus Mosher named the Ravens as one of five playoff teams that need to hit a home run with their first pick in the draft.

"Without question, the team is in a much worse position than at this time last season," Mosher wrote. "They've taken a big step backward in terms of overall talent. … The Ravens were the AFC's No. 1 seed last season and waltzed their way to the AFC Championship Game. But if they want to finally get over the hump in the Lamar Jackson era, they need to find creative ways to build their roster despite constant turnover in free agency."

The good news for the Ravens, who have the 30th-overall selection and nine picks in total, is that this year's draft class in is rich in prospects at positions where Baltimore has holes to plug.

"While the Ravens have significant needs on both sides of the ball, they are notorious for not drafting for need but instead selecting the best player available. That should set them up well in this class, especially considering their biggest needs (WR, OT, EDGE) are some of the deepest positions in this class," Mosher wrote.

The Ravens have a proven track record of success in drafting and developing players rather than going on shopping sprees in free agency. The approach has made them perennial contenders, which General Manager Eric DeCosta spoke about at the end of season press conference.

"We've got a great process," DeCosta said. "We've got great evaluators. Our coaching staff does a phenomenal job, and we also develop players, so I don't really subscribe to the idea of windows opening and closing. I'd like to believe that with careful roster building and good drafting and development of players, the window is going to always be open."

Looking at Fits for the Ravens Throughout the Draft at Two Positions of Need

Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness identified early-, mid- and late-round draft fits for the Ravens at positions of need. Here's what he came up with on the offensive line and at edge rusher:


Day 1 fit: Jordan Morgan, Arizona

Day 2 fit: Blake Fisher, Notre Dame

Day 3 fit: Christian Jones, Texas

"Morgan would make a lot of sense as the Ravens' first-round selection, coming off a season during which he earned an 87.3 PFF pass-blocking grade. He can start out at guard before being the eventual successor at left tackle to Ronnie Stanley. With PFF run- and pass-blocking grades of 69.0 or better, Fisher could be a plug-and-play starter at right tackle for the Ravens as a Day 2 selection, while Jones would be a developmental prospect behind Stanley on the left side."


Day 1 fit: Chop Robinson, Penn State

Day 2 fit: Marshawn Kneeland, Western Michigan

Day 3 fit: Jalen Green, James Madison

"Robinson wouldn't be an every-down player for the Ravens, at least not right away, but his level of pass-rushing prowess is not something usually available late in the first round. He is coming off a final season at Penn State during which he won 20.1% of his pass-rushing reps. Kneeland, on the other hand, could develop into an every-down star. While his pass-rush win rate was a bit lower than Robinson's, coming in at 17.3%, his 11.0% run-stop rate is among the best in the class. James Madison's Green is the late-round version of Robinson, winning 20.0% of his pass-rush reps and earning a 91.1 PFF pass-rushing grade on true pass sets."

Jeff Zrebiec Expects Ravens to Add Key Contributors Late in Offseason

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec expressed a similar sentiment as Mosher about the Ravens and the draft, saying that "there is significant pressure on DeCosta and the team's scouting staff to nail the draft later this month."

Zrebiec added that the Ravens also need to fill holes with shrewd free-agent signings before the start of the season, which is something DeCosta is accustomed to doing.

"DeCosta will also need to add quality veterans on team-friendly deals in the months ahead," Zrebiec wrote. "It's important to note that as long as the Ravens wait a few days after the conclusion of the draft, free-agent signings will no longer count toward the compensatory formula. That's typically when Baltimore strikes.

"No general manager did it better with the late moves last offseason than DeCosta. He added cornerback Arthur Maulet and long snapper Tyler Ott on the eve of training camp, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Ronald Darby midway through training camp, and then outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy following Week 3 of the regular season. All occupied key roles in helping the Ravens make it to the AFC Championship."

Zrebiec said it might be unrealistic to expect the same impact those signings made, but "the organization's track record in finding key contributors late in the offseason — and even during the season — is pretty good. There's no reason to think the Ravens won't be able to do it again. They'll probably need to."

Here's a look at free agents still available who could fit the Ravens.

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