With the NFL free agency period set to begin next week, projecting draft scenarios for teams will become a bit more facile.
For the Ravens, filling needs through free agency – either by re-signing their own players or bringing in new additions – does not necessarily change draft plans.
The team stays true (for the most part) to its strategy of taking the best player available, so even if needs are met once free agency begins, draft-day plans could stay relatively similar.
Right now, the biggest needs for the Ravens include wide receiver, cornerback, safety, tight end and potentially running back if Justin Forsett departs for a larger contract during free agency.
Just because those are the team’s needs does not mean those positions will be of the highest priority in the early rounds. Last year, the team’s first two picks – linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan – certainly did not fill any glaring needs for the Ravens, but in hindsight, they both seem like pretty decent picks, right?
Projecting what the Ravens will do with the 26th overall pick is tough, but let’s take a look at which key prospects are being projected as possible first-round options for Baltimore.
Rang’s analysis: “If the Ravens are confident in the healthy return of starting (and expensive) CBs Jimmy Smith and Ladarius Webb, GM Ozzie Newsome may look for a receiver or running back with this pick. Given the depth at those positions, however, Newsome might elect to stick with his tried and true strategy of simply taking the best player available. Peters comes with some off-field baggage as he was kicked off the team by Washington in November, but he has since made amends with his former coach and will be allowed to participate in the school’s Pro Day April 2. Physical, athletic and a ball-hawk, Peters is a top 20 talent.”
RSR analysis: This is the perfect scenario for the Ravens in the first round. Peters is a rare talent at cornerback and is one of the best pure talents in this entire draft class. If the off-field concerns turn out to not worry NFL teams, it is highly unlikely the Ravens will have a chance to select Peters late in the first round. But if available, Peters would be the perfect fit opposite Jimmy Smith.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
RSR analysis: The Ravens have a need at tight end, especially with the uncertainty of Dennis Pitta’s career outlook. Despite Crockett Gillmore’s promising first season, the prospect of pairing Williams with him to make a solid long-term 1-2 punch is exciting to think about. Williams is the complete package at the position and mirrors Todd Heap as a receiver. As a blocker, Williams has plenty of experience and displayed above average tendencies at time in that department last season.
Brooks’ analysis: “The Ravens have struck gold in the first round over the years by tackling calculated gambles on blue-chip talents. Green-Beckham has some character concerns that need to be addressed, but he has the physical tools to be an elite receiver early in his career.”
Brugler’s analysis: “Arguably the most gifted player in the entire draft, Green-Beckham is worth the risk at some point in the first round and the Ravens could see him as more of a reward at this pick.”
RSR analysis: It is quite hard to view this as a quality choice for many reasons. First, the Ravens stated their plan to think twice about adding players with domestic abuse in their past to the roster. Green-Beckham’s severe off-field concerns are a drawback, and he is far from the generational talent to make it worth taking a shot on him so early in the draft. Brugler penned DGB as “arguably the most gifted player in the entire draft” but I ask, how is a player with this athleticism really the most gifted player? The answer: he simply is not the most gifted player.
NFL Network’s Charles Davis: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Davis’ analysis: “Without the knee injury suffered last season, Gurley would be long gone. The Ravens can be patient due to the emergence of Justin Forsett.“
RSR analysis: There is no doubt that running back is a high possibility for the Ravens at some point during the draft, but Gurley’s combination of his late-2014 ACL tear and up-and-down game film makes it hard to view him as a possibility here. Gurley can look like the next Jamal Lewis at times, but he also has spurts of inconsistent acceleration and maneuverability. All things considered, this would likely be a bit of a reach for the Ravens.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Jeremiah’s analysis: “Justin Forsett had an outstanding season, but he’s not under contract for next season. Gordon would represent an upgrade, should Forsett depart for another squad.”
RSR analysis: If the Ravens were to draft a running back in the first round, – which is not the most ideal use of their pick – then Gordon would be the best selection based on talent. Gordon’s rare acceleration makes him an intriguing franchise running back, however, he is not an ideal fit in a zone-blocking scheme. From a “best player” standpoint, Gordon would be the logical running back selection here, but regarding fit, Gordon may not be the best choice.
CBS Sports’ Pat Kirwan: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Kirwan’s analysis: “The replacement for Chris Canty and an athlete with rare size. Baltimore loves big players on defense and Armstead is 6-foot-7, 292 pounds. I interviewed him and I was impressed with his ‘team’ attitude — something I know John Harbaugh loves in his players.”
RSR analysis: Many fans want a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round, but if the Ravens stay true to their “best player available” tactic, Armstead could certainly be in play. He would be an ideal Canty replacement.
FOX Sports’ Pete Schrager: Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio)
Schrager’s analysis: “Think John Harbaugh is going to be able to resist the opportunity to draft a defensive back from Miami of Ohio? C’mon. No chance. In all seriousness, I like this connection. The former Miami of Ohio DB selecting another one. Rollins’ story is a great one, and he’s truly just scratching the surface. A star on the Miami hoops team for four years, he stepped on a football field for the first time in 2014 and won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award after a seven-interception debut campaign. He has the size and smarts you crave at cornerback, and he’s still learning the game. This is a big area of need in Baltimore, and the right type of player for the system. If the Ravens are a little patient with Rollins, a quick study, there may be a great payoff.”
RSR analysis: If Schrager really believes that Harbaugh would bang the table for Rollins solely because of the Miami connection, then he must be kidding himself. Rollins is an inexperienced former basketball player with plenty of potential, but selecting a player with one year of college football experience is an inherent risk. He also may be a better fit at safety. Rollins would provide secondary depth to the Ravens, but is not worthy of being selected this high.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Kadar’s analysis: “Although the Ravens have some talent in the secondary, neither Jimmy Smith nor Lardarius Webb can stay healthy. If the Ravens don’t go with a running back or a Pernell McPhee replacement with this choice, a talent like Collins will be hard to pass up.”
RSR analysis: Just about every top cornerback will be linked to the Ravens, and Collins is one to keep in mind. He is a tall, lengthy player who can play man coverage but needs development and likely would not be an instant-impact player. Something to keep in mind: could the fact that Collins compares most favorably to former Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter as an athlete make him a viable early-round candidate for Baltimore?