Heading into the 2021 season, there are few Baltimore Ravens needs. Baltimore has one of the more complete rosters in the league. While they may not have as much star power as some other teams in the NFL, they have many solid players that fulfill their roles in Baltimore.
Baltimore will have seven picks at its disposal in the 2021 draft, and it would be wise to focus on the following positions.
Baltimore Ravens Needs No.1: Offensive Line
For much of the 2020 season, the Ravens had three liabilities on the offensive line. Orlando Brown played well at left tackle, even earning a Pro Bowl nod. Bradley Bozeman was a competent left guard. However, from center over to right tackle (after Ronnie Stanley went down with an injury and Brown moved from right tackle to left tackle), Baltimore had the equivalent of three turnstiles.
While the rushing attack was as effective as ever even with sub-optimal blocking, Lamar Jackson and the passing attack suffered. While Jackson is sacked more often than the average quarterback anyways, his sack rate increased dramatically in 2020. He took 37 sacks in 2020, up from 27 in 2019. Jackson was sacked at least three times in seven of 17 games in 2020 including both playoff games.
Among players currently on the roster, only Stanley and Brown had 100 pass-blocking snaps and a PFF pass-blocking grade above 70.0. Stanley’s return will bolster both tackle spots (assuming Brown slides back to right tackle and is not traded). New acquisition Kevin Zeitler should be a competent right guard as a pass protector. This leaves the left guard and center. Bozeman and Patrick Mekari currently occupy those roles, but the Ravens should spend a high pick (either their first or second-round pick) on an interior offensive lineman. At the very least, new blood will provide a challenge.
Bozeman and Mekari have versatility at either guard or center, so Baltimore is not forced to draft one or the other, but perhaps drafting a long-term tackle is the best plan of action for the Ravens. For example, the Ravens could pull the trigger on a tackle prospect such as Teven Jenkins or Alijah Vera-Tucker. In Year 1, they would compete at left guard. If Brown were to be traded or leave in free agency, Jenkins/Vera-Tucker could slide out to right tackle in a move that mirrored Jonathan Ogden in Baltimore’s infancy.
On the other hand, the Ravens could draft a true interior offensive lineman such as Creed Humphrey (center), Landon Dickerson (center), or Wyatt Davis (guard). The No.27 pick may be a tad rich for an interior offensive lineman, but Humphrey, Dickerson, and Davis are likely Day 1 starters.
The elephant in the room is Brown. If Brown were traded on draft day, Baltimore would almost certainly use the returning compensation to find an immediate replacement. Ideally, Baltimore would net a first-round pick for the two-time Pro Bowl tackle, but even a second-round pick could fetch Baltimore a solid tackle prospect.
Baltimore Ravens Needs No.2: EDGE Defender
In the 2021 offseason, Baltimore lost two of their top three EDGE defenders as Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue found new homes. Tyus Bowser is back, but he is more of an all-around talent than a pure pass rusher. Even with Judon and Ngakoue (for half of 2020), Baltimore finished 14th in sacks despite having the NFL’s highest blitz rate. Baltimore was fourth in pressure rate at 26.8% according to Pro-Football-Reference, but they’ll need more perimeter pressure to compensate for the loss of Judon and Ngakoue.
Justin Madubuike should help on the interior, but the EDGE room of Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Jaylon Ferguson needs a boost. The trio is solid, and they are productive against the run, but McPhee’s 70.0 pass-rush grade paced the group in 2020. Among returning pass rushers, only Calais Campbell (73.0) exceeded McPhee. Baltimore could double-dip at EDGE, taking a pair of players in the first two days to increase the upside of the EDGE group. While this draft is not known for its EDGE talent, Baltimore could unearth a gem or two.
The steal of the draft could be Jaelan Phillips out of Miami (FL). While Phillips retired from football due to concussions, he seems to have put the health concerns behind him. The injury risk is elevated, but Phillips is likely worth the risk, especially at the end of the first round or at the start of the second round if Baltimore slides back a few picks.
Outside of Phillips, Baltimore could be interested in Azeez Ojulari from Georgia, Jayson Oweh from Penn State, or Ronnie Perkins from Oklahoma. Phillips, Ojulari, and Oweh are likely first-round targets while Perkins could be targeted in the second round. Ojulari is a similar player to the recently departed Ngakoue as a speed rusher. Oweh and Perkins should be excellent run defenders from Day 1, and they have pass-rushing upside.
Baltimore tends to have a specific type of pass rusher (generally large, pocket-pushing types that are productive in the run game), but they have a variety of options in this draft class.
Baltimore Ravens Needs No.3: Pass Catcher
Is this cheating? Probably, but the Ravens should spend one of their first three picks on a wide receiver or tight end.
While many will pinpoint Baltimore’s biggest need as a wide receiver, Baltimore tends to not value wide receiver as much as other teams in the NFL. Baltimore has the worst wide receiver room in the NFL, but part of the ineptitude is by design. The unit is bolstered by productive tight ends including 2019 Pro Bowler Mark Andrews and the return of Nick Boyle. Patrick Ricard, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards can catch passes as well.
However, the Ravens could use a third tight end with a similar skill set to that of Hayden Hurst. Hurst was flipped before the 2020 NFL Draft for the pick that became Dobbins, a win-win trade, but it left Baltimore without a competent third tight end.
Kyle Pitts is a pipe dream, but Pat Freiermuth (second round) and Tommy Tremble (third round) should be targeted by the Ravens. Freiermuth is a solid pass-catcher with good blocking skills. He is a middle-of-the-field target not entirely different from Andrews. Tremble is the best blocking tight end, but he profiles as more of a fullback than a true tight end because of his lack of pass-catching expertise. Baltimore has a Pro Bowl fullback in Ricard, but extra blocking would not hurt Baltimore’s rush-heavy attack.
If you insist on Baltimore adding a wide receiver, they have several options. Rashod Bateman would be the ideal pick at No.27, but he could go in the top 15. Terrace Marshall and Kadarius Toney have gotten buzz at No.27 for their skill sets, but Baltimore could wait on this talented class.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is a second-round target and smooth route runner. He works better from the slot, but the talent is there. Depending on the wide receiver that Baltimore thinks it needs, there will be players available. Need a track star? Look no further than Anthony Schwartz. Do you want size? Josh Palmer, Seth Williams, Austin Watkins, Nico Collins, Semi Fehoko, and Jacob Harris are at least 6-foot-2 and probably will be available late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
Baltimore Ravens Needs: What about safety?
If the value is there, Baltimore would not hesitate to select a safety, but the incumbent pair of DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark are solid players. Neither is elite by any means, but they are good enough for safety to not be a position of need for the Ravens. For the right price, Baltimore could go after Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, but do not expect the Ravens to reach for a safety when they have a pair of productive ones on the roster already.
More than perhaps any team in the NFL, Baltimore goes after value. Even if the best player available is not a position of need, Baltimore tends to take the player (look no further than 2020 draft picks Dobbins and Madubuike). While Baltimore is unlikely to draft another running back, interior defensive lineman, linebacker, or cornerback, they could pull the trigger if the value is too great to pass up at a particular spot.
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