What will the Ravens need in the NFL draft? With the first pick still over 10 weeks away, there’s a lot we know, a lot we don’t and a lot that can still change.
We don’t know whether they’ll re-sign any of their edge rushers heading to free agency. Or whether they’ll bid for any of the top wide receivers heading to the market. Or whether Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is in the Ravens’ 2021 plans. Or even how much cap space and how many draft picks they’ll have.
That won’t stop any speculation about where the team could look in April’s draft. With the Houston Texans hiring Ravens assistant coach David Culley, the Ravens are now projected to receive two compensatory draft picks next month. If the Ravens keep their five other selections and retain Brown, here’s whom they could pick.
First round (No. 27): Tulsa EDGE/LB Zaven Collins
Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Tyus Bowser are all pending free agents, and the Ravens probably can’t afford to keep more than one. They’ll need another young, cheap edge rusher. Collins isn’t a like-for-like replacement; he was an off-ball linebacker for the Golden Hurricane, earning unanimous All-America honors in 2020 (54 tackles, 11 ½ tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions and two pick-sixes).
Athletically, though, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Collins can replicate so much of what defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale might lose this offseason. He has a great burst and impressive bend, like Ngakoue. He has the versatility to blitz from over the center or off the edge, like Judon. And he has rare coverage skills, like Bowser. Collins might be considered a tweener, but the Ravens don’t seem to care much for convention.
Second round (No. 59): Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
The Ravens have to find interior offensive line help somewhere this offseason. Nowhere is their need more urgent than at center, where Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari struggled throughout 2020. Trystan Colon-Castillo showed flashes of starting potential, but it’s unreasonable to expect a former undrafted free agent to claim the starting job in only his second year.
Along with Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, Humphrey is widely regarded as perhaps the draft’s top center prospect, and for good reason. The 6-5, 320-pound Sooners star is a former wrestling standout whose strength and hands should give him the flexibility to play anywhere inside. In his three years as a starter, he had 1,297 pass-block snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and allowed no sacks and just two quarterback hits, none last season.
Third round (compensatory): Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt
The Ravens don’t seem too committed to finding a big-time wide receiver in free agency. Theirs is a “tight end-centric offense,” according to general manager Eric DeCosta. For as much as someone like Allen Robinson could help quarterback Lamar Jackson, the front office must also consider where to best allocate resources for a run-heavy attack.
That’s not to say the Ravens don’t need help at wide receiver. They do, especially out wide; Miles Boykin has just 464 receiving yards in 24 career starts. The 6-2, 215-pound Surratt doesn’t have Boykin’s top-end speed or dominant size, but he’s a contested-catch beast, with a 60% catch rate in such situations in 2019, according to PFF. Surratt opted out of the 2020 season and has slipped down draft boards in recent months. Still, his 2019 production (66 catches for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns) is hard to ignore.
Fourth round: Georgia S Richard LeCounte
Safety wasn’t a weak spot for the Ravens last season. It wasn’t a strength, either. Chuck Clark remains a reliable leader and defender in the back end, and DeShon Elliott held up in his first season as a full-time starter. But with Elliott’s contract situation — he’s set to hit free agency in 2022 — and the position’s limited depth, the Ravens need reinforcements.
LeCounte would fit in well. He’s not especially big (5-11, 190 pounds) and probably lacks the range to play as a center-field safety. He’s also recovering from a Halloween Night motorcycle accident that sidelined him for four games. But he started for three years on elite Georgia defenses and proved himself a dependable, playmaking safety. LeCounte’s capable of lining up anywhere on defense the Ravens might ask, and he could help right away on special teams.
Fifth round: Penn State EDGE Shaka Toney
If the Ravens re-sign just one of their top three edge rushers to long-term deals, they’ll need to bring in at least two replacements. Toney doesn’t project as an early-down option — at the Senior Bowl, he weighed in at 6-2, 238 pounds — but he could develop into a situational pass rusher.
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Toney had five sacks in nine games last season and 6 ½ in 13 games in 2019; in that span, he averaged one quarterback pressure every 11.5 pass-rush snaps, according to PFF. Predraft opinions on Toney seem to vary wildly, but with his explosiveness and arsenal of moves and counters, he could be a Day 3 steal.
Fifth round (compensatory): Nebraska T Brendan Jaimes
If the Ravens trade Brown before the draft, they won’t wait until the fifth round to draft his replacement. And if they don’t trade him? Well, they still need better depth at tackle, especially with Ronnie Stanley returning from injury. D.J. Fluker is a pending free agent, Tyre Phillips struggled mightily as a rookie and Andre Smith is 34.
With his light frame, the 6-6, 300-pound Jaimes is considered limited as a run blocker — just 16 positively graded run blocks in 2020, according to PFF — and can struggle against powerful pass rushers. But as the Cornhuskers’ left tackle last season, he didn’t allow a sack or quarterback hit. He could develop into the swing tackle the Ravens need.
Sixth round: Georgia TE Tre’ McKitty
The Ravens see Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle as pillars of their offense, and they probably won’t shy away from taking a top tight end prospect on Day 2 if it makes sense. This late in the draft, though, the players still on the board either have injury risks, limited production or limited potential.
The 6-4, 248-pound McKitty checks the first two boxes. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in September after suffering a minor knee injury that delayed his 2020 debut until mid-October. He also never posted more than 256 receiving yards over three seasons at Florida State and one with the Bulldogs. But his size, speed and play strength make him a late-round sleeper.