It is never too early to look ahead to the upcoming NFL draft. These days, draft coverage is 365 days a year and in popular demand by fans everywhere. Whether it be mock drafts or early big boards, fans will take whatever they can get.
Today, we take a look at prospects the Baltimore Ravens likely, and need to have on their draft radar going into the upcoming draft.
When looking at this roster, it’s hard not to be impressed with the defense. A restocked cupboard of pass rushers and a great safety tandem headlines the team. Captained by Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, this year’s Ravens defense could be special. Offensively, the offensive line has holes and no wide receiver, tight end, OR running back has yet to prove themselves.
Overall, the Ravens need to focus offensively and maybe buy an upgrade or two on the defense if the board plays out that way. Let’s break down five prospects the Ravens need to have on their early 2018 draft radar:
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) July 2, 2017
Calvin Ridley, WR, Junior, Alabama
Starting out at wide receiver, the Ravens need to look at someone who has a ridiculous amount of skills that can be used in multiple ways. Insert Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Ridley will enter 2018 as my top ranked wide receiver and with good reason. He has great speed to breakaway deep and separate from cornerbacks throughout his route. He displays soft hands and catches naturally. He showed versatility in his sophomore year on a few endaround runs. He has ideal height at 6’1″ but is slightly undersized at just 188 lbs. Baltimore needs a number one wide receiver in the worst way. While Jeremy Maclin could be the guy, he is 29-years old. Breshad Perriman faces a make-or-break year in 2017, but he looks like a bust thus far. Ridley would come in and immediately be a sparkplug for this offense. He’s an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands and can be a big time difference maker for this offense. Ridley is the man Joe Flacco so desperately needs.
SMU WR Courtland Sutton was terrific in 2016, especially when compared to the NCAA average on these three specific routes last season. pic.twitter.com/jTyygesFKb — PFF College Football (@PFF_College) June 30, 2017
Courtland Sutton, WR, Senior, SMU
Is there anything more tantalizing than the idea of matching Joe Flacco with a giant body in the redzone? Courtland Sutton would satisfy that desire while also giving the Ravens a deadly all-around wide receiver, something the team has never truly had.
Sutton, a wide receiver from SMU, is a favorite within the draft community based off his size (6’3″/218 lbs) and his ability to be a complete receiver. He has good hands, great height, and even some deep speed to his game (career 16.8 YPC at SMU). The biggest question he will face will be whether or not he can succeed against top-tier competition. No offense to SMU, but being in the AAC doesn’t exactly provide them with the greatest of opponents.
Speaking purely based on intangibles, Sutton passes the eye test with flying colors. For years the Ravens have tried using speed at the wide receiver position to run the passing game. Instead, the Ravens could focus on getting Flacco someone to move the chains and be a consistent touchdown threat. Sutton would provide exactly that.
Quenton Nelson, G, Senior, Notre Dame
Marshal Yanda will be a future Hall of Fame guard, but he will turn 33-years old to start the 2017 season. Meanwhile, the Ravens have a hole both at left guard and right tackle. Alex Lewis is a good piece to have on that offensive line, but he can’t play both positions. The solution? Try him out at right tackle and grab Quenton Nelson in round one to plug in at left guard.
It’s no secret that Notre Dame’s football team was a dumpster fire in 2016. Between a defense who couldn’t stop anyone and an offense that struggled to stay even slightly consistent, the Fighting Irish looked bad. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have talent within that team. Quenton Nelson opted to return for his senior season along with teammate Mike McGlinchey to give the offensive line stability. At a hulking 6’5″/328 lbs, Nelson is your classic mauling guard who levels opposing linemen with a grin on his face.
The Ravens have always had an identity as a ground-and-pound running team. Nelson would help to stabilize the trenches and create running lanes you could drive a bus through and be the eventual replacement for Yanda once he finally calls it quits. Nelson just screams “Ravens player”. He’s got a mean streak and has a nasty attitude, something that Ravens’ offensive line needs.
This is becoming a regular occurrence for Alabama DT 94 Da’Ron Payne. pic.twitter.com/wJATeabrYG
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) July 2, 2017
Da’Ron Payne/Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
I can’t decide between these two. Alabama spits out defensive players like it’s nobody’s business. Recently, defensive linemen have hit a sweet spot with the Crimson Tide. The past few seasons, we’ve seen names like A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen, and Dalvin Tomlinson (the latter two being rookies in 2017) get picked high in the draft and asked to come in and plug huge roles right away. Now, the spotlight rests on Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand.
Payne stands at 6’2″/319 lbs compared to Hand’s 6’4″/280 lb frame. The two will be handed the keys to the defensive line and be asked to replace Allen and Tomlinson for the Crimson Tide. They both will easily rise to the occasion and make a big time splash in the draft community.
Payne and Hand haven’t been featured men on that defensive line until this year. The two both have the opportunity to become household names not only in Tuscaloosa, but nationwide. Between Payne’s violent hands and Hand’s incredible motor, both players will have round one upside. The Ravens could certainly use another big body on the defensive line. With one of the league’s up-and-coming run defenses, Payne or Hand would be a luxury the Ravens would love to add to their defense. After all, general manager Ozzie Newsome sure does love his Alabama players.