The Baltimore Ravens only have a handful of pressing needs in the draft. They will likely address the pass rush, linebacking corps, wide receiver corps, and interior of the offensive line. With a glut of picks, the Ravens may look to take risks on niche players with high upsides.
Which of these projects could fulfill their potential with the Ravens?
Laviska Shenault Jr., Wide Receiver, Colorado
While once a lock to be a first-round pick, Shenault has slipped due to a subpar 2019 season and a questionable showing at the combine. Shenault has a wide array of talent on offense, but his ideal position has yet to be found. He would likely be a great gadget player immediately. The Ravens could utilize him and fulfill his potential. Shenault is electric with the ball in his hands, but he has to get the ball first. His route running is not elite, but he can make plays from anywhere on the field as he showed in Colorado. He scored 18 total touchdowns in college including a return touchdown and a handful of rushing touchdowns.
With the ball in his hands, Shenault is running back-like in his ability to shed tackles and create yards. Per Pro Football Focus, he broke 44 tackles over the last two seasons. With a Swiss Army knife like Shenault, the Ravens would unlock one extra gear for the offense. Shenault will likely be on the board when the Ravens make their selection with the 28th pick, but the Ravens might be better served to trade down into the early part of the second round or just wait until their 55th pick if they want to pick up the former Buffalo.
Jalen Hurts, quarterback, Oklahoma
The Ravens do not need a quarterback. Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP of the league, and Robert Griffin is a capable backup. Griffin mentors Jackson, and the duo fits seamlessly. However, Hurts fits the general role that Jackson and Griffin do as a dual-threat quarterback. While not as refined as a passer as Griffin or Jackson were when they came out of college, Hurts improved mightily in the Lincoln Riley system at Oklahoma. Hurts is also a more powerful runner than Jackson or Griffin, and he would be effective in short-yardage situations.
Hurts would likely be better served to go on a different team where he could potentially start, but Baltimore would be an excellent fit in terms of the scheme. If the Ravens were to draft Hurts, however unlikely, Jackson and Hurts could work in a two-quarterback system for a handful of plays every week. While the system has not been successful in most situations in the NFL, a player of Jackson’s caliber and a player of Hurts’s caliber can make special things happen on the football field. If the Baltimore Ravens were to draft Hurts they would be looking at building the most talented backfield.
Lynn Bowden Jr., Wide Receiver, Kentucky
Bowden can do everything on the football field. He is a stellar player all over the offense with experience as a quarterback, both wildcat and traditional, and experience as a returner, runner and receiver. Mainly used as a receiver before 2019, Bowden came into action as Kentucky’s starting quarterback after a rash of injuries.
After hauling in 27 passes in the first four games, Bowden began serving as a quarterback for the Wildcats. Bowden was wildly inconsistent as a passer, but he was a dominant runner. In his eight starts, he posted at least 99 rushing yards. He ran for 200 yards three times including a mammoth 284-yard performance to beat Louisville. He had two awful games as a passer (including a game with a negative passing efficiency against FCS Tennessee-Martin). His upside as a quarterback has limits. However, his upside as a playmaker is unmatched. Bowden scored 21 total touchdowns in college and led the SEC in rushing yards, kick return yards, and punt return touchdowns in separate seasons. In 2019, no runner in college football was more efficient on a per-carry basis. At the very least, Bowden would be a weapon for Jackson to use on the perimeter.
The main downside to selecting any of these players would be that the Ravens are sacrificing a chance to grab an immediate impact player at a position of need in exchange for a player that’s only going to be useful for a handful of snaps every game. While the likes of Hurts or Bowden would be great gadget players in their rookie seasons and could potentially be good players down the line, neither fills a need. Shenault would fill a need at wide receiver. However, he requires a section of the offense to be committed to him. The Ravens would likely be better off selecting one of the other wide receiver talents in the first or early second-round so that Jackson can continue to develop as a passer and the Ravens can continue to win games.
The Ravens had one of the best offenses in the NFL last season, and they set the record for most rushing yards ever. While the regular season ended up not mattering as the Ravens crashed out of the playoffs against the Titans, the Ravens will be looking for options to improve the offense in 2020. There have been rumblings across fan bases that the Ravens have been “figured out,” and the Ravens will look to make sure that they are not “figured out” and that they will return as AFC North champions for the third straight season. The Baltimore Ravens have nine picks in the upcoming draft.
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