I always respected how the Ravens have run their organization finding great players and always finding a way to stay competitive. It's not on the same level of sustained success as say the Patriots, but I can compare how well this team is run with the likes of the New York Giants or the Pittsburgh Steelers. Which, is why I find it weird that they have been stuck in neutral since their Super Bowl victory a few years back. Not to say the team has been terrible, but they just have not been as good as they should be. People love to put the blame on Flacco and his big contract, but to me that's a weak argument. I think it has been their inability to find offensive weapons to put around him, which almost feels like a polar opposite to how well they find defensive talent. To me going into the season they would be one of those teams where you would not be surprised to seem them make a good run into the playoffs or they could also be one of those teams that looks terrible all season long. I hope it's the latter since I always respected the Ravens and even while I lived down in Baltimore among their insufferable fans I still sort of rooted for them.
Like many teams this one will only really go as far as Joe Flacco will take them. Definitely not as valuable as say an Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger, but to me Flacco is a terrific quarterback who does not get the respect he deserves. He has maginifecent arm strength, quality accuracy, and high end intelligence to protect the ball. Plus, outside of a few recent injuries he has been relatively reliable to play every week. Supposedly, this new back injury should not hold him out too long and at the worst he might miss the preseason match ups. Which, can be detrimental since he will be working with a relatively new cast of receivers like Breshad Perriman hopefully emerging and newly acquired Jeremy Maclin who needs to build a report with Flacco for success this season. Steve Smith retiring is going to be a huge loss for this team in the first couple weeks, but I can see them being sold enough to put up points. They still have a quality line even with the loss of Ricky Wagner where they still have their 2nd year stud Ronnie Stanley, and All-Pro Marshall Yanda as mainstays. Plus, the rest of the blockers are all above average enough to keep the pocket clean. Unfortunately, for a team that has drafted a bunch of tight ends over the years none of them have been able to step and stay healthy. Dennis Pitta is done, former 2nd rounder Maxx Williams is hurt again, and so is Crockett Gilmore who has showed some promise. To double up on their problems in the middle of the offense they still do not have an answer at running back to give them a more balanced offense. I may be an alumni of Towson and love Terrance West, but even I know he is just a goal line back with some ability to give a true starter a breather. They had hoped Kenneth Dixon could be the man, but he cannot get out of his own way between his health and off field issues. Overall, I can see this being a middle of the road offense that can make some big plays thanks to their solid wide receiver talent.
Now defense is where the Ravens continue to make their presence known and this year I can see them being just as reliable as ever. They did lose some key pieces on the line between trading Timmy Jernigan who has had an up and down career, while also losing Lawerence Guy to their rivals up north in New England. Both will be missed, but with the emergence of Brandon Williams at the nose tackle they should be just fine. Plus, younger prospects like Carl Davis, Brandon Kaufusi, Willie Henry, and rookie Chris Wormley have a chance to also emerge. Their linebacking corp should be as good as ever with the steady C.J. Mosley and second year talent Kamalei Correa creating a good one-two tandem in the middle. The edge rushers should be just as good too even with Terrell Suggs looking like he is reaching the end of his career. Younger players like Za'Darius Smith, and Matt Judon along with rookies Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams give them a good young crop to groom for the future. I really loved what they did with their secondary bringing in Brandon Carr to compliment Jimmy Smith at corner and drafting rookie Marlon Humphrey as a developmental corner to work behind the two veterans. Meanwhile, at safety they brought in the talented Tony Jefferson to pair with last year's free agent stud Eric Weddle. This may not be the most athletic secondary in the world, but they do have the most savvy experience in the league in my opinion to be just as successful.
In the end, this is a very difficult team to predict since I am hopeful their offense will be just as effective as it was last year to compliment their talented young defense. However, I can see their lack of a run game, or interior pass catching presence to really hamper them in the 4th quarter or when they need a key first down. Plus, I cannot be a little worried with Flacco missing key practice time to build chemistry with Maclin, and Perriman. Their schedule is also mildly tough with match ups against the Raiders, Vikings, Dolphins, Titans, Packers, Texans, and Lions. It also does not help them that the AFC North is one of the tougher divisions where every team plays each other extremely tough even the lowly Browns. I currently slot them with a 9-7 record, but I can easily see them doing worst or better than that mark.
1 (16) - Marlon Humphrey CB - I understand why the Ravens made this pick since they needed a young corner to develop behind the veterans Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, both of whom have had up and down careers. However, I am never a fan of Alabama players out of the secondary in the NFL. I know Saban is touted as a great defensive back coach, but playing behind their great defensive fronts they usually have an easy time in coverage. Plus, in recent years so many of their so called stud defensive backs in the NFL have been massive busts like Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick, Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas, and Mark Barron. I do admit Humphrey has a little more athleticism than those others on the outside, but not enough for me to ignore that history of failure.
2 (15) - Tyus Bowser OLB - You know what if they picked Bowser in the first round I would have liked that pick much more than Humphrey. Since they got him here in the middle of the second round I love the pick even more. Ozzie Newsome has always been great at getting value from his selections getting players who slide a bit. Bowser probably slid due to his incredible rawness as a pass rusher, but his athleticism, size, and speed are through the roof. He can be moved around all over on defense and I can honestly see him taking over for Suggs in a year or two as the Ravens next great pass rusher.
3 (10) - Chris Wormley DE - I would like to pat myself on the back since I predicted this pick in my many mocks. After losing Lawerence Guy and trading Timmy Jernigan they needed to find a new interior player to add to their depth. I do like their current young crop with Brandon Kaufusi and Carl Davis possibly emerging. However, Wormley to me is just a good football player and will always give you steady production. I also love the Harbaugh connection since Wormley began playing much better under Jim and now going to play for John he can possibly continue his upward trend. He may never be a pure pass rusher, but he is very opportunistic and can get many of those second chance sacks. Very good value pick in my opinion.
3 (14) - Tim Williams OLB - Williams is an electric pass rusher who would have gone in the first round if not for his off field baggage, which killed him leading up to the draft. I actually thought he would land with the Ravens due to their strong culture at rehabilitating many troubled players and also being a team opportunistic enough to take chances on players late in the draft getting great value. I doubt he ever has the size to be an every down pass rusher with his weak ability to set the edge and stop the run. However, on passing downs he will be a nightmare to stop.
4 (16) - Nico Siragusa OG - Unfortunately, Siragusa will be out for the year with a knee injury, which to me has been the story about the Ravens pre season so far. I actually loved his potential to possibly break out at left guard for the Ravens where they have the weakest link on the line. He was a perfect fit due to his run blocking prowess. He is a little old at 24 for a rookie so it will be interesting to see if he can come back well enough to compete for a job next season. However, his upside is a little low so I can see this costing him a nice career in the NFL.
5 (15) - Jermaine Eluemenor OG - Every year there are a few players who coaches see have a lot of potential even with their limited time playing football and this year Eluemenor was one of those players. He is an extremely raw prospect who probably will not see the field this year barring injuries ahead of him or him miraculously mastering proper blocking technique. With his size and strength he has the possibly turning into a quality blocker down the line as long as if the coaching staff is patient with him.
6 (2) - Chuck Clark DB - Clark will be just a depth, special team option for the Ravens with too many solid players in front of him at the safety position. Barring a bunch of injuries; which could happen on a cursed Ravens squad, I doubt he sees the field much on defense.
2018 Off Season:
The Ravens to me are another one of those teams stuck in the middle. They are not that good to be a perennial Super Bowl contender nor are they bad enough to land any of the top picks to get a difference maker. However, I do think they drafted very well at least on the defensive side of the football to give them a good defense for many years. It's the offense now that needs work and they should look to surround Flacco with better homegrown personnel. Particularly at the running back and tight end position to give him good players to lean on in tough situations. I can see this being a make or break year of Breshad Perriman like many of his other fellow first round receivers from that disappointing 2015 class. If he falters I would like them to find their own receiver rather than another old veteran like Maclin, Smith, or Wallace who they have brought in over the years. Their line could also use some retooling to replace some of their more middle of the road blockers at guard, center, and right tackle. As long as they retain GM Ozzie Newsome and Coach John Harbaugh this team will always be one of the more competitive ones in the league.
My 2018 Mock Selections:
1 (20) - Mitch Hyatt OT Clemson
2 (20) - Akrum Wadley RB Iowa
|Austin Vershel||Since cutting starting pro-bowl guard Jeremy Zuttah, the Ravens have lost Rick Wagner to the Lions via FA, Nico Saragusa to IR, and John Urschel to retirement. With such a poor quality o-line I cant see the Ravens making any noise this season.|
|Kyle Kunert||They have two studs in Ronnie Stanley and of course Marshall Yanda to help stabilize things. I also do not think Alex Lewis is that terrible of a blocker, I'd say about league average and the same could be said for James Hurst, too. Zuttah, has yet to sign so obviously a lot of people around the league do not think that highly of the aging veteran anyways so I cannot say that was a bad move to let him go and Urschel was kind of an obvious guy who was going to retire early due to how smart he was. I think their line will be around league average, which in reality is not that high since many teams have bad lines outside of a handful.|