On Thursday night, as the 1st round of the draft progresses, the Ravens will be sitting smack dab in the middle of the night at pick 16, just like they were in 2017. This is a unique position for the club, as most of the recent years, they’ve had a pick between 20-32 (From being a playoff team). In 2016, after having an abysmal, injury filled season, they were able to secure a pick in the Top 10, which they used on Ronnie Stanley. Similarly to last year, the Ravens find themselves with a number of holes in the roster to which a 1st round draft pick may make sense, to the point that the club isn’t clearly locked in on a certain player or even position. This leads to many possibilities, and thus, many directions us fans can dream in terms of draft possibilities.
So, as you watch the draft on Thursday, here are a few situations all of us can hope for to give us the best start to our draft class possible (I use the word possible strongly here. While it might be fun to hope that Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, or Bradley Chubb fall to pick 16, that has about as much chance happening as Steve Biscotti agreeing to just hand ownership of the Baltimore Ravens to me on a whim):
1 – A TOP 10 DEFENSIVE TALENT FALLS TO 16
Ozzie’s bread and butter as a 1st round strategy is finding a player that isn’t necessarily a top need, but instead one that every other team above us oddly passes on to take THEIR own needs player. This could be said about Marlon Humphrey last year to some extent, as well as Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. For the Ravens in 2018, players like Derwin James, Roqan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are consensus Top 10 players on most everyone’s Big Board, and any one of them would fill in a future need (Edmunds and Smith would slot in as ILBs next to Mosley, or even take over for him if Ravens can’t extend him by next year. Fitzpatrick and James would slot in as future replacements for Eric Weddle, who may retire as soon as next year and only has 2 years left on his deal. While this draft is critical to find offensive talent, the Ravens shouldn’t ignore a stud defensive talent that slides to them, as it would allow them to tap into Day 2 and early Day 3 prospects on the offense. The WR and TE talent in this draft are not very “top heavy” (None of the WR prospects are consensus “can’t miss” talent that usually goes in the early 1st round, and the Top 3 TEs are pretty evenly matched against each other and more likely to go late 1st).
2 – MIKE MCGLINCHEY FALLS TO 16
Barring a falling talent that was not expected to make it out of top 10, the best offensive player expected to be available at 16, would be Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey is the best pure tackle in this draft, and clearly the 2nd best OL in the draft behind Nelson. The Ravens current plan on the OL is to move James Hurst to RT and play Alex Lewis at LG. Should either of those two fail, the Ravens don’t really have a backup plan. Taking McGlinchey would allow Hurst to move back to LG if Lewis falters or if Hurst doesn’t do well at RT. McGlinchey would also likely be a better fill-in if Ronnie Stanley were to go down with an injury. If the Ravens stay at 16 and there’s no top defensive stud talent available, McGlinchey is the Best Player Avilable.
3 – ONE OF THE TOP 5 QUARTERBACKS FALL TO 16, TRADE BACK IN 1ST
PRS contributor Charles Kastner wrote an article today on why the Ravens should consider drafting a QB if they slide, but I’m taking this in a different direction. Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold are almost certain to be drafted in the Top 10 this year, if not Top 5. Josh Rosen has had some recent controversy around him, but is highly rated enough to likely go by pick 15 to the Cardinals. Then, there’s Lamar Jackson. Jackson certainly is an intriguing prospect – he was asked to try out as a WR during the Combine, but he refused, as he wants to solely be considered for QB skills. Jackson’s career at Louisville was impressive, and he offers a lot of potential to NFL teams, but he’s clearly the 5th of the top 5 QBs. There’s been some pre-draft smoke that the Ravens may consider taking Jackson at 16. Personally, I think this is Ozzie trying to generate some buzz. If Jackson is there at 16, Ozzie is hoping a team like the Patriots, or the Saints, or another team looking for a QB to line up with their aging veteran QB, bites and calls the Ravens to trade up. Ideally, the Ravens would love to slide back to the mid-20s, where the value to take many of the offensive skill players is more suited. There’s also the added benefit of picking up a Day 2 pick and possibly more. While it’s possible a team may want to move up for some other sliding talent, QB is usually the position that generates the most desperation for a team to move up.
With those nice scenarios listed out, here are the situations that would have me cursing, tweetstorming, and likely putting holes in my wall. These would be the developments that, while not destroying the Ravens draft plan, would certainly put a cloud on their future outlook:
1 – ALL 5 QBs taken, McGlinchey, James, Edmunds, Smith, Fitzpatrick taken
This is a far-fetched scenario but, if all 5 QBs are taken, as well as my 2 Top Scenario players (and the expected Top 10 players), that would leave the following players available at 16: Calvin Ridley, Vita Vea, Denzel Ward, Da’Ron Payne, Derrius Guice, James Daniels. Now, if the Ravens take Ridley, Guice, or Daniels, I wouldn’t be too upset. But taking any one of them at 16 is a bit of a reach, and thus represents a loss in terms of extra picks. But, with all the QBs off the board and no sliding talent, there is little to convince a team to move up for. Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne look like stud DTs, but teams don’t usually move up for that type of player, and the Ravens have no use for them due to Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce’s success.
2 – Teams overvalue WR and TE talent (as usual)
Regardless of whether the Ravens stand pat at 16 or trade back, they are certainly banking on WRs and potentially some TEs sliding into the 2nd round towards Pick 52. It’s doubtful that more than 1 WR or TE goes before 16, but around 21, teams could start making a run on pass catchers. DJ Moore, Courtland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, and Dallas Goedert should absolutely not make it to Round 2. The truly nightmare scenario would be all those players being taken, and then another team panics and takes a player like Michael Gallup or Mike Geisicki early to avoid losing out on them, starting another run on pass catchers. If there is a run on TEs especially, there’s a large drop off in talent beyond the Top 4, and the Ravens don’t want to end the draft with late round WR and TEs and more excuses that “the board just broke that way”. The Ravens tend to miss the wave on pass catchers each year, which is why we have such a dearth of talent now. This seems to be the one year that offensive skill positions aren’t slated to go heavily in the Top half of Round 1, so the Ravens just need to be cautious that teams don’t stack them up at the back half of Day 1 and early on Day 2.
3 – Steelers move up for a Top QB
This wouldn’t be bad as far as sliding a good player to the Ravens, but it would certainly spell trouble on the horizon if the Steelers are able to get a strong talent to be Big Ben’s protégé such as Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson. Ben keeps dancing with the retirement word each offseason, then backing off it and playing it up. I don’t really think his retirement is imminent, but he is a player with a long history of “injuries” and the Steelers could be thinking towards their future soon. This is a particularly strong QB class and if the Steelers are able to land a strong future option without having to tank a year, ala the Colts in 2011, it would be very frustrating.
At the end of the night, we know that Ozzie and future draft runner Eric DeCosta will always stick to their gut (and the board) and will hesitate to reach on a need. Here’s hoping that they find that gem that shines bright on their list, and not so bright on other team’s lists. And here’s to hoping that the pass catchers don’t get overvalued in this year’s hoopla.