The Ravens makeover requires depth, especially in defense


Every week during the 2021 NFL season, we’re going to – to be honest here – overreact to what we’ve seen on the field for a different NFL team and start projecting the draft prospects of the NFL. NFL in positions of serious need.

Think of it as a fictional one-team mini draft, with early (rounds 1-2), intermediate (rounds 3-4) and late (rounds 5-7) prospects at each team’s respective position of concern.

This week’s NFL Draft makeover is for the Baltimore Ravens.

(Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)

It is difficult for us to surpass the recent words of our colleague Frank Schwab about the Ravens in his weekly column “Winners and Losers”. So please allow us to reprint them in all their anti-splendor:

The Baltimore Ravens wrap up the 2021 NFL season. Everything looked so good not so long ago. Then the injuries and COVID-19 ruined everything.

It really is. After beating the Cleveland Browns in Week 12, the then-Ravens 8-3 were at the top of the division and, best of all, the AFC as a whole. It was a botched game, one with four interceptions from Lamar Jackson, but the result put Baltimore in a position where the playoffs looked almost certain.

Since 1990, 95 teams have started the season 8-3 – and 88 of them (92.6%) have made the playoffs. Even with the NFL extending the regular season to 17 games in 2021, it was hard to imagine an 8-3 team coming out of the playoffs so quickly.

Now, after four straight losses, the Ravens and their fans are bound to imagine it. The team is currently away, with two games to go against teams at .500 or better. John Harbaugh has had some brilliant training times this season, but has had to be very aggressive at times which has cost them dearly.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has been very aggressive this season, perhaps out of necessity as his roster has deteriorated.  (<a class=Photo by Frank Jansky / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MA–/”/>

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has been very aggressive this season, perhaps out of necessity as his roster has deteriorated. (Photo by Frank Jansky / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Some of the squad’s issues, such as the health of the quarterback, are very likely short-term concerns. Other concerns are more chronic. The depth of the squad, which has been strained in some positions since August, is most certainly one of them.

The good news for the Ravens, whether or not they make the playoffs, is that their concerns seem to be resolved. They’re in some form of a respectable salary cap, currently around $ 26 million less for 2022, although Jackson’s likely extension numbers are consuming a lot of that.

But they also have a strong allocation of draft capital, with an expected excess of draft picks (additional picks on Day 3 via past trades and offsetting picks). If Baltimore misses the playoffs, he could land the team’s best first-round pick since Marlon Humphrey was selected 16th overall in 2017. Additionally, the strengths of the 2022 NFL Draft appear to match the need most. concern of the Ravens.

So let’s try to sort out some of those issues through the draft and how the Ravens can bounce back next year.

Perspective of the first round

Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele

In our draft mockup released last week, we screened the Ravens from a cornerback: Andrew Booth Jr. of Clemson. Let’s work from that template and go down to their choice of second round for this story.

If they can fix a defensive issue – DB or defensive line – in the first round, coming back in the second round with an offensive tackle might be a smart approach. And while Faalele is still on the board around the 50th overall pick, his association with the Ravens seems almost too perfect.

The Ravens have long sought the mass and length of their offensive linemen (think Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Ben Cleveland, Tire Phillips, David Sharpe, etc.), 380-pound Faalele. In addition to his mass, Faalele has an arm length of 35 inches and some of the largest hands (11 1/8 inches) and one of the longest wingspan (86 inches) you’ll ever see in an NFL prospect. .

At 6-8 and 380 pounds, Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele is absolutely the Ravens' blocker mold.  (Photo by James Black / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

At 6-8 and 380 pounds, Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele is absolutely the Ravens’ tackle mold. (Photo by James Black / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This is what you cannot teach. Faalele remains raw as a player so it’s hard to project what he might offer in the first year. But if we follow his growth over the Australian’s three years of organized football with the Gophers, it’s easy to see how good Faalele could be. a few years from now.

He’s a natural adjustment to the right tackle, and the downside is that it’s the only position he’s played in college. But Faalele could also be tried as an imposing guard, we think. While not exceptionally athletic (compared to 325 pounds, anyway), Faalele moves quite well for a man of his size, with impressive flexibility and at least passable lateral quickness.

With solid testing he could work in the first round range. But if Faalele is within range of the Ravens’ second-round pick, they would be the big favorites to compete for his services.

Mid-term perspective

Arkansas DL John Ridgeway

At some point, the defensive line needs to be tackled. Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and / or Justin Ellis could be free to walk, assuming the team is a bit tight. Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr. can help fill those voids, but more would be needed if one or more of these veterans didn’t return.

Ridgeway is a high story prospect that perhaps has somewhat limited upside potential. But his final season with the Razorbacks, after four years of top-tier play in the state of Illinois, showed he can handle the rigors of the SEC, winning a Senior Bowl bid.

Arkansas DL John Ridgeway (# 99) scored one sack and six tackles against Texas just two weeks after an appendectomy.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

Arkansas DL John Ridgeway (# 99) scored one sack and six tackles against Texas just two weeks after an appendectomy. (Photo by Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

Within two weeks of having an appendectomy, Ridgeway faced Texas and registered six tackles and a sack in 24 snaps. It’s tenacity, and he’s been up for the rest of the season on nose tackle, also taking snaps as a technique 5.

It’s easy to throw the Ravens who love Ridgeway length at 6ft 5in, with 34in arms and 80in wingspan. His high school wrestling background shows on tape in his ability to take out blockers and exploit them quickly. Ridgeway possesses limited pass-rush capability, but has surprisingly quickness and profiles as an inner disruptor who can bypass blocking patterns and withstand potency.

We believe Ridgeway will end up as a borderline Top 100 prospect, but he has the characteristics of a very useful pro in a DL rotation, both inside on the nose and able to play on the offensive tackle.

End of cycle perspective

Caroline Coast EDGE Jeffrey Gunter

Gunter is a prototypical 3-4 edge rusher that appears to fit the mold of the Ravens. He’s been accused of being a bit of a dirty player – or at least the one who often plays the whistle – thanks to some very aggressive punches against BYU QB Zach Wilson and Liberty QB Malik Willis, among others.

But we’re guessing the Ravens wouldn’t mind adding a pinch of vinegar to their EDGE rotation. They’ve got quality reps from Tyus Bowser and 2021 Odafe Oweh’s first round this season, but need to plan their lives past Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee.

Coastal Carolina EDGE Jeffrey Gunter is a very aggressive defender who matches the Ravens' mold.  (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig / Getty Images)

Coastal Carolina EDGE Jeffrey Gunter is a very aggressive defenseman who fits the Ravens mold. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig / Getty Images)

Adding a fiery competitor like Gunter makes sense. The East-West Shrine Game selection is believed to be a Day 3 prospect due to some stiffness, athletic limitations, and a one-note pass-rush technique, which could limit its appeal a bit. mass.

Still, it has the build (6ft 4in, 261lb, 33-1 / 8in arm, 81-7 / 8in wingspan) to accommodate the Ravens’ outward rush point, brings a white-hot engine to partying and can be disruptive in limited shots. Watch his two games against Kansas and Arkansas State over the past two seasons, and you can see how Gunter can go from a later pick to a productive pro.


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