The Baltimore Ravens entered the NFL Draft with one major theme in mind: surround Lamar Jackson with necessary talent. After taking over down the stretch of his rookie season and performing admirably, Jackson is the future of the Ravens offense. Having that clear direction meant a few things when it came to their offseason approach.
First, they needed to upgrade their wide receiver corps from both a talent and system fit standpoint. Jackson is a unique asset at quarterback, so added players to best suit his unique talent makes the most sense. He can occasionally struggle to throw with anticipation, which means a receiver with more immediate separation would benefit him. When he did have success in college throwing into tighter windows, he preferred to rely on passes towards bigger-bodied receivers facing man coverage.
Defensively, Baltimore was seemingly set in the secondary but lost linebacker C.J. Mosley to free agency. It was commonly thought that they would look to replace him or part of his contributions in some capacity during the NFL Draft.
Here is how Baltimore’s draft haul panned out:
Round 1, Pick 25: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Round 3, Pick 85: Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, LA Tech
Round 3, Pick 93: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
Round 4, Pick 113: Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
Round 4, Pick 123: Ben Powers, iOL, Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick 127: Iman Marshall, CB, USC
Round 5, Pick 160: Daylon Mack, iDL, Texas A&M
Round 6, Pick 197: Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
While I thought the selections of Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin were reaches, they both have natural fits catching passes from Lamar Jackson. Brown is the immediate separator, and Boykin is a strong possession receiver along the boundary.
On Day 3, I though Baltimore did a good job drafting from a value perspective. Justice Hill, Ben Powers and Daylon Mack are all potential starters who they were able to acquire outside of the top-100.
Draft Mulligan: EDGE Jaylon Ferguson for Alabama EDGE Christian Miller
Baltimore has drafted to keep their pass rush healthy in recent years, spending premium picks on Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams in 2016 and 2017. However, only Williams and Bowser still remain and they needed to replace 8.5 sacks from last season after losing Za’Darius Smith in free agency. This made the selection of an edge rusher predictable, but I think they targeted the wrong one.
Ferguson is the all-time leader in career sacks at the college level, but I had serious concerns about his translation to the next level. On film, he lacks the bend to corner the edge track, and that was amplified by his 8.08s three-cone drill and apparent inability to get through it without falling. While his power in commendable, I thought he failed to feature that against better competition than Conference-USA.
Meanwhile, Christian Miller took time to get consistent reps at Alabama, but showed more redeeming qualities for the next level in 2018. He was one of the most explosive outside rushers in the class, and showed natural bend and flexibility. On top of that, he had more success rushing from a 2-point stance and more coverage chops than Ferguson.
Those natural instincts in multiple facets could help replace some of the loss in production from Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley. It’s likely that no 3rd round rookie could come in and replicate what Smith and Mosley brought to the table, but Miller could have helped ease those losses with more versatility than Jaylon Ferguson.
It surprised me that Baltimore didn’t target a standup linebacker to compete for playing time after the Mosley departure, especially with players like Blake Cashman, Bobby Okereke, Cole Holcomb and Vosean Joseph still available at pick 85. Their play styles fit the Ravens needs better than Ferguson, and may have been worth the pick at that stage as well.