Preston: Draft-night trades could invigorate Ravens, get them moving again on offense

After waiting through several hours and two trades, the Ravens finally delivered and drafted a playmaker by selecting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the No. 25 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.

And then Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome pulled another late move by trading with the Philadelphia Eagles and selecting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 pick.

It was a long night Thursday and at times frustrating watching Newsome and the Ravens repeatedly trade back, but the patience paid off on and off the field.

The Ravens needed a shot in the arm, something to get fans excited about this team again, and the additions of Hurst and Jackson put some pizzazz back into this offense and team.

In one night they got the best tight end in the draft and the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. The quarterback competition in training camp will be interesting with Joe Flacco as the starter and Jackson competing with Robert Griffin III for the backup spot.

But it’s apparent that if things work out as planned, Jackson will be the No. 2 and Griffin will become unemployed.

By moving down and making two trades, with the Buffalo Bills and later the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens put themselves in position to get a receiver Friday and improve their receiving corps.

Few know whether Hurst will turn out to become a Pro Bowl player, but at least the Ravens have kept their offseason promise of trying to improve their offense.

In most draft reports and ratings Hurst was the top tight end, ahead of Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki. The move makes so much sense.

A year ago Newsome was criticized for selecting several defensive players in the draft and pretty much ignoring the offense. But the Ravens weren’t going to be serious contenders anyway.

He played to his strength of drafting defensive players and might have succeeded with cornerback Marlon Humphrey and linebackers Tyus Bower and Tim Williams. Now, it was the offense’s turn, and hopefully the addition of Hurst is the beginning of putting the Ravens over the proverbial hump.

Flacco has been at his best when he has a tight end such as Dennis Pitta and a security blanket of a running back like Ray Rice to check down to when his wide receivers can’t get open.

Hurst could be the new Pitta. He had 44 catches for 559 yards and a touchdown last season. He is athletic and has a tapered and well-cut body at 6 feet 5 and 250 pounds. He can work seam routes well, and more importantly has the long speed to get up the field and make deep catches over the middle.

He isn’t one-dimensional like current Ravens tight ends Nick Boyle, primarily a blocker, and Maxx Williams, but is complete as a blocker and has the ability to break tackles and make runs after the catch.

He also can line up as an H-back or fullback. He creates mismatches. Do you cover him with a No. 3 cornerback or safety?

If used properly he becomes an instant weapon for the Ravens.

The additions the Ravens made earlier in the offseason as far as receivers were solid but not exceptional. The best big new addition was receiver Michael Crabtree. John Brown gives the Ravens speed on the outside, but his hands aren’t dependable. Willie Snead should be decent as a slot receiver, but he is coming off a bad year.

Hurst should improve this passing game. He has good hands and should be a target inside the red zone along with Crabtree. Combined with Snead the Ravens have three players who can make catches in traffic.

Hurst is 24 and is one of the oldest players in the draft, but he fills a big need for the Ravens. Jackson is the type of quarterback NFL teams want these days. He has decent size and is mobile. He can makes things happen with his legs inside and outside the pocket.

He has poor mechanics like Flacco, and that sometimes affects his accuracy, but maybe the Ravens can work those problems out. Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has a history of working with mobile quarterbacks like Jackson, having worked with Michael Vick when they were together in Philadelphia.

The Ravens have failed to advance into the postseason in four of the past five years, and the players kneeling during the national anthem this past season hurt this franchise more than any other in the NFL.

The Ravens, though, put some excitement back into the franchise Thursday night. Fans will be buzzing again.

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