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Lombardi's Way Ravens Get Cornered In

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Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books and it’s safe to say that most Ravens fans are disappointed with the Ravens first-round selection of CB Marlon Humphrey. Some mock draft analysts pegged Humphrey to come off the board when he did. Others had him going as deep as the middle of round 2. And there’s good reason for that. What Humphrey does well, he excels. Where he’s weak can prove costly.

Before I continue, let me make a couple of things very clear. The Ravens scouts, coaches and front office personnel have forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know. Secondly, as the team’s brain trust, they know what kind of football team they want to be and they’ve scrutinized in the most extreme detail the talent required to fulfill their collective vision.

I remember hearing Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll explaining once on Sirius/XM NFL Radio that they stack their board based upon players who fit for them and they don’t really care how other teams evaluate. Given the craziness and unpredictability of the 2017 NFL Draft’s first round, maybe most teams feel the same way.

That said, I had hoped with their first pick the Ravens would find a playmaker – a guy who could affect games in the fourth quarter; a guy who could walk onto the training camp fields at One Winning Drive as a defacto starter from Day 1. I don’t think Humphrey is that guy. I think he provides depth to begin his career, but the starting 22 didn’t get any better. The scouting reports from Pro Football Focus and NFL.com seem to suggest the same about Humphrey.

Pro Football Focus

What he does best:

• Good fit in zone coverage. Excels when the play is in front of him — big part of the reason why a switch to safety might make the most sense.
• Fantastic at reading and working off of blocks on wide receiver screens. Gave up just three yards on wide receiver screens in 2016.
• Can hit in a big way and knows how to use his body to subtly cut off receivers from the ball. 20 of the 30 incompletions on throws into his coverage came via an interception, pass breakup, cutting a receiver off or getting close enough in coverage to force a more difficult catch.
• Fairly sure tackler, missing just six tackles throughout 2016.
• At 6-feet-1, has the size that NFL team will covet to develop as a press man corner

Biggest concern:

• As good as he is with the play in front of him, he definitely struggled on deep passes. Gave up an average of 16.3 yards per catch in 2016, and 17.4 in 2015.
• Struggles to find the ball in the air and play through the receiver’s hands, leading to too many big plays
• Long speed is an issue. Humphrey is not slow, but also not blazing fast. How will he hold up against speedsters in the NFL?
• Played left cornerback almost exclusively over the past two seasons, so no experience in the slot or tracking receivers.
• His most natural position might not actually be at cornerback. Given how much he has impressed with the play in front of him, and his struggles on deep balls, Humphrey may be a better fit at safety in the NFL.

Bottom line:

Humphrey played a big role on a very good Alabama defense, but will face some questions as he transitions to the next level. He has the size and length to play press coverage, but he loses far too often at the catch point, particularly down the field. Humphrey’s best work often comes in zone coverage and he may be able to help a team as a safety. Despite the question marks, make no mistake about it, if Humphrey lands at the right spot, he can be a very good player in the NFL.

NFL.com

STRENGTHS

Has the body type and athletic traits that are out of central casting. Fluid hips and hard-charging makeup speed. Well-versed in a variety of coverages. Plays with disciplined eyes and good balance between high-low responsibilities in zone. Good short-area acceleration to close out receivers and attack throwing lanes. Reactive athleticism helps erase coverage mistakes. Extremely competitive with an edge that spikes after he’s beaten. Timid receivers should take the day off. Aggressive from press with a powerful punch. Looks to intimidate when the opportunity arises. Drives receivers out of bounds and out of the play if their vertical release takes them too close to the boundary. Will not let a blocking receiver punk him. Tears through blocker and attacks downhill. Searches for opportunities to strip the ball; forced three fumbles in 2016.

WEAKNESSES

Impatient from press coverage. Opens inside or outside too early rather than waiting for a clear declare from receiver. Struggles to stay in phase throughout the route and allows separation opportunities. Feet are fast but sloppy. Footwork becomes bulky and balance diminishes when matched against quality route workers. Plays a scrambling style of coverage that is too reliant upon his athletic gifts. Issues playing the deep ball are a concern. From off coverage, overreacts to route fakes and opens the door to a big play. Allowed more than 19 yards per completion as a starter. Can be slow to locate the ball and finds himself out of optimal position to play the ball.

DRAFT PROJECTION

Round 1

SOURCES TELL US

“There are some things on tape that really worry you. If he has trouble playing the long ball it is going to be bombs away against him and his team might have to change how they cover because of that. Those issues usually don’t go away.” — Scouting director for AFC team

NFL COMPARISON

Jimmy Smith

Of the criticisms that jump off the page, Humphrey’s struggles to find the ball in flight suggest he isn’t a fourth quarter playmaker. He gives up big plays and in a division that has long ball hitters like Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, AJ Green and now John Ross, that’s concerning.

The Inside Skinny on the Humphrey Pick

The Ravens admitted to trying to trade up into the teens to get their guy and from what I’m hearing, that guy was Haason Reddick. But if they had been successful, it would have muddied the waters of Kamalei Correa’s future. They tried to trade back but weren’t offered enough value to do so.

The Ravens liked Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. Lattimore seemed like a pipe dream and was expected to be taken off the board in the 5 to 8 range. But he fell to 11. Conley was also coveted but the off-field issues chased them away from him. Reuben Foster was a player they liked as was Jonathan Allen but shoulder concerns about both of these Alabama defenders forced them elsewhere. Takk McKinley presented similar concerns.

Add it up and the Ravens were sort of boxed in and for the moment Humphrey seems like a consolation prize. As time goes on, it will be interesting to watch and compare Humphrey’s career to that of Conley, Adoree’ Jackson and Tre’Davious White, all fellow first-round corners.

Some have wondered why the Ravens didn’t make a play for Alabama tight end OJ Howard. Count me among them. At the time of the pick he seemed like the consensus best player available but I’ve heard murmurs that the team liked Ole Miss’ versatile tight end Evan Engram better, a player who became a member of the New York Giants with the 23rd overall pick.

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Day 2

The Ravens are still in the hunt for a pass rusher, a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. They have three picks, Nos. 47, 74 and 78. Of the three, a pass rusher would be the most important. That would make their investments in the secondary that much more effective. Some names to think about:

Pass Rusher

Carl Lawson, Auburn
Tim Williams, Alabama
Tyus Bowser, Houston
Jordan Willis, Kansas State
Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

Wide Receiver

Zay Jones, East Carolina
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Juju Smith-Schuster, USC
Chris Godwin, Penn State

Tackle

Cam Robinson, Alabama
Antonio Garcia, Troy

Guard

Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
Dan Feeney, Indiana
Dion Dawkins, Temple
Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh

Center

Ethan Pocic, LSU
Chase Rouiller, Wyoming
Pat Elflein, Ohio State
Jon Toth, Kentucky

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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