The Baltimore Ravens needed a pass rusher this offseason, plain and simple.
There were no affordable options during free agency, but the 2016 NFL Draft offered plenty of options. After opting to pass on Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence – a favorite of many fans – in the second round, the Ravens took Boise State’s Kamalei Correa with the 42nd overall pick.
On the surface, yes, it was a disappointment that the Ravens passed on Spence. But instead of looking at what the Ravens do not have, let’s look at what they do have: a player who declared after three years and has plenty of agility and relentlessness.
Correa’s long-term projection as a pro very well may be on par with Spence.
Let’s take a look at why.
In terms of raw ability, Correa jumps off the page as a player who plays snap-to-whistle as ferociously as any other pass-rushing prospect in this draft class.
He has the unteachable natural trait of “see quarterback, hit quarterback.” As a pure rusher off the edge, Correa can be the type of player who may not rack up a ton of sacks himself, but is relentless enough to regularly collapse the pocket and free up opportunities for his teammates.
But unfortunately for Correa right now, he still has a long way to go in terms of controlling his playing style. The intense high-motor game that he plays is much-needed for Baltimore’s defense, but he will have to tone it down in order to become more consistent.
On many plays, he looks like a track star taking off during a 100-meter dash.
He is the type of player who is regularly overeager to make a play, which backfires on him.
In the NFL, Correa will need to continue his persistent playing style, but keep it much more controlled.
When he stays a bit more patient and gives the play a half-second to develop, Correa can be more successful.
It is also worth noting that in Boise State’s defensive scheme, Correa also blitzed from up the middle and dropped into coverage. He has experience that goes beyond simply setting the edge in run defense and going one-on-one with an offensive tackle.
With two aging edge players in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs (also injured), the Ravens needed to look beyond 2016 when addressing the pass rush. Sure, other prospects would have offered a better early return on investment than Correa, but ultimately the Ravens will have Correa for at least four years, and what he does in years three and four is more important than his immediate impact.
Some of Baltimore’s 2016 draft picks may be more valuable in year one, such as Ronnie Stanley, Bronson Kaufusi, and Kenneth Dixon. But Correa is the type of player who should be expected to be given time develop, especially since he entered the league as a true junior and will be playing behind two All-Pro outside linebackers.
Dumervil is a free agent in 2018 and Suggs has maybe two good years left in him.
As long as Correa can step in as the focal point on the edge by then, the Ravens will have made the right choice with their 2016 second-round pick.
GIFs via DraftBreakdown.com