Welcome to my favorite blog of the year. Crazy to think that this is actually the 8th edition of this blog for me here at Barstool Sports dot com. The Ravens are a team that has historically dominated the draft, so it's a source of great pride and interest in Baltimore. We love our drafts as much as we love our O's and Natty Bohs.
I wrote on Thursday before Round 1 that there were 3 areas that I was hoping they'd address - Pass Rusher, Receiver, and Right Tackle. They addressed two of those that very night with their pair of 1st rounders... but did not draft a tackle. I can't say it's not a tad bit confounding, but Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh were insistent that they weren't going to overreach for a guy simply to fill a need. I think the team has great confidence in the guys they currently have on the roster and in Alejandro Villaneuva, who will be signed in the next couple of days. Plus that sentiment reinforces the notion that they very much like the guys they did get. So without further ado, let's meet the 2021 draft class of the Baltimore Ravens.
1st Round (27th Overall) - Rashod Bateman, WR from Minnesota
Talked a bit about Rashod Bateman on Friday here, so I won't ramble on too much here. I love the pick. Bateman is a guy who makes plays, through and through. Anybody who had an evaluation on him thought of him highly. He's not exceptional at any one given thing besides maybe route-running. I don't know that the word "route technician" has ever been used to describe a Ravens WR draft pick. It's always "this guy can fly" (see Perriman, Hollywood, Torrey Smith, etc). Maybe that's the change in direction the Ravens have needed from a WR evaluation standpoint. But Bateman really has no weaknesses in his game and sounds like an all-around dude. Thrilled to have him and he looks phenomenal in purple already.
1st Round (31st Overall) - Odafe Oweh, OLB from Penn State
I also talked about Oweh here. The pass rusher position is one that has sorely needed an infusion of young talent for years, and that was only exacerbated with the departure of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. If you go back and read some of those past draft blogs, you'll see that I talk about this most years. Ever since Terrell Suggs started getting older, they needed to address the long-term future of that position. They were spoiled by Sizzle's longevity, and took their eye off the ball a bit and have been paying the price the past couple of years. This pick helps to alleviate that issue. Oweh has incredible measurables at 6'5 and 260 lbs and runs a sub 4.4 40, and he'll be a bit of a project (as most young pass-rushers are). I don't love the pick as much as the Bateman pick because we're a Super Bowl contender and Bateman will make far more of an impact from Day 1, but I feel a lot better about this position in the long-term.
3rd Round (94th Overall) - Ben Cleveland, G from Georgia
Big Country is a mammoth. He was born to run block. He's Marshal Yanda reincarnated. Running the football is what we do best in Baltimore and this is a great pick for our scheme. Ben loves to get downhill on guys and make life hell for them. There's been a rotation of guys in the interior line for the Ravens that are capable guards, but this pick should reinforce the idea of Bradley Bozeman sliding from left guard to his natural position of center, which was a sore spot for the Ravens all last season. There are enough guys to compete for that left guard spots among Cleveland, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson, and maybe Tyre Phillips if they don't see him playing right tackle. We're always going to have room for guards at 6'6, 357 lbs. Excited to have Big Country on board.
3rd Round (104th Overall) - Brandon Stephens, CB from SMU
Stephens is maybe the only pick in this class that had a few people scratching their head a bit. He's a converted running back who only has a couple of years as a defensive back under his belt, so he's going to need some time for development. This is fine because the cornerback position in Baltimore is one where the Ravens are pretty set in the short term, but there's certainly opportunity in the long-term. Jimmy Smith is on the last legs of his career and you can never have enough cornerback depth. Sometimes having played on the other side of the ball can help because it can put you inside the shoes of your opposition, but RB to CB is not exactly that type of transition. But you can bet that he's not afraid to initiate contact and I like his size at 6'0 and 213 lbs. It's not out of the question that he finds himself at safety down the road either. We'll see how this one plays out.
4th Round (131st Overall) - Tylan Wallace, WR from Oklahoma State
I talk a lot about how the draft is like throwing at a dart board. Your dedication to quality scouting will dictate how close you can stand to that dart board, but ultimately you want to have as many throws at it as possible. The Ravens have always tried to hold as many darts as possible. This philosophy has worked great over 25 years, but for whatever reason when those throws have been at wide receivers, we've damn near missed the board entirely. So what do you do when you can't hit? You gotta keep throwing those darts. That's what the Ravens have done at the wide receiver position the past 4 years, as they've taken two receivers in each draft class.
Wallace is a guy who has shown he can absolutely ball. His sophomore season in 2018 was a monster one, having racked up nearly 1,500 receiving yards and 12 TD's. That was good enough to finish runner-up to Jerry Jeudy for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver. He was well on his way to repeating that performance in 2019 when he tore his ACL, and suffered a knee sprain in the same knee in his shortened 2020 campaign. Hence why you see a guy who was otherwise projected to be a 2nd round pick available late in the 4th. He's 5'11 so he's not the biggest of guys but he plays much larger and has fantastic hands. He looks the entire part of a guy who can compete from day 1 if he's healthy. This feels like a classic Ravens risk/reward pick on a guy who had some red flags, but I'm optimistic he'll make an impact.
5th Round (160th Overall) - Shaun Wade, CB from Ohio State
Speaking of potential steals that slipped down draft boards, Shaun Wade is a guy who was a projected 1st rounder just a year ago. The two knocks on Wade are that his tape exposed some weaknesses in his game in coverage on the outside and he battled some nagging injuries. Somehow that performance was still good enough to garner him All-American and Big Ten Defensive POY awards so I'm not really sure how we got this guy this late. When he primarily defended the slot in 2019 (with 2020 1st rounders Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette covering the outside), he thrived. There's plenty of room for guys to carve out a role as slot corners in today's day and age and that might be Wade's niche. Tavon Young is great but he's perpetually injured so adding depth to this area was never going to be a bad idea. And after the Great Cornerback Plague of 2014, you can never have enough corners.
5th Round (171st Overall) - Daelin Hayes, OLB from Notre Dame
Wow, another player that the word "steal" has been attached to. The Ravens are throwing extra darts at pass-rusher because they certainly need to. Hayes is a more speed-oriented pass rusher who could also be described as a project. His technique leaves some to be desired, but there's plenty athleticism there in his 6'3 253 frame. He has an effective spin move but doesn't leverage his strength all that well. The thing I like most is that he's got great intangibles. A handful of reports on him have used the phrase "great motor" and he was a captain at Notre Dame. His skillset is a good fit for a 3-4 base defense, so we'll see what comes of him in Baltimore.
5th Round (184th Overall) - Ben Mason, FB/TE from Michigan
Some picks are just more fun than others. This one definitely qualifies. The inaugural Lowman Trophy winner is coming to Baltimore.
One of the advantages of running an offense different than anyone else's is that there's little competition for personnel that fit your system. The Atlanta Falcons don't have any use for a Ben Mason. We certainly do. We're building tanks while those other teams are trying to build sports cars. Ben Mason is tank city. He's cut from the same cloth as Pat Ricard and Pat knows it.
I like to think as Mason as a cross between Ricard and Nick Boyle. Boyle is coming off an ACL tear so it was always going to be wise to add some depth here. I think our offense suffered without Boyle late last season because he brings a bit more athleticism to that hybrid FB/TE position. The weather in Buffalo in January screamed rollouts and short passes and while Ricard is capable of catching the ball out in space in the flat, he can't do much otherwise. Nick Boyle and Ben Mason can, as shown by the hurdle and pylon dive in the video above. The Ravens are accumulating so many scary dudes in the run game. I would hate to be a linebacker in the AFC North right now.
There ya have it, that's the 2021 draft class. Another masterpiece from EDC, and he even picked up a 2022 4th rounder by trading out of this year's 4th. Still have some work to do to nail down that right tackle spot, but I think we really hammered some positions that needed hammering here too. Undrafted free agent season is always a fun one too, so we'll keep an eye out for who emerges there in training camp. This team is going places in the short and long term. Ya love to see it.
In EDC We Trust.