Sun, 29 Mar 2020

Eisenberg: Ravens Counting on Strong Draft

Baltimore Ravens
25 Mar 2020, 04:25 GMT+10

The Ravens have taken a strong team and made it stronger during the first days of free agency.

They already had the NFL's top offense in 2019, and now they've fortified their defense by acquiring Calais Campbell and reportedly Michael Brockers on top of bringing back Matthew Judon, Jimmy Smith and others.

Marshal Yanda's retirement is a blow, but the Ravens still belong in the first rank of Super Bowl contenders. That isn't debatable.

But they still have needs. Inside linebacker. Wide receiver. Offensive line. Pass rusher.

It isn't a short list, and with General Manager Eric DeCosta limited in what more he can do under the salary cap, the draft is now his best chance to address those needs.

I think that's one reason Hayden Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons last week, with the Ravens receiving in return a second-round daft pick, the No. 55 overall selection.

Tight ends are a crucial part of the Ravens' offense, but Hurst was No. 3 on the depth chart behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, and the Ravens think/hope they can turn the No. 55 overall pick into a guy who plays more snaps at one of those positions of need.

The trade gives the Ravens three of the draft's first 60 picks, the others being their own first-round pick, No. 28 overall, and their own second-round pick, No. 60 overall.

They're rightfully hoping to land a starting-caliber player at No. 28, with a majority of mock drafts linking them to an inside linebacker, either Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray or LSU's Patrick Queen.

In their ideal vision for how things play out, they'd also land instant contributors with those second-round picks.

Put it this way: They sure could use that help.

One second-round pick almost surely will produce a wide receiver, as the 2020 draft class is crazy-deep in quality prospects there. The second round would also be a fine time to add an interior offensive lineman in the wake of Yanda's retirement.

The second round has been a challenge for the Ravens lately, as their five most recent selections in that round are linebackers Tyus Bowser, Kamalei Correa and Arthur Brown, tight end Maxx Williams and defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan. The only one still on the roster, Bowser, finally began earning more playing time in 2019, his third season.

But they also have two picks in the third round this year, the Nos. 92 and 106 overall selections, and they've fared far better in that round lately.

Their 2018 third-round picks, tight end Mark Andrews and tackle Orlando Brown Jr., both made the Pro Bowl in 2019. Their 2019 third-round picks, receiver Miles Boykin and linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, combined for 20 starts as rookies, a promising sign.

In all, the Ravens have four picks on Day 2 of the draft, which contains the second and third rounds. Only once before, in 2008, have they possessed as much Day 2 capital.

They had their usual Day 2 allotment (two picks) this year until the league awarded them a third-round compensatory pick earlier this month in exchange for losing C.J. Mosley in free agency. Then they acquired the extra second-round pick for Hurst.

The end result is four picks in a span of 51 (55 to 106), their most dizzying flurry since they had five picks in the fourth round a few years ago. That was memorable, but four Day 2 picks is a bigger deal, giving DeCosta a real shot at bringing in immediate difference-makers.

A year ago, when the Ravens didn't have a Day 2 pick until late in the third round, DeCosta became so frustrated by the long hours of inactivity that he said he almost walked out of the Under Armour Performance Center. Never mind that the inactivity was a result of the Ravens having traded their second-round pick the year before in the deal that brought Lamar Jackson to Baltimore.

In any case, Day 2 inactivity won't be an issue this year. The Ravens have a bunch of high picks and needs to address. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

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