Over 330 college players were invited to this week’s NFL scouting combine, and most don’t have a chance of leaving Indianapolis as a so-called winner. Only so many prospects have Saquon Barkley’s speed or Josh Allen’s arm strength or DK Metcalf’s biceps.
But in the 2020 draft class’ upper tier, there are still players who can get Eric DeCosta’s attention. The Ravens general manager has the No. 28 overall pick in April’s draft and a pair of Day 2 selections, valuable assets for a team already considered a Super Bowl contender in 2020.
Not that there aren’t holes on the roster. The Ravens need another impact wide receiver. They could have to replace Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon and guard Marshal Yanda. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce, a pending free agent, is unlikely to return to Baltimore, and the Ravens still haven’t found a long-term replacement at inside linebacker for C.J. Mosley.
With workouts and team interviews starting Wednesday, here's an intriguing prospect worth watching at each position of need.
Wide receiver: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr.
Shenault has one of the draft’s most heartbreaking backstories. He wears dreadlocks as a tribute to his father, who died in 2009 after stumbling into a road while switching seats on the side of a Texas highway. From the front seat of the family’s car, Shenault watched as several cars struck him fatally.
Current draft projections have him unlikely to be available after the first 25 picks, but the combine could shake up his stock. The imposing 6-foot-2, 220-pound Shenault is just an inch shorter and 8 pounds lighter than Metcalf’s 2019 combine measurements, and he might just as easily dazzle with his speed in the 40-yard dash.
Team officials will want to see more, though. After leading the Football Bowl Subdivision in catches per game (9.6) and finishing fourth in receiving yards per game (112.3) as a true sophomore in 2018, Shenault underwent labrum and toe surgery last February. His production fell off, as he finished with 56 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns, along with 161 yards and two scores on the ground.
Shenault played everywhere for the Buffaloes over his three years in Boulder, even getting snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. But as with Metcalf, there are questions about his route-running polish and ability against athletic cornerbacks.
Edge rusher: Utah’s Bradlee Anae
The Utes’ all-time sacks leader isn’t a first-round prospect. He might not even grade out as a top-60 player on some teams’ big boards. But it’s not because of Anae’s pass-rush production.
The Hawaii native’s sack total improved all four years at Utah, and he dominated at the Senior Bowl, finishing with three sacks and forcing Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts into an interception. According to Pro Football Focus, Anae posted a pass-rush win rate of 21.8% last season, the best in the Pac-12, and 57 pressures, fifth most in the FBS among edge defenders.
The combine is not the best showcase for his relentless motor, but it could be illuminating. The 6-3, 257-pound Anae will have to prove he’s more comfortable in coverage, especially if he projects as a rush linebacker in a system like the Ravens’. There are also concerns about his length, which could limit his effectiveness in run defense.
Defensive tackle: Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore
Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw will be off the board long before the Ravens can even start to fantasize about drafting them. But there might be a long wait for the third defensive tackle taken.
While Gallimore has been mentioned as a possible late-first-round selection, most analysts have him rated as a second-round talent. At the combine, he could win over a lot of skeptics. According to The Athletic, ahead of last season, Gallimore bench-pressed 500 pounds, squatted 800 pounds and ran a 4.76-second 40-yard dash. Not bad for a 305-pound lineman.
A native of Canada and two-year starter for the Sooners, Gallimore posted 30 tackles, 7½ tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles in 14 starts in 2019. He improved significantly as a pass rusher during his redshirt senior season, and his hustle and power are considerable assets. But to be a viable three-down player, he has to improve against the run, where he struggled to anchor against double teams.
Inside linebacker: Wisconsin’s Zack Baun
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Baun arrived in Madison as a highly decorated dual-threat quarterback, left as a consensus All-American at outside linebacker and might ultimately project best as an NFL inside linebacker.
He finished eighth in the FBS with 19½ tackles for loss last season — just 1½ fewer than Ohio State star Chase Young, albeit in two more games — and improved on a 2½-sack junior season with 12½ in 2019. But at the Senior Bowl, where he checked in at 6-3 and a relatively light 240 pounds, Baun said he’d be comfortable transitioning to off-ball linebacker, as former Badgers star and Cleveland Browns veteran Joe Schobert did.
He showed glimpses of his cover skills last season. According to PFF, Baun, an outside linebacker in Wisconsin’s 3-4 scheme, dropped into coverage about 20% of the time and graded out extremely well. With his lateral mobility and processing ability, Baun could convince some linebacker-needy teams at the combine that he’s deserving of a first-round grade.
Interior offensive line: Fresno State’s Netane Muti
In 2018, three interior linemen were drafted in the first round. Last year, another two went. But April’s Day 1 could look a lot like 2017’s Day 1, when not one guard or center was taken.
There’s talent in this year’s class, just not at the highest level. No guard prospect might have a wider gap between their potential NFL ceiling and floor than Muti, who dominated when he was healthy — which wasn’t often.
An Achilles injury forced the Tonga native to miss his true-freshman season in 2016 and most of his 2018 season. Last year, he started three games for the Bulldogs before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc (foot) injury. He’s likely to be limited at the combine, too; he told USA Today late last month that he was still rehabilitating and felt about 70% healthy.
Opinions on the 6-3, 307-pound Muti vary wildly. He’s PFF’s top-rated interior lineman, Sports Illustrated’s No. 8 and USA Today’s No. 16. With his tenacity and pulling ability, he could be a force in the running game. With his durability, he could also be a waste of a pick.