Will they draft a wide receiver first? Maybe a pass rusher? An offensive lineman? After months of debate over which position deserves the Ravens’ first pick, the 2021 NFL Draft has now come and gone as the brand-new 18-week regular season waits to commence in September. In the meantime, let’s analyze the Ravens’ 8 draft selections and see how they fit into the fold.
Round 1: Pick 27- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
With their first pick in the Draft, the Ravens answered all the fans’ questions in relation to whether or not they were looking for an elite prospect at wide receiver. Standing at 6’0” and weighing 190 lbs, the Ravens selected Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota. While not the tallest of wide receivers, Bateman is definitely the type of receiver the Ravens needed as he possesses a unique combination of size and speed that allow him to go up and make catches outside the numbers. Bateman’s footwork and routes are also refined and clean allowing him to beat defenders in press coverage. Bateman also displayed strong hands in college which should be a relief for the Ravens considering the catch ability of other Baltimore receivers.
The only real weaknesses Bateman had shown at Minnesota were allowing defenders to take up his space and his play against some of the top rated cornerbacks. While it is a good thing Bateman feels comfortable going one-on-one against defensive backs and jumping to make 50/50 catches, the NFL will be another animal and carelessness will result in failure. Unless the receiver is 6’5”+, separation from defenders needs to be a priority. This goes hand-in-hand with competing against top cornerback talent. Defensive backs in the NFL will take advantage of this carelessness when they are just as physically capable to go up and make interceptions. If Bateman wants immediate success in Baltimore, he needs to rely on his feet more than his body and hands. That being said, Bateman is definitely worthy of the first round pick and if he continues to improve and adapt to the NFL, he should be a top 3 target for Lamar Jackson as early as September.
Round 1: Pick 31- Odafe Oweh, LB, Penn State
Following the Orlando Brown Jr. trade with the Chiefs, the Ravens were given a unique opportunity to select two players in the first round. After filling the hole at wide receiver, the Ravens went after a pass rusher in the form of 6’5” 257 lb. Odafe Oweh out of Penn State. As I predicted in the Ravens 2021 Potential Draft Picks article, Oweh was selected 31st overall. While not a huge producer stat wise in college, Oweh’s biggest strength is his NFL-ready size and his sheer power and speed off the line. Oweh has the potential to be a nightmare physically in the NFL especially against blocking tight ends.
While it is undisputable that Oweh is physically gifted, experience is the only matter of concern. Oweh did not record a sack in his 2020 season at Penn State despite causing constant pressure. It can also be noted that Oweh’s ball awareness is questionable particularly when defending against play-action. This lack of experience and awareness could result in Oweh’s starting ability being left up in the air. He has the physical ability, but the mental side is still a mystery. Depending on Oweh’s training camp, he could be a Week 1 starter or a player who doesn’t get it going till the 2022 season. Either way, Oweh is a great prospect and draft pick to fill a big hole at outside linebacker.
Round 3: Pick 94- Ben Cleveland, G, Georgia
After waiting through the entire 2nd round of the Draft, the Ravens next selection was Georgia guard Ben Cleveland in the 3rd round. Standing at 6’6” and weighing 343 lbs, Cleveland’s biggest strength is his physical ability and well-distributed mass. Cleveland exhibited powerful strength, solid athleticism, and long reach at Georgia allowing him to block well in passing and rushing situations. The only weaknesses Cleveland has are some balance issues and consistently blocking through defenders. If Cleveland is able to sort these issues out in training camp, he has the physical ability to start for the Ravens and at the very least give some reliable relief for Bozeman and Zeitler.
Round 3: Pick 104- Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU
As a former 4-star running back, Brandon Stephens is the newest corner back for the Ravens. At 6’0” 213 lbs, Stephens’ physical ability earned him a 3rd round selection despite only having 2 years of college experience at cornerback. Stephens’ history as a running back explains his above average size and speed, but his skills as a cornerback still need some heavy development. His fundamentals, route recognition, and coverage angles still need a ton of work. It should also be noted that Stephens demonstrated the ability to cover on kicks which is a huge positive for Coach Harbaugh’s special teams group. All in all, Stephens shows great potential physically but will not likely see much playing time in the near future.
Round 4: Pick 131- Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
With their 1st pick in the 4th round, the Ravens double-downed at wide receiver selecting 5’11” 194 lb. Tylan Wallace. What stands-out most about Wallace is his competitiveness. Despite being undersized for an outside receiving threat, Wallace uses good route running and aggressiveness to win contended catches. Despite possessing great mental toughness, Wallace simply didn’t face top competition at Oklahoma State and can be locked down physically in press coverage. If Wallace proves himself against top competition, he has the mental fortitude and aggressiveness to become a starter for the Ravens in the future.
Round 5: Pick 160- Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
After trading picks with the Arizona Cardinals, the Ravens selected a second cornerback in Shaun Wade. At 6’1”, Wade shows promise when it comes to his size, strength, and reach. Wade also has a good amount of starting experience against great competition coming from a consistent playoff contender at Ohio State. Despite physical potential, Wade showed a lack of aggressiveness, urgency, and ability to move with receivers. Wade has experience against top talent but was never able to beat it which means he is worth the 5th round pick, but will sit low on the depth chart through the 2021 season.
Round 5: Pick 171- Daelin Hayes, DE, Notre Dame
With their second 5th round pick, the Ravens kept adding to the defense with defensive end Daelin Hayes out of Notre Dame. Dealing with shoulder injuries since high school, Hayes has proved himself as a football player due to his leadership. Hayes demonstrated his involvement in his community and even was a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. Hayes is definitely the type of person the Ravens want in the locker room, but how is his play on the field? Hayes has solid fundamentals and utilizes his hands and feet to navigate passed blockers. However, he lacks the strength and speed to overpower the offensive line. Hayes also had limited production in college and the college playoffs. While Hayes will be a great locker room and community presence for the Ravens, his impact on the field will be very minimal in the 2021 season.
Round 5: Pick 184- Ben Mason, FB, Michigan
With their third pick in the 5th round and last pick in the Draft, the Ravens selected fullback Ben Mason. At Michigan, Mason proved to be a versatile fullback as he could not only block, but rush and catch passes as well. Mason also played some linebacker and defensive end as well making him very similar to Patrick Ricard in terms of overall versatility. Mason has good build and utilizes strength in all aspects of his game. However, Mason needs to improve on using his weight to block particularly in passing situations. Even though he will not be a starter for as long as Ricard is with the Ravens, he possesses a similar play style to Ricard and has the same versatility that the Ravens will utilize in the future.
Overall, the 2021 NFL Draft was success for the Ravens. They addressed all the big holes on the depth chart at wide receiver, pass rusher, and the offensive line, while also gaining some prospects that could have a big impact in the future. As for now, we will see how these rookies develop when training camps begin in June.