RAVENS 2018 DRAFT REVIEW

I chose to finish my team Draft Reviews with the RAVENS as a mini (very mini) tribute to retiring GM OZZIE NEWSOME for whom 2018 was his final Draft effort as Captain of the good ship RAVENS. NEWSOME became a favorite of then Owner ART MODELL during his playing days as a TE for the Cleveland Browns. NEWSOME began his non-playing role for the Browns working under then HC BILL BELICHICK. MODELL sacked that coaching staff when he moved the team to Baltimore in 1996 but took OZZIE with him to serve as the team’s VP of Player Personnel in 1996. In his first Draft in charge, the team held two first round picks which NEWSOME turned into RAY LEWIS and JONATHAN OGDEN. In 2002 NEWSOME was named General Manager, becoming the first non-white to hold that title in the NFL.
NEWSOME continued to be an astute judge of talent, as well as a smooth operator in wheeling and dealing to end up with extra Draft Picks. And he usually cashed in on his top picks in building a talent based roster. How about names like PETER BOULWARE/LB/DE, CHRIS McALLISTER/CB, TOOD HEAP/TE, JAMAL LEWIS/RB, ED REED/S, HALOTI NGATA/DT, and current RAVEN TERRELL SUGGS/ER/LB.
In the 2018 Draft OZZIE was trying to double dip by adding both quality, and also trading down a few times to add quantity as well.

Even though I don’t think JOE FLACCO is an elite NFL QB, I do think his supporting cast of skill players has diminished greatly in recent years. Last season their leading receiver was BEN WATSON/TE, who is 37 years old, and left to New Orleans as a VFA. The team has drafted several TE in recent years, but both NICK BOLYE and MAXX WILLIAMS, have underperformed and/or been injured too often to contribute much. So OZZIE drafted two TE in the Top 86 overall picks this year. In Round 1, after trading back, the team tabbed HAYDEN HURST/South Carolina at Pick 25. He’s a bit overaged after playing pro baseball for a few years, but he’s a mature man on and off the field and is 6’5/250 with 4.65 speed in the 40. He catches well and blocks like a legit inline TE. Then in Round 3, at Pick 86 he took MARK ANDREWS/Oklahoma who caught 62 balls for just under 1,000 yards and 8 TD from a QB named Mayfield last season. ANDREWS is just a bit bigger than HURST AT 6’5/256 and needs work as a blocker, but he’s a serious receiving threat and runs faster than his 4.67/40 would indicate. He actually lined up in the slot quite a bit. It’s time for some of these young bucks to step up and deliver.

After some serious head-scratching and gut checks the team rolled the dice and traded back into late Round 1 to tab LAMAR JACKSON/QB/Louisville at Pick 32. You might remember that JACKSON won a Heisman Trophy back in 2016. There are still more than a few questions about JACKSON as a pure thrower, but not so about his play making ability overall. His 4.55/40-time is a bit deceiving when you see him take off with the ball on game tape. There is already talk from HC JOHN HARBAUGH about putting FLACCO and JACKSON out on the field at the same time. But certainly they are hoping he will be their long term answer to replace FLACCO in a couple of seasons at QB. I will throw out 2 caveats about JACKSON that concern me relative to his ability to be a franchise NFL QB. Last season he completed 59.1% of his throws and had a mediocre TD/INT ratio at 27/10. His ball velocity right now is listed at 49 mph, which tells me he could be an INT machine in the pro game. Then again, he was responsible for 45 total TD last season. I think the jury is out on his NFL future for the time being.

The team took a gamble on greatness in Round 3, at Pick 83 with the selection of ORLANDO BROWN/OT/Oklahoma, son of former Raven ZEUS BROWN. BROWN is a massive human being at 6’8/360 with 9 3/4″ hands and 35″ arms. His technique is marginal at best, but he just engulfs people, almost all of whom are much smaller than he is. He ain’t no JON OGDEN, but if he can work out as well as his giant dad did as a RT he could start for 10 years. But here is a chance that his shortcomings as an athlete will make him a washout at the next level. I see him as a clear boom/bust prospect.
The team was not done with drafting OL by a long shot with BROWN. In Round 6, Pick 212 they selected GREG SENAT/OT/Wagner who is a long range projection with more basketball background than football experience. He measured in at 6’6/302 and has vine-like 34 7/8″ arms. He shows some foot mobility, but can get tangled up trying to keep up with speedy edge-rushers. He was at the Shrine venue and I spent some serious time watching him. He’s a hard worker, who seems to have a grasp on his shortcomings as a football player and is willing to work on improving. I like him as a prospect, but I doubt he can help them much right away. They may need to stash him on a reserve list for the 2018 season if at all possible.
On the other end of the spectrum the team chose Alabama OC/BRADLEY BOZEMAN with Pick 215. He’s a really large OC at 6’5/316. He gets by on hard work and fundamental blocking basics. He works out of a wide base, and has good balance. With his size and length he’d have great value as a back-up, but there is just no way he has enough athleticism to help out at either OT slot. It’s Round 7, and he comes from a quality, winning program. There is basically nothing behind OC MATT SKURA right now on the depth chart, so I can see why they would give BOZEMAN a shot.

Let’s stick with Picks for the offense and talk about 4th and 5th rounders, JALEEL SCOTT and JORDAN LASLEY respectively. Overall the WR group needs just as much of a makeover as their TE group. They currently have 4 VFA who were all added to that group this off-season, vets MICHAEL CRABTREE, JOHN BROWN and WILLIE SNEAD probably the best among them. So let’s mix in two Rookies in SCOTT and LASLEY. SCOTT was an absolute star last season at New Mexico State. His speed is just average (4.56), but at 6’5/218, with 10″ hands 33 1/2″ arms and a 34.5″ vert, you can see where he has potential to dominate on the sidelines, and in the red zone. At the Combine he was measured to have a wingspan of 81 1/4″. He participated in Senior Bowl week and showed quite well overall. He showed in Mobile that game footage of him making one-handed grabs was not misleading, snatching some nice one handers. SCOTT had 76 catches, for 1079 yards and 9 TD in 2017. He has the potential to play in the NFL. LASLEY can be an explosive receiver and route runner looking faster than his 4.50/40-time at the Combine. Can really turn on the jets after the catch and displays good balance. He had way too many drops at UCLA. His 9 5/8″ hands are decent, but his concentration is sadly lacking. This guy is simply a boom/bust prospect. Given his erratic play and immaturity both on and off the field, he may have a short NFL shelf life if he doesn’t shape up quickly. Pro coaches may give up on him because of attitude unless he somehow gets a major shot of maturity.

Having 12 Picks allowed OZZIE to make sure he covered a lot of need bases. So lets go back up to Round 4 and take a look at what he did to help their Defense. At Pick 118 the team locked onto a DB from Alabama named ANTHONY EVERETT/CB. EVERETT has very good athleticism and speed to burn. He clocked a 4.37/40 at the Combine. He also has decent size at 6’0/185. He shows a bit of tightness which puts him in catch-up mode with faster receivers. Doesn’t allow a lot of YAC from receivers after the catch, unless beaten deep. In 2017 he recorded 48 T, 8 PBU and 1 INT. One reason he isn’t a big INT guy might have something to do with relatively small hand size at only 8 1/2″. His play on the field just doesn’t quite measure up to his warm up in shorts. He may end up primarily as a sub-package nickel/dime CB, as opposed to winning a starting job. But that still gives him value in today’s pass-happy NFL where 4 DB on the field is not the norm any more. A solid pick for Day 3.

Next at Pick 122 they tabbed a very athletic and mobile LB from UCLA named KENNY YOUNG/6’1/236. YOUNG recorded 110 tackles as a senior for the Bruins. Some question his speed but he ran a 4.62/40 at the Combine. He was also at the Shrine venue and I can tell you he is an impressive looking physical specimen. He does his best work in space and pursues hard and fast. Shows nice change of direction in the open field in reacting to the ball. He is also likely to become a very effective and valuable Special Teams player for the Ravens. Not likely to win a starting job at the next level, but he should earn lots of playing time on passing downs and Special Teams. Solid value again for Round 4.

We have to jump down to Round 6, at Pick 190 to find them taking DeSHON ELLIOTT/S/Texas. I had ELLIOTT ranked as an early Round 4 guy, as Prospect rank 106. ELLIOTT is 6’1/210 and ran a Combine time of 4.58/40. For a deep S over 200 lbs. that’s not bad at all. He also has 32 1/4″ arms and 10 1/2″ hands. That hand size might help explain how he was able to record 6 INT in 2017. He also posted 63 T and had 9 PBU and 3 FF. It’s that productivity that had me confused as to why it took so long for him to get drafted. I think ELLIOTT could be a big surprise if Secondary Coach CHRIS HEWITT can make a willing project out of him and sand down the rough edges. Watch for him to make some positive noise as a Rookie. But I also see him being the eventual successor to ERIC WEDDLE who is getting ready to play his 12th NFL season.

It’s Round 7 and the RAVENS have one more Pick to make at 238. But unlike some teams OZIE NEWSOME is sticking to his usual trend of still picking players who have produced at the collegiate level out on the grass. Ozzie doesn’t take a ton of fliers on Draft Days. So let’s talk about a player I really like and had rated at 197, a couple of rounds earlier. ZACH SIELER/DE/Ferris State is a good, big athlete. He’s listed at 6’6 and 290 lbs., yet ran a 4.90/40 at his Pro Day. Needs a lot of refinement and coaching up, but he reminds me of a small school version of BRENT URBAN, who currently holds down a starting DE spot, when healthy in Baltimore. The potential success of SIELER could be a prime example of what OZZIE NEWSOME has done as a Personnel guy in the NFL.

This is a solid effort, but I won’t lie, I do not see much star power here. I think the big key long term will be what LAMAR JACKSON turns out to be as an NFL QB, in a Ravens uniform. Secondly, will be the impact both HURST and ANDREWS can have on revitalizing the RAVENS TE position, and how soon?

As we close the book on OZIE NEWSOME’s last Draft I would also like to add that during my trips to the Senior Bowl over the last 22-years, NEWSOME has always been one of the most sought out execs, by his peers and media, sitting in the stands at practices. I have seen almost everyone in the business seek him out in Mobile for a few minutes of chat, ending with a warm handshake and smiles. He has been one of the good guys and he will be missed. Despite being relatively soft-spoken/quiet guys, he and TED THOMPSON garnered a lot of friendship and respect within NFL circles, and will be sorely missed going forward. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated, but the Wizard of OZ and Whitey will be spoken of long after they are gone.

This also concludes my look around the League at all 32, 2018 Team Drafts. Hopefully, I have given you a bit more info about some of these players who are less than household names for the time being. You can check them out for yourselves starting in about a month.

Cheers

Pigskin