The Ravens have decided to move forward with now second year quarterback Lamar Jackson. After being a playoff team in 2018, can they add the pieces needed to become a legitimate contender?
Starting with the offense, the Baltimore Ravens have their franchise quarterback in Lamar Jackson their first-round selection a year ago. They are completely set at the running back position as well, with Jackson himself mixing in a good deal with his legs. Mark Ingram just signed as a free agent this offseason, and they have incumbents Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon as well. The offensive line was a real bright spot for the team last season as they ranked top 10 in both run blocking and pass protection.
The tight end position is complete with three capable players in Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst, and Mark Andrews. All three should see time on the field and should see their share of targets as well. Wide receiver is where the Ravens really need added help. The only semi-proven receiver on the squad is Willie Sneed, and he is not a capable number one option. The Ravens need to add receivers who can get open and run great routes for Lamar Jackson so he can get more comfortable throwing the football and develop as a passer.
On the defensive line, the Ravens are pretty solid. They have three tackles in Brandon Williams, Chris Wormley, and Michael Pierce who are all solid players. The Ravens need to add help on the edge as they have only an unproven Tim Williams to rush from the outside.
The linebacker corps is questionable at best. Patrick Onwuasor was a player that many thought would be a sleeper last season, though he did not show up until the last few weeks. Many will be banking on that sleeper status again for 2019.
Matt Judon is a solid strongside linebacker, but the Ravens lost their best player on defense in C.J. Mosley. They will be replacing him with second-year man Kenny young who played well when needed last season but has never put together a full season of starts. Adding some depth at the middle linebacker position would be a smart idea for the Ravens.
The secondary, though very talented, is aging and they should start adding some potential replacements. Marlon Humphrey is a starter moving forward and will likely receive an extension if he puts together another solid season. Brandon Carr is 32 and on the tail end of his career and Jimmy Smith is 30 and has had trouble staying healthy. The team added Earl Thomas in free agency who is an elite player but will be turning 30 himself soon. Tony Jefferson should benefit this season with the addition of Earl Thomas and should be a mainstay with this Ravens team for several years.
Round 1, Pick #22 Marquise Brown, Wide Receiver- Oklahoma
Marquise Brown is an incredibly small receiver coming in at 5’9 and 168 Lbs. He is in fact though exactly the type of receiver that the Ravens need to get for Lamar Jackson. Jackson has arm strength and can throw the deep ball and Marquise Brown has unbelievable top end speed. What I like about Brown best though is his short area quickness and ability to create separation. He is one of the better route runners in the class with amazing footwork and speed. He can turn a quick six-yard slant into a 60-yard touchdown and take the top off the defense lining up outside.
In two seasons and 25 games with Oklahoma, Brown totaled 132 receptions for 2,413 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. That is just under 100 yards receiving per game at 96.5 yards and an average of 18.3 yards per reception. Adding a receiver who can get open quick and let Jackson release the ball early is key. Jackson needs to be able to get into a rhythm with easy throws for him to hit his potential and Brown could be the guy to get him there.
Round 3, Pick #86 Jalen Jelks, Edge- Oregon
Jalen Jelks is a very talented pass rusher but is caught in limbo between defensive end and an outside linebacker in terms of size. Until he figures out his true position, he can be used in sub packages and blitz packages as a situational pass rusher. Luckily for him, the Ravens use these types of packages and often even use a position that they call “rush” lineman. This sounds like a marriage made in heaven to me.
Jelks standout year was his Junior season in which he totaled 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, and seven passes defended. That last number shows that, even though he does always get to the quarterback, his active hands still cause a disturbance. With Terrell Suggs gone the Ravens need to add somebody to strictly rush the passer, Jelks could be their guy.
Round 3, Pick #103 Dillon Mitchell, Wide Receiver- Oregon
Dillon Mitchell is another receiver that could help Lamar Jackson reach his potential. With short area speed, burst, and a 4.47 40 yard dash, Mitchell does some of his best work on short crossing routes. When he gets the ball in his hands he is at his best. Mitchell has decent size and can play both the slot and outside receiver. He set a school record for receiving yards his Junior season with 1,184 receiving yards and also tagged on 10 touchdowns. With what the Ravens have at wideout right now adding some quick separation receivers would benefit the team’s game plan significantly.
Round 4, Pick #114 Carl Granderson, Edge- Wyoming
Here the Ravens double down at pass rusher to try to replace Terrell Suggs. It has been many years since they have had to worry about the position, and they do not want to be thin. Granderson is about the same build as Jelks and a has a similar play-style. Jelks is the better run defender which could help him transition to strongside linebacker but Granderson is purely a pass rusher.
His last two seasons at Wyoming have been very productive. He racked up 118 tackles, 23.5 for a loss, 11.5 sacks, two passes defended, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns. Granderson has all the tools to be an NFL talent and may be a project, but he could have a good future as a pass rusher in the NFL.
Round 4, Pick #124 Saivion Smith, Cornerback- Alabama
Saivion Smith is an interesting prospect in this draft. Before the 2016 season, he was a five-star recruit and the top ranked recruit at cornerback coming out of high school. He then signed with LSU a to ride the bench and did not get much run. He then transferred away from LSU and, instead of sitting out a season, he played ball at a community college. Smith then enrolled at Alabama for 2018 as the Tide really needed help at the position.
There he started 12 of 15 games and totaled 60 tackles, five passes defended, three interceptions (which led the team), one forced fumble and a touchdown. Smith is a 6’1 200 Lbs. aggressive press corner which should attract the Ravens. He can learn under two great aging veterans in Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr for his first couple seasons. If the team can get the five-star potential out of Smith than they could have a former Tide tandem of Marlon Humphrey and Saivion Smith as starting cornerbacks for the future.
Round 5, Pick #161 Marquise Blair, Safety- Utah
Talk about the perfect replacement for Earl Thomas for when he leaves. Marquise Blair is a mirror image of Earl Thomas when it comes to playing style. He has played anywhere from two-high to single-high to box safety. He plays with a very aggressive demeanor which gets him into trouble sometimes but is very athletic and rangy in coverage. Blair has great pursuit speed and showed a huge improvement in coverage this past season.
Blair is a former Junior College All-American and played well for Utah. He became a full-time starter his Senior season where he had 59 tackles, two for a loss, two passes defended, two interceptions and a forced fumble. With similar play style to Earl Thomas, Blair could be his eventual successor.
Round 6, Pick #193 Jeffrey Allison, Linebacker- Fresno St.
Jeffrey Allison, if nothing else, is a thumping tackle machine. He does not have elite speed, or top-notch instincts, but has a real nose for the football. Since taking over the Fresno St. defense as a Sophomore he accrued an amazing 246 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, four passes defended, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 26 games. Since he became a full-time starter he has averaged 9.5 tackles per game.
Allison will likely start as a special teams player, and likely a good one. He does have the tackling ability to be a backup linebacker in the NFL as well. Harbaugh has a great coaching staff that can help sharpen his instincts. If Allison can listen to his coaches and improve on his shortcomings, then he has the ability to become a serviceable player with the traits he already possesses.
The Ravens spend the early part of the draft finding weapons for Lamar Jackson that fit their scheme as well as a replacement for Terrell Suggs. In the first round, they grab standout receiver Marquise Brown who will easily become Lamar Jackson’s favorite target. At the end of the third round, they grab Dillon Mitchell from Oregon who does his best work on catch and run balls.
With the first pick in the third round the Ravens grab edge rusher Jalen Jelks also from Oregon. He has the ability to transition into an outside linebacker but, for now, can be a pure pass rusher. They double down on edge in the fourth round grabbing Carl Granderson from Wyoming. he possesses great traits for the edge position and can be coached possibly into something special.
With their second pick in the fourth round, they grab former five-star cornerback recruit Saivion Smith out of Alabama. Give him a year or two behind the veterans and he could emerge a full-time starter. In the fifth round, they select Marquise Blair out of Utah. This pick could pay dividends down the line as he owns very similar traits to Earl Thomas and has a few seasons to learn from him. With the Ravens final selection, they grab a tackle monster middle linebacker from Fresno St. With a little coaching and some time on special teams he could be an eventual starter.
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