In terms of resources invested into the edge rusher position, the Ravens have spent a decent amount of both their dollars and draft capital on the edge rusher position in recent years.
The Ravens put the franchise tag on Matthew Judon this offseason, which will pay him just over $16 million in the 2020 season. They’ve also drafted second and third round talent in Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Now, the Ravens could use another pass-rusher to pair with Judon on the opposite end of the line of scrimmage. Should the Ravens be thinking for 2021, too, both Judon and Bowser are free agents at the end of the season.
For a unit that struggled to get after the passer last season without blitzing, they’ll need to add talent to that position — although the upgraded interior pass rush with Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe should be a plus.
Should the Ravens decide to address the edge rusher position, here are a few players that could make sense in this week’s draft:
Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Baun is a bit of a cop out answer considering how he’ll likely be used in the NFL, but he’s also one of the draft’s more unique talents.
He’s just 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, meaning he’s certainly not the biggest player in the draft. And while he registered 12.5 sacks in 2019 at Wisconsin, he projects more as an off-ball linebacker in the NFL.
Still, Baun has drawn comparisons to Kyle Van Noy for his versatility and could give the Ravens an option to add a player that can be an inside linebacker on first and second downs and an edge rusher on third downs.
Baun has got the motor to last as a full-time player and that time would certainly include some snaps at edge rusher.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Epenesa was nothing but productive in his time as a Hawkeye and registered double-digit sacks in back-to-backs seasons, ending with 26.5 in his career.
At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Epenesa was a force on defense for Iowa and was named to the All-Big Ten First team in 2019. He was just a one-year starter in college, but has a relentless motor and violent hands which would be an asset to any team.
He played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme in college, but could certainly be one of the Ravens’ outside edge rushers in their 3-4 scheme.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Gross-Matos is another high-production player from the Big 10, though his numbers didn’t approach Epenesa’s.
He finished his career with 19 sacks, 17.5 of which came in his last two seasons as a starter. At 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, Gross-Matos — who played defensive end in a 4-3 in college — projects to the Ravens a bit better than some other 4-3 ends due to his sheer athleticism.
Gross-Matos could be the athletic answer the Ravens need to pair opposite Judon to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Bradlee Anae, Utah
Anae is a mid-round prospect for the Ravens, one that projects a bit better to the 3-4 than some other 4-3 defensive ends.
At 6-foot-2 and 257 pounds, Anae tallied 13 sacks in his final season at Utah, second in the PAC-12 in 2019. He was also a consensus All-American.
Anae won’t be a force in stopping the run, but when it comes to rushing the passer, he’d be able to provide an immediate spark for the Ravens’ front seven.
Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
Okwara has one of the best athletic builds at this position in the entire class, but the production never seemed to match his ability.
He had just four sacks in 2019 in nine games and made eight sacks in 2018 in 12 starts. In 2018, he posted a career-high 38 sacks.
At 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, he’s an explosive player off the edge and can be one of the more athletic players on a defense the second he steps into a building. If the Ravens decide to take a chance on developing a great talent in the mid-rounds, they could be rewarded big time.
Curtis Weaver, Boise State
Weaver was one of the most productive players in the Mountain West Conference for the Broncos in the last three seasons and registered 34 sacks in 41 games and 23 starts. He also made 128 tackles, including a career-high 52 in 2019.
At 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, though, he doesn’t have a prototypical NFL body that some teams could desire.
But he’s a technical player and could be a useful pass-rusher for the Ravens in the mid-rounds.
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