Teams in this league have to improve certain positions every offseason and the best rely on the NFL Draft to do so, as opposed to free agency. The Ravens possess the 26th overall pick in the upcoming draft after bouncing back from an 8-8 season in 2013. As it is every offseason, passionate Ravens fans are buzzing on who they want to see the Ravens draft.
The Ravens have some holes to fill, with the secondary being the most glaring. On the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens were 13th in passing and 8th in rushing while the defensive side was one sided as they ranked 4th in rush defense and 23rd in pass defense. Lardarius Webb playing off an injury and Jimmy Smith getting hurt did not help the cause.
So let’s take a look at some weapons that would look good in black and purple.
WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Even though the Ravens had a great year through the air, a wide receiver such as Jaelen Strong would be worth the pick.
Pro scouts have compared Strong to Saints Wide Receiver Marques Colston. Strong stands at 6-3 and 215 lb, but does not possess Torrey Smith speed, clocking in at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. Though he lacks speed, Strong is a possession receiver who will fight for contested passes.
“His work ethic, attention to detail and overall football IQ are just a few of his attributes that make him such a special talent,” Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham stated.
When we hear “a slower possession receiver who will fight for the ball,” Ravens fans quickly remember Anquan Boldin. According to Rotoworld, an NFC Scout claimed that, “Strong could very well be under-drafted over concerns of speed” and that “no one aspect of Strong’s game is awe inspiring. But scouts love the entirety of his game and where it is heading.”
ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. claimed that he wouldn’t be surprised “at all” to see Strong go in the first round.
While his tape may be sufficient for a team to draft him, a lot of scouts are looking to see how he performs in the combine before making a final judgment on Strong.
FS Gerod Holliman, Louisville
It’s likely that only those Ravens fans who watch college football very closely have heard of Gerod Holliman. The 6-1 206-lb free safety could be labeled as a “must have” for the Ravens if other safeties, such as Alabama’s Landon Collins, go off the board.
Holliman is one-dimensional, but he is a playmaker against the pass. This past season Holliman racked up 14 interceptions, three more than the entire Ravens team had this past season.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com acknowledged that Holliman could possibly be the NFL’s next Ed Reed due to his ball-hawking skills. Some have tossed around the “one-year wonder” term, as he only posted 16 tackles, three pass breakups, and zero interceptions his freshman year before being red shirted as a sophomore.
A good comparison for Holliman would be New England’s Devin McCourty. They both have very good coverage skills but also a knack for missing tackles. After his breakout junior year, Holliman could land anywhere in the draft from late 1st round all the way to mid-4th round, due to a lack of tackling skills.
Players who can’t tackle usually don’t last long in the NFL, but with the right guidance Holliman could easily be the best safety coming out of this draft.
CB Marcus Peters, Washington
Widely regarded as an elite defensive back among the college football world, Marcus Peters could be an instant starter wherever he lands in the draft.
Drafttek.com projects the 6-0 200-lb cornerback falling right into the Ravens hands with the 26th pick. The reason a potentially “elite” cornerback such as Peters falls that far is because he has character issues; he was dismissed by the team for multiple clashes with coaches.
Peters was also suspended a game after throwing a temper tantrum on the Huskies sideline, throwing his helmet and gloves.
With the right guidance, Peters could be another Aqib Talib, according to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com. The problem with drafting Peters is that he would not fit into Dean Pees’ type of defense. Peters lacks in zone coverage yet excels in press man coverage – though he has a tendency for holding receivers down the field.
As Ravens fans know (ugh), Pees favors playing cornerbacks ten yards off the receivers with a zone coverage scheme. Peters’ athleticism is hard to pass up especially with the 26th pick and the Ravens game plan of choosing the best player available will more than likely be utilized once more this upcoming draft.
Peters closes in on the ball quickly and can wrap up the ball carrier as well. He could be the biggest steal of the draft if the Ravens can set his head straight.
WR/TE Devin Funchess, Michigan
By now most Ravens fans have heard the name Devin Funchess a few times this offseason. The 6-5 235-lb WR/TE combo carries a whole lot of athleticism. Before the 2014 season, Funchess ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash according to Matt Pargoff of MaizeandBlueNews.com.
A debate has been swirling around whether Funchess will play tight end or wide receiver in the NFL. Funchess’ speed and leaping ability would be a nightmare for linebackers but corners could surely cover him given his lackadaisical route running. Even though Funchess makes highlight-reel catches, he has a bad tendency for dropping the football.
Fans will not find many articles that don’t compare Funchess to Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. With the same height, similar weight, and catching ability, Funchess could possibly be the next Benjamin replica. If the Ravens were to draft Funchess the black and purple fan base could expect to see him play both positions.
Dennis Pitta is returning from another hip injury so who knows how many years he has left. In Pitta’s replacement along with Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore left some good impressions on the field as well. It is hard to see where Funchess would fit on this team for the present time. If the Ravens don’t sign a WR in Free Agency, Funchess would be a nice fit for the Ravens down the road. The good thing about route running and catching the ball is that both can be improved, unlike speed, length, and height.
Funchess won’t be a starter right out the draft unless he goes to a team that perfectly suits him. He will be a work in progress but surely one with a bright future.