Baltimore Ravens

Mike Preston: Jobs will be on the line if the Ravens don't have a successful draft

The annual NFL draft always brings pressure to the front office, and that is true now more than ever for the Ravens.

It's possible that there has not been as much significance on getting it right since the team's first draft in 1996. More than 20 years ago, it was about finding players who could become cornerstones. The Ravens found them in two Hall of Fame players, left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.


Now, the Ravens need to find two or three players who can contribute right away. They have to fill four or five starting positions by the time the 2017 regular season opens on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati.

And if they can't find them and they don't succeed, jobs will on the line.


Yes, the Ravens have reached that point.

They have failed to make the playoffs three of the last four years, and have had only one winning season since their Super Bowl championship in 2012. It's safe to conclude that if the Ravens don't show significant progress or reach the playoffs, head coach John Harbaugh will be released at the end of the season.

As for general manager Ozzie Newsome, he has staying power with the team because he is part of the Big Three power base along with owner Steve Bisciotti and president Dick Cass.

But if he doesn't have a successful draft and the Ravens fail to produce a winner, then he and his staff have to come under scrutiny. They haven't drafted a big- time playmaker on either side of the ball who could carry them to the postseason since quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice in 2008.

The 2014 draft class has netted only one regular starter, linebacker C.J. Mosley, and the group in 2015 could be a disaster highlighted by players like receiver Breshad Perriman, the No. 1 pick, and second-round selection tight end Maxx Williams.

For the most part, second-round picks have been problematic for the Ravens going as far back as 2005 with Oklahoma outside linebacker Dan Cody. Once you throw in Syracuse offensive tackle Adam Terry, linebackers Sergio Kindle (Texas) and Arthur Brown (Kansas State), maybe the Ravens should just trade out of the round every year.

Even the second-round selection last year, Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, started with a lot of pop in preseason but fizzed when the regular season started.

But at least the Ravens got some value out of the 2016 class. Left offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, the team's first-round pick, showed promise, and guard/tackle Alex Lewis, a fourth-round pick, was solid.


Cornerback Tavon Young played well along with running back Kenneth Dixon, and both receiver Chris Moore and outside linebacker Matthew Judon have potential. The Ravens need to have another strong class back to back.

The pressure is on.

They were only inches away from getting into the postseason last year, but there was no confidence that they were going to go far if they made the field. They had too many holes and not enough impact players.

Not much has changed. The Ravens have made improvements in the secondary by adding cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Tony Jefferson through free agency. Jefferson will have some impact but not enough to put the Ravens over the hump and into the postseason.

The Ravens still need a No. 1 receiver to start opposite Mike Wallace, a starting center to replace Jeremy Zuttah, and a fill-in at right offensive tackle for Rick Wagner.

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On defense, they need an inside linebacker and a pass rusher to complement outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.


In other words, they need a lot.

Unfortunately, some members of the coaching and front office staffs don't have time to wait for these guys to develop. They need two or three players who can make instant impact. Through the years, Newsome has always backed his head coaches and shown extreme loyalty to Ted Marchibroda, Brian Billick and Harbaugh.

But if he wants to do Harbaugh any favors, he has to come up big in this draft.

The time is now.