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Meet The Baltimore Ravens 2018 Draft Class

ravens draft class

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Welcome to my favorite blog of the year. The blog where I get to hoot and holler about all of the new toys the Ravens get to play with over the next few years. This particular draft will be remembered as Ozzie Newsome’s last, and one where he made some aggressive moves to set the Ravens up for success long after he’s gone. He traded all over the place, moving back in the first round twice and jumping all over the joint on days 2 and 3 as well.

All in all, it netted us 12 new Ravens. Few know as well as Ozzie that to an extent, the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. The more darts you have, the better chances you have of hitting on your next franchise cornerstone. There have been multiple reports that some in the Ravens’ war room were prepared to take Lamar Jackson as early as #16. To have the ability to fill another significant need at tight end and still get their guy is just a masterful performance. There were some areas of focus in this draft and when you’ve got 12 picks, it’s pretty damn hard not to address them. Tight end, wide receiver, offensive tackle, and middle linebacker were all addressed in this draft with a future franchise QB to boot. Let’s meet our new Ravens.

1st round (25th overall) – Hayden Hurst, TE from South Carolina

After a littany of injuries over the years to pretty much every tight end they’ve had the past 5 years, the tight end position required some immediate attention. And Ozzie wasn’t playing around, taking the first tight end off the board with Hayden Hurst. He’s a bit of an interesting pick given that he’s actually 25 years old. He spent a couple of years toiling around the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system before ending his baseball aspirations and walking on at South Carolina to play tight end.

After one quiet year getting settled back into football, he made a big jump his sophomore year, being named a captain and catching 48 balls. He was named 1st team All-SEC his junior year and decided it was time to put his name in the draft. Good news for us. He’s your prototypical NFL tight end at a solid 6’5″. He’s a very refined route runner with sure hands, only dropping one ball in his entire college career. This is assuring news to anyone who’s watched the Ravens drop roughly a billion passes the past couple years. He’s also not afraid to put his head down and bull through contact. In that sense, he’s a Raven through and through. The only two concerns are his age (he’s actually older than Maxx Williams) and that he didn’t really find the end zone all that much (only 3 career TD’s) at South Carolina. Not great, but South Carolina wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut last year.

He’s got the size, he’s got the attitude and leadership, he’s got the smarts, and he’s going to be playing in an offensive system that favors the tight end position. There’s no reason this guy can’t be the next Todd Heap for the Ravens.

1st round (32nd overall) – Lamar Jackson, QB from Louisville

I touched on this quite a bit on Thursday night when the bomb was dropped, but this is such a massive decision for the future of the franchise. We all know who Lamar Jackson and what type of his player is, so I’ll save my breath on that. There’s a bigger conversation at hand.

A new day is coming at the QB position, and it’s coming sooner than most of us imagined. It hasn’t really been a big secret that Joe Flacco’s play has slipped in recent years; in particular, since Gary Kubiak’s departure after the 2014 season. Given his contract, it was only a matter of time before the front office started looking towards the future. The way Flacco’s contract is structured, it would’ve been literally impossible to make a change and keep a reasonable roster under the cap… until after the 2018 season. While taking a $16M cap hit if they were to trade/cut him as a post-June 1 release sounds like something they would want to avoid at all costs, it should be the $18.5M in savings despite of it that should be focused on.

Basically, the ball is Joe’s court for the first time since 2012 to really prove himself. If he balls out in 2018 like we’ve seen in the past, he buys himself another year (or more) in Baltimore. Lamar keeps holding the clipboard and waits for his time. If Joe comes out and stinks and the front office is confident in handing the keys over to Lamar, then they can do that too. It’s a brilliant move to give themselves options down the road, and the fact that they got Lamar in the 1st round (as opposed to 2nd round) gives them the option to exercise the 5th-year club option for the 2022 season if they so choose. That’s a fantastic alternative to having your franchise QB free to leave in free agency.

All in all, Joe is our 2018 starter and has all the motivation in the world to perform this year and beyond. You think he’s pissed off?

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We’ll see what he’s got in 2018.

3rd round (83rd overall) – Orlando Brown, OT from Oklahoma

This is for sure one of the more interesting picks from this draft class. By all accounts going into the draft process, Orlando Brown was a 1st round talent. Protected Baker Mayfield beautifully all year, played in some big games, had the NFL pedigree… surefire top tackle talent. Then came the NFL combine, and it was an utter disaster. Some called it the worst combine showing they had ever seen in terms of losing value in the eyes of evaluators.

Well I’m here to tell you the combine is for nerds. Tape don’t lie. This guy can flat out play. He may not be the most athletic individual, but he’s an absolute behemoth at 6’8″ and 345 lbs. His long arms give him an advantage in pass protection, but where it really helps him excel is in edge-blocking in the run game. Should he win the right tackle job over James Hurst, he is going to be a force with Marshal Yanda on the right side. It’s a great story that we drafted the son of a former Ravens starter, but he really is a great player in his own right.

3rd round (86th overall) – Mark Andrews, TE from Oklahoma

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Like I said, tight end was a major area of focus in this draft and Ozzie came through with another stud here. I actually might like this pick even more than Hurst to be quite honest. GM-in-waiting Eric DeCosta immediately made the comparison to Dennis Pitta, and it shows on his tape. Andrews has an innate ability to find the open spaces in zone defenses and catch the football. He was Baker Mayfield’s top target at Oklahoma and for good cause. He’s roughly the same size as Hurst, but isn’t quite as balanced as Hurst is – Andrews is far more of a receiver than blocker. I think this fits well because blocking tight ends are often a dime a dozen and we already have one on the roster in Nick Boyle. Andrews can set up in the slot and essentially play the receiver position. He’ll be a weapon in the red zone and between the numbers everywhere else. Great pick here and I think Ravens fans are going to take a liking to him quickly.

4th round (118th overall) – Anthony Averett, CB from Alabama

It wouldn’t be a draft if Ozzie wasn’t taking a guy from Alabama (or two). After a couple of post-Super Bowl years where the cornerback position was a disaster in terms of depth, the front office has adjusted accordingly and loaded up on CB’s since. This plays into that narrative for sure. Averett is considered to be a safe pick. He’s got good speed… but won’t blow you away. He’s solid in coverage… but often plays the receiver and not the ball (as is common in college). He was neither a massive asset nor a liability in his two years starting at Alabama… which is notable in its own right. I think his ceiling is as a 2nd cornerback or nickelback who can contribute in special teams coverage as well. At the very worst he’s depth.

4th round (122nd overall) – Kenny Young, LB from UCLA

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After the sudden and very unfortunate retiring of Zachary Orr due to a medical condition last offseason, the Ravens have somewhat scrambled to find the right guy to man the inside with CJ Mosley. Mosley is a great player, but there are some things that he struggles with… namely in pass coverage against tight ends. That’s what makes Young such a great complement to Mosley. What he may lack in strength and run-stopping he certainly makes up with speed in pass coverage. He may also struggle with play recognition, but he should battle with Patrick Onwuasor for snaps as a 3-down linebacker next to Mosley.

5th round (132nd overall) – Jaleel Scott, WR from New Mexico State

This is where we get into those fun sleepers who have high ceilings. Jaleel Scott could be a weapon as a red zone target at 6’5″, as evidenced by that ridiculous catch that leads off his highlight reel. It’s something the Ravens have really lacked of recent. Michael Crabtree should bring some of that to the table, but it would be great for Joe (and Lamar) to have somebody they can trust to go up and get a jump ball. He obviously has the height and a decent vertical at 35″, and has shown strong hands going for contested balls. Fingers crossed on this one.

5th round (162nd overall) – Jordan Lasley, WR from UCLA

Jordan Lasley is a great example of one of those guys who should never go on day 3 of the draft… but those pesky character concerns made his stock plummet. Lasley is an explosive receiver who can take one to the house on any play. He also shows up in big games… absolutely tore up Cal and USC last year to the tune of 10+ catches and 200+ yards in both games. If there’s a knock on him, it’s that he’s got a case of the drops… words that especially haunt Ravens fans. The character concerns don’t bother me too much as it only shows a lack of discipline/street smarts – kid got nabbed for alcohol possession and for having a fake ID. Nothing too serious. The guy can certainly play though, so this was a great day 3 flier.

6th round (190th overall) – DeShon Elliott, S from Texas

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Elliott is a like the safety version of Averett. A guy who can be depended on to do the simple things and contribute, but isn’t necessarily a high-ceiling guy. He’s regarded highly for being a guy who eats and breathes football… any time you can get a Jim Thorpe award finalist with that label, you gotta take him. He’s got prototypical NFL size, and is an okay athlete. He might be a liability if he’s alone in coverage with a guy, but he can be depended to help over top. And like Averett, he plays with an edge and should be able to contribute immediately in special teams coverage. Similar to corner, the Ravens can never have enough safeties.

6th round (212th overall) – Greg Senat, OT from Wagner

Every year the Ravens take a guy from a small school who doesn’t really have a true highlight tape… just a 10 minute video from the all-22 from some random game last year. One year it was Matt Judon (hit!), another year it was Robert “Snacks” Myers (didn’t even make the roster). This year’s guy is Greg Senat from Wagner, who comes in at 6’6″, 305 lbs. He actually spent his first two years at college on the hoops team… meaning that he’s a project type of guy. He could afford to add some more muscular bulk to his frame and has a lot of room to work on his technique. This is very much a flier, and he very well may be a practice squad guy for a year or two before he really even sniffs any action.

6th round (215th overall) – Bradley Bozeman, C from Alabama

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Bozeman is another Bama guy who Ozzie just couldn’t resist. He’s the guy who replaced Ryan Kelly in 2016, who’s probably the most highly touted center who has come out in the draft in a number of years. So Bozeman really learned and replaced the best, and performed admirably in his two years as a starter. There’s definitely a need at the position after Ryan Jensen left for Tampa in free agency. It’s Matt Skura’s job to lose for now, but you never know. Bozeman has faced some big time SEC D-lines, and shouldn’t be intimidated by anybody he comes across in the league. He’s got great size for a center at 6’5 315 lbs, but isn’t blessed with great athleticism. He’s not really expected to be a player with Pro Bowl potential by any means, but he could serve as valuable depth and push Skura in due time.

7th round (238rd overall) – Zach Sieler, DE from Ferris State

Sieler gets the honor of being the final draft pick of Ozzie Newsome’s career. Sieler is another small school DE like Matt Judon who has freakish size and tore up the lower level competition of college football. He’s one of those high-motor guys who absolutely abused QB’s on a weekly basis. 6’6″ 290 lbs who actually walked on at a DII and worked his way into being a 2-time All-American, you know he has the work ethic to make the most of himself. Who knows how far that will take him? At the very least he gets the honor of being the 1st player drafted out of Ferris State and Ozzie’s final pick.

And there ya have it. Another year full of fresh blood for the Ravens. Gonna be exciting to see some of these guys gel and develop over the years. The process doesn’t end here either. There are undrafted free agents out there who will look to make their mark, similar to what Patrick Onwuasor did last year. Can’t wait. The future looks bright in Baltimore. Many thanks to Ozzie for all his fantastic work over the years. Let’s go send him out on a high note.