Why Ravens Could Draft Another Offensive Player in First Round

Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.
Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.

Don't be certain the Ravens will use their top draft pick on a defensive player.

Most early mock drafts have the Ravens taking either a linebacker or pass rusher with their first-round pick, with inside linebacker Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma being a popular choice.

While addressing the front seven first makes sense, Baltimore is still looking to improve its offense, even after being the NFL's highest-scoring team and setting the league record for rushing yards in a season.

Wide receiver is a position to watch. Adding another playmaker would help MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson as he continues to develop at age 23. Marquise Brown had an impressive rookie season, but there's no law against picking a wide receiver No. 1 in back-to-back years.

A receiver with more size than Brown who could contribute immediately would make Baltimore's offense even tougher to deal with. The Ravens might sign a wide receiver during free agency, but this draft is considered deep at the position.

"We have a really good feel for the type of receivers we want to bring in," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Without letting the cat out of the bag too much, we want a certain type of guy, and we want a certain type of other guy that would fit us. And we'll be looking hard for those guys."

In his mock draft, Carter Donnick of The Draft Network has the Ravens selecting Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins in the first round. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Higgins has the size and physicality to be an effective blocker in Baltimore's run-heavy offense. Higgins had 59 catches for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and Clemson also used him as a ballcarrier on reverses and inside tosses.

General Manager Eric DeCosta has said he wants to take more swings at the wide receiver position, and Higgins could be tempting if still available.

Would the Ravens take a running back at No. 28? It seems unlikely, but not everyone has eliminated the possibility. Luke Easterling of Draft Wire has mocked running back Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin to the Ravens in the first round.

There are obvious reasons why a running back isn't the top draft priority for Baltimore. Jackson and running back Mark Ingram II both had over 1,000 yards rushing, and the Ravens have running back depth with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. However, that doesn't mean they won't look at running backs later in the draft.

The offensive line is another position to watch. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda is expected to decide whether to retire or return before the draft, and his retirement would obviously leave a huge void to fill. Starting center Matt Skura was lost to a major knee injury in late November, and the timetable for his recovery remains uncertain.

Even after re-signing veteran tackle Andre Smith on Thursday, the Ravens will keep searching for more offensive line depth. And Baltimore has done well drafting offensive lineman in the past. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley (No. 6) overall is the only offensive line starter who was a first-round pick. Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and Yanda were both third-rounders, left guard Bradley Bozeman was a sixth-rounder while Skura was undrafted.

Baltimore has done a terrific job stockpiling offensive talent in the past two drafts. Jackson is the NFL's reigning MVP. Tight end Mark Andrews and Brown Jr. made the Pro Bowl in their second season. Bozeman became a starter in his second season, tight end Hayden Hurst played a larger role in the offense, and wide receiver Miles Boykin and Hill showed promise as rookies.

Improving the defense is a priority this offseason, especially the front seven. However, don't eliminate the possibility of the Ravens using the draft, and even early picks, to help them remain one of the NFL's most dynamic offensive teams.

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