Baltimore Ravens

Sixteen thoughts on the Ravens' draft as the start of the first round nears

1. Steve Smith Sr.'s thoughts on the Ravens potentially drafting Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams – he told that Williams doesn't really change anything for the team and he wouldn't consider him with the 16th overall pick – were certainly interesting. Williams is a phenomenal athlete and a physical specimen. However, the question the Ravens and other teams will have to answer is whether he's a good enough route runner to get separation on a consistent basis. He certainly doesn't figure to be as dominant on jump balls in the NFL, where cornerbacks are bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic than most of the ones he faced in college.

2. General manager Ozzie Newsome's relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban will factor prominently if Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster falls to the Ravens because of off-field concerns. The two men are close and I'd have to think Saban's aggressive backing of Foster and his character would carry a ton of weight with Newsome.


3. The same probably holds true of Saban's scouting report on Crimson Tide pass rusher Tim Williams as well. Williams is one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft and could be a second-round steal. However, his off-field problems make him tough to trust. Obviously, Saban is going to promote his players. But I don't think he'd sell Newsome a bill of goods either if he thinks there are some legitimate concerns going forward.

4. I can't see the Ravens coming out of this draft with just seven players. It might not be in tonight's first round, but at some point, they figure to trade back in a round to collect at least one or two more selections. Only four picks on day three is not ideal with the depth in this draft.


5. Trading back from No. 16 in the first round makes a lot of sense if both Williams and Corey Davis are gone and Foster, Derek Barnett and Haason Reddick are also off the board. If you trade back into the low 20s, you'll still be in position to get a quality offensive lineman or one of the second-tier pass rushers. Plus, you'll probably have an extra day two or early day three pick to use.

6. At the risk of alienating the "draft a wide receiver or bust" crowd, I still think Reddick is the best-case scenario for the Ravens. He'd start at weak-side linebacker and also help with the pass rush on certain downs. However, it sounds like there's little to no chance he'll be there at 16.

7. The guy I can't get a read on is Barnett. Apparently, nobody else can either because I've seen the Tennessee pass rusher go in the top 10 in a lot of mock drafts and not get taken in the first round at all in a few others. I think he makes a lot of sense for the Ravens, but they've kept their interest in him extremely quiet.

8. A few of the second-tier pass rushers, like Missouri's Charles Harris and UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, could be potential options if the Ravens trade back in the first round. I'd be a bit surprised if the Ravens are willing to take either at 16, but the team has done a ton of homework on the pass-rushing group, which also includes Houston's Tyus Bowser and Kansas State's Jordan Willis.

9. If the Ravens wind up choosing a first-round offensive lineman and they go with Alabama's Cam Robinson or Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk over Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp, it's a sign of two things: 1. They prefer keeping Alex Lewis at guard rather than moving him to tackle, which is what might happen if they take Lamp who has less-than-ideal arm length for the tackle position; and 2. They are really prioritizing getting more physical in the run game. Lamp is a very good run blocker, but Robinson is the bigger man and is what scouts like to call a "mauler" in the run game.

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10. Ravens fans are going to hate this idea, but if the team does indeed use its first-round pick on an offensive lineman, why not just go all-in on the position and make sure you get Ohio State's Pat Elflein, the draft's top-rated center, on day two? That would pretty much solidify your offensive line going forward with two rookies, two second-year players and Marshal Yanda.

11. I'm sure the selection of an early-round offensive lineman or two will not get fans excited. The obsession with adding "playmakers" is at an all-time high around these parts and I get it. But I keep reminding myself of what led up to quarterback Joe Flacco playing the best football of his career during the team's Super Bowl run after the 2012 regular season. Replacing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell certainly factored. But if you ask people around the team, the biggest difference in that stretch was the play of the offensive line after John Harbaugh inserted Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, moved Michael Oher to right tackle and used Kelechi Osemele at left guard. A fresh and motivated McKinnie and Oher played the best football of their Ravens careers during the Super Bowl run. Osemele was a beast inside and Yanda and center Matt Birk were their steady selves. Flacco has been at his best when the offensive line has been at its best. That includes not just in the playoff run, but in the 2014 season as well. The Ravens had one of the best offensive lines in the league that year and that was probably Flacco's best regular season.

12. If I'm the Ravens, I think I'm hoping the Cleveland Browns use the No. 1 pick on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky rather than Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. Trubisky might very well become the franchise quarterback the Browns have long coveted. However, Garrett seems more likely to become a star. Plus, Trubisky going first overall might convince a quarterback-needy team to get more aggressive in the top 15 in trying to land either Clemson's Deshaun Watson or Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes. The more quarterbacks go early, the better for the Ravens.


13. The Achilles injury suffered by Washington cornerback Sidney Jones at his pro day and the off-field concerns for Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley have not helped the Ravens' cause at all. At one point, it appeared that there would be three or four corners that would go in the top 15 picks, which would prompt some other players to fall to the Ravens. Now, it looks like Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore might be the only corner to go in the first half of the first round.

14. Even though they haven't picked a cornerback in the first round since Jimmy Smith in 2011, I'd be extremely surprised if the Ravens didn't add one corner within their first four picks. The secondary has been a focus all offseason and I wouldn't expect that to disappear in the draft.

15. It's inevitable that by late Saturday, when the draft is over, there will be at least one position that's still a major question mark for the Ravens. It's a lot to ask to find three or four immediate starters in any draft. At some point, they're still going to need to bring in a couple of veteran free agents to fill holes.

16. It's an interesting dynamic with the Philadelphia Eagles drafting at 14, two spots ahead of the Ravens. Former Ravens scout Joe Douglas is now the Eagles' vice president of player personnel and has a heavy influence on their draft. The Ravens know exactly what he looks for and he knows what the Ravens want in players. Both teams also have a few similar needs. If there's one guy the Ravens really covet at 16, they might have to get in front of the Eagles to make sure they get him.