The success of the Ravens’ draft class and 2022 season will be determined by how well the team’s medical and training staff can rehabilitate and return their top players to the field.

The Ravens concluded the NFL’s annual three-day draft with 11 selections, two of whom project as immediate starters in Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. But the real trifecta would be getting Michigan outside linebacker David Ojabo, a second-round pick, back onto the field in mid- to late October, which would show that one of college football’s top pass rushers has recovered from a torn Achilles tendon.

Then the Ravens might be on to something special.

Right now, they are in the middle of a “Humpty Dumpty” situation, in which they are trying to piece their top players back together again after an injury-hampered 2021 season. At the top of the list are cornerbacks Marcus Peters (torn ACL) and Marlon Humphrey (torn pectoral), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), and running backs J.K. Dobbins (torn ACL) and Gus Edwards (torn ACL).

And now there is Ojabo, who ruptured his Achilles tendon about six weeks ago while running a drill at Michigan’s pro day.

Most first-round selections are supposed to start, but both Hamilton and Linderbaum were considered the top players at their respective positions. There was some blowback when Linderbaum was chosen because the Ravens had a chance to pick Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II, but apparently he wasn’t rated as highly as Linderbaum — even though the team hasn’t had a dominant pass rusher since outside linebacker Terrell Suggs left in 2018.

But Ojabo could change that situation.

There is no guarantee that the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ojabo can dominate the way he did with the Wolverines last season, when he had 11 sacks, but at least the Ravens gambled and were creative. A team can no longer win in the postseason without a dominant pass rusher or two. Just look at the significant trades during the draft that involved receivers such as Tennessee’s A.J. Brown and Baltimore’s Marquise Brown, as well as the rush by teams to draft six receivers in the top 20.

Defenses have to be able to slow, contain or harass quarterbacks like Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, and players like Ojabo and second-year edge rusher Odafe Oweh can make a difference.

Every scout, coach and coordinator has been impressed with Hamilton. Critics of Linderbaum say his arms are too short, which doesn’t really matter except for tackles playing against a speed rusher. Centers don’t need long arms to shove defensive linemen over to guards and vice versa. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said a priority this offseason was to improve the offensive line, and he has done that by drafting Linderbaum, adding tackle Morgan Moses in free agency and picking Minnesota right tackle Daniel Faalele with the first of the team’s six selections in the fourth round.

At 6-8 and 384 pounds, Faalele is more of a project and might be put on the developmental squad in 2022. He has limited knee bend and is slow off the ball. Another potential injury-plagued player might be Alabama cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, the second player the Ravens took in the fourth round behind Faalele.

But the 6-1, 197-pound Armour-Davis has upside. When healthy, he can run with any receiver, as evidenced by his time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Two draft picks that might surprise Ravens fans are Connecticut nose tackle Travis Jones, selected in the third round, and Missouri running back Tyler Badie, a sixth-round pick.

The 6-4, 325-pound Jones needs to work on his technique. He had 47 tackles last season, including a career-high 4 1/2 sacks. He is big and has enormous strength, but he won’t be able to overpower a lot of NFL players the way he did in college. There is no Holy Cross, Army or Vanderbilt on the schedule. He’ll need to improve his explosion off the ball and pad level.

Badie is small at 5-8 and 197 pounds, but he has that mindset of being able to overcome, especially after Hurricane Katrina forced his family to relocate from New Orleans to Randallstown. He is a good change-of-pace back who can run strong inside. Few linebackers or safeties can cover him one-on-one out of the backfield.

The Ravens drafted two tight ends Saturday in the fourth round, Charlie Kolar (Iowa State) and Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), because quarterback Lamar Jackson prefers to throw to the middle of the field. The Ravens also needed forceful blockers in case Nick Boyle can’t fully recover from knee injuries.

They also picked up another cornerback in Houston’s Damarion Williams in the fourth round, partially because they are still suffering from the paranoia of losing both Humphrey and Peters to season-ending injuries. The Ravens drafted Penn State punter Jordan Stout in the fourth round, and he’ll battle longtime incumbent Sam Koch, who struggled at the end of last season and is entering the final year of his deal.

Overall, it was a good draft for the Ravens. They could still be in the market for a No. 2 receiver to replace Brown, but at least they found some new starters and a possible pass rusher. Finally.

Now it comes down to the medical staff and whether they can get this team ready for 2022.

“Humpty Dumpty” has to be put together again.


Source link

By admin

Malcare WordPress Security