Ravens draft position-by-position breakdown: Tight end

Ravens officials frequently call the draft the “lifeblood” of their organization and they put a tremendous amount of time and resources in preparing for it each year. They consistently downplay any outside attempt to place a greater importance on one draft compared to others.

However, as this year’s version gets closer – the three-day draft will begin on April 27 – the Ravens have the same sense of urgency that presided over their aggressive start to free agency and what’s been significant offseason roster turnover.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has spoken confidently about his team returning to the playoffs after missing out three of the past four years, but a strong draft is seen as a must.  

The Ravens have seven total picks, including the 16th overall selection in the first round, two in the third round and four of the first 78 selections. Their needs include a play-making wide receiver, one or two ready-to-play offensive linemen, an explosive edge rusher and depth along the defensive front and in the secondary.        

Until April 26, the day before the start of the three-day draft, The Baltimore Sun will look at the Ravens’ depth chart at each position, the likelihood that they will add to it and who they possibly could target.

Today we’ll examine tight ends.

Current tight ends under contract: Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Darren Waller

Chances that the Ravens will draft a tight end in first three rounds: Unlikely. The Ravens love tight ends. However, they already have six on their roster and it’s going to be challenging enough alleviating that logjam without putting another name into the mix. Team officials maintain that the focus is on adding playmakers regardless of position. In that case, the Ravens would probably love to make room for Alabama’s O.J. Howard, the top tight end in the draft. However, it’s unlikely he’ll still be available at 16 and the Ravens have so many other needs. 

Possibly on Ravens’ radar: Jake Butt (Michigan), Darrell Daniels (Washington), Jordan Leggett (Clemson)

Outlook: The Ravens have already sunk a lot of assets into the tight end position. Williams (second round) and Gillmore (third round) were both Day Two draft picks while Boyle and Waller were taken in the fifth and sixth rounds in 2015. Pitta is entering the fourth year on his five-year contract and Watson signed a two-year, $7 million free agent contract last March. All of them carry some questions from injury history to age to past suspensions. It’s still possible that the Ravens will release Watson to free up some salary cap space, but that still leaves five veterans for only three or four spots. Unless the team feels Williams’ knee injury will persist and Gillmore is not recovering well from his issues, drafting another tight end in the mid- to early rounds doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The Ravens will probably add a tight end or two from the undrafted free agent class.    

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