With the second-to-last pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens provided a bit of a surprise.
With positions such as wide receiver, offensive tackle and even cornerback expected to be addressed at some point today, the Ravens opted to beef up the interior offensive line, adding Penn State guard John Urschel.
The first thing that jumps out about Urschel is his well-documented success off the field. Urschel graduated Penn State with a 4.0 GPA and recently won the William V. Campbell trophy, the “academic Heisman.”
The unparalleled academic prowess is an added plus, and it’s likely it helped him in the draft process, but ultimately his on-field play is what he’ll be judged on.
A two-year starter at Penn State, Urschel started 24 games at right guard, also earning team captain honors. He never separated himself from the competition at guard, proving to be an average player who provided dependability at the position. His biggest asset is that he is an easy mover with valuable lateral movement for a zone-blocking scheme and desirable ability to get to the second level in time.
The downside is that Urschel’s agility is neutralized by average power, and he was often overmatched in that aspect. Improved functional strength, which is often a deficiency that follows prospects to the NFL, will benefit Urschel, but it may be tough to improve that aspect of his game (see: Gradkowski, Gino).
Urschel likely appealed to the Ravens as an ideal zone-blocking guard, and as a fifth-round pick, he’ll (for now) be a backup swing guard for the team.
Perhaps Baltimore wants to switch Kelechi Osemele back to right tackle, opening a door for Urschel at left guard, but that’s not an ideal scenario, and would be one that could stunt the development of Osemele.
Selecting Urschel didn’t address any need, but the Ravens always address the offensive line in the draft, and adding a backup with a few intriguing aspects could prove to be good value in the fifth round.
And if you’re ever feeling academically challenged, read this paper by Urschel to make yourself feel even worse.