There has never been a year when the quantity of picks has mattered more in the NFL draft.
With shortened or in the case of some conferences no college season, opt-outs, no combine, and only one college all-star game, it’s more of a crapshoot than ever.
Are you really going to have a high degree of confidence in a player after four games and a scripted pro day?
I know there are not a large number of open roster spots on this team. Nine selections may be enough to cover the areas of need but extra picks would allow for a higher margin of error.
The Orlando Brown Jr. trade was a smart move especially when you look beyond the 2021 season. Tackle is one of the deepest positions in this year’s class. There are potential quality starters who should still be on the board in the 5th. If Stanley’s rehab is not going well as some have reported, drafting two tackles is a must.
(Why do the Ravens have such a propensity to give long-term contracts with substantial guaranteed money to injury-prone players? I digress…that is a different topic for another day.)
Speaking of the offensive line, the Ravens should not follow conventional wisdom in terms of value by position. Lamar Jackson’s unique talents make the interior lineman more important than the tackles, especially on the right side where he can see the rush coming and escape. There is almost nothing he can do when a defense blows through the interior immediately after the snap. Look no further than the last two playoff losses. Instant pressure up the middle grounded Raven’s offense before it could get going. It is not a deep or particularly strong Interior o-line class this year.
The Ravens need multiple pass rushers to improve on defense. In terms of edge rushers, this is an average class with a limited number of prospects worthy of a first or second-round selection. From there it drops off quickly in terms of polished players. I see a lot of potential value in the later rounds. In other words, you need to take one very early and add depth in the late rounds.
Rather than project trades, my mock draft is based on the team’s nine current picks. I have no doubt they will move around during the draft but you can only play the hand you have.
The Ravens Seven-Round Mock Draft
Pick 27 –Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State
- Speed kills. Given the Ravens' mission to get faster in the last two drafts, this relatively raw but extremely fast edge prospect gives Wink’s defense the speed rusher they have lacked for far too many seasons. Somewhat risky given he was only a redshirt sophomore this past season. Another solid options could be Carlos Basham if the team views Oweh as too much of a gamble for a 1st rounder.
Pick 31 - Quinn Meinerz, G/C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
- Small school prospect whose style of play is anything but small. Can play guard or center. Perfect match for the Ravens offense with straight-up power and nastiness. Proved his capability and character at the senior bowl against top power-5 talent. Also represents the type of leader the O-line desperately needs after Yanda’s retirement. A first-year starter who improves the team before he even shows up to camp. Best all-around interior offense line talent in this year’s class. Will be a slight reach at 31. They could trade down into the early second and still get him plus another pick. He won’t be around at the 94th pick.
Pick 94 – Brady Christensen, OT, BYU
- Played left tackle in college but better suited to right tackle in the Ravens system. Plays with solid technique and strength at the point of attack. Better run blocker than pass protector but should be able to slow down pass-rushers enough for Lamar to work his magic. Other teams could reach on tackles early. Turning one of the first-round picks into a 2nd and 3rd would open up more options at tackle.
Pick 104 – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
- Collins represents the type of receiver the Ravens desperately need. At 6’-4” with speed and a wide catch radius to match, he can be a force on the outside. Going into last season, five of the six receivers (all but Boykin) on the roster are best suited to the slot. That’s not a balanced group and it needs to change starting in the draft. Josh Palmer from Tennessee represents a similar skill set with a lot more 2020 film to evaluate.
Pick 131 – Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M
- Quick off the ball for a 320 lb lineman, Stays low and shads blocks well. An experienced player with excellent “read and react” instincts. Plays the screen pass well. Brown would improve the pass rush up the middle without sacrificing too much against the run. Rotational guy based on the situation in the first year with the potential to be a starter in year 2.
Pick 136 – Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana
- A key contributor on a very strong Indiana defense. Good size but still moves well in coverage. Can cover and support the run. Limited experience will require development in the mental aspects of playing safety. Would be a solid rotational option with different strengths that could learn behind the two starting safeties in year one.
Pick 171 – Patrick Jones II, Edge, Pittsburgh
- Not as polished or fully developed as his linemate Rashad Weaver on the Panther’s defense, Jones is more explosive off the ball. Needs to improve his technique turning the corner to provide consistent pressure on the QB. Another potential option is Earnest Brown IV from Northwestern who would be more capable of setting the edge in run support
Pick 184 – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
- Big bodied receiver that can win matchups with ball skills and body control. Not overly quick at the snap but has deceptive speed once he gets going. Productivity dropped slightly in 2020. Needs more development in his routes. Would add depth in year 1. Potential to become a reliable possession receiver with the right coaching. Hard to predict where he will be drafted. An alternative option if he is gone could be Austin Watkins from UAB.
Pick 210 – Brenden Jaimes, T, Nebraska
- Reliable with 40 consecutive starts in college. He was voted offensive MVP after the 2019 season by his peers indicating excellent character and leadership skills. Solid footwork in terms of quickness and technique. Needs to work on balance and anchor point in pass protection. Valuable swing tackle that could play on either side as O-line depth.
Players to Avoid
Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama:
A talented prospect that would be a big upgrade at center for the Ravens if he could stay on the field. History shows he can’t. The team doesn’t need any more injury-prone players. Especially with an early-round pick.
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Not strong enough to hold up against power rushers. Shades of Matt Skura and other centers on the roster. The Senior Bowl clearly shows he will get blown backward off the ball too often in the NFL. (See assumptions above)
There are plenty of quality smaller quick receivers that will project to the slot position in the NFL. That is not a skill set the Ravens are lacking. Brown, Duvernay, Watkins and Proche are all best suited to lining up in the slot. To truly evolve as a unit, they need reliable outside receivers to keep the defense honest. Brown and Duvernay will both flourish as a result. Sometimes the best player available is not the player that makes your team the best.