Once considered more of a punch line than a credible unit, the offensive front of the Baltimore Ravens has been pieced and reassembled together over the past month, creating a group that looks to have a more respectable output next season.
The unit is 4/5 of the way complete, with the re-signing of left tackle Eugene Monroe and trade for center Jeremy Zuttah being Baltimore’s offseason additions in an effort to improve arguably the worst offensive line play in franchise history last season.
With the only remaining hole being right tackle, the Ravens figure to turn to next month’s draft to fill that void.
Here’s a look at potential right tackle candidates, as well as other offensive linemen possibilities that could interest the Ravens.
Taylor Lewan, Michigan – Whether Lewan is still available when the Ravens pick in the first round seems 50/50 at this point, but he would likely intrigue the Ravens if on the board, and is a viable long-term option at right tackle for the team. A nasty run blocker, Lewan’s athleticism allows him to move well in space, and his lateral agility appeals to a zone scheme.
Run blocking would be his niche in Baltimore’s offense, and the hope would be his freak athleticism would help mold him into a complete tackle. Keep an eye on Lewan’s off-field issues as well.
JuWuan James, Tennessee – Want a prospect that promises to step in as a rookie and make an impact at right tackle? Turn to James, whose 37 consecutive starts at the position make him an intriguing plug-and-play option. His experience isn’t his only asset, as James is an athletic and quick-footed tackle with impressive size (6’6, 324) and is someone who would have success in a zone run scheme.
Morgan Moses, Virginia – Becoming a popular pick for Ravens in mock drafts, Moses figures to go in the first two rounds of the draft, but won’t likely provide the instant success of other early-round tackles, as he still has plenty of development ahead of him. His size (6’6, 314 pounds, 35 3/8” arms) is the first draw-in, and his run-blocking – particularly his ability to find a defender in space, engage and wash him out of the play– is Moses’ best asset as a player.
As a pass blocker, Moses has some Michael Oher-like tendencies, and can get caught sleeping against edge rushers similar to the way Oher did. Like Oher, Moses enters the NFL as an unfinished product who could develop into a talented bookend starter for a franchise. We’ll see is Moses can put it together more than Oher was able to.
Zack Martin, Notre Dame – A common selection for the Ravens in mock drafts, Martin is as intriguing as any swing lineman this year, given the fact he figures to have success as a starter at either tackle or guard. A left tackle for Notre Dame in 2013, Martin could realistically step in at right tackle, and be a good-not-great NFL player. Ideally, however, Martin’s game fits best at guard. His deficiencies in pass blocking often stem from his lack of quickness and range to handle speed edge rushers.
When pass rushers try to go through Martin, though, he rarely slips up. As a guard, the majority of pass protection assignments will center on preventing defenders from going through him, allowing Martin to utilize his ability to absorb contact well and be a wall in that aspect. Martin wouldn’t be a bad pick as a right tackle, but it wouldn’t be the best utilization of his skill set.
Billy Turner, North Dakota State – Want a player flying under the radar more than any other offensive line prospect? Look no further than Turner, who has starting ability in the NFL, and like Martin, could have success at either guard at tackle. A four-year starter during North Dakota State’s FCS dominance, Turner played left tackle for the undefeated Bison in 2013, and very well could have success on the outside in the NFL, as his length (6’5, 34” arms) allows him to extend well.
His violent demeanor and physical play also makes him an ideal run-blocking guard, and his zone-blocking prospects are intriguing, as he is an impressive athlete and actually compares quite favorably to Eugene Monroe in that aspect.
HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama – His first red flag popped up at February’s NFL combine, when he failed his physical for many teams due to knee issues. Couple that with his inconsistent play at Alabama, and Kouandjio offers more questions than answers as a prospect.
He entered Alabama with as much upside as any tackle in the country at the time, and his 6’7 frame and near-36-inch arms make him as massive as any lineman prospect in any year. He often looked lost at times in pass protection, even last season, and is a true hit-or-miss prospect. If he can develop as a pass protector, Kouandjio could be a steal as a post-day-one pick, but until then, he’s more of a project than a finished product.
Seantrel Henderson, Miami – After parting ways with Bryant McKinnie last October, could the Ravens bring in the next version of him? Henderson is taking all of the paths needed to be the NFL’s next McKinnie, which isn’t a good thing, but like McKinnie, his pure talent figures to keep him in the NFL longer than he likely should given his off-field tendencies.
He didn’t’ finish his pro day and was suspended for marijuana use in college, but he has more pure talent than most tackles in this year’s draft, with a violent punch and overpowering run-blocking ability. A viable day three selection if still available, Henderson would be worth taking a chance on.