A week ago, the Ravens had a franchise left tackle rehabilitating from a season-ending ankle injury and a disgruntled right tackle who wanted to continue his career on the other side.
With the team’s trade of Orlando Brown Jr. just days before the NFL draft, the Ravens now have a franchise left tackle rehabilitating from a season-ending ankle injury — and an opening on the right side as large as the 6-foot-8 Brown.
Even before Brown was traded, the Ravens had needed to come out of the draft with a lineman who could play either tackle position; Brown had made clear that his long-term future wasn’t in Baltimore. Friday’s deal speeds up that timeline and launches the position to the forefront of the team’s needs.
General manager Eric DeCosta, speaking days before he sent Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs and swapped multiple picks, said any trade for the Pro Bowl tackle wouldn’t impact the team’s approach to the position. But his stated commitment to rebuilding the offensive line makes tackle a top priority, especially with an extra first-round pick in hand.
What do the Ravens need at offensive tackle?
Ronnie Stanley’s ankle injury threw the Ravens’ tackle situation into disarray last year. Back at the blind-side spot he’d manned so well in college, Brown didn’t give up a sack over the second half of the season. But the team was forced to use a tackle-by-committee approach on the right side, where D.J. Fluker and rookie Tyre Phillips failed to deliver any consistency.
Harbaugh said in March that Stanley is on track to be back for the start of the 2021 season, but the Ravens could target a prospect with starting experience at both tackle spots, giving them flexibility if his recovery is delayed.
The team has reportedly met with free-agent left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and right tackle Dennis Kelly, though DeCosta’s not expected to finalize any deals until after the draft. Villanueva, 32, and Kelly, 31, started all 16 games last season, meaning a rookie tackle could start at guard or serve as a swing tackle as he develops.
With quarterback Lamar Jackson’s scrambling ability, Ravens tackles face far fewer wide-arcing speed rushes than they would elsewhere on drop-backs. But the team’s tackles must be capable run blockers in coordinator Greg Roman’s power schemes, which rely heavily on blockers targeting specific defenders on pulls or combination blocks to clear a path. The Ravens also use zone running schemes, where linemen, moving laterally in unison, block an area or the first defender to show up in their gap.
Here are a few linemen the team could target early in the draft.
Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins
Why he’d fit: The 6-foot-6, 317-pound Jenkins is an imposing figure whose mentality as a run blocker would fit perfectly in the Ravens’ system. (Think Patrick Ricard, but 3 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier). He uses his hands well in pass protection, improved every season as a full-time starter — he gave up only two sacks in three years, according to Pro Football Focus — and has starting experience at right tackle (26 games), left tackle (seven) and right guard (two).
Why he might not: He’s not an elite athlete, and his less-than-ideal arm length could force a move inside to guard.
Projection: Round 1
Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood
Why he’d fit: The 6-5, 312-pound Leatherwood is a solid run blocker who uses his length to lock onto defenders and drive them out of the picture. He has refined technique as a pass blocker and started at right guard for the 2018 season before moving to left tackle in 2019 and 2020.
Why he might not: He’s a bit stiff in his lower body and doesn’t play as well in space. Teams might view Leatherwood as a better guard in the long term.
Projection: Round 1-2
Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg
Why he’d fit: The 6-6, 306-pound Eichenberg is a natural blind-side protector who started 38 games at left tackle over the past three seasons and gave up just three sacks, according to PFF, including none after 2018. He’s patient in his pass sets and technically sound in his execution, but he plays with an edge.
Why he might not: He’s not the most athletic tackle, and short arms — his arm length measured in the 5th percentile for his position — could lead to struggles against defenders with length. He could also be better suited to play guard in the NFL.
Projection: Round 1-2
Texas’ Samuel Cosmi
Why he’d fit: The 6-6, 314-pound Cosmi played at right tackle as a freshman before moving to left tackle in 2019 and 2020. He’s a natural athlete — he tested in the 94th percentile or higher in every major workout metric except the vertical jump — who has fared well in pass protection. He also wore No. 52 in high school and college to honor Ravens legend Ray Lewis.
Why he might not: Cosmi’s technique is a bit raw and still needs some fine-tuning at the next level. He can be late out of his stance and play too high at times, leaving him susceptible to speed and power rushers alike. Another prospect with sub-standard arm length for an NFL tackle, Cosmi could be moved inside.
Projection: Round 1-2
Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield
Why he’d fit: The 6-5, 326-pound Mayfield combines quickness with power, allowing him to get to his spot and seal defenders off in the run game or hold the edge in pass protection. He appeared in three games at left tackle as a freshman in 2018 before playing at right tackle the past two seasons.
Why he might not: Mayfield’s technique in pass protection still needs work, and with his length, many experts believe he would more likely excel at guard. He has only one season of experience as a full-time starter at right tackle after opting out of the 2020 season and then returning to play in two games for the Wolverines. His pro day testing numbers also disappointed.
Projection: Round 1-2
North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz
Why he’d fit: The 6-4, 301-pound Radunz was a full-time starter at left tackle for two seasons. He excelled in a run-heavy offense and performed well at the Senior Bowl against competition tougher than what he faced in the Football Championship Subdivision. He’s athletic and explosive out of his stance as a run blocker, playing with a physicality that would match the Ravens’ style.
Why he might not: Like former Bison star Carson Wentz and fellow top prospect Trey Lance, Radunz will face questions about the jump in competition. He’s light for an offensive lineman and will need to bulk up to match defenders, strength-wise, at the next level.
Projection: Round 2
Stanford’s Walker Little (Round 2-3): At 6-7 and 313 pounds, Little, a five-star recruit in the Class of 2017, has the size and athletic traits you want in an NFL left tackle. But a season-ending knee injury limited him to one game in 2019, and he opted out of the 2020 season, further stunting his development.
Clemson’s Jackson Carman (Round 2-3): The 6-5 Carman moved well at 330 pounds — he’s down to around 317 now — but might not be able to keep up with explosive rushers at the next level. His proficiency as a run blocker and short arms make him a more intriguing option as a mauler inside at guard.
Florida’s Stone Forsythe (Round 3-4): Another tackle with prototypical measurables for the position, Forsythe uses his long arms to keep defenders at bay in pass protection. At 6-8, he has a tendency to play high, which allows rushers to get underneath him. The 307-pound Forsythe also needs to improve his run blocking, where his inability to gain leverage can lead to him lunging and getting off balance.
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