This year’s NFL Draft for the Baltimore Ravens will be key in terms of gauging how legitimate of a postseason contender they can be in 2017. No, not because they need to add multiple instant-impact players (although that would be welcomed), but rather because lack of depth has hurt the team in recent years.
Patching roster holes with the likes of Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr is paramount, but ultimately the front office needs to put a focus on a youth movement while rounding out the roster.
With seven draft picks and four within the first 100 picks of the draft, this is a prime opportunity for the Ravens to continue building out depth on the roster, while also finding one or two day-one starters.
Let’s take a look at how the draft could look for the Ravens. The picks below factor in draft tendencies from the Ravens in recent years, which players will realistically be available in each round and a little bit of “what should happen.”
Round 1 (16th overall): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama – This pick feels as if it will ultimately come down to one of three options: a cornerback, wide receiver or offensive lineman. If Mike Williams and Corey Davis are off the board, that may take wide receiver out of the equation. But if a prospect such as Marlon Humphrey is available, he may be too good to pass up. Humphrey is a physical, lengthy defender who is a prototypical outside corner to pair with Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr, with Tavon Young focusing on the slot.
Round 2 (47th overall): Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss – A supreme athlete at the position with college production (162 career catches and 15 touchdowns) to back it up, Engram is an intriguing non-traditional tight end prospect. At 6’3″ with a lack of extensive in-line blocking experience, Engram figures to be more of a Jordan Reed or Dennis Pitta type of tight end: a glorified “big” slot receiver. The difference between Pitta and Engram, however, is Engram’s athletic ability and verticality. He is explosive enough in the open field to make plays, and has the length and ball skills to be a red zone threat.
Round 3 (78th overall): Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa – Continuing to build out depth in the secondary is a necessity, and King figures to be a day-two selection, with the mid-third round being his likely floor. After recording eight interceptions in 2015, King opted to return to Iowa to finish his degree. His production dipped (three interceptions, seven passes defended) in 2016, but he still remains an intriguing talent as a cornerback/safety hybrid. His underwhelming size and athleticism may force him to safety in the NFL, but as a backup on Baltimore’s defense to start, he will still find a defined role.
Round 3 (99th overall): Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy – Perhaps the Ravens address the offensive line sooner, but grabbing a promising athlete such as Garcia while patching up the line with one or two impact veterans does not seem like a bad route, either. Garcia was a four-year starter at Troy and is one of the better athletes at offensive tackle in this year’s draft. One concern is his weight, as he came in at 302 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, and played below that weight in college. If he can continue to build out his frame, Garcia could be Baltimore’s long-term starting option at right tackle. Otherwise, he could turn out to be another James Hurst, a player with a high level of athleticism and potential, but simply not enough weight and strength to handle NFL defenders.
Round 4 (122nd overall): Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU – The Ravens need to draft a receiver (maybe two) at some point early in the draft. Adding a move tight end such as Engram helps, but adding a true outside receiver such as Dupre is also needed. A former five-star recruit, Dupre never lived up to his full potential at LSU (only 98 catches in three seasons), partially due to poor quarterback play. However, Dupre is an explosive athlete (39 1/2″ vertical jump) with a still-to-be-filled-out 6’2″ frame, and projects as a potential starter in the NFL. As a rookie, he’d battle for positioning as the third or fourth receiver on the depth chart.
Round 5 (159th overall): Blair Brown, LB, Ohio – The retirement of Zachary Orr has surprisingly not been followed by any coinciding additions at inside linebacker. A logical scenario would be to draft one, while also signing a stopgap veteran, similar to the Daryl Smith addition a few years ago. What Brown lacks in size (5’11”), he makes up for in production, as he recorded 15 tackles for loss as a first-team All-MAC selection in 2016. At worst, Brown is a third option at inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but has starter potential.
Round 6 (186th overall): Garrett Sickels, OLB, Penn State – At this point in the draft, picks come down to simply finding prospects who can help fill out depth deficiencies, while also offering a glimmer of hope for outplaying their draft status. The 6’3″ Sickels is fresh off a junior season in which he recorded 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. He would bring needed edge-rushing depth, but realistically would only get into the pass-rushing rotation if an injury occurs.