The NFL Draft concluded Saturday afternoon and the Baltimore Ravens are now in the process of welcoming in the new building blocks of their franchise. It was Eric DeCosta‘s first draft as new general manager of the Ravens and as expected, took a couple of pages out of Ozzie Newsome‘s book. DeCosta accumulated picks to jump around the draft board and ended up with the following selections:
- First round, 25th overall: Marquise Brown, Wide Reciever, Oklahoma
- Third round, 85th overall: Jaylon Ferguson, Outside Linebacker, Louisiana Tech
- Third round, 93rd overall: Miles Boykin, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
- Fourth round, 113th overall: Justice Hill, Running Back, Oklahoma State
- Fourth round, 123rd overall: Ben Powers, Guard, Oklahoma
- Fourth round, 127th overall: Iman Marshall, Cornerback, USC
- Fifth round, 160th overall: Daylon Mack, Defensive Tackle, Texas A&M
- Sixth round, 197th overall: Trace McSorley, Quarterback, Penn State
Baltimore Ravens 2019 NFL Draft Grade: 8/10
Baltimore Ravens 2019 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Marquise Brown
DeCosta made the first official selection of his career after trading back from #22 to #25 to select the speedster that caught passes from back-to-back Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Brown has absolute burners for legs and has often throughout the draft process been called a “Desean Jackson clone“. Baltimore needed a new deep threat after the departure of John Brown this offseason, and the Ravens came away with a player that can replicate his speed, catching ability and potentially add another dimension to the run game. Brown only had three rushing attempts in two years at Oklahoma but could pair his speed with that of Lamar Jackson and create a dream pairing for Greg Roman to utilize. His presence also allows the Ravens to utilize the screen game after barely using it in 2018.
Coming into the draft, Brown was arguably the best receiver on the board. Teams were sceptical after he skipped the combine and his pro day due to requiring foot surgery for an injury Brown suffered in the Big-10 Championship game. However, his upside is incredibly high despite his past and his size. Brown comes in at 5’9″ 166 lbs but outperformed his size in college and could do the same at the NFL level. In his two years at Oklahoma, Brown had two back-to-back 1000+ yard seasons and caught a combined 17 touchdowns on 132 receptions.
There were many places DeCosta could’ve gone with his first ever draft pick but addressing a pressing need with a big-play receiver was a good option.
The Head-Scratcher: The Remaining Hole At Middle Linebacker
When a team loses a player that led their team in tackles in three of the last five years, there’s usually a need to replace that player. The Ravens, on the other hand, are taking a slow approach at replacing C.J. Mosley. The inside linebacker class in this year’s draft wasn’t one of the strongest in recent memory but there were still players with good value on the board when the Ravens picked. Mack Wilson is perhaps the best example, falling to #155 and the Cleveland Browns.
There was never going to be a quick replacement for Mosley unless Baltimore drafted one of the top-two ILBs in the draft but not addressing the position is a bold move.
The Ravens now have to go with the interior duo of Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young. Both were good in the action they saw in 2018 but are both unproven as true middle linebackers. Young is likely to play the role closest to Mosley’s and Onwuasor will stay in his Will role. Of the other two interior linebackers, one has 12 career tackles and the other has none. There simply isn’t a lot of depth at ILB for the Ravens going into 2019. The other thing to consider is Mosley was the captain of the defence. Not taking a real leader on defence says the Ravens will likely be looking to Earl Thomas to call plays on his side of the ball. Throughout franchise history, Baltimore has always been lead from the middle.
The middle of the field is still a big question mark going into 2019.
The Surprise: Iman Marshall
The Ravens put a lot of stock into their secondary over the past couple of seasons and it’s interesting to see they went with a corner as early as the fourth round. After picking Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett in the last two drafts, the Ravens have put a lot of stock into fortifying the corner position via the draft. Tavon Young was also just extended through 2022.
Marshall was a solid player at USC but still needs some work before he can be relied on at the NFL level. He was burned a couple of times over his last few seasons in college but still has the length and ball skills to play with the pros. He started in all but two games during his four years as a Trojan but didn’t record an interception in his last two season. However, he did add 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Being buried on the depth chart will allow Marshall to potentially develop into a good outside corner for Baltimore. There’s also a chance he ends up translating into a free safety.
DeCosta has clearly been influenced by the years of Baltimore having a secondary completely decimated by injuries. Corner wasn’t a pressing need but you can never have too many in this NFL day and age. This was likely an insurance move for if Jimmy Smith gets hurt again.
The Steal: Jaylon Ferguson
With all the production the Ravens lost in free agency off the edge, it is very helpful to get the player that just broke Terrell Suggs record for most career sacks in the NCAA. Ferguson or “Sack Daddy” as his Instagram handle displays, is a great value at #85.
A four-year starter in college, Ferguson was a beast since the minute he stepped on the field. He tallied double-digit tackles for loss in every season at Louisiana Tech and had 14+ sacks in both 2016 and 2018. In total, he rounded out at an impressive 45.0 sacks on his career. Facing lesser competition in the Conference USA, it is easy to look at Ferguson’s opponents to devalue his numbers but getting to the quarterback is always tough. Even if it was against lower competition, Ferguson showed the ability to dominate in college. To quote Daniel Jeremiah “Ozzie Newsome used to preach, production and sacks carries over to the NFL.”
The knock on Ferguson is he needs to be careful about his size. Ferguson was hurt early in the draft process because of having put on ‘bad weight’ prior to his pro day. If he can manage his physique, Ferguson could become even more versatile off the edge. His frame is tailored for the NFL and his production can only be viewed as a big positive. Ferguson can come in right away to compete with Tim Williams for the pure pass rusher role or perhaps translate inside as a 3-technique defensive end.
Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Miles Boykin
Considering the blistering speed both Hill and Brown bring, the Ravens are going to have a couple of head-turners in camp. However, I sided with Boykin.
The Ravens moved up nine spots in the third round to select Boykin because of his pure athletic ability. Boykin put on a show at the combine, coming in the top-10 amongst receivers in all but one of the drills he participated in. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and had the highest vertical among receivers at 43.5 inches. Boykin is defined by his athletic traits but he needs to develop more as a football player if he hopes to be successful in the NFL. He was only a one-year starter at Notre Dame and showed a lot of promise.
There is room for improvement in Boykins’ game but that won’t stop him from flashing brilliance every once and a while. At 6’4″ 220 lbs, Boykin is able to get above almost any corner he matches up with and should has an incredible high-point when receiving the ball. This opens up his catch radius a lot and should give him a lot of opportunities on fades, outs and other intermediate routes. He might not be as fast as Brown but can still use his quickness to separate inside.
In the Ravens offence, Boykin looks like he will be given plenty of opportunities at 50/50 balls. The leaping grabs that showed up at Notre Dame should make a couple of appearances in 2019
Hill is a pure burner out of the backfield. He ran the fastest 40-time of any running back. His numbers during his junior season weren’t great but he was coming off a very impressive sophomore season. During his second year in college, Hill broke out with 1467 rushing yards, 190 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. However, his most important stat may be his 31 grabs in 2017. Hill looks to translate to a pass-catching back in the Ravens offence and could see a lot of playing time early because of his skillset. His speed should look great opposite Mark Ingram‘s power.
The Ravens needed to add either a guard or a centre in the draft to stabilize the interior of the offensive line. DeCosta elected to go with Powers, a tough guard with the ability to pull. His best trait is his hands but he isn’t a great athlete. Powers might be able to start right out of the gate but likely, isn’t a huge improvement on Alex Lewis. Whichever guard is healthy or proves to be a fit in the new scheme, will likely determine who starts. Powers only surrendered 21 pressures over his three years at Oklahoma.
Mack comes in as a stocky defensive tackle. Coming in at just 6’1″ but 336 lbs, what impressed most about Mack was his ability to plug the middle and occasionally get to the quarterback. The Ravens already have two players like Mack in Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams but the money invested in Williams – and perhaps Pierce soon – has forced DeCosta to use the draft to back them up. Mack is a pure power player, demonstrated by his ability to push three-ton car half a mile as a workout. He totalled 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a senior in his only season as a starter at Texas A&M.
One year after taking a quarterback with a unique skill set, the Ravens went the same route in the sixth round in 2019. Baltimore went with McSorley out of Penn St., a quarterback who improved as a runner every year in college. There has been speculation of him switching positions in the NFL but for now, in Baltimore, there is room to integrate him a similar way they integrated Jackson while Joe Flacco was running the offence in 2018. Coach John Harbaugh said, “You saw what the Saints did with their quarterback” in reference to Taysom Hill when addressing the versatility that McSorley brings.
DeCosta’s first draft as Ravens GM was a success. He addressed almost all of the remaining needs Baltimore had and filled out the roster in a nice way. At their post-draft presser, coach Harbaugh sounded very excited to get his hands on these players but perhaps most importantly, preached that the new Ravens are good people. Finding perfect fits in the NFL is always tough and Harbaugh and DeCosta drafted players that identify with the Ravens mentality.
There is still room to improve through adding other teams expendable players and remaining free agents. The receiving core is still very inexperienced and a veteran presence wouldn’t hurt
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