On Thursday April 29th, the highly anticipated 2021 NFL Draft will commence at 8 PM ET. While some teams will be drooling over the top quarterbacks and wide receivers, what can we expect from the Ravens? Let’s take a look into the Ravens’ draft needs and pick out some possible draft candidates.
Before the signing of former Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins, I would have said wide receiver was the Ravens’ top concern. However, following Watkins’ signing, outside linebacker is a giant hole in the Ravens depth chart needing immediate attention. Currently, Tyus Bowser is the #1 pass rusher on the team. While Bowser is definitely a solid player who can stand on his own, he is not a good enough replacement for the two former Pro Bowl pass rushers, Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson will both be returning to the Ravens as well, but neither can match Judon and Ngakoue’s production, let alone Bowser’s. This makes outside linebacker the first area of concern for the Ravens.
So what outside linebackers could the Ravens select? With two first round picks at 27 and 31 thanks to the Orlando Brown trade, the Ravens have a lot to work with in terms of selection. One possibility is Jayson Oweh out of Penn State. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 252 lbs, Oweh is definitely NFL-ready in terms of size and he has shown explosive power getting off the line throughout his college career. While his technique could be coached up and refined, he still has great physical ability the Ravens could utilize.
Another possibility for the Ravens, depending on other teams’ selections earlier in the draft, is Jaelan Phillips out of Miami. Phillips stands at 6’5” weighing 266 lbs. Phillips has similar size to Oweh but had a monster 2020 season for the Miami Hurricanes with 45 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 pass deflections. He shows more versatility than Oweh with similar power and speed.
This is another position I would have prioritized after wide receiver, but after sending Orlando Brown to the Chiefs, it has to be addressed early in the draft. Currently, the Ravens only right tackle is Tyre Phillips. While Phillips showed he could play in 2020, the lack of depth is concerning. For such a mobile quarterback, Lamar Jackson was pressured way too much particularly in the playoffs so a first round pick is necessary at this position.
One possible draftee is Texas offensive tackle Sam Cosmi. Cosmi is a unit at 6’6” and 314 lbs. Pass protecting is Cosmi’s strong suit, which is what the Ravens will be looking for, and he is a three year starter meaning experience is on his side. However, his drive blocking is a concern which could impact the run game. Overall, Cosmi would be a fitting piece for the Ravens at pick 31.
In the 2020 season, wide receiver was the biggest hole in the Ravens depth chart. Marquise Brown did not produce like a #1 receiver, Willie Snead was average in the slot, and Miles Boykin was disappointing once again. With Snead in Las Vegas and Watkins now on the Ravens, we will see how much confidence the Ravens have in Watkins to be the #1 receiver. If the Ravens don’t see Watkins as their true #1, they could select a receiver in the first round. If they believe in Watkins, a third round selection is likely.
Assuming the Ravens decide to draft a receiver in the third round, Michigan’s Nico Collins would fit the bill. Collins brings a big presence at 6’4” 215 lbs. The Ravens desperately need a receiver who is physical and can jump to make catches outside the numbers. While Collins struggles to get opposing backs off of him, his size and catch ability is a positive trait the Ravens must look at.
If the Ravens want a first round wide receiver, a great candidate would be Terrace Marshall Jr. out of LSU. Marshall shows off a big stature of 6’3” 201 lbs and the ability to go up and snatch balls out of the air. His catch radius is beyond impressive and he is worth his high draft grade. Depending on what the Ravens see as their top priority, there are two outstanding options at wide receiver in the first and third rounds to pick from.
While the Ravens’ future 2021 draftees will largely depend on who other teams decide to pick, the Ravens’ priorities still stay the same. If I were Eric DeCosta, outside linebacker would be my top position, followed by offensive tackle and wide receiver. Even if DeCosta has a different order than me, a promising draft is on its way.