Continuing our 2016 NFL Draft coverage, I am now going to attempt to break down the Baltimore Ravens depth chart to pin point their top three needs going it this years draft. The Ravens last year were a disappointment, to say the least, but the good part about being a sub-500 team the year before is your position in the following year’s draft order.
This year the Ravens will be drafting in the six spot, which pretty much gives them pick of the litter as far as the draft goes. The Ravens have 9 picks as it sits currently and own 7 picks in the first 134. As far as the draft is concerned, they are rich and with Ozzie Newsome making their personnel decisions, it should be fun to watch if you’re a Ravens fan. So, without further ado, lets get into this!
Baltimore Ravens 2016 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
This has to be their most dire need this year. When you lose starters like Daryl Smith and Courtney Upshaw to free agency and your most experienced linebacker Terrell Suggs is not only trying to rehab from an Achilles tendon tear, but will turn 34 during the season, linebacker has to be your biggest need, without question. The good news is that they have the fire power in this year’s draft in order to fill every need and then some. With the sixth pick overall they will be able to choose the best player remaining at one of the positions that they require. I don’t think they are going to go linebacker with the first pick because the draft’s top player at the position is Myles Jack and he is sure to be gone by the time the Ravens are up. If, by chance, he is there, look for Ravens to snatch him up even though he is a little bit undersized for their scheme.
They could choose to draft Reggie Ragland, who is the draft’s best inside Linebacker. They could choose to wait until the second round or later in which case they would have a multitude of choices from smaller speedy linebackers like Deion Jones to large hybrid defensive ends that could translate into 3-4 outside linebackers like Carl Nassib. You’ll likely also see names like Tyler Matakevich and Nick Kwiatkoski linked to the Ravens in the coming weeks.
With all of that being said, I believe that the Ravens will wait until the third round of this year’s draft to address their linebacker issue. I think this class is deep enough for them to get a quality starter or two in the later rounds. But something else you need to know is that this is the deepest class of defensive ends in a long time. Which brings me right into the Ravens next need.
As I stated above, this is an extremely deep draft as far as defensive ends go and it is deep pretty much throughout the first six rounds of the draft. I think this is the direction the Ravens go in the first round with the sixth pick. The top rated defensive end that fits the Ravens 3-4 scheme is Oregon’s Deforest Buckner. His unique combination of height, weight and versatility makes him a rare talent that will make an immediate impact player for the Ravens. Even if they decided to address this need in the second round or later, there will still be ample talent remaining.
Currently, they have eight picks spanning from the second to sixth rounds. And judging by their historical drafting and lineage as a front office, they will most likely draft players that can fill multiple roles in their scheme. Adolphus Washington and Jihad Ward come to mind. They are both huge and possess the ability to kick inside if need be. They could also take a flyer on Matthew Ioannidis who is of sufficient size to do anything the Ravens need him to do within their scheme.
They may opt take a look at two players that are a little undersized for this position but who could grow into a hybrid role for them. Those two players are Aziz Shittu and Anthony Zettel. They are 288 and 277 pounds respectively. A little undersized for the five technique but they are young and will continue to grow into those positions. The Ravens have the freedom to whatever they want in the fourth round because they have four picks in that round. Plus, I believe Ozzie Newsome has the clearance and support from ownership to pretty much do whatever he see fit considering that he has brought the organization two Lombardi trophies since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996.
To tell you the truth, I was flip flopping between running back and tight end but the fact this a pretty weak tight end class and the fact that they picked up Benjamin Watson during free agency swung me over to the idea of thinking that the Ravens cannot believe that Justin Forsett is the answer in the backfield. He had an incredible breakout year in 2014 but broke his arm last year and considering the class of running backs in 2016, I think the Ravens could be in the market for an upgrade at the position.
There is a great divide in the caliber of backs this year, meaning that after Ezekiel Elliott there is a large drop off and again after Derrick Henry. I think that the Ravens other needs are more severe but if Elliott’s still on the board when the commissioner puts the Ravens on the clock, it’ll be hard to pass him up. If he is gone at six and they draft another major need, they might look at picking Derrick Henry when they’re up in the second round. But if all of that fails and they are looking for a runner in the third or the fourth round, than I truly believe that their guy is going to be Jordan Howard. At 5′-11″ 230 pounds, he is deceptively fast and pounds the ball in the way resembling the Ravens championship teams.
Whatever the situation the Ravens find themselves in during this years NFL Draft, they have the good front office and potent fire power to move up and down the draft board as they see it fit. Nothing is set in stone, but one thing is for sure. April 28th through the 30th should be a very interesting weekend for the Ravens and their fans.