Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome speaks at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens have been relatively quiet this offseason and I’m sure a large portion of Ravens Nation is wondering what’s going on. There are a few glaring holes to fill on the roster as it currently stands and if the Ravens can’t secure any of the remaining free agents on the market, they’ll need to address those needs through the draft. Here’s a breakdown of the most pressing needs for the Ravens right now and who would be a good fit for the team.
There are people out there who do not believe that cornerback is a pressing need for the Ravens. I’m not one of them. Jimmy Smith has grown a lot and is emerging as solid No. 1 corner, but he is still recovering from a foot injury that cut his season short. Lardarius Webb has not been the same player since his injury and is prone to getting embarrassed from time to time. He is a gifted tackler on the outside, however. The rest of the guys are serviceable, but for a team that has championship aspirations every year, this won’t get it done.
Good Fit: P.J. Williams, Florida State
P.J. Williams is already expected to meet with the Ravens before the draft. Williams is the kind of player Baltimore is looking for. He talks the talk, then walks the walk. He’s a physical presence on the outside, but he is also athletic enough to stay with receivers and make big plays. He really showed his stuff in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, when he recorded seven tackles and an interception, earning him the Defensive MVP award.
2. Tight End
After losing Owen Daniels to free agency, this is almost a no-brainer here. As of right now, Crockett Gillmore is the starting tight end, so the Ravens have some work to do. This is not a knock on Gillmore, but they will need some more help at the position, especially if Dennis Pitta is unable to fully recover from his second hip injury. The free agency pool is getting pretty slim, so the Ravens may need to address this in the draft.
Good Fit: Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Multiple mock drafts have the Ravens drafting Williams in the first round. He is the clear top tight end in this year’s class and could provide a big boost this offense. He’s a skilled receiver, but he’s also a talented blocker, an asset NFL coaches really covet. Williams is a big body, allowing him to be able to make tough catches in traffic. He’s also drawn comparisons to former Raven Todd Heap. If Ozzie decides to go the free agency route, veterans like Jermaine Gresham and Zach Miller are still available.
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3. Wide Receiver
The Ravens’ top deep threat, Torrey Smith, is now a 49er, so the Ravens are now with another hole to fill. However, I do not think he will be too hard to replace. They also have Steve Smith, Sr., although he is getting up there in age. Marlon Brown is a guy many are expecting to have a big year. He’s shown flashes of what he can do. They just have to get him on the field. Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro are young players but have proven that they can make plays for this team. Although a talented bunch, there are plenty of players in the draft who would upgrade this unit.
Good Fit: Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Feb 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Jaelen Strong catches a pass during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Considering that the Ravens are picking in the latter end of the first round, Strong is likely to be the best receiver left on the board when they are on the clock. He is a big strong receiver who can fill the Ravens’ need for a deep ball threat. His size and strength will allow him to go up and win jump ball battles and make catches in traffic. If the Ravens are going to contend next season, Joe Flacco will need more weapons and Strong is guy who can be an impact player from Day 1.
4. Backup Quarterback
With Tyrod Taylor’s departure for Buffalo, the Ravens are now in need of a backup who can step up in the event that Flacco goes down. The only other quarterback on the roster right now is Keith Wenning, who has never played a snap. While Joe has done a great job of staying healthy, every good organization knows to expect the unexpected and to have a contingency plan.
Good Fit: Michael Vick
Let’s be honest. There isn’t much out there on the market as far as quarterbacks are concerned, but Vick makes the most sense here. He is a similar player to Tyrod Taylor, but a better and more experienced version. He may not be the Michael Vick of old, but he’s definitely an upgrade over what is currently there.
5. Running Back
Yes, the Ravens were able to re-sign Justin Forsett, but the running back position is still a need for this team. It is even more of a need now, following the release of Bernard Pierce. Forsett had a breakout season in 2014, but it remains to be seen if he can repeat that performance. Not to mention, he is almost 30 years old. Lorenzo Taliaferro is also on the roster, but I think he needs to be challenged.
Good Fit: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Gordon is the best running back in the class and there is a possibility that he’ll still be available when it’s time for the Ravens to pick. He is just too talented of a player to pass up on. Gordon has drawn comparisons to Chiefs dynamic running back Jamaal Charles because of his combination of size, speed, and agility. He’ll make for a great change of pace back in Baltimore. Picking Gordon here, also shows that the Ravens are thinking about their future.
Ozzie Newsome is not considered one of the best general managers in the NFL for nothing. It may not always happen when the fans want it to, but he more often than not, gets the job done. These needs will be taken care of at some point. We can count on that. As Ravens fans have learned over the years, just trust Ozzie.