NFL1000: Baltimore Ravens 2017 NFL Draft Preview

NFL1000 ScoutsFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2017

NFL1000: Baltimore Ravens 2017 NFL Draft Preview

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens were once one of the NFL’s bastions of consistency, but over the last four seasons, that has not been the case. They’ve only made the playoffs once since 2012 and the lack of winning seasons in recent years has taken a bit of the shine away from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s genius label. Not that Newsome has lost his fastball or anything, but it’s a results-based business, and more is expected.

    To get things back on the right track, the Ravens made a few wise moves in free agency, acquiring former Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson and ex-Chargers running back Danny Woodhead.

    Woodhead will especially help quarterback Joe Flacco, who has not been his old self over the last two seasons, struggling with accuracy, mechanics and decision-making. Part of the problem is Baltimore’s undermanned running back rotation, which has forced Flacco to throw more than is best for his game. And with the retirement of Steve Smith and the free-agency departure of Kamar Aiken, the receiver corps can’t take too many more hits.

    Things are a bit better on defense—the Ravens had one of the league’s best overall units before bottoming out late in the season—and Jefferson will help if they let him play in the slightly reckless style that the Cardinals validated. Re-signing nose tackle Brandon Williams to a massive contract reinforces the line, though the team still has needs at linebacker, pass-rusher and cornerback. The acquisition of former Cowboys pass defender Brandon Carr could be a wash, given Carr’s recent performances.

    The Ravens aren’t that far away from playoff contention once again if they get a few things figured out and Flacco returns to his optimal self. But missing the playoffs four times in five years? That could cause career complications for a lot of people who have made this team great for a long time.


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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    The NFL1000 team of scouts graded a series of important attributes for every player in their positional reviews. Using a scale starting at zero and going up to anywhere from five to 50 based on the position and the attribute, our scouts graded each player based on their own expertise and countless hours of tape review over the years. Our evaluators had specific positional assignments based on their fields of expertise.

    Each corresponding position slide was written by the assigned scout.


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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast/Zone


    Starter: Joe Flacco

    NFL1000 Scores: 66.1/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 27/38

    Returning to the field from a torn ACL for the 2016 season, Flacco was asked to throw the ball a career-high 672 times and averaged 6.4 yards per attempt, tied for the lowest of his career. That had something to do with the passing game taking over for the running game and the more conservative elements of Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, but the simple fact beyond that is that Flacco didn’t play very well in 2016. He was not consistently accurate, and his lost touch with the deep ball (he completed just 14 passes in 44 attempts of 20 yards or more in the air for 444 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions) was especially worrisome for someone of his arm talent.

    The Ravens hope it was just a one-year anomaly, but Flacco was similarly interception-prone in 2015—over the last two seasons, he’s thrown for 34 touchdowns and 27 picks. The Ravens have the right to expect more of a quarterback, paid as Flacco is, and 2017 will be a line of demarcation for the franchise. Put simply, Flacco needs to get back on his game and quickly.


    Backup: Ryan Mallett

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2011 draft, Mallett is welcome proof to those who find Bill Belichick’s constant success obnoxious that the Hoodie doesn’t always get it right.

    Excommunicated from Houston for oversleeping and missing a practice and various other time-based violations, Mallett has never had the quarterback talent to get away with such shenanigans. He’s a big, gangly, stationary pocket quarterback who struggles on the move and can’t complete passes in a consistent fashion.

    He’s a decent backup for the Ravens because he fits the Joe Flacco Quarterback Prototype (big guy, big arm), but beyond that, there’s not much to see here.


    Backup: Dustin Vaughan

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    The Ravens love big quarterbacks, and at 6’5” and 235 pounds, Vaughan fits the bill. He’s an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M who has decent mobility and a good arm. Adjusting from Division II defenses to the NFL’s version has been his issue.


    Team Need: 3/10

    Potential Draft Fits: DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Brad Kaaya (Miami), Nathan Peterman (Pitt)

Running Back

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast


    Starter: Terrance West

    NFL1000 Scores: 70.5/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 39/82

    Terrance West had his best season as a pro in 2016 and established himself as the Ravens starter. He averaged four yards per carry and also had 34 catches, combining for six total touchdowns.

    While West bounced around the first several seasons of his career, he finally found a niche with the Ravens. West is a one-cut downhill player with quick feet and good vision in between the tackles. He has good strength and the ability to break arm tackles because he runs hard.

    He lacks the top end explosive speed to get outside the tackles and is not a home run hitter. He is functional in the passing game, can operate in the flat and looks to get up the field with the football in his hands. West is not a dynamic player in space and only averaged 6.9 yards per catch. Ultimately, he is just a checkdown option. Overall, West is ideally suited to be a No. 2 and should be relied upon less with the addition of Danny Woodhead.


    Backup: Danny Woodhead

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Danny Woodhead tore his ACL in the second game of 2016 after being one of the most productive pass-catching running backs in 2015. Woodhead looked awesome prior to his knee injury and was very productive in Week 1 before he got hurt. If the Ravens are getting that version of Woodhead, they will get a much-needed boost to their struggling offense. If healthy, Woodhead will add a dynamic checkdown option for Joe Flacco and bring a necessary balance to Baltimore's backfield.


    Backup: Buck Allen

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Buck Allen played a lot in 2015 but saw his playing time vanish in 2016 with the additions of West and Dixon. He had nine carries last season and only played in eight games. Allen is good insurance with Dixon being suspended, but if the Ravens draft a running back, his job security is in major trouble.


    Backup: Kenneth Dixon

    NFL1000 Scores: 70.5/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 38/82

    Kenneth Dixon flashed promise his rookie season but was popped for PEDs this offseason and will miss the first four games of the 2017 NFL offseason. This is a big blow for the team and Dixon heading into his second NFL season. Dixon’s arrow was pointing up, but now many question marks surround the player moving forward because of this suspension.

    The 2016 fourth-round pick is an excellent inside runner who is powerful and plays fast downhill. He has good vision and patience, letting his blockers locate, with a good explosive burst once he hits the hole. If he can stay away from the PEDs, Dixon has the talent to be a full-time starter, but it’s hard to know how much that affected his productivity. He was very good in the passing game with 30 catches and should see the role grow in the future. Overall, he would have been the starter heading into the offseason, but the lingering suspension does put into question his long-term upside.


    Team Need: 4/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Samaje Perine (Oklahoma), James Conner (Pittsburgh)

Wide Receiver

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast


    Starter: Mike Wallace

    NFL1000 Scores: 69.3/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 24/155

    Following a failed stint in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Wallace returned to the AFC and posted his best statistical season since his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He hauled in 72 passes for 1,017 yards and four touchdowns, including a 95-yard scoring play against those Steelers who highlighted his ability after the catch.

    Working in the West Coast scheme under first Marc Trestman and later Marty Mornhinweg, Wallace was very effective on shallow crossing routes as well as quick slants, getting the football into his hands as quickly as possible to exploit his YAC ability. With the retirement of Steve Smith and the departure of Kamar Aiken, the Ravens will look to rely on Wallace a great deal more in the season ahead.


    Starter: Breshad Perriman

    NFL1000 Scores: 64.4/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 78/155

    Perriman was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft out of Central Florida and was considered a potential game-breaking player at the WR position coming out of college. With prototypical size (6’2”, 215 pounds) as well as blazing speed (he posted a 4.29 40-yard dash at the combine) he looked to be the X receiver for the future of the Ravens.

    Unfortunately, he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. But he appeared in all 16 games this past season, catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns.

    With his speed, Perriman fits well with the West Coast scheme, as he can break away from defenders as a ball-carrier. But he also can be used in the vertical passing game and showed that on a 47-yard reception against the New England Patriots when he got behind Logan Ryan on a straight go route. Baltimore hopes that plays like that are a sign of things to come from the young receiver.


    Backup: Chris Moore

    NFL1000 Scores: 59.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 133/155

    Rookie Chris Moore was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft by the Ravens, following his playing days at the University of Cincinnati. He appeared in 15 games, primarily as a kick returner, but he did see enough snaps at wide receiver to qualify for an NFL1000 grade.

    As a receiver, Moore caught seven passes for 46 yards. But he was also used as a runner, carrying the football three times for the Ravens last year, due to his quickness and change of direction ability.

    With the departures at the wide receiver position this offseason, Moore will have a chance to take on more of a load at the WR spot this year.


    Backup: Michael Campanaro

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Campanaro saw limited action for the Ravens this past season, appearing in only three games. He did not have a reception in the passing game but did carry the football three times as a runner. His 39-yard gain on an end-around against the Eagles in Week 15 showed off his speed, as he was able to outrun Malcolm Jenkins, even though the safety had the angle on Campanaro in the secondary. Even with the lack of depth at the WR position, Campanaro is likely viewed as a fourth or fifth WR to be used in specific situations.


    Backup: Vince Mayle

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Mayle saw minimal playing time with the Dallas Cowboys last season, playing primarily on special teams or as an additional blocker in short yardage situations. He was waived near the end of the year by Dallas and claimed by the Ravens, although he did not see action for Baltimore in the season finale.

    Playing in an Air Raid scheme in college under Mike Leach, Mayle was viewed as a deep vertical threat as well as a receiver who could make catches on quick slant routes and pressure the defense after the catch. If he can be more consistent at the catch point, he can push Campanaro for the fourth WR spot.


    Backup: Keenan Reynolds

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Reynolds was a record-setting quarterback for the Navy Midshipmen, scoring a NCAA Division 1 record 88 touchdowns to go with a FBS record 4,559 rushing yards for a QB. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting as a senior (and should have finished much higher in the opinion of this writer).

    But the former option quarterback made the position switch to running back for the East-West Shrine Game and moved outside after being drafted in the sixth round by the Ravens. Reynolds did not appear in any games for the Ravens in 2016, but his quickness and change-of-direction ability make him a good option in the slot for a West Coast passing attack.


    Team Need: 5/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Corey Davis (Western Michigan), Chris Godwin (Penn State), Curtis Samuel (Ohio State), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech) and Taywan Taylor (Western Kentucky)

Tight End

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Scheme: West Coast


    Starter: Dennis Pitta

    NFL1000 Scores: 66.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 16/96

    During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Flacco has trusted Pitta to be his security blanket, whether in clutch situations or on third down. But Pitta was hampered recently by a lingering hip issue that started when he dislocated and fractured his right hip during training camp in 2013. He underwent immediate surgery but returned to action near the end of the year.

    In 2014, he dislocated the hip again and missed the rest of that year as well as the 2015 season. It was thought he would never play again, but he came back to action last year, appearing in all 16 games and catching 86 passes for 729 yards and two touchdowns, with the receptions and yardage marks being career highs.

    Pitta is effective at all levels in the passing game, whether in the flats in short-yardage situations or on deeper routes in the red zone. He is also a tough player, as evidenced not only by how he has battled through two hip issues but also at the catch point, where he can fight off defenders and use his frame to shield linebackers or safeties from the football. He’ll look to improve on those 2016 numbers as he enters the 2017 season completely healthy.


    Backup: Nick Boyle

    NFL1000 Scores: 58.3/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 85/96

    As injuries mounted at the tight end position for Baltimore in 2016, Boyle took on more of a role as the season wound down. He appeared in six games, catching only six passes for 44 yards. He was used primarily as an extra blocker in short yardage situations or when the Ravens used 12 or 13 offensive personnel. Given the number of players on the roster at the TE spot, Boyle might be the odd man out come final roster time.


    Backup: Benjamin Watson

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Watson, an NFL veteran, was lost for the 2016 season when he suffered an Achilles tendon injury in Baltimore’s third preseason game. When healthy, he is an effective blocker and a solid receiver underneath.


    Backup: Maxx Williams

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Williams set Baltimore rookie tight end records in 2015 when he caught 32 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown. But a lingering knee issue forced the Ravens to place him on injured reserve early last year. If he returns healthy, he can provide a vertical threat from the tight end spot for Baltimore, and he is a pretty good route-runner for a tight end with solid hands in the passing game.


    Backup: Crockett Gillmore

    NFL1000 Scores: 61.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Ranking: 45/96

    After losing Watson and Williams, Gillmore hoped to take on more of a role in the Baltimore passing game, perhaps delivering on the promise that made him a third-round pick in the 2014 draft. But Gillmore appeared in only seven games, notching eight receptions for 71 yards and a single touchdown.

    He battled through numerous injuries before finally ending his season, including a torn hamstring (in two places), two shoulder surgeries and “a broken back.” But he does not lack for confidence, and he told’s Jeremy Bergman this past offseason that the other tight ends can “enjoy the bench” next year when he returns healthy.


    Team Need: 1/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None

Left Tackle

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Scheme: Zone


    Starter: Ronnie Stanley

    NFL1000 Scores: 74.1/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 19/40

    Baltimore desperately needed an upgrade at left tackle following the 2015 season, so they went all in with drafting Ronnie Stanley sixth overall in the 2016 NFL draft. And he did not disappoint in the 12 games he started, registering 834 snaps while surrendering just three sacks, two hits and 22 pressures.

    Stanley entered the NFL as a well-coached left tackle with an extensive skill set, especially as a pass protector. But his run blocking as a rookie is what was impressive because it was evaluated as an area for improvement during his evaluation process and it was widely considered among many evaluators as an area that would take a while to develop as a pro.

    Backup: Stephane Nembot

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Stephane Nembot was a 2016 undrafted free agent out of Colorado but spent the entire season on the Baltimore injured reserve. Nembot is an intriguing player who possesses a wide array of freaky athletic traits. He is still unproven as a professional and provides inexperienced depth, but because of his collegiate experience at right tackle, he may factor into Baltimore’s right tackle competition in his second season.


    Team Need: 0/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None—could consider bringing camp competition with undrafted free agents

Right Tackle

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Scheme: Zone


    Starter: James Hurst

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    James Hurst has played left tackle, right tackle and both guard positions since entering the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. He provides quality depth along Baltimore’s offensive line and will get a chance to compete at right tackle for a full-time starting role.


    Backup: De’Ondre Wesley

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    De’Ondre Wesley has gone back and forth from Baltimore’s practice squad and active roster. He has no game experience and figures to add depth at right tackle.


    Team Need: 8/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Taylor Moton (Western Michigan), Dion Dawkins (Temple), Will Holden (Vanderbilt)

Offensive Guard

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Scheme: Zone


    Starter: Alex Lewis

    NFL1000 Scores: 70.2/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 35/78

    Surprisingly beating out John Urschel as the Ravens' opening day left guard, Alex Lewis only played five games last year after battling injuries. It looked like Vladimir Ducasse may have taken his job from off the street late last year too, but Baltimore decided not to retain Ducasse, and with Urschel now likely moving to center, the job should belong to Lewis in 2017.

    This is a big offseason for Lewis, who not only needs to get healthy but should look to add functional strength and fill out his frame in his first full year in a team facility as well. If the converted tackle can pull that off (not an easy task), he could be in a position to take a big step forward.


    Starter: Marshal Yanda

    NFL1000 Scores: 76.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 1/78

    Marshal Yanda is the best guard in the league, and it is not a very close call. Yanda’s technical aptitude and consistency separate him from the pack. His ability to thrive against both quick one gap penetrators and stouter two gappers is pretty rare as well, as he can win in a variety of different ways.


    Backup: Ryan Jensen

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Ryan Jensen sort of got a raw deal last year, as he performed pretty well when injuries sprung up for the Ravens, but chances were repeatedly given to the likes of Vlad Ducasse, Alex Lewis and John Urschel instead.

    Now, with Jeremy Zuttah gone and Urschel going to center in his place, and with Ducasse signing in Buffalo, Jensen should be the first interior offensive lineman off the bench for the Ravens rather than the third. A body could be added early on Day 3 for depth purposes, but Jensen is a fine sixth offensive lineman. A heavy investment at center is more likely, with Urschel sliding back as that other guard depth option in that case.


    Team Need: 4/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Will Holden (Day 2), Jake Eldrenkamp (Day 3/UDFA)


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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Scheme: Zone


    Starter: John Urschel

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    With Jeremy Zuttah out of town, John Urschel is expected to slide to center. This move makes sense, as the Ravens had a bit of a logjam at guard last year, and having Urschel step into line calls makes sense given how well documented his intelligence is. Urschel is the squattiest and most powerful of the Ravens' remaining depth interior linemen and may provide a different element up front from a physicality standpoint.


    Backup: Matt Skura

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Matt Skura was one of my favorite underrated prospects in last year's draft class, and the Duke alum seems to have landed in a great situation after bouncing around a bit last year. Baltimore’s bloated depth on the interior has fanned out, and with only a position conversion ahead of him on the depth chart, Skura is going to get as good a shot as one can as an undrafted player headed into his second season.


    Team Need: 5/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Jon Toth (Day 2/Day 3), Tyler Orlosky (Day 3)

Defensive End

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Scheme: 3-4 Hybrid


    Starter: Timmy Jernigan

    NFL1000 Score: 64.8/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 17/53

    Jernigan started 2016 on fire but cooled off as the season wore on and he began splitting more time with teammates. With Lawrence Guy departing for New England, Jernigan may see his snaps increase again.

    He's Baltimore's best interior pass-rusher and has his moments as a run defender. With a wide tackle radius and solid athleticism, Jernigan can can give the Ravens some impressive snaps.


    Backup: Brent Urban

    NFL1000 Score: 60.1/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 40/53

    Urban was rotational depth for Baltimore last year and would currently be in line for an increased opportunity in 2017.

    I'd think that the Ravens would want to add a player to this position in the draft as they could use an edge pass-rusher and interior guy in their nickel defense. With three sacks over the past two years, I'm not sure Urban is that guy.


    Backup: Bronson Kaufusi

    NFL1000 ScoresDid not have enough snaps to qualify

    Kaufusi was drafted by Baltimore in the third round out of BYU in 2016 but missed his entire rookie year with a broken ankle. Fully healthy, he could be the Ravens' guy to play some end and tackle and add some athleticism up front.


    Team Need: 5/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Malik McDowell (Michigan State), DeMarcus Walker (Florida State)

Defensive Tackle

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    Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

    Scheme: 3-4


    Starter: Brandon Williams

    NFL1000 Scores: 69.4/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 18/99

    Brandon Williams is a monster at nose tackle and was handsomely rewarded this offseason with a big-time contract. He’s been a key cog in the Ravens' rugged run defense. Barring injury, he should continue to be one of the top nose guards in the league.


    Backup: Michael Pierce

    NFL1000 Scores: 66.4/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 31/99

    Michael Pierce came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie to be an absolute force for the Ravens in 2016. He was utterly dominant versus the run while occasionally bringing pressure as a pass-rusher. For his size, he’s a freakish athlete. Pierce and Williams are arguably the top run-stuffing duo in the league; there’s no reason for that not to be the case in 2017.


    Backup: Carl Davis

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Carl Davis missed the 2016 season with an ankle injury suffered in the preseason. He still has upside, but with Pierce and Williams ahead of him, he may struggle to get playing time.


    Team Need: 0/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None

Outside Linebacker

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Scheme: 3-4


    Starter: Terrell Suggs

    NFL1000 Scores: 70.2/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 17/65

    Suggs returned from a torn Achilles tendon to play in 15 of 16 games in 2016. The veteran outside linebacker was still effective, tallying eight sacks and three forced fumbles despite an obvious lack of help from the rest of Baltimore’s pass-rushers.

    Suggs is starting to lose his ability to consistently beat offensive tackles as a rusher, but he can still win with power and set the edge against the run. He’ll turn 35 in October. He’s also coming off surgery on his biceps. The Ravens have Suggs under contract through 2018.


    Starter: Za'Darius Smith

    NFL1000 Scores: 66.3/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 36/65

    Smith failed to build on his promising rookie season. After producing 5.5 sacks in a rotational role in 2015, he put up only 1.0 over 13 games in 2016. The 2015 fourth-round pick brings power to the run game and effort as a rusher, but he lacks the athleticism and bend to consistently cause problems for offensive tackles.


    Backup: Matt Judon

    NFL1000 Scores: 65.3/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 42/65

    A small-school prospect with size and athleticism, Judon carved out an immediate role for himself as a rookie in 2016. He produced 27 tackles and four sacks despite playing only 309 defensive snaps. His length and burst make him a candidate to be Baltimore’s go-to pass-rushing option opposite Suggs in 2017, especially if he can continue to develop and grow into the NFL game.


    Backup: Albert McClellan

    NFL1000 Scores: 64.2/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 45/65

    Injuries on the edge forced McClellan into an uncomfortable role in 2016. The career special teams player couldn’t handle the pass-rushing duties associated with playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. McClellan can hold his own against the run and drop into space and cover, but he’s a liability when asked to rush the passer. His best position in the 3-4 is at inside linebacker.


    Team Need: 9/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Derek Barnett (Tennessee), Takkarist McKinley (UCLA), T.J. Watt (Wisconsin), Taco Charlton (Michigan), Jordan Willis (Kansas State)

Inside Linebacker

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Scheme: 3-4


    Starter: C.J. Mosley

    NFL1000 Scores: 73/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 11/65

    The Baltimore Ravens lost one starting inside linebacker as Zach Orr was forced into retirement at the end of 2016 due to a spinal condition that had gone unnoticed throughout his playing career, according to the Baltimore Ravens team website. Fortunately, although losing a starter in Orr creates a void, the Ravens still have a top-10 inside linebacker in C.J. Mosley.

    Mosley will enter his fourth season in the league as one of the premiere linebackers who can rush the passer, play the run and cover down the field. Mosley doesn’t just keep up in all aspects—he excels.

    The Ravens won’t need to be looking for Mosley’s replacement anytime soon, but they will need to find a running mate if they want to continue running a 3-4 look on defense. Oftentimes, although teams designate themselves as 4-3 or 3-4 teams, linebackers are swapped out in nickel situations rather frequently. The Ravens, however, trusted both Mosley and Orr in coverage enough to use them in a variety of manners that kept them on the field. Finding a suitable replacement became a major priority after Orr’s retirement.

    The Ravens have other needs that likely top their list of priorities, but inside 'backer will certainly be addressed in the NFL draft. The Ravens know how impactful dominant linebackers can be on defense, especially as NFL offenses vary their personnel in such precise manners. At some point in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft, the Ravens could be selecting the next hitter to line up next to Mosley.


    Starter: Kamalei Correa

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Kamalei Correa was viewed as a 3-4 outside linebacker last year, but the sudden retirement of Zach Orr pushes Correa inside as the favorite to start at inside linebacker. He was a high draft pick last year and should come with rookie-level expectations in terms of play. He’s likely better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker and, depending on what the Ravens do in the draft, could be moved back outside to play opposite of Terrell Suggs in 2017.

    Correa has great size at 6'2" and 245 pounds, but he’s still developing the requisite diagnostic skills whether the Ravens play him inside or on the edge. He’s a fantastic athlete with twitched-up anticipation that can get caught guessing in run support. The Ravens would be wise to draft a linebacker high and move Correa to the edge permanently.


    Backup: Patrick Onwuasor

    NFL1000 Scores: Did not have enough snaps to qualify

    Patrick Onwuasor made the field late in the season as an injury replacement, but he’s little more than that. He’s an average backup and could be a player the Ravens look to replace with a rookie who will grow into a future starter. Onwuasor has a small frame that lacks the upper-body strength to maintain gap leverage as an inside run defender. He’s solid as a gap-shooting athlete but lacks the technique to be considered anything more than a role player with limited expectations attached.  


    Team Need: 7/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Reuben Foster (Alabama), Haason Reddick (Temple), Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), Jarrad Davis (Florida)


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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Scheme: Cover 1


    Starter: Jimmy Smith

    NFL1000 Scores: 72.8/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 7/133

    The uber-talented Smith doesn’t have many flaws in his game. Perhaps his biggest flaw is his availability. Smith was able to play in 11 games this year. He played a full season in 2015 but also missed eight games in 2014. It’s hard to count on somebody who is missing that kind of time.

    On the field, Smith is one of the 10 best cover guys in the league. He can erase you at the line of scrimmage with his physicality and length. But unlike most 6'2" corners, he has the speed and agility to turn and run with you in every direction.

    Smith’s lowest graded game was a 68. That’s how impressive his 2016 was. He’ll go entire games where he is only beaten once or twice in coverage. Not on a per-target basis. I mean, like, over the course of 60 snaps.

    So long as he’s healthy, Smith will remain one of the top corners in the NFL.


    Starter: Brandon Carr

    NFL1000 Scores: 64.8/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 44/133

    Going from Shareece Wright to Brandon Carr is a tremendous upgrade for the Ravens. Wright was our 116th-ranked corner. Carr won’t wow you; he isn’t flashy. But he is dependable and gives the Ravens a veteran presence that they lacked last year.

    Maybe most importantly, he hasn’t missed a game in his nine-year career. It seems like by Week 4 the last few seasons Baltimore has always been searching for help at this position due to injury.

    Last year Carr had a couple of games graded out in the 50s, but those were the only two. He was steady and should give the Ravens exactly what they need: a guy who can play at the line of scrimmage and guard the other team's second best receiver.

    Not known for having ball skills, Carr is more along the lines of a “be in position” and “do your job” type veteran. Baltimore fans will appreciate his consistency.


    Nickel: Tavon Young

    NFL1000 Scores: 62.2/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 72/133

    Young performed admirably for the Ravens as a fourth-round rookie last year. The first month of the season was not kind to him—he didn’t grade over a 55. That’s the adjustment period when you’re thrown into the fire right away.

    As the season went on, though, Young became more and more comfortable. After the bye week, Young graded in the 70s three times and in the 60s 40 times. If not for his slow start, his ranking would have been much higher.

    He competes. He got beat a couple of times. But he didn’t let that affect his play. His season was highlighted by a Week 13 performance in which he allowed two catches on three targets for a whopping four yards. He also broke up a pass, had two tackles at the line of scrimmage and didn’t get beat all game.

    Young has the makings of a very good No. 3 corner for Baltimore this year. I expect him to continue to improve.


    Team Need: 4/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Damontae Kazee (San Diego State), Sidney Jones (Washington), Tre'Davious White (LSU), Teez Tabor (Florida), Desmond King (Iowa)

Free Safety

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Scheme: Cover 1


    Starter: Eric Weddle

    NFL1000 Scores: 74.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 6/53 (graded at SS last year)

    The evergreen Eric Weddle showed he still has the ability to perform at a very high level, despite being 32.

    Weddle was the sixth-highest graded strong safety last year but did a lot more than the typical strong safety. Lardarius Webb mostly played deep, while Weddle played just about everything else, rather like Devin McCourty with the Patriots. He was in the box in man coverage against tight ends, played underneath zones, stayed deep as part of two-deep coverages and took away intermediate routes as a robber defender.

    With the addition of Tony Jefferson, I’d expect Weddle to shift to free safety, though Webb will likely take the typical free safety role in nickel and dime packages to free up Weddle for other assignments. Anyone who wrote off Weddle last year (myself included) shouldn’t make the same mistake again this year.


    Backup: Lardarius Webb

    NFL1000 Scores: 73.7/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 10/50

    Webb has transitioned seamlessly from corner to free safety. He looks perfectly comfortable as a deep zone defender, either as part of two-deep coverages or as the single high safety.

    He is perhaps unlucky to have been moved out of the starting lineup with the acquisition of Tony Jefferson, but he should still see plenty of snaps in nickel and dime packages. He’ll likely play a role similar to Duron Harmon's with the Patriots, coming onto the field as the third safety and freeing up Weddle to take on more specialized assignments.

    He’s a reliable deep defender who does a good job staying on top of routes and taking away deep shots. That’s all the Ravens need him to be at this point.


    Team Need: 1/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None—could consider bringing camp competition with undrafted free agents

Strong Safety

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Scheme: Cover 1


    Starter: Tony Jefferson

    NFL1000 Scores: 74.6/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 8/53

    Jefferson had an excellent year—and, indeed, career—with the Cardinals. He worked his way up from being undrafted in 2013 to top-10 starter in the NFL in 2016.

    He’s an excellent run defender, knowing where to fill in his run fits, and he can even make up for mistakes from defenders in front of him with quick adjustments on the fly. He improved in coverage this past season too. He’s always been a good underneath zone defender, but he worked hard on mirroring tight ends and running backs in man coverage.

    Those improvements made him a more complete player and went a long way toward his earning the contract the Ravens gave him in free agency.


    Backup: Anthony Levine

    NFL1000 Scores: 68.8/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 46/53

    Levine has been a backup for the Ravens for a number of years now. He’s a strong safety but also sees some snaps as a dime linebacker in certain situations.

    With the addition of Jefferson and retention of Webb and Weddle, Levine’s snaps will be even more restricted than they already were. But he should still be a contributor on special teams.

    The Ravens might look to bring in some competition for him during training camp, but I’d be surprised if they spent a high draft pick on competition for a backup role.


    Team Need: 2/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None—could consider bringing camp competition with undrafted free agents  


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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Starter: Justin Tucker

    NFL1000 Scores: 74.6/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 1/38

    Justin Tucker’s 2016 campaign was one of the best ever by an NFL kicker. He made 38 out of 39 field-goal attempts, with the one miss due to a leaping block by Shea McClellin, who hurdled the long-snapper and gave Tucker no chance at a clean kick. Tucker was 14-for-14 from 40-49 yards and also went 10-for-10 from 50-plus yards.

    He is the past, present and future in Baltimore, and any talk of his moving anywhere is foolish, as he is one of the top three kickers in the NFL and a perennial All-Pro candidate.


    Team Need: 0/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None


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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Starter: Sam Koch

    NFL1000 Scores: 70.9/100

    NFL1000 Position Rank: 3/38

    Sam Koch is the best directional punter in the NFL, having the ability to move the ball all over the field with ease. Equally comfortable targeting both the left and right sidelines, Koch had to deal with a coverage unit that was lacking for much of the year, with gunners taking bad angles to returners and subpar tackling.

    Overall, while Koch's leg is not the strongest in the league, he produces above-average distance, while giving up a little hang-time in order to produce the varied trajectories on his punts. Koch is a true weapon in the field position game, and the only difference for the Ravens in the punt game next year should be an improved coverage team if they can provide him with higher quality players to surround him.


    Team Need: 0/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None