With eight total picks at their disposal, the Baltimore Ravens were able to make eight dart throws at improving the team in 2021. Equipped with a pair of first-round picks and four total picks on Day three of the draft, the Ravens hope they got some immediate impact from this draft class while also having pieces to contribute to the squad moving forward. With that said, let’s take a look at the Baltimore Ravens 2021 NFL draft class and give it a critique.
Ravens 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day One
1.27 | Rashod Bateman | Wide Receiver | Minnesota
While some may point out that the Ravens ranked last in pass attempts in 2020 and that a wide receiver like Rashod Bateman is a waste, Bateman is a perfect schematic fit for what Lamar Jackson and the Ravens do as a passing attack. Yes, the Ravens will still be a run-heavy team in 2021. Yes, they will likely be near the bottom in passing volume in 2021. However, Bateman increases the efficiency of the Baltimore passing attack because of his skill set as a route runner particularly in the intermediate range on the field.
As seen for the last two-and-a-half seasons, Jackson is elite at intermediate throws between the numbers. In 2019, Jackson posted a PFF grade of 89.0 between the numbers and between 10 yards and 19 yards. His grade declined in 2020, but his five touchdowns to that part of the field led any sections for Jackson. Jackson’s most effective area of the field was the deep center (20 or more yards, between the numbers) with a PFF grade of 91.0 and a 23.3% big-time throw rate. Bateman will be an immediate boost to these areas of the field with his ability to win at the snap, and his ball-winning capabilities when good coverage is played.
1.31 | Odafe Oweh | EDGE | Penn State
Originally known as Jayson Oweh, Odafe Oweh is a pure athletic upside selection by Baltimore. He had a sub-4.40 40-yard dash time as an edge and his 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame projects as a strong pass rusher. On the other hand, he had zero sacks in 2020 and just 10 PFF pressures in his final six games.
Baltimore just lost two of its three best EDGE defenders, and they are sorely lacking in depth at the position. While Oweh hints at an elite projection, the Ravens need a contributor sooner rather than later. Oweh is unlikely to light the NFL on fire as a rookie, but with his athletic upside, he could be a future menace for Baltimore. However, for now, the Ravens might settle with a free agent pass rusher such as Justin Houston.
In Year 1, expect Oweh to be a solid run defender (89.7 run-defense grade) and a rotational pass rusher. The lack of a sack in 2020 might be concerning, but he did have an 80.3 pass-rush grade in 2020. Oweh is far from a slam dunk, but there is significant upside. While the Ravens could have used immediate upside, Oweh is a play for the future.
Ravens 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day Two
3.93 | Ben Cleveland | Guard | Georgia
In three years at Georgia, Ben Cleveland posted PFF grades of 75.5, 77.8, and 78.8, all at right guard. Cleveland is one of the most powerful guards in the class, and he should be a mauler when he gets the chance for Baltimore. At Georgia, he was a good pass protector (86.2 grade), but the magic happens when he and the offensive line are generating push against the defensive front.
Cleveland projects as a sturdy guard in the NFL with the chops to be a solid pass protector and a devastating run blocker assuming he is not the pulling guard. He is incredibly physical, and he would likely be the answer to the “who is the player who plays the most like a Raven” in the 2021 draft class. He will need to improve his technique and his movement skills at the next level, but the size and mindset are present with the 330-pound lineman.
3.104 | Brandon Stephens | Defensive Back | SMU
Brandon Stephens was a pretty sizable reach by the Ravens’ front office here at the end of the third round. While it is unclear where other teams may have had Stephens, it was rare to see him in the top 200 or 250 on pre-draft big boards. Regardless, Stephens was a cornerback in college at SMU, but his athletic profile (or lack thereof) projects a move to safety in the NFL. As teams get deeper into the draft, you hope they draft players that either had great college production or great measurables, but Stephens has neither.
While Eric DeCosta and the Ravens generally draft well, particularly late in the draft, this is a questionable pick on a player who likely would have been available well into Day 3. There was a bevy of better defensive backs on the board, and there is a solid argument that the Ravens made a better signing in undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington rather than a third-round pick in Stephens.
Stephens will likely only play as a special teamer in 2021 with Baltimore’s solid depth at both cornerback and safety, but he is a long-term project of a replacement for either DeShon Elliott or Chuck Clark. This is the most underwhelming of all of Baltimore’s selections in the draft.
If there is something for Ravens fans to be excited about, Stephens just has two seasons of experience as a defensive back. Stephens originally attended UCLA as a running back before transferring to SMU. In 2020, he led the American in pass deflections.
Ravens 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day Three
4.131 | Tylan Wallace | Wide Receiver | Oklahoma State
Tylan Wallace is one of the most productive Big 12 receivers ever, racking up 3,434 yards across 37 games in Stillwater. He finished second in the country in receiving yards in 2018 with a mammoth 1,491. His 2019 season ended with a torn ACL, but he was back to his usual production, averaging 92.2 yards per game in 2020. Wallace is not a great route runner, and he may only be a vertical threat in the NFL, but he has stellar collegiate production.
Even at 6-feet, Wallace has a knack for coming down with contested catches. According to PFF, he has the most contested catches in FBS since 2018. He had PFF grades of 86.2, 81.4, and 86.1 over the last three seasons.
Wallace has good enough hands, and he could be a solid deep threat in the NFL. However, he may only be a deep threat, and the Ravens not only have a deep threat in Marquise Brown, but they are also a team that does not utilize the deep threat very often.
When a team has four Day 3 picks, they often take chances on players with exceptional production or traits. Wallace has exceptional production and solid traits, so this is a great pick for the Ravens, even if he is not a long-term fit schematically.
5.160 | Shaun Wade | Defensive Back | Ohio State
Originally graded as a possible first-round pick as a slot cornerback, Shaun Wade went back to school and was abused as an outside cornerback for Ohio State. His coverage grade (63.8) was well below average, and he allowed seven touchdowns in just eight games in 2020. His home in the NFL will either be as a slot corner or as a safety. He played almost exclusively in the slot in 2018 and 2019 to reasonable success. Wade has about 160 snaps across three seasons in a safety alignment (137 in box alignment, like a strong safety, and 25 in deep alignments, like a free safety), but he did not play either spot consistently.
Assuming Baltimore utilizes Wade as a safety, he would be an effective box safety. He is a great tackler, and he could put extra weight on in the NFL. His run defense grade of 79.6 is excellent for a defensive back. While being a true center fielder as a free safety may not be in the cards for Wade, his skillset is not unlike the incumbent safeties for the Ravens.
Expect Wade to produce on special teams in 2021.
5.171 | Daelin Hayes | EDGE | Notre Dame
Daelin Hayes was a good-not-great player for Notre Dame in 2020. While his final PFF grade of 79.3 is very good, much of his grade stems from a 94.3 performance against Georgia Tech. He has the size to play on the edge in the NFL, and he even was competent dropping into coverage in 2020. He does not have the athletic profile that Oweh does, but he does have a well-rounded game that could net him some playing time in 2021. Hayes fits the Baltimore scheme well as a versatile 3-4 outside linebacker, and he could rush the passer or drop into coverage on any given play.
Similar to Oweh and Wade, Hayes is productive against the run. His 81.0 run defense grade ranks well, and he should be a helpful early-down defender for the Ravens as early as 2021. While Hayes is unlikely to ever develop into being a star, he should be a solid professional in Baltimore.
5.184 | Ben Mason | Fullback | Michigan
Yes, the Ravens 2021 NFL draft class included a fullback, despite having two-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard under contract. Ben Mason played fullback, defensive line, and tight end while playing for John Harbaugh’s brother Jim at Michigan. In his sophomore season, Mason found the end zone seven times for the Wolverines, but that is nothing compared to his blocking talent.
While the incumbent Ricard transitioned from defensive tackle to fullback while in the NFL, Mason is a fullback through and through. Practically speaking, Mason has more reps as a pure blocker than Ricard does, so Baltimore could have an extra wrinkle at its disposal. Additionally, star blocker Nick Boyle is recovering from an ACL injury in 2020, so Mason could be the third tight end/extra blocker early in the season alongside Mark Andrews and Ricard. This is a high upside move where the Ravens could secure a cheap fullback. Baltimore is one of the few teams that heavily utilizes the fullback, and the presence of a proper fullback could help the rushing attack moving forward.