The NFL draft is exactly one week away. Fans are getting extremely excited to see who the new rookies on the block will be come next year. Many fans are also hoping that those new players can come in and play instantly. The Ravens are known for drafting extremely well, and with 12 picks this year, things should not be any different.
Round 1 (Pick 32): DeAndre Hopkins, WR: Clemson
Many fans may be expecting the Ravens to take an inside linebacker with their first pick, but the recent signing of Rolando McClain and the moves of Bryan Hall and Albert McClellan to inside linebacker has bought the Ravens time. They could be looking for a safety or left tackle here, but the safety depth in the draft is incredible and there are no worthy left tackles left here.
I originally had the Ravens taking University of California receiver Keenan Allen because I thought that Hopkins wouldn’t be available, but upon further research, it appears as if “Nuke” will be available when the Ravens pick.
Hopkins has steadily improved every year until he finally blew up the ACC during his junior season. Hopkins caught 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. Despite the amazing numbers, the major knock on Hopkins is the fact that he isn’t big enough (6’1”, 214 pounds) or fast enough (4.57 second forty yard dash) to be a true number one receiver. As a number two receiver, though, Hopkins could dominate and become elite.
Hopkins shows incredible abilities in route running, which more than makes up for his lack of elite speed. He has amazing quickness in his cuts and sells fakes and double moves with terrific head movement and body control. He can run a full route tree in the short, intermediate, or deep passing game. His best game, though, may come over the middle in the short to intermediate range. He has incredible hands, even when the ball is in traffic. Hopkins doesn’t shy away from contact, and will watch the ball into his hands until it is securely in his chest range. He doesn’t wait for the ball to come to him, either. He takes every opportunity to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. When asked to run along the sidelines, Hopkins uses deceptive speed and amazing body control to keep himself in bounds and away from defenders.
One thing that really puts Hopkins over the top is that he is a nasty run defender. He doesn’t mind getting into a cornerbacks face and blocking them with tenacity. He could be frequently seen taking his man all the way to the ground, just to finish a block.
Simply put, DeAndre Hopkins is a faster, younger, more athletic version of Anquan Boldin. He may not fall all the way to the Ravens, but if he comes within 7-10 picks of the Ravens, expect the Ravens to pick up the phone and dial in for the Vikings who have two first round draft picks.
Round 2 (Pick 62): Terron Armstead, LOT: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
I know most people are probably looking at this pick and thinking, “I’ve never even heard of that school…” Well, neither had I, but that didn’t stop me from thinking Terron Armstead could be the left tackle of the future.
Despite playing at a small school, Armstead did receive offers from larger Division I schools. He turned them down because he wanted to continue with track. Despite not playing at a big school, Armstead has the physical tools and athleticism to be a true, elite left tackle in the NFL. He’s got great size (6’5”, 306 pounds), great arm length (34’), and has some real quickness. Armstead ran the forty yard dash in 4.71 seconds and the 20 yard shuttle in 4.72 seconds.
On the field, that quickness and speed translates extremely well. Armstead has the speed and agility to mirror speed rushers off the edge. He also is extremely good about getting up the second level or pulling when asked. He’s an intelligent player who can sell screens, draws, and play actions with no problems. His real problem lies in three areas: His first is that while he may be great at getting to the second level, but when he gets there, he often looks out of place. The second is his hand placement. Armstead needs to be more consistent about where he uses his hands to block oncoming pass rushers. The last problem is an easy fix. He just isn’t as strong as he needs to be in the lower body. He can be driven back by the bigger rushers with a good bull rush. A full summer in the Ravens Under Armor Performance Center would shore that up, though.
If the Ravens were going to take Armstead, it would likely mean bringing McKinnie back on a one-year deal so that Armstead could learn and develop, considering he didn’t face the best competition in college. If all falls into place, though, Armsteads amazing skillset translates well and he is able to start from the first day on.
Round 3 (Pick 94): Jon Bostic, ILB: University of Florida
Earlier I said that McClain and Bryan Hall could be stop gaps, and if they are, Jon Bostic would be the player they are helping to prepare.
Bostic was the leader of an extremely strong Gators defense, something that the Ravens could fall in love with. In addition to great leadership, Bostic is a tremendous player. He plays with a nonstop motor all over the field. He will always hustle to keep up with halfbacks and tight ends, and hustles to avoid giving up yards after the catch. He ran a great forty yard dash (4.61 seconds), and was a top performer in the three cone drill (6.99 seconds) and 20 yard shuffle (4.24 seconds), showing his ability to flip his hips and get into open field to cover. Despite the incredible athleticism, though, he still struggles when changing directions in the open field or when asked to chase down a player. When chasing a player, he’ll likely need help before he can make a play.
He’s an absolute force when playing downhill to attack the run. When asked to attack the line of scrimmage, Bostic has shown the ability stack and shed offensive linemen to make plays when the ball carrier is moving in his direction. Even if he can’t get off his block, though, Bostic has shown the ability to stand up the lineman and hold his ground. When he’s untouched by a linebacker, Bostic has shown the ability to stand up fullbacks and make plays on the running back. Bostic is strong enough to bring down the best running backs in the game and pack a punch while he’s at it.
Bostic starts to show weaknesses with his over aggressive play. At times he can overrun the quarterback or over pursue the running back in the backfield and miss out on making a play. Bostic also tends to lead with his shoulder at times. Leading with the shoulder allows for more elusive backs to easily avoid the hit, or it allows better offensive lineman to quickly engulf him and take him out of the play.
If needed, Bostic could likely step in and contribute immediately as a MIKE linebacker, but if not, the Ravens should feel secure in allowing Bostic to play in a situational role for a year and taking over next year.
Round 4 (Pick 129): TJ McDonald, SS: University of Southern California
The Ravens lost Bernard Pollard, who was a fan favorite, so why not draft a younger Bernard Pollard? One that likely won’t be as outspoken during his time in Baltimore.
McDonald is like Pollard in the sense that he is a player who can really lay down a hit on a receiver. Anytime a receiver is coming over the middle, they better look out or McDonald will lay them out flat by putting the full force of his shoulder into them. He form tackles running backs well and is a sure tackler in the box. He is also great about avoiding being blocked by offensive lineman, due to his long length. When asked to come up and make plays on the screen, he does an excellent job of fighting through the blocks to make a play. McDonald is extremely strong against the run when asked to come down from the two-high look. He flows down to the line of scrimmage and runs through alleys to make plays.
While he is an excellent run defender, like Pollard, McDonald lacks the ability to be a great cover safety over the top. He doesn’t have the necessary fluidity to turn and run with running backs and tight ends, and can be avoided in open space by quicker players. He can be caught looking into the backfield or be biting on double moves, and when that happens, it’s game over. McDonald doesn’t possess the necessary recovery speed to make up for those mistakes.
In the NFL, McDonald will almost exclusively be a box safety, but he’ll be a damn good one. The Ravens could opt to stick with Ihedigbo because of his range, but if they do, McDonald should be an excellent special teams player.
Round 4 (Pick 130): Chris Harper, WR: Kansas State
Despite drafting a receiver in the first and having Tandon Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams, and Tommy Streeter on the roster, I don’t think the Ravens would mind having another receiver on the roster, especially a receiver like Chris Harper. Harper would likely push the disappointing Doss and Reed for the fourth receiver spot.
Harper won’t jump out at you based on stats alone, but he could stand out based on film. What should stand out the most is that Harper is fairly large (6’1”, 226 pounds), but still fairly speedy (4.55 forty yard dash). Corners who look to jam him at the line of scrimmage run the risk of him blowing right by them and running down the sidelines. If you try to play off of him and cover the pass, he’ll likely just box you out with his large frame. In addition to being big and fast, Harper also has a very strong set of hands. He goes up to get the ball and has no problem fighting for it.
One of the bigger knocks is that he just isn’t very fluid. Despite being a fairly decent route runner, he won’t be an elite one because his hips are too stiff. This will make selling cuts and other intermediate routes difficult.
If the Ravens were to draft Harper, he would likely receive minimal playing time, but he would almost certainly be a better option for the fourth spot than what the Ravens have now.
Round 5 (Pick 165): Michael Williams, TE: University of Alabama
I realize that the Ravens still have Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta on the roster, but neither can block to save their lives. Besides, the Ravens like to carry three tight ends, so why not get a decent blocker?
Williams played for some of the best rushing attacks in all the country at Alabama. He also faced off against SEC competition every week, so his blocking is extremely strong for a tight end. In a pinch, Michael Williams can provide a receiver, but he will never be an elite or true receiving threat. He wasn’t targeted a lot at Alabama, but he made the most of his opportunities.
If the Ravens were to select Michael Williams, he would likely fill in a role similar to the one that Chris Wilson held a few years ago.
Round 5 (Pick 168): Kwame Geathers, NT: University of Georgia
The Ravens were so impressed with their first Gators pick that they’re coming back for more. This time, though, the Ravens will be taking a massive nose tackle to help stuff the run.
Geathers has a massive frame, which can be intimidating for blockers. When the ball is snapped, he shows great leverage and bursts off low and into the lineman. Due to great hand use, Geathers is often able to shed his man and get to the ball carrier to make a wrap up tackle. Even if he isn’t always able to shed the block, he uses his massive size and strength to effectively hold the point of attack and prevent running lanes from opening up.
The problem with Geathers is his inconsistency. While he can be a tremendous player when he gets low, he doesn’t always do that. At times, he plays too high and is easily pushed off the ball. Geathers also struggles to bend and correctly use his hands on cut blocks.
At this point in time, Geathers would likely only be a role player. He needs to learn better and more consistent technique, but if he is able to, he may be a great player against the run.
Round 6 (Pick 199): Kahled Holmes, C: University of Southern California
Perhaps this pick is a bit too low, but with the rise of other centers and less than stellar play of Holmes during his senior season, the Ravens may have a back-up center on their roster in Holmes.
Holmes didn’t test well at the combine in movement drills, but he still moves well for a big man. He can consistently make his way into the second level and pull when asked to. His ability to move laterally would be a major asset to the Ravens in the zone blocking scheme. Holmes is also an extremely relentless player who always fights until the whistle.
The problem, though, is that he just isn’t strong enough. He lacks the leg strength to hold up against better defensive tackles and can be driven back. He also demonstrates poor technique at times, often sitting on his heels or not putting his hands in good places to block.
If the Ravens were to draft Holmes, he certainly wouldn’t be a starter, but he could be a decent back-up.
Round 6 (Pick 200): Keith Pough, ILB: Howard
Rolando McClain is coming to the Ravens on a one-year deal, so drafting two inside linebackers may be in line for the Ravens.
Pough is a great chase and tackle type of linebacker. He moves extremely well in open space and can make the turn to move around the edge well. When asked to blitz, he shows the quickness needed to get the quarterback and make a play. He also shows good hand movement and strength when forced to throw a blocking running back to the side. He also shows good discipline in containment and is patient in waiting for the play to develop. When asked to drop into coverage, Pough was able to move well and play effectively in zone coverage.
What will keep Pough from going higher is the fact the he isn’t dominant when it comes to taking on blockers. He can be easily blocked out by offensive lineman and often requires a wide open lane to make a play.
Pough would likely only see the field in obvious passing situations, and even then his action would be limited, but he should be a decent role player in the future.
Round 6 (Pick 203): Xavier Nixon, LOT: University of Florida
Like Khaled Holmes, this pick may be a little too low. Nixon has the potential to go in the fourth, but will likely go in the sixth because of inconsistencies. That could play into the Ravens hands and give the Ravens another backup left tackle.
Nixon is an extremely hit or miss prospect. He was the only tackle to truly shut down Jadaveon Clowny and Demontre Moore. Despite that, though, Nixon couldn’t keep it up for 16 games. All the tools are there. He is extremely tall (6’6”) and strong. He handles bull rushes well and can push back the defender when he drops his hips and keeps his hips churning.
Inconsistencies outweighed the bad for Nixon. He has the needed quickness to play left tackle, but is often beat by speed rushers to the inside or outside lanes. He also whiffs on his initial power punch and can be caught leaning too far. When he does lean, better defenders are able to rip past him and make a play. Even when he does get good initial contact, he will often surrender a play by not keeping up and finishing. Nixon would benefit from more strength training. He struggles to keep weight on and is a bit soft.
Drafting Nixon would be solely for depth purposes at this point. His technique is too poor to be anything more than a backup for the next few years. The potential and size is there to be a decent left tackle in the future.
Round 7 (Pick 238): Colby Cameron, QB: Louisiana Tech
The Ravens already have their primary backup in Tyrod Taylor, but to be honest, if Joe Flacco were to go down, I would not trust Taylor for an entire season. He just does not have the necessary skills to be a great quarterback in the NFL.
Cameron, on the other hand, does have most of the skills required to be a good backup. He doesn’t have the amazingly large arm or range, but he has great accuracy. He can make most of the throws with decent accuracy and is pretty good when asked to push the ball outside the hashes. He is extremely smart and rarely ever makes mistakes with the football. During his senior season, he threw 31 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Joe Flacco has been extremely durable thus far in his career, but if he were to go down, the Ravens would likely run into problems. It’s better to not risk having a capable backup, so Cameron seems like a smart choice.
Round 7 (Pick 247): Ryan Allen, P: Louisiana Tech
The Ravens have a very capable punter in Sam Koch, but paying him $1.9 million dollars in base salary hardly seems worth it for a good, but not great, punter.
Allen had a stellar senior season. He has the longest average distance per punt (48 yards), longest net punt average (43 yards) and the longest punt on the season (85 yards). Over 40% of Allen’s punts dropped within the 20 yard line or went over 50 yards.
Allen would provide instant competition for Koch and might allow the Ravens to relieve themselves of Koch’s large salary.