Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft Recap/Grade – 2018
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Baltimore Ravens Draft Picks (2018)
Key Positional Needs Entering Draft
- Wide Receiver
- Tight End
- Offensive Tackle
The 2018 NFL Draft marked Ozzie Newsome’s final draft as Baltimore Ravens general manager and it was an eventful one to say the least. With a glaring need at wide receiver the Ravens had their pick of the litter and passed at selecting a #1 wideout not once or twice, but three times in the first round alone. Of course, some would argue that this year’s draft class didn’t have a bonafide #1 WR to offer but there are certainly a number of players that could develop into one. As Newsome would have it Baltimore didn’t address the receiver position via the draft until Day 3; instead opting to address several other offensive positions including quarterback. Tight end Hayden Hurst, perhaps the most heavily scrutinized first round selection, despite being one of the top prospects at the position, will be 25-years-old during his rookie season calling into question his upside and long-term prospects. However, his seasoning should help mitigate the steep learning curve for rookie tight ends and his versatility and grit suggests he can be effective both in-line and as a move tight end. A third trade during Day 1 of the draft netted the Baltimore Ravens the 32nd overall pick and my #2 rated quarterback, Lamar Jackson. I’m a huge fan of the pick. Jackson has warts, as do all of the quarterback prospects in the class but I appreciate the forward thinking of Newsome with this selection. For a fleeting 2013 Super Bowl run Joe Flacco was spectacular but that player represents a moment in time and Flacco has not approached that level of play since. Injuries are mounting and the game is evolving and I believe if Jackson continues to make strides as a pocket passer he will be representative of that evolution. A pair of third round picks landed the Baltimore Ravens a pair of Sooners in offensive tackle Orlando Brown and Mark Andrews. Clearly the Ravens plan to deploy multiple tight ends and provide Flacco and ultimately Jackson with large targets down the seams. Brown’s pre-draft process went as poorly as you could imagine but assuming John Harbaugh can push the mammoth offensive lineman’s buttons he should form a quality book-end to Ronnie Stanley. Averett, Scott, Lasley, Elliott and Senat reflect Newsome’s patented Day 3 genius.
I’m rooting for Lamar Jackson. Flacco is washed up in my opinion and as soon as the dead money on his deal becomes palatable it will become Jackson’s team. My colleague CPGM Headley warned me that I shouldn’t allow myself to fall victim to my Vince Young/RGIII optimism but as I stated before the game is changing and I think Jackson his a better prospect than both Young and RGIII. Jackson has accuracy issues (so does Flacco by the way) something that cannot be understated. Widening his base as he throws should help mitigate that issue. He needs to throw with more anticipation but he is a good decision-maker and does a tremendous job of protecting the football. Additionally, he played quality competition week-in and week-out, raised the level of play of an average/decent supporting cast, and most importantly demonstrated year-to-year progression as a passer. Too often there is a freshman sensation or one-year wonder that claims all the headlines one season only to plateau the next. Jackson is the antithesis of that all too familiar phenomena. Despite spending far too much time in the shotgun, the offense he ran wasn’t a series of RPOs and bubble screens. There were substantial pro-style passing concepts throughout the playbook which challenged the young man they way any prospective NFL signal-caller should be challenged and he acquitted himself well. I consider his demi-god like skills as a ball-carrier a tremendous bonus as opposed to the basis of what he will offer the Baltimore Ravens.
Fantasy Football Implications
Don’t invest early in rookie tight ends, so if you punt on Hurst and Andrews altogether I certainly won’t shun you. I recommend investing a late round pick in Lamar Jackson in re-draft leagues assuming you have the bench space but don’t reach. Don’t expect a Deshaun Watson type of season either because there isn’t a DeAndre Hopkins on the Ravens roster. I wouldn’t rule out the former Heisman Trophy Winner playing significant snaps during his rookie season as no one currently in the Ravens’ quarterback meeting room is a beacon of durability or health. Quarterbacks with wheels tend to offer a higher Fantasy Football floor and there is no one in the NFL that approaches what he can do on the ground at the position. In Dyansty Leagues I wouldn’t let him fall past the top of the second round and will likely take him at the bottom of the first, that’s how high I am on Jackson’s long-term fantasy football prospects. Just as an aside, if Jackson enters the lineup find a way to acquire Alex Collins as his rushing lanes should expand substantially.