COVID-19 has riddled not only the country, but the entire world. Right up front, it’s important for me to start this article by stating that there are far more important things to worry about than the implications this virus has on the Ravens’ offseason. Obviously, this is not a primary concern.
But in an effort to take my mind off the pandemic and think about lighter things for a few moments, I had some thoughts about how it will effect NFL teams in this very unique offseason.
We have already seen its impact on Baltimore in the form of their failed agreement with DL Michael Brockers. When they weren’t able to confirm his full health, the Ravens decided to break from their deal, with Brockers quickly heading back to the LA Rams. I think that’s far from the last time something out-of-the-ordinary will happen as teams try to navigate this uncertain landscape.
At this point, all attention is on the draft, both for GM Eric DeCosta and for sports-deprived fans nationwide. This year, however, because of the circumstances, the draft and its preparation could look incredibly different. The Ravens highlighted this in a Final Drive video earlier this week, which suggested that DeCosta will be far more hands-on come draft weekend than he might normally be. I don’t think this comes as much of a surprise, but I feel the hindrances on preparation this pandemic puts on all teams could lead to two different outcomes for the Ravens.
Come late April, teams across the NFL will have to deal with an inability to meet individually with players, whether that be for one-on-one interviews, field drills, or physical examinations. This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but facility visits are a massively valuable part of the draft process that teams will dearly miss.
On one hand, I think this could lead to a number of early-round misses for a lot of teams. Though GMs around the league may become more conservative than they otherwise may have been, certain players with unknown injury concerns or questionable measurables could end up being picks that teams regret. For the Ravens, this possibility could be incredibly concerning, as they’ve masterfully gathered a slew of picks in the first four rounds. Considering the team will have seven players joining the squad from that part of the draft alone, it’s possible a few of them could prove ineffective.
At the same time, GMs who are more conservative than DeCosta may elect to take the safe pick over the potential home run, and that could push certain players down in the draft. The Ravens have great relationships with a number of college coaches (Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh, to name a few hard-hitters), which could help them get the necessary intel on prospects that have question marks. With so many picks early in the draft, why not trust the tape and the sentiment of those who’ve been around the players?
Knowing that, a few names stick out to me as boom-or-bust studs that could fall:
LB Zach Baun, Wisconsin
This linebacker has been mocked to Baltimore on multiple occasions in round one. However, due to a severe injury history, it’s possible that teams shy away from him so early. It’s even possible that he lasts all the way to picks 55 or 60 in the second round.
EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama
One of the more intriguing pass rushers in the draft, Lewis was already falling down boards due to injury concerns, as he only played 26 games in college due to a torn ACL and torn elbow ligament.
IOL Netane Muti, Fresno State
Muti could be one of the better guard options for Baltimore, so they could be looking for him fairly early in the draft. However, the interior lineman was injured for a great deal of his time with the Bulldogs, which could make many teams – including the Ravens – hesitate.
The lack of personal meetings and workouts could certainly derail the Ravens’ draft given the number of early-round selections they’ll be making. However, if the Ravens trust the contacts they have in universities across the country, which I’d have to think they do, they still have the opportunity to knock it out of the park as riskier prospects fall. While other GMs stay reserved, look for DeCosta to continue his aggressive approach to rebuilding this team in the draft.
COVID-19 is a huge problem around the world, and it’s even impacting the NFL offseason. Expect this draft to be a weird one, with a lot of picks proving surprising years down the road.
Let’s hope the Ravens can make those surprises pleasant.