American Football

Which position should the Ravens prioritize most in the draft?

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have a bevy of options, but which should they prioritize in the 2024 NFL Draft?

As the calendar turns to April, the attention in the NFL world turns to the upcoming draft at the end of the month. For the Baltimore Ravens, this year’s draft cycle is a pivotal one. The team saw an efflux of talent in free agency with numerous contributors departing to join other squads. The Ravens also released and/or traded a couple of notable players as well.

They lacked significant salary cap room entering this offseason, meaning the draft was always going to hold a lot of weight. The Ravens will be attempting to boost their roster with top-end talent while filling in margins as well, all in an effort to continue to field a contending-caliber roster.

There’s several different directions the Ravens could go in the draft this year. However, there’s a set number of position groups that clearly represent the team’s biggest areas of need.


Offensive Tackle

Having solidified play on both ends of the offensive line is integral in today’s NFL. The Ravens seemingly had their bookend tackle duo of the future several years ago in Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., but the latter forced his way out of Baltimore.

In the wake of Brown’s departure, the Ravens have stop-gapped the right tackle position with veterans. The 2021 experiment with Alejandro Vilanueva was, to be blunt, a disaster in many ways. Morgan Moses then arrived and held down the starting role for the past two seasons.

The Ravens opted to traded Moses a prior to the new league year deadline in a salary cap-saving move. Now, they’re left with no definitive answer at the position. The primary incumbent in-house options include rising third-year player Daniel Faaele and veteran Patrick Mekari. They also signed former 2020 third-round pick Josh Jones.

Faaele lacks extensive starting experience. While he’s flashed at times when in the lineup and possesses raw athletic upside, he’s also proven to be unrefined. He needs to make the leap and be consistent enough to start full-time. As for Mekari, he’s been a valuable fill-in starter at right tackle but the Ravens also value his versatility as a swingman backup who can plug in at multiple positions. If they were to start Mekari, that would ding their depth as Mekari’s played backup at all five positions across the offensive line.

There’s also the fact that the Ravens may need soon find Stanley’s successor. Stanley is entering a pivotal 2024 season. His availability has been an issue amid multiple leg injuries and his performance took a step back last season. Although he took a significant pay cut this offseason, that does not guarantee his future with the team beyond this upcoming campaign.

In summary, the Ravens have legitimate question marks at both offensive tackle positions and this year’s draft class is deep and has high-end talent in the first round.

Offensive Guard

The Ravens also have question marks at both guard positions on the offensive line. They allowed Kevin Zeitler to walk in free agency and saw John Simpson sign with the New York Jets, meaning both of the team’s starting guards from 2023 are now gone.

The loss of Zeitler is damaging as the veteran was one of the better offensive guards in the league the past two seasons. He played a stabilizing role on the Ravens’ offense and was their most consistent offensive lineman. While his play may have soon begun to regress with age, replacing him at right guard will be a challenge.

Simpson, who started at left guard last year, is much more replaceable. However, the fact is the Ravens are in need of a new starter at each guard spot and have yet to sign anyone on the open market. They do, however, have multiple returning in-house options who are young and could take a step forward.

Ben Cleveland, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees are likely to compete for the vacant guard spots. However, all three are relatively unproven. The Ravens would be wise to add more established talent or high-end talent via the draft.

It’s been quite awhile since they’ve added a young offensive guard who can be a long-term fixture at the position.

Wide Receiver

The wideout position consistently dominates the conversation for the Ravens every offseason, especially around draft time. Last season, the team made a concentrated effort to upgrade their wide receiver corps by drafting Zay Flowers in the first round and signing a veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor in free agency.

These moves ultimately proved to be successful as the Ravens’ passing attack took a step forward. Lamar Jackson won league MVP and the team advanced to the AFC Championship game for the first time in his era as the starting quarterback. Flowers had a standout rookie campaign and both Beckham and Agholor contributed as complementary options.

Flowers, Agholor and Rashod Bateman are returning as the projected starting wideout trio in 2024, while Beckham will not be re-signing. While this is a solid starting unit and there’s room for growth from Flowers and Bateman, the Ravens would still be getting worse at the position compared to last season.

Beckham did not wind up producing in the way some anticipated and his role was up-and-down throughout the 2023 season. However, he was still mostly effective when targeted and had more than a few moments with timely catches. He also drew attention from opposing defenses and could win one-on-one situations.

The Ravens will need to replace his role/production while also adding further to the depth chart after also losing Devin Duvernay, too. They’ve already shown interest in a pair of veteran free agents but could take another big swing in the draft by selecting a wide receiver prospect early, which they’ve done regularly since General Manager Eric DeCosta took over in 2019.

Like offensive tackles, this upcoming rookie class is deep at the wideout position and has high-end talent.

Cornerback

Another position where the Ravens are set to see some turnover is cornerback, where they had a number of 2023 contributors hitting free agency this offseason. That includes Rock Ya-Sin, Ronald Darby, and Arthur Maulet, who were each signed to one-year deals last spring and summer.

Darby signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Ya-Sin remains a free agent, while Maulet re-signed with the Ravens on a two-year contract. That was an important move for the team to help shore up their nickel defender spot where Maulet’s play stood out last season.

However, the loss of Darby should not go unnoticed. The journeyman veteran exceeded expectations with the Ravens in 2023 and quietly was their best coverage cornerback at times. He played a big role in the absence of Marlon Humphrey, who missed several stretches of games.

Humphrey and Brandon Stephens are the returning starting duo for 2024, but the Ravens lack quality depth behind them. The Ravens haven’t drafted a cornerback in the first or second round in many years; and they haven’t found a foundational corner in the draft since Humphrey back in 2017.

Humphrey has missed multiple games in each of the past few seasons due to injury and the Ravens don’t have a ton of capable fill-in starters on the outside right now. They also could use a long-term starting-caliber talent for the future. Having multiple reliable cornerbacks in the NFL today is vital.

Edge Rusher

The Ravens are seemingly looking for a new edge rusher every offseason and this cycle is no different. And after plugging in both Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy last season, they have just the latter returning for 2024 after Clowney joined the Carolina Panthers.

Also gone is Tyus Bowser, who the Ravens released as a salary cap casualty. While Bowser missed the entire 2023 season with a nagging knee injury, his departure still adds another void for the Ravens on the depth chart. As it currently stands, their top edge rushers alongside Van Noy include Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, Tavius Robinson and Malik Hamm.

From this list, only Oweh is proven contributor. The other three are all within their first three career seasons. Ojabo has essentially missed the entirety of his first two years with injury. Robinson played a backend role in his rookie season while Hamm made the roster as an undrafted free agent but did not contribute.

Oweh is entering his fourth career season and his future in Baltimore is not necessarily locked in for certainty. So, not only do the Ravens need to think in terms of short-term assistance at edge rusher but also beyond just this season.


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