Final report card due today!
With the NFL Draft beginning tomorrow, I decided to take a look at the Ravens’ current roster and grade each position group before draft picks are added to it. Baltimore enters the draft with one of the league’s better rosters on paper, but what positions could use a boost?
Quarterback – A
The Ravens still have the 2019 unanimous MVP running the show, which automatically makes this a high grade. Especially considering Lamar Jackson is still on a rookie deal, making him a tremendous value. The only worry about the quarterback position for Baltimore is the lack of an experienced and proven backup. After the release of veteran Robert Griffin III this offseason, Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are set to compete for the role. Both players saw limited action in 2020, but both flashed the potential to be decent pieces to a QB room.
Running back – B+
J.K. Dobbins demonstrated his star potential as a rookie in 2020 and is set to take the reigns in 2021. Gus Edwards returns for his fourth season with the Ravens and should be as reliable as ever. Justice Hill provides speed and strong special teams play as the current third running back on the depth chart. Baltimore’s rushing attack should once again be a dominant force in 2021. The lack of a true pass-catching back is what this group is currently missing and holding it back from a higher grade, however.
Wide receiver – C
The Ravens missed out on the top-end receivers in free agency but ended up signing Sammy Watkins to a one-year deal. Even with the addition of Watkins, Baltimore’s wide receiver room remains one of the league’s weakest. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown has been a solid target for Jackson since being drafted in 2019, but even he hit a slump last season and struggled with drops. Brown rebounded nicely and had a productive post-season, however.
Behind Brown and Watkins are nothing but question marks and potential at the moment. Miles Boykin has proven to be a decent receiver, but he did not take the leap that the team hoped for in his second season. Devin Duvernay and James Proche now enter their second seasons, with Duvernay in particular in line for a bigger role with the departure of Willie Snead IV and Dez Bryant.
Tight end – B+
Mark Andrews enters his fourth season as one of the best tight ends in the league. Behind Andrews is perhaps the best blocker at the position in Nick Boyle. Boyle is returning from a season-ending knee injury, however. The Ravens could benefit from adding another receiving threat behind Andrews.
Offensive line – B
The loss of Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle knocked this grade down from an A. The addition of veteran Kevin Zeitler stopped the revolving door that was right guard for Baltimore last season and the solid Bradley Bozeman returns to man left guard unless he is moved to center. All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley is returning from a season-ending ankle injury and will hopefully be ready for the start of the season. The Ravens have to find a replacement at right tackle now and the center position remains up for grabs. Still, three out of five positions on the line are more than a lot of teams have.
Defensive line – B
Baltimore revamped the defensive line last offseason with the additions of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, and Justin Madubuike. These three all return alongside Brandon Williams for the 2021 season. Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington return as depth pieces but the Ravens would benefit from adding another young player somewhere to the defensive line in the draft given that their top three defensive linemen are all over 30. Finding a long-term replacement for Williams at nose tackle is preferable.
Outside linebacker – D
The position group that took by far the biggest hit this offseason for Baltimore was outside linebacker. Pro-Bowler Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jihad Ward all departed for other teams in free agency. The Ravens did re-sign former second-round pick Tyus Bowser and veteran Pernell McPhee, however. These two return to join third-year Jaylon Ferguson on the edge. Baltimore certainly needs to address this position in the draft or by signing a veteran that is still on the market such as Justin Houston.
Inside linebacker – C
While the Ravens spent a first- and a third-round pick on inside linebacker Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison last year, I find it hard to give this position a higher grade until one or both of those players take their game to the next level. Queen was a playmaker as a rookie, but his first season was filled with “welcome to the NFL” moments, which was expected. Behind those two is veteran L.J. Fort, who has been the best player at the position for Baltimore for the past two seasons, and key special-teamer Chris Board. This isn’t a position that needs addressing by any means, as all of the pieces are already in place.
Cornerback – A+
The strongest position group on the Ravens’ entire roster, headlined by two All-Pros, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Veteran Jimmy Smith provides valuable depth at outside corner while Tavon Young is one of the better nickel corners in the NFL when healthy. Anthony Averett comes in as the fifth cornerback and appeared to emerge as a solid player last season.
Safety – B-
Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott, two former sixth-round picks, give Baltimore one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. The Ravens absolutely need more depth at the safety position, however, and could address that in the draft. Baltimore was unable to play dime very much last season due to the lack of a third reliable safety on the roster. Anthony Levine Sr. returns as the team’s special team’s captain, but he offered very little on defense last season. Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior, and Jordan Richards will all battle it out to see who can stick on the roster.
Special teams – A+
This one is a no-brainer. Baltimore has the best kicker in the league, and possibly of all time, in Justin Tucker and one of the best and most consistent punters over the last decade in Sam Koch. Devin Duvernay showed flashes of being an electric return man last season, even returning a kickoff for a touchdown against the Chiefs. The only issue for special teams is the unknown at long snapper after the release of Morgan Cox.