Offense or Defense in Round One?

NFL Draft Offense or Defense in Round One?

Posted in NFL Draft
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Eric DeCosta made it clear the Ravens need to provide quarterback Lamar Jackson with some more weapons at wide receiver and a few lineman adept at protecting him.

The Ravens’ new general manager also scoffed at the notion the team would have trouble luring playmakers because of Jackson’s unique skillset of running the ball. 

“I think they’ll catch the ball,” DeCosta said about potential free-agent wideouts. “I think players respect talent. I think players respect athletes and competitors. Anyone can watch Lamar Jackson and see how talented he is and what kind of a competitor he is.

“Players also want to win, and I think that’s something that drives every professional athlete – winning football games or winning games. I think they’ll recognize that about us. When they watch us play, they’ll want to play here,” he said. 

This is perhaps the most important draft of DeCosta’s long career because he is finally in charge after working under Ozzie Newsome for more than two decades. As a result, DeCosta might be hard-pressed to deviate from the franchise’s long philosophy of selecting the best player available.

While Jackson clearly needs some support, the Ravens still might be prone to take a defensive player with the 22nd overall pick. 

“I think what we really want is just good players,” DeCosta said. “We want guys that can make plays – playmakers, guys that have the chance to help us win a football game in crunch time. We also want big, physical, tough, aggressive, nasty, mean offensive linemen who can protect Lamar and help open up some running holes.

“We want tight ends who can make plays. We want running backs who can take the tough yard; we want running backs who can break big gainers. I think what we really want is a guy that when you watch them, you watch 10 plays and you say, ‘You know what? This guy is good.’ You don’t have to watch five games to watch a guy to say, ‘This is the type of guy we want.’”

The early projections by some draft prognosticators have a wide range of potential picks landing in Baltimore. 

There are some projections that the Ravens could take Florida defensive end Jachai Polite, who had 11 sacks and led the country with six forced fumbles last season. The Ravens could certainly use a proficient pass rusher with the uncertainty surrounding free agent Terrell Suggs and the lackluster play of Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams.

There is also some momentum building for Oklahoma guard Cody Ford. The 6-foot-4, 338-pound lineman would fit in well with the Sooners contingent already on the roster. 

“The Ravens are committed to quarterback Lamar Jackson and the running game, so it’s fitting that the Ravens would give him another blocker to open holes and help move the chains,” John Clayton wrote for The Washington Post. “Greg Roman has been promoted to offensive coordinator, and he will install a lot of the running plays he called for Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.

A few of potential wide receivers linked to the Ravens include:

— N’Keal Harry, Arizona State: Fast with good hands

— Marquise Brown, Oklahoma State: A potential deep threat 

— A.J. Brown, Ole Miss: A potential No. 1 target that is fearless in traffic

[Related: Prospect Snapshot – Kelvin Harmon]

DeCosta’s goal is to simply add playmakers. The Ravens have whiffed on some picks in the previous few seasons. Now, the team must atone for some of those mistakes and find some impact players. 

“I think we embrace the challenge of building the best team we can, the best offense that we can, the best defense that we can, and we’ve got a quarterback with a unique skillset, and so how best can we make him better?” DeCosta said. “What types of players are we looking for? A lot of that is going to happen with input from the coaches and what they think is best for Lamar, and this is a really, really fun, exciting offseason, because we get a chance to look at other teams, and maybe even have the chance to draft some players or add some players that maybe other teams don’t like as much as we do because we’re doing something different. So, we may be able to find or exploit that situation a little bit.”

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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