For a lot of reasons, the Ravens’ 2020 draft class has earned rave reviews.
With a draft class of 10 that filled most major needs on the roster, the Ravens found some great value picks throughout the draft. They bolstered the middle of the defense, added to the wide receiver corps and reshaped the depth of the offensive line.
Here are four takeaways from the Ravens’ draft weekend.
Biggest weakness addressed
The Ravens’ biggest weakness entering draft weekend was the inside linebacker position. They addressed that need with authority in the first two days.
Baltimore added Patrick Queen with the 28th pick in the draft and then double-dipped at linebacker with Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison at the 98th overall selection. The duo gives the Ravens two of the best inside linebackers from the class and the potential to be flexible with how they use their new linebackers.
“Both of those guys have played on the edge of the defense,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Both of those guys have rushed inside quite a bit. You can kind of stereotype them a little bit. You have a big thumper, and you have a sideline-to-sideline speed guy. But really, they’ve both done both, and I’m sure that we can do whatever we want. They can be one of those guys we can play in the MIKE, (or) we can play in the WILL.”
Just a week ago, the team’s two starting linebackers were L.J. Fort and then one of Jake Ryan, Chris Board or Otaro Alaka. Now, they’ve completely remade their linebacking unit to have speed, power and youth at the top of the depth chart.
Reshaped defensive front
When the Ravens faced the Titans in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, their starting defensive line consisted of: Chris Wormley, Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams. The depth was Justin Ellis, Domata Peko Sr., Jihad Ward and Patrick Ricard.
When the first regular season game rolls around, at least two of the starters will be new and the depth will be completely overhauled.
The Ravens added Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe in free agency, then drafted Justin Madubuike out of Texas A&M in the third round and Broderick Washington of Texas Tech with the 170th pick.
With Madubuike and Washington now on the right side of the roster bubble simply by virtue of being recent draft choices, there’s a chance that of the seven defensive linemen the Ravens carried into their game, just two will remain (Williams and Ward) for the 2020 season.
Justin Ellis signed a one-year deal but could be ousted by second-year Daylon Mack, who also finds himself on the bubble.
The Ravens didn’t, however, add an edge rusher in the draft. While that means good news for Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser, there are still questions to be had about the team’s pass rush. That could be aided, in part, by an increased presence on the interior of the line.
Baltimore will have some decisions to make up front, but that’s a good problem to have.
Interior offensive line competition
While the turnover on the offensive line isn’t nearly as drastic as on the defensive side, the most jarring absence will be that of Marshal Yanda, who retired at the end of the season.
To replace him, the Ravens’ added Tyre Phillips of Mississippi State with the 106th pick and Ben Bredeson of Michigan with the 143rd pick. Phillips played tackle in college but the Ravens have told him he will compete for that right guard spot as well.
Phillips and Bredeson will be the newcomers to compete with Ben Powers, Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari for the center and right guard positions. Skura is recovering from a devastating knee injury and his status is unknown for the start of the 2020 season. Mekari played well in place of Skura after his injury, but has only a handful of games under his belt. Powers played in just one game last season, his rookie campaign.
Bredeson is known as a technician and played four seasons as a starter for the Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh, while Phillips was a big and physical run blocker for the Bulldogs.
The Ravens won’t find Yanda’s level of play in that group, but there’s a good chance they can find a good mix in that mashup of linemen.
New weapons for Lamar Jackson
Earlier in the offseason, general manager Eric DeCosta said his goal was to make the Ravens’ offense, ‘un-defendable.’
Friday and Saturday, they added three skill position players to try and make that statement true.
First, and most notably, the team added J.K. Dobbins with the 55th overall pick. The Ravens rushed for more yards than any team in NFL history last season and now have one of the draft’s best running backs in the fold.
“This was a guy that was, in my opinion, one of the very best in college football this year,” DeCosta said. “He's a very talented guy with electric skills and played at a very high level in a really good conference (on) one of the best teams in college football, so we're excited to get him. He fits us, and I think he's going to be a guy that is going to be a dangerous player for us and give us the depth to do what we like to do.”
As for what that means for the running back group, it likely signifies a reduction in Mark Ingram’s touches. The Ravens didn’t spend a second-round pick on Dobbins to keep him stapled to the bench. They could keep four running backs instead of three quarterbacks, like the team did last season, but Gus Edwards and Justice Hill’s spots on the roster are now firmly up for debate.
Then, the Ravens picked two sure-handed wideouts in Devin Duvernay (Texas) and James Proche (SMU) in the third and seventh rounds, respectively.
Duvernay and Proche didn’t drop many passes last season in college. And while Duvernay adds speed — 4.39 40-yard dash speed, in fact — to the receiving corps, neither receiver tops 6-feet tall.
The Ravens feel that both can play on the outside, but with 6-foot-4 Miles Boykin still on the team, they’ve got a big target already in camp.
They might not have acquired a big red zone threat to go up and get contested balls, but they’ve certainly added receivers that can impact the game from the slot and on the outside if necessary.
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