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Article The 2016, 2017, and 2018 drafts: The Possible art of a Turnaround?


Hall of Famer
2015 was a strange season for raven’s fans. It was the first losing season in nearly a decade. Fans had become more impatient than normal, people were calling for Harbaugh to be fired. Our steady franchise QB had been injured for the first time in his career. The defense looked old, the offense had nobody on the team worth anything since Kubiak had left except for an old Steve Smith, and that draft has turned out to possibly be the worst of Ozzie Newsome’s career. One where I actually started to question whether he had lost it or not. It was clear to anyone in 2015 that the Ravens were a few years away from contention. A few posters myself included thought the fix would’ve been easy given the absurd amount of draft capital we had in 2016.

I was more naive then if anything but like our most recent draft, 2016 is probably going to go down as a top 10 all time draft class for Ozzie Newsome. While picks like Bronson Kaufausi and especially Kamalei Correa look like massive busts, the overall haul looks to be a key reason why the team has substantially improved since 2015.

2016 draft

· Ronnie Stanley- Franchise LT. Played through injuries but with Yanda gone was the runaway best player on the offensive line and it wasn’t even close even with the success Jensen had

· Tavon Young- Forget the Dez Bryant game. Young when healthy is likely a top 5 slot CB who’s very good on the outside too

· Willie Henry- Should get a starting nod. Above average defensive lineman right now. Potential pro bowler with that athleticism. If he continues to develop as he should, he’s the most important player on the defensive line.

· Alex Lewis- He was merely average at guard his rookie year. Good pass protector but his technique in the run game needed work. That said, in Roman’s scheme he should turn it around, especially since he’s bulked up quite a bit. He was more of a powerful type anyway and I actually think because of the physical changes he’s gone through that he could be a rock solid starter for us at the LG spot.

· Matt Judon- Arguably shouldn’t be a starter but is still a key contributor. He’s a jack of all trades master of none type who nobody should complain about having. He may take too many snaps, but he’s a still a good piece for the defense to have.

· Kenneth Dixon- He proved in little playing time that he’s a starting caliber RB in this league and we got him in the fourth round. He will be our second running back if he returns healthy and is actually an ideal complement to another guy who came out of this draft. He does everything well, has good vision, and plays with violence. His ability to make the first guy miss makes me excited to see what he can do in a Greg Roman offense.

· Maurice Canaday- Again, not a starter but a really good depth piece for us who does get a decent amount of snaps when healthy. He’s versatile and an important piece moving forward.

That draft has given us 5 starting players, 6 starting caliber players, plus one more crucial role player. Judon is nothing special though so keep that in mind. I know he had some sacks but that was more him taking advantage of battered offensive lines. All in which are either good, or not total liabilities. I personally think that Lewis is going to be a good player at G given his physique change.

The 2016 offseason was more or less a change in culture for Ozzie Newsome. We actually made a splash free agent signing who was massively successful in Eric Weddle, and got two decent seasons out of Mike Wallace. Our strategy had clearly changed for the long-term.

While the 2016 Ravens were significantly better than 2015, the team still had some significant holes. Namely at the edge rushing and wide receiver positions. Cornerback depth was also needed given that the entire defense falls apart whenever Jimmy Smith goes down with an injury. So Ozzie pulled together a frustrating, but solid offseason for the team. Tony Jefferson was not a liability last year, but was so horribly misused within the defense(you should not play that guy in single high as often as he did) that his presence wasn’t felt. Even then he was graded out as an above average strong safety, which he was. Brandon Carr was an unspectacular, but steady presence.

The 2016 draft did give us two other blessings though. Michael Pierce is an above average NT who does everything well. He will benefit heavily from the DC switch. But the main blessing here is Alex Collins. A brilliant fit in Roman’s scheme and will go on to be the biggest FA steal the ravens have ever had. The Seahawks cutting him was a blessing the team did not anticipate. Some say he’s not a workhorse. I respectfully disagree.

The 2017 was also frustrating, but talent wise there’s a lot of promise here


· Marlon Humphrey- Humphrey as a rookie proved something most rookies do not do. He looked like a #1 CB at times. He wasn’t perfect, namely in the Lions game, but for a rookie CB he looked great. He continues to develop at the rate he’s going, he’s going to be a pro bowler in no time. He, along with Tavon Young’s return, is a big reason I am not worried about Jimmy Smith’s injury from last year. Please stay healthy

· Tyus Bowser- In a frustrating move, Tyus Bowser had plays last year where he looked like he was going to be a really good player. He made a few mistakes during our blowout loss in Jacksonville and he rode the bench for the rest of the year. Harbaugh’s doghouse may suck, but Boswer looked good most of the time he took the field. I know we just drafted Kenny Young, but look for Bowser to be the primary LB in coverage. His skills there are already off the charts and his athleticism could allow him to have a Telvin Smith like impact in our defense. Even then, there were times where he did rush the passer and he looked a lot better than he did in college. He is still very raw in this regard, but the fact that he is developing at a decent pace in the regard is very encouraging. Hopefully Wink doesn’t punish him for an occasional mistake like Pees was prone to doing. Bowser is the type of guy who needs live reps to develop. Let’s stop making this mistake with players

· Chris Wormley- It’s tradition for us to sit rookie DTs down their first season. It’s a dumb tradition, but with Wormley I could live with it. Chris Wormley is one of my least favorite draft picks of Ozzie Newsome’s career. Trading Jernigan for him was dumb. Yet he’s likely to be a solid, but unspectacular player. Once again, it is confusing as to why we never played him. He’s already a pretty developed player, and he’s a tradition 5T. Something the defense really needs right now. He’s a jack of all trades master of none type, but those types usually turn into very solid starters if they are on the defensive line of the ball. Truth be told, you could never have enough of those guys in the trenches. Wormley should be more substantial playing time for the team. He honestly deserves it. We are very deep on the defensive line with Williams, Pierce, Henry, Urban, and Davis being either really good players, or solid rotational pieces. Adding Wormley to the mix should provide us with a rotation that keeps the defense fresher. I personally have the belief that having Wink be the new DC is going to massively benefit Henry and Wormley. Henry is a starting caliber player in my eyes, and a very good one, but having them fresher and rotate in and out more should in theory make the interior pass rush better.

· Tim Williams- The recurring theme here of “players that we should totally let see the field for the sake developing, yet don’t for some reason” applies the most here to Tim Williams. As a pure pass rusher, I had a top 20 grade on him last year. I was jumping for joy when we drafted him. Yet, we decided to play the walking, talking liability in Za’Darius Smith over him. I do not care if Williams is not the best edge setter, at the very worst he should be an mid to high level situational pass rusher. We do this with young guys all the time and it blows my mind. See Paul Kruger, who basically became this exact type of player when Pagano was the DC. We did play him, but almost exclusively as an edge setter. I am fine with him playing snaps on running downs. For once the team is doing something ride, he needs live reps to improve at this skill. But he needed to be a pass rusher moreso than anything. The hilariously angry thing is, when he did play as a pass rusher, he put pressure on the QB. There were 4 or 5 really good instances of this happening last season where he just made tackles look silly.

· Nico Siragusa- Is my pick to be the starting C if healthy. Given my newfound confidence in Alex Lewis, I can safely go this direction here. Siragusa was a prospect I was ecstatic about, until that terrible injury. Given that he is now healthy and working out with the team. I think Siragusa has a high ceiling as a player, but a mediocre floor(not bad for a fourth round pick). I think he could be a very good interior olinemen at the NFL level and is a dream fit for our current scheme

While only Humphrey was a starter(and godsend) last season, there are four other rookies in this class that I see as starting caliber. Which once again bodes well for the future. I can sincerely hope that Bowser, Williams, and Wormley see far more playing time next year on the defense. All three looked like good players when they did take the field and need more live reps to develop.

These two drafts established something that angered fans but was very logical: the team’s identity going forward was going to be a defensive one. To draft Humphrey, Young, Williams, Bowser, Henry. All in which have either flashed promise or have turned out to be starting caliber players. 5 guys. All of them with high ceilings. Not to mention guys who I think could be good role players in Wormley, Judon, and Canaday, which is something the team could always use.

Having a defensive identity moving forward makes logical sense. In our division we have to face two good offenses twice a year, and the NFL is becoming a more offensive game. If you can slow that down with a good defense, you have a tactical advantage. It is why the Jacksonville Jaguars despite having a one man offense(Fournette is going to be that good. Even last year he looked like a human sledgehammer with the best long speed in the league) were in the AFC championship game.

And in 2017 the team improved significantly. Sure the schedule was easier, but the team looked worlds better than in 2016. Despite our defense last season having some holes, it was easily a top unit in the league and was the best defense the team had since 2011. We had a terrible offense though. The offensive line overachieved significantly after Yanda was injured, and the WR corps that looked promising at the beginning of the season turned out to be just as bad as the 2013 one. Top that off with Joe Flacco having the worst season of his career for the first half of the year, and the offense was the worst offense the Ravens have had since the Harbaugh era. If Mike Wallace is your only WR worth a damn, your passing offense is doomed to fail.

Yet, I still maintain a stance: this team is a playoff team if it remains relatively healthy. That defense was good enough to carry us there, even if they collapsed in the end. Losing Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith were major blows to the team. Likewise us benching tangible rookie talent likely hurt us. Guys like Bowser, Williams, and Wormley might have made the occasionally rookie mistake, but you have to let them develop by giving them live reps. Offensively, losing the best guard in the league hurts. Losing your other starting guard also hurts, and losing your primary backups to both likely hurt us in the long run too. Add in lingering injuries to both Maclin and Brandon Williams, and it is actually a miracle that this team won 9 games given the awfulness of our offense. Yes. Our defense was that good last year.

2018 rolls around with the fanbase, myself included as pessimistic as ever. The defense did have needs, but ones that I thought were not going to be addressed. Edge rusher in particular had some young talent that you needed to let develop and play. I have no issues with not addressing that position. We also needed to go find a second ILB. I am not as high as some others are on Kenny Young, but at the worst I could see Young as a good rotational coverage backer who is good sideline to sideline.

Most of our needs were on the offensive side of the ball. Namely WR, TE, and OL. Letting Austin Howard go was a questionable move, but I understand why we made it. He was nothing more than average and could have been upgraded by certain prospects in the draft. As stated previously, our WR corps was pathetic. So we cut the dead weight. We let Mike Wallace walk, cut Jeremy Maclin, and proceeded to sign three promising players. Even if none of those three are #1 options, all three compliment each other well, have really good hands, are good route runners, and are good football players. Even had we sat on our hands and had not drafted WRs this offseason, the corps would have been the best Flacco has had since the super bowl. Leaving TE, WR, and OL to be addressed.

My biggest fear going into the 2018 draft was that we were going to be content with Hurst starting at RT. While OL was a need, having Yanda and Lewis returning would prove to be upgrades over Skura and Hurst at the G spots. Siragusa, if healthy is a guy I think the team viewed as the long term plan at C anyways, which is why I think they were okay with letting Jensen walk. RT was the biggest need by far.

The 2017 and 2016 drafts did receive good grades from me. I have 2016 as a draft that I think could win us a SB some day with the amount of quality players, whether they be starters or key role players. 2018 was a draft I loved. The TE class was the most underrated TE class I’ve ever seen. I had four players ranked as pro bowl caliber here(Goedert, Hurst, Andrews, Gesicki). We got two of those guys. I had 4 QBs with top ten overall grades. We got one of them. Jaleel Scott was a sleeper of mine. And then we got some phenomenal value. I had a high second round grade on both Orlando Brown and Mark Andrews. I had a mid second round grade on Anthony Averett. Jordan Lasley and Elliot both have the potential to be utter steals. Top it all off, I had Bradley Bozeman as a starting caliber C with a fourth round grade and we got him in the sixth.

So overall.. The talent haul over the past three seasons from the offseason has turned us from a laughing stock that looked old to a team that has a lot of promise.

The thing to take note of, is that everyone is currently sleeping on us. Some power rankings have us as low as the 20s.

Good. I enjoy that. Sleep on us. Even if we do suck this year, the amount of young talent on this team inspires significant confidence in me in the long run. But I don’t see this team sucking at all.

This team is the most complete team the Ravens have had since the super bowl. Ozzie Newsome managed to upgrade the offense, and anything from last season is a significant upgrade. Crabtree, Snead, Brown, Hurst, and Andrews all look to be contributors early and all compliment each other very well with their respective skillsets. If Flacco has a solid season for us, the offense is going to be the best offense the team has had since Kubiak. We don’t have a #1 dominant option akin to an Odell Beckham Jr or Antonio Brown, but we have a plethora of effective receivers. What will really make this offense go though is Greg Roman and the RB corps. Alex Collins is a really good RB, and the oline more or less upgrading itself should do nothing but benefit him. Add in Dixon, who is really an ideal complement to him, and the rushing attack should batter teams and set up the passing game quite nicely. Collins has yet to run behind Yanda, and I could easily see Orlando Brown being a massive upgrade over Howard. Given that Lewis is an upgrade over Hurst, and Stanley is stable as can be, Collins and Dixon should be massive benefactors. The offense does not have a dominant force on it, but neither did 2012. Ray Rice was a pro bowler, and Boldin was a #1 WR, but this offense has more options and more ways to kill you. All eyes are on Joe Flacco. If he cannot step up, Lamar Jackson is going to be in a good position to develop.

But once again, the moneymaker should be the defense. The defense is not without it’s questions. Namely pass rush and coverage LB, but we have invested a decent amount of talent at those two positions of need. The staples of the defense should easily be the secondary and CJ Mosley. Mosley is a top ILB and an absolute asset as the QB of the front 7. If fully healthy, Mosley is one of the best defensive players in the game. Brandon Williams is a rock who puts the team into favorable situations by helping to shut down the run and forcing third and longs. Which only benefits the secondary. We should have a very good one barring the health of others. The defense is not an elite unit like Jacksonville, LA, or Minnesota, but it is probably going to be one of the top units in the league again even with the schedule we are about to have.

We still have needs going forward, and it will be interesting to see if we bring in a run stuffing ILB, or another RB. But I have a lot of confidence in this team going forward if you look at the big picture. If Flacco plays well, it is not unreasonable to say that we might win the division. Cincinatti and Cleveland are still a long way off even if both teams did improve this offseason(poor coaching should shoot them both in the foot again), and the Steelers’ defense outside of their front three looks totally uninspiring.

2018 is going to be a crossroads season not for the franchise, but for Joe Flacco. Drafting Lamar Jackson should be a wakeup call. For the first time in a very long time, Flacco looks to have a good supporting cast around him when you look at the sheer volume of guys. Collins is the best RB the team has had since Rice and if he keeps it up it would not shock me at all if he makes the pro bowl. Dixon is a great compliment to him who would be starting on some squads. At the very worst he should be a solid receiving option out of the backfield. Crabtree, Snead, Brown, Lasley, and Scott all complement each other well and make a very solid, but unspectacular corps that should be fairly effective. Andrews and Hurst both looked like to me(and I did say this before the draft) the rare TE prospects that can contribute immediately and should be terrors over the middle of the field. Add in the fact that I actually have significant confidence in this offensive line, and this offense should put the offenses from 2015-2017 to shame. The defense should be fine. It’s not without holes, but if the offense can manage to play up to it’s potential (which is not an elite offense, but a good one), we should win the division. The season could go the other way, but for the first time since 2016, I am excited about the prospects of our season. We do have needs, but none of them look to be ones that can single-handedly debilitate a team. We have good depth at the RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, CB, and S positions, great special teams(which includes the best kicker in the league), and quality players across the board with some exciting prospects. If Flacco fails to perform, Lamar Jackson is going to take the helm of a squad with something he never had a Louisville: adequate help. That should scare NFL teams

Ozzie Newsome did more than reopen a closing window. He shot it with a bazooka, and it’s going to take at least a half decade for the football gods to repair it.


Staff Member
i know you're focusing on front-line talents but dont forget some of the other players in those drafts:

chris moore may not ever get wr snaps again but he's a strong special teams player who has contributed to more points than some non-special teams draft picks we've had in the building so far... that's not to overstate his impact but he's a decent role player who added value to the team

likewise dont forget picking up peanut as a UDFA too - he's been unspectacular and we obviously would like to upgrade that 2nd ILB spot but he's done steady work at ILB as a starter for a significant number of games and for good reason won that job full time over Correa early last year - he's an established player who at worst gives us stable and steady production at the only "hole" in our defence

and if you're gonna mention siragusa you might as well mention Chuck Clark as well and Jaylen Hill too because both have shown just as much - jaylen hill looked to be a steal of a UDFA until he got injured and then he came back and looked ok (it was disappointing that he didnt get the chance to get healthy properly and replace webby before canady came back) and Chuck Clark as it stands is going into the season competing for the #1 dimebacker role which if we still havent fixed the coverage side of that 2nd linebacker role will continue to be the thrust of our 3rd down defensive package

im also not sure i agree with some of your assessments of players i.e. i think you're underselling matt judon - 8 sacks is not a total that a jack of all trades accumulates and that was with him being over utilised on the outside as the iron man of our edge rushing corps and also i know its a minor point and i know we expect to be better at slot corner but if we didnt have tavon i dont think we could really call canady not a starter - he played well enough to be considered a starter at that spot