It’s Ozzie Newsome’s last draft as the GM for the Baltimore Ravens, and he wants to go out with a bang. The 2018 draft could very well define Newsome’s legacy as one of the greatest GMs of all-time. To do that, he needs to nail this draft. But, of course, it wouldn’t be an Ozzie Newsome-Baltimore Ravens draft without adding some players from the University of Alabama. 13 former Crimson Tide members have entered the 2018 draft, and now I will make a case for each of them to be selected by the Baltimore Ravens in Newsome’s last hurrah.
Without a doubt the best Alabama player in this draft class, Minkah Fitzpatrick brings so much to the table for Baltimore. Fitzpatrick’s versatility stands out immediately. As the third safety on the roster, behind Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, Fitzpatrick would play the role Lardarius Webb was supposed to last season as the teams’ nickel safety/cornerback. Fitzpatrick is also a stud ball-hawk who is always around the football (nine career interceptions).
Safeties simply aren’t valued high in the draft anymore, and Fitzpatrick could easily be in striking range for Baltimore should he drop out of the top ten and into the early teens. A future replacement for the 33-year old Eric Weddle is much needed. In the mean time, Fitzpatrick’s versatility will allow Baltimore to get creative and line him up all over the defense and make plays. This would be an A+ pick for Baltimore if they had a shot at him.
The need for a wide receiver is beyond obvious. When you consider the three best wide receivers the Ravens have ever had (Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Smith, Sr.) all were free agent signing well past their primes, it’s something fans tend to notice. With the failed picks of guys like Breshad Perriman, it’s time the Ravens take a shot at perhaps the draft’s best wide receiver prospect who just so happens to have played with Alabama, Calvin Ridley.
Although the Ravens were very aggressive this off-season in signing wide receivers like Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown, none of them should be seen as long-term solutions. Meanwhile, the 23-year old Ridley is much younger than the rest of the bunch and has the highest ceiling. A smooth route runner with underneath receiving ability is exactly what the Ravens offense needs. Ridley can be brought along slowly in a somewhat crowded receiving core, before eventually transitioning into the teams’ X receiver.
The Ravens desperately need to get Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley a true partner-in-crime. Insert Rashaan Evans. A hit-man who likes to wear shoulder pads, Evans is the tone setting middle linebacker the Ravens need to put fear in the hearts of wide receivers going across the middle. Evans is a dream fit for the Ravens behind a massive defensive line that’ll allow Evans to get to the quarterback consistently and make plays in the back-field.
While the Ravens have guys like Patrick Onwuasor and Tyus Bowser, neither possesses the ability to be a true middle linebacker that Evans has. Despite being a senior, Evans won’t turn 22-years old until November, meaning the Ravens will have a promising young linebacker they can mold and turn into a staple of their defense for years to come. Ray Lewis always had solid teammates next to him in the middle like Bart Scott and Jameel McClain, it’s time to get Mosley his best buddy.
Brandon Williams is getting paid a massive amount of money as a nose tackle, and Michael Pierce will be a RFA at the end of the 2018 season. Beyond them, the defensive line group, while full of youth and talent, is lacking in a true superstar. Da’Ron Payne may not have been the numbers guy at Alabama (3.0 career sacks), but he can certainly become a Ravens fan favorite. The Ravens value big, defensive linemen who know how to eat blocks and open up lanes for their linebackers. Payne does that well, and at a high level. The biggest boon to drafting Payne is he gives the Ravens cap flexibility, should the team decide to move on from Williams and open up cap space. Payne is exactly the type of defensive lineman the Ravens have always loved, and could put himself among names like Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams, and Haloti Ngata.
Ronnie Harrison seems to always be around the football. With seven career interceptions with the Crimson Tide, Harrison has shown play-making skills that are extremely valued in box safeties such as himself. Harrison has 157 tackles over the last two seasons and asserted himself as a tone setting safety for Alabama’s defense. With Eric Weddle becoming another year older, the Ravens could use more depth at the position. Harrison could also be used to push Tony Jefferson to his absolute best, as his first season with the Ravens didn’t go over as swimmingly as hoped. The Ravens need to continue adding studs to their defense if they want to reach the level of “elite,” and Harrison is the next piece that brings the Ravens one step closer to that title.
Slot corners cannot be under-valued in today’s NFL. The Ravens are set at outside cornerback with Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey locking down their respective sides of the field. Brandon Carr is a solid veteran, but shouldn’t be relied on as the team’s starting nickel corner. Tavon Young, while extremely promising as a rookie, is coming off an ACL tear and there’s no guarantee that he comes back and dominates like he was before. Anthony Averett may only have one career interception, but his seven sacks over the last two seasons show that he can bring heat off the edge as a blitzing corner. Versatility is key to success. Averett is exactly the kind of player the Ravens need to add to their secondary. Averett’s overall athleticism will lead to him making several plays as a rookie, even in a part-time role.
Da’Shawn Hand is an athletic marvel. The 6’4″ 297-lbs. behemoth is an absolute tank and can dominate any competition when he is properly motivated. The key to his success is finding ways to keep him motivated consistently. The man has the skill-set to be a slightly shorter Calais Campbell, but also has the work ethic of a guy like Ra’Shede Hageman. Finding a middle ground is all the Ravens need from a guy whose value sits somewhere towards the middle-to-end of Day Two.
Tony Brown was recruited as one of the nation’s best cornerbacks, but he will be playing safety on Sundays. Brown’s run support is top-notch, something the Ravens covet in their outside corners. Brown is a great depth player and could be a stud on special teams. Brown shouldn’t be a consistent starter, but his role as a part-time player and his off-the-bench potential makes him very attractive in day three.
Shaun Dion Hamilton:
Linebacker depth is needed in Baltimore. Guys like Tyus Bowser and Kamalei Correa are not ideal fits at middle linebacker, and Patrick Onwuasor is not an every down guy. Shaun Dion Hamilton isn’t elite by any means, but at least he can be the best true middle linebacker of that group from day one. Hamilton is too undersized to be a consistent starter (6’0″ 228-lbs.), but he brings the brains and passion the Ravens love in their linebackers.
Why the hell not? The Ravens need depth at running back, and Bo Scarbrough can bring the hammer the Ravens lack. When healthy, Scarbrough is a bulldozer with a serious nose for the end-zone (20 career touchdowns). If the Ravens want to get back to their old winning ways, having a bruising running back to pair with a strong defense is certainly the right way to go.
Sam Koch will be 36-years old at the start of the season and is set to make ~3.5 million over each of the next three seasons. JK Scott has been a solid punter since first coming on to Alabama back in 2014. The two-time First-Team All-American is certainly a worthy replacement for one of the best special teams players the Ravens have had the luxury of having.
Levi Wallace plays with a chip on his shoulder, as a former walk-on at Alabama. Wallace is too slow to be an outside corner (4.63 40-yard time) and is undersized (6’0″ 179-lbs.), but you can’t measure heart. Wallace could find himself a niche on the Ravens special teams.
Bradley Bozeman is more than likely never going to be a 16-game starter at the next level, but the Ravens don’t need him to be. Bozeman is simply the depth the Ravens are in desperate need of on the offensive line. With no clear starter at center as of now, Bozeman could compete for the spot and certainly be a valuable depth piece for the interior of the Ravens offensive line.
*Editor’s Note: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Da’Ron Payne, and Rashaan Evans were all selected by other teams on Day 1 of the NFL Draft