NFL teams have their way of putting out direct messages to players, and the Ravens sent some last week through the annual draft.
Nearly 23 years ago, former Ravens offensive tackle Tony Jones got one when the Ravens drafted Jonathan Ogden with the No. 4 overall pick. A year later, Jones was gone. Last year, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco got his when the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in the first round. Even though Flacco was expected to have a shelf life of another two years in Baltimore, he is now in Denver.
So, who should be worried after last weekend’s draft?
Few starters from a year ago are at risk, but there are some players who need to step up their games, such as third-year linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, receivers Willie Snead IV and Jordan Lasley and running back Kenneth Dixon.
Williams and Bowser were supposed to be a part of the wave of the future when the Ravens drafted them two years ago, but neither has stayed on the field consistently. Williams will make a play here or there, and then disappear for several weeks. Bowser has done even less.
The 2019 season will be a prime opportunity for both to get more playing time with the Ravens losing outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley in free agency. But with the 85th pick of the draft on Saturday, the Ravens selected Jaylon Ferguson, a pass-rushing specialist from Louisiana Tech.
Ferguson had 17½ sacks last season. Hello. If that isn’t a wake-up call to Williams, then nobody is home.
Snead played reasonably well last season and was the Ravens’ tough guy receiver. He led the team in receptions with 62 for 651 yards but had only one touchdown, even though he made several great catches in crucial situations.
But the Ravens drafted Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown in the first round, and his size and speed will earn him some playing time in the slot. The Ravens also selected Notre Dame receiver Miles Boykin, and he’ll be used outside. The Ravens recently signed former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts, so it appears Snead and second-year player Lasley will battle for final roster spots.
No one was surprised the Ravens took a running back, selecting Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill in the third round. The Ravens haven’t had a speed or third-down back for years, but the addition of Hill, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, should put pressure on Dixon.
Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards will be the starting backs. Dixon has played well at times, but fumbles. He also struggles pass blocking, so if Hill produces, then Dixon might be let go.
Experienced vet needed
The Ravens failed to pick up an inside linebacker in the draft, so they should sign a free-agent veteran and bring him into training camp.
The Ravens might have confidence in third-year linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and second-year player Kenny Young, but neither is proven. Onwuasor appears eager to accept a leadership role, but he only started one game in the middle last season, filling in for Mosley.
The Ravens should bring in an experienced veteran to push the young players and provide an insurance plan. The New York Jets might cut former first-round pick Darron Lee soon, and former Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. is still on the open market.
Despite the Ravens adding some players who might help their offense, the 2019 season will still come down to the development of Jackson. You can upgrade your talent, but Jackson still has to be able to deliver the ball from the pocket.
He has all the tools as far as physical ability, athleticism, mobility and desire. But as long as his accuracy is in question, the Ravens are a team that can make the playoffs, but not go on a deep run.
That won’t be good enough this season. But at least they could be exciting to watch.
Just one offensive lineman
Baltimore Ravens Insider
The Ravens took some criticism by adding only one offensive lineman, Oklahoma’s Ben Powers, in the draft, but their decision was understandable.
Despite losing in the wild-card round last season to the Los Angeles Chargers, the No. 1 problem with the offense was the passing game. It’s easy to point fingers at Jackson, but the Ravens didn’t have any game-breakers.
After the second preseason game, there will be some decent offensive linemen available, especially guards and centers. I would have liked to have seen them draft another offensive lineman, but I’m not too concerned about the line at this point.
A missing piece
The Ravens took Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley with the 197th overall pick of the draft, and team officials said he could be used in multiple ways, similar to what the New Orleans Saints do with Taysom Hill, the former quarterback at Brigham Young.
Hill plays quarterback, receiver, running back and on special teams.
But there is something missing here, and his name is Sean Payton. He is the coach of the Saints and one of the best offensive minds in the NFL.
Upon further review, he’s still in New Orleans and hasn’t moved to Baltimore.