Heading into the draft, the Ravens needed more explosiveness, both on the edge on defense and at the skill positions. They lacked both in 2015, and in this year’s draft, they found both. Let’s look at that lesson and four others we learned from the 2016 NFL Draft for the Baltimore Ravens.
1.) The Ravens Weren’t Lying About Wanting to Add Multiple Pass Rushers
Fans and media alike were wondering whether the Ravens were going to use their sixth choice on a pass rusher. In fact, there was one report swirling around that if the front office couldn’t land DE Joey Bosa, they would have their sights set on OLB Leonard Floyd or DE Shaq Lawson.
Thankfully, the team targeted the latter rounds instead. The second round featured a bevvy of pass-rushing talent, probably better than what the first round presented. They are especially better for the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme. Lawson was more of hands-in-the-dirt guy and Floyd is too undersized to play at the outside edge rush position.
Meanwhile, the Ravens were able to snag Kamalei Correa and still acquire an extra fourth round and fifth round pick in the process.
You can definitely question whether passing on DE Noah Spence in favor of Correa was the right move. I’ve been pretty outspoken that grabbing Spence (who when all is said and done, could end up being a double-digit sack guy every season) was the move to make. He has the short-area burst, get-off, and bend you look for in elite edge rushers.
However, by obtaining a fifth-rounder from Jacksonville to move down a couple of slots, the Ravens used the pick on Matt Judon. So it’s essentially Correa and Judon instead of Spence. That combination has the chance to work nicely.
Judon is more of your prototypical 4-3 end, but he has the athleticism to stand up if needed. I suspect that he’ll be used a lot in nickel and sub-packages, mostly playing from a three-point stance. With Correa’s ability to also line up and rush from the weakside ILB position, both players could be on the field at the same time on passing downs.
Add these two players to the mix along with Bronson Kaufusi and Vic Ochi (who the Ravens signed as an undrafted free agent), and you would have to say that the pass rush was definitely addressed through the draft.
2.) The Offense Should Have More Speed and Explosion
I really like the approach the front office took with the three skill players they drafted. They wanted to add playmaking threats that could put defenses in a bind. All three skill position picks fit the bill.
Receiver Chris Moore looks like a boom or bust deep threat. He averaged more than 20 yards per catch at Cincinnati and plays faster than his 4.5 time.
Tailback Kenneth Dixon is my favorite pick of the draft. I initially compared him to Dion Lewis. Although he certainly has Lewis’ change-of-direction, he is a bigger back (6-0, 216 pounds) that can dish out punishment.
For offensive Marc Trestman, Dixon should be a matchup nightmare in the passing game. Dixon played in a wide-open offense at Louisiana Tech which featured him in space on designed screens, dump-offs, and wheel routes.
Dixon runs tremendous routes for a tailback. He’ll be able to move out wide or to the slot in passing situations. He’s not only able to make defenders miss, but he can run past them with deceptive breakaway speed.
Lastly, QB-turned-RB-turned-WR Keenan Reynolds could turn into an Antwaan Randle-El or Randall Cobb type of slot receiver. Reynolds is a work in progress, but he’s another nifty athlete who Trestman can feature in multiple spots, and he could evolve into a tremendous open-field weapon.
3.) Arthur Brown Still Has a Chance
One of the positions that the Ravens didn’t address was inside linebacker. Myles Jack would have certainly filled that role. But the front office didn’t feel good about his long-term medical outlook and avoided the risk.
That means that fourth-year backer Arthur Brown still has a chance to be a starter for this defense. Thus far, he’s been an absolute bust. However, it wouldn’t be the first time a would-be Ravens draft bust was left for dead, only to rise up before the coffin was sealed shut.
Brown will have a tough task unseating third-year LB Zachary Orr for the starting job. Orr is more athletic than meets the eye, and he had a knack for being disruptive when he played on third downs.
That being said, I wouldn’t write off Brown just yet.
4.) The Denver Effect is Rubbing Off
If you look at the profile of all the Ravens’ defensive prospects, what do they have in common?
They’re fast off the snap.
They rally to the ball.
In particular, Correa, Kaufusi, and DT Willie Henry look like they’ll live in the backfield. Kaufusi had 20 tackles for loss in his senior year alone, which is extremely impressive for a guy playing on the line.
The high-energy of these defensive players is going to rub off on a unit that needs to be more disruptive.
If you look at how Denver won last year, it wasn’t all about Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Derek Wolf and Malik Jackson were also a huge part of the pass rush, as were backup OLBs Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett.
When those players entered the game, they injected quick penetration and sideline-to-sideline pursuit that was infectious.
5.) This Fourth Round Could Be Legendary
So it’s already a known fact that no team has ever selected five players in the fourth round. Baltimore made history with their historic flurry of picks.
Pundits that are dismissing the Ravens’ approach on loading up in round four and later haven’t been paying attention to recent history. You can indeed find impact players in those rounds. And the best teams typically do their best work on Day Three.
Take the Seahawks for instance. Between 2011 and 2012, they drafted K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Walter Thurmond III, and Kam Chancellor between rounds four and five. Those defenders have been key cogs for their Super Bowl teams.
Go back to the dynasties of the 90’s Cowboys and Bill Walsh’s 49ers, and you’ll see some of their greatest players were taken in rounds four and later.
I’m not saying that the Ravens are turning into these Super Bowl winning teams because of their late-round action. But there is precedent for front offices loading up in these rounds and seeing a major return on investment.