Baltimore Ravens

Five things we learned from the first round of the NFL Draft

1) The Ravens are on an island with the Marlon Humphrey pick.

It's not that the Alabama cornerback was unworthy of a mid-first-round selection. He's the son of an NFL player. He comes from the best program in college football. He possesses every physical trait necessary to star at his position. He seemingly relishes contact.


It's just that few analysts — whether you're partial to the ESPN guys, or Mike Mayock or Pro Football Focus — regarded him as a better prospect than Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster or O.J. Howard, all Alabama teammates who could seemingly help the Ravens right away.

The Ravens seemed to be sitting pretty, with all those guys unexpectedly available at No. 16. And instead they took a player who divided scouts because of his tendency to give up big plays.


Let's be clear: The Ravens are right to ignore all the talking heads and take the guy their scouts believe is the best player. That's what they've always done under general manager Ozzie Newsome, and it's worked despite some missteps in recent drafts.

But if Humphrey does not become a good starter within a year or two, they're going to be savaged by fans and analysts. That's the price of acting against consensus.

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2) Teams will always talk themselves into a quarterback.

Many respected evaluators felt there wasn't a single quarterback worthy of a first-round selection this year. And yet we watched in amazement as the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans traded up to take quarterbacks in the top 12 picks.

This mania spoke to the overwhelming importance of the position and the desperation front offices feel when they're bereft of franchise signal callers.

The Cleveland Browns took their share of social media jabs when they dumped the No. 12 pick rather than select Clemson's Deshaun Watson. But if they didn't believe Watson could become a star, they were smart to leverage that position into another first-round pick next year. The worst thing a front office can do is take a quarterback it's not sure about in the first round because that can drag an entire franchise down for three or four years.

Meanwhile, Watson should be thrilled because he's headed to a potential playoff team in the Texans.

As for the Bears, they took an unwise risk jumping to No. 2 for a quarterback with as little college experience as Mitchell Trubisky. I like the Chiefs' move better because Andy Reid is adept at working with quarterbacks and Patrick Mahomes has a world-class arm. But even that move is more likely to fail than not.

Quarterback fever is a heck of a thing.

3) We all underestimated the love for the top three wide receivers.

Ravens fans would have pitched a fit if the team had passed on Corey Davis, Mike Williams or John Ross at No. 16. But as it turned out, they never came close to having a chance. In defiance of mock drafts everywhere, all three went off the board in the top nine picks.

Davis to the Tennessee Titans at No. 5 was one of the biggest surprises of the first round. But he was the receiver I would have taken first, given his combination of size, technical precision and production. I suspect that once he was gone, the chances of the Ravens picking a receiver in the first fell to almost nil.

Ross is tantalizing because of his remarkable speed, and the Ravens might rue facing him in Cincinnati for years to come. But I didn't see them taking an injury risk at that position after Breshad Perriman missed his entire rookie season in 2015.  

And Williams seems like a candidate to struggle early given that his physical advantages won't be nearly what they were in college.  

4) Teams really did have misgivings about Reuben Foster.

It sure seems the San Francisco 49ers snared the best value of the first round by taking the Alabama linebacker at No. 31 overall. Foster checks every box in terms of his physical and football skills. And the 49ers will build their defense around him and lineman Solomon Thomas, whom they picked No. 3 overall.

Foster was sent home from the combine and later flagged for a diluted drug-test sample. But I have to think teams were unsettled by more than those two mistakes, which don't feel like deal breakers for a player of this quality.

Remember, the Ravens picked Ray Lewis 26th overall in 1996. It would be foolish to predict any draft move might pay off to that degree. But this feels somewhat similar.

5) Scouts were every bit as underwhelmed by the offensive linemen as we thought.

We heard for months that this was the weakest class of blockers in years, and that sentiment prevailed, with only two linemen going off the board at picks 20 and 32.

It would be good news for the Ravens if Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp and Alabama tackle Cam Robinson keep falling, because they need a lineman. But both players are near the top of "best available" boards, so it's not clear they'll make it to No. 47.

The Ravens usually don't reach, and the top half of the second round seems a little high for the best center in the draft — Ohio State's Pat Elflein. A trade down is possible given the depth of the draft.


But one way or another, I expect Newsome to come out of day two with a new lineman.