The Baltimore Ravens came on strong at the end of the year, but couldn’t do enough against the Buffalo Bills to keep their playoff push alive. As their 2020 season came to an end, the same questions we had about the Ravens’ offense in 2019, continued to develop. Specifically, the passing attack. If Baltimore can get an impact player in the first round on the offensive side of the ball, there’s no telling how far this team could go in 2021.
Some quick history — the following are the Ravens’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks:
- 2020: Patrick Queen (LB)
- 2019: Marquise Brown (WR)
- 2018: Hayden Hurst (TE) & Lamar Jackson (QB)
- 2017: Marlon Humphrey (DB)
- 2016: Ronnie Stanley (T)
Baltimore, which picks 27th overall in this year’s draft, has been selecting in the back half of the first round for quite some time. Their last selection inside pick 15 was Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 back in 2016. To find another inside the top 15, you have to go all the way back to 2006.
The following are players who could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut, due to their 2021 cap hit. Their age is in parentheses.
- Brandon Williams (31)
- Mark Ingram II was already waived by the team (31)
The Ravens were a dangerous team down the stretch in 2020. Their run game was easily one of the most deadly attacks the league has seen; rushing for over 400 yards in one game. If the Ravens want to be legitimate contenders, QB Lamar Jackson will need better play up front and more weapons on the back end. If Baltimore is able to make a few moves in free agency and hit on one or two players from this year’s draft, they will find themselves back in the playoff mix.
Possibility #1: Minnesota Wide Receiver Rashod Bateman
2020 stat line: 5 games, 36 receptions, 472 yards, 2 TDs
Career: 31 games, 147 receptions, 2,395 yards, 19 TDs
Why: Marquise Brown continued to develop in his sophomore season, but the Ravens still largely lacked production from the wide receiver position. While Brown brings the speed on the outside and can be used to stretch the field, Baltimore is in need of a more physical style receiver. Without a player who can fight off press coverage or make contested catches, the Ravens passing attack has been relatively easy to defend.
Rashod Bateman would bring that much needed physical nature to the Ravens offense. He was a featured part of the Gophers offense in each season – Bateman caught at least one pass in all 31 games. Bateman has shown the ability to run quality routes, track and make plays on the ball, and compete with each play. He could add that much-needed spark Baltimore is looking for in their passing game.
Possibility #2: Oklahoma Center Creed Humphrey
Career: 39 games, in 1,297 pass-blocking snaps, Humphrey allowed 28 QB pressures and 0 sacks
Why: Humphrey was the glue for the Sooners’ offensive line. According to PFF, Humphrey has not allowed a sack on 373 pass plays. With 37 career starts, Humphrey has a ton of experience under his belt. Humphrey may not be the best athlete to ever play the position, but his football IQ is what makes him an intriguing prospect.
Baltimore felt the loss of All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda (retirement), as well as star offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley when he went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Matt Skura was benched in late November due to a trend of poor snaps. Patrick Mekari filled in and did well until the final game of the season, where Buffalo proved too much to bear. Baltimore should be looking to shore up the offensive line and Humphrey would be a smart place to start.
Possibility #3: Georgia Linebacker Azeez Ojulari
2020 stat line: 10 games, 31 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 2 PDs, 1 FR, 4 FF
Career: 23 games, 39 solo tackles, 68 total tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 15 sacks, 2 PDs, 1 FR, 5 FF
Why: Many of the core edge rushing players for the Ravens are set to hit free agency for the 2021 season. Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee will be on the market; it is likely the team will only be able to afford two.
Insert Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari is an intriguing prospect, even though he doesn’t quite meet the size requirements for an edge rusher. His closing speed and athleticism will aid in his transition to the next level. Ojulari doesn’t have the biggest body of work to show for, but he had a breakout season during 2020. There is no doubt he will continue to be talked about before April rolls around.
Possibility #4: Ohio State Guard Wyatt Davis
Career: 28 games played, recognized as one of the best interior offensive linemen in the country
Why: As previously stated, the offensive line ran into a bit of trouble this season. Even Jackson’s ridiculous mobility couldn’t cover up the issues with protection up front. Jackson was taken down a career-high 29 times over the course of the 2020 season. Dealing with people in his face was a common theme – Jackson was pressured 103 times (15 games). In Jackson’s two seasons prior (31 games), he faced 133 pressures combined.
The Ravens’ passing game will continue to be a weak point if Jackson can’t get the protection he needs from the guys up front. Wyatt Davis was a reliable player for his entire career at Ohio State, never missing a single game due to injury. His elite toughness and motor to finish blocks would translate well to a team like Baltimore. Davis’ run blocking ability is his strength, yet another reason why Baltimore should consider him with the 27th overall pick.