Will the Ravens draft another tight end in the first round, after drafting four tight ends since 2014?
It could happen if that tight end is O. J. Howard of Alabama, coming off an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. Rob Rang of CBSsports.com has the Ravens taking Howard with the 16th pick overall, citing the Ravens’ need for a playmaker and the Alabama connection with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
If the Ravens think Howard is the best offensive playmaker on the board at No. 16, they’ll have to consider it. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Howard has shown the speed in college to turn short throws into big plays, with the ability to break tackles and outrun defenders.
CSN Mid-Atlantic's Mock Draft guru has the Ravens selecting Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. Cook is an elite athlete with tremendous speed and the Ravens are in desperate need of an increase in talent in the backfield.
But back to the tight ends. The Ravens are deep at tight end, but they have many question marks at the position. Dennis Pitta (86 catches, 729 yards) proved he could stay healthy in 2016, but he had just two touchdowns and averaged 8.5 yards per catch. Injuries continued to plague Crockett Gillmore. Ben Watson missed the entire season with an Achilles injury, and Maxx Williams missed most of the season with a knee injury. Darren Waller (10 catches, two TD’s) and Nick Boyle (six catches) are both young and raw.
That makes drafting Howard a real possibility. However, drafting Howard would also mean bypassing one of the top cornerbacks, and that could be a mistake. Despite a solid season from rookie cornerback Tavon Young, the Ravens badly need a cornerback with size to play opposite Jimmy Smith. The upcoming draft is considered deep at cornerback, but if the Ravens wait until the second round or later, the cornerbacks they covet most will be gone.
The Ravens like using two tight-end sets, and quarterback Joe Flacco loves throwing to tight ends.
If Howard is still on the board at No. 16, perhaps Flacco will have another new tight end target next season.
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