The Baltimore Ravens‘ season clearly isn’t going as planned. Sitting at 4-6 and tied for last place in the AFC North isn’t what the Ravens fans have come to expect from Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh. After losing a sea of big name vets to free agency, trades and retirement, the Ravens were left with a depleted roster that will need to be boosted via the 2014 NFL Draft.
I don’t think I’d be out of line blaming the bulk of the team’s woes on the offense run by QB Joe Flacco, the $120 million dollar man. Now, I’d love to give about a week long dissertation on the outrageousness of contracts in professional sports and discuss how debilitating a professional quarterback’s salary is to maintaining a deep roster, but the doctor says I need to keep my blood pressure down. Instead, I’ll go over the offensive needs of the Ravens, the very needs that will have to be addressed in the next draft.
Wide receiver is a need, though not the biggest. Aside from Torrey Smith there’s not a lot to be excited about. Tandon Doss and Jacoby Jones are inconsistent at best, and undrafted rookie Marlon Brown still isn’t a proven commodity yet. I like Brown’s skill set, but you simply can’t judge a guy off his first 27 receptions in the NFL. It’s a near impossibility to imagine the Ravens go through the 2014 Draft without selecting at least one receiver, if not multiple.
Tight end is another possibility. Dennis Pitta, who was lost in the preseason to a season ending hip injury, is in the last year of his deal and Ed Dickson has totally failed to take advantage of his opportunity. 34 year old Dallas Clark clearly isn’t the long term answer, either. I think Pitta will be re-signed to a low risk, one-year deal after this season, largely because neither party really knows what he’ll be like when he does come back healthy (I hear he’s almost there), and the Ravens aren’t going to break the bank on a tight end.
Running back is a popular area of blame for Ravens fans as the Ravens are 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 83.2, and there were very high expectations for both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce entering the season — and with good reason. The two combined for nearly 1,700 yards in 2012 averaging 4.6 a carry, which is a far cry from the 699 yards (2.8 ypc) they’ve produced thus far in 2013. Despite all of this, I’d be surprised if these two weren’t 1 and 1a on the depth chart again next season.
Then we get to the root of all the problems, the offensive line, which has been astoundingly bad. I mean, really, really bad. LG AQ Shipley and C Gino Gradkowski might be the worst pair of starting offensive linemen in the NFL. RT Michael Oher has been the epitome of overrated ever since ‘The Blindside’ came out and will be a free agent after this season. More than likely he’ll still be asking for left tackle (blindside) money, despite the fact he’s proven he can’t handle edge rushers and has been relegated to right tackle. His name alone will ensure the fact that someone will be overpaying for him after this year. I think the Ravens are too smart to be that team.
LT Eugene Monroe was brought in for a reason, and he’s the best lineman on the team not named Marshal Yanda. Monroe will be re-signed after this year, mark it down, meaning they won’t be paying Oher. What’s left? Monroe, Yanda, and injured G Kelechi Osemele, meaning the Ravens will be in the market for a center and a right tackle.
What would their ideal offensive draft look like? OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) in the first, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) in the second, C Travis Swanson (Arkansas) in the third, and then a fast and physical receiver who might still be a little raw (like BYU‘s Cody Hoffman) in the 4th-5th rounds.
There are also defensive needs which will have to be addressed, particularly the depth in the front seven (especially if they don’t re-sign DE Arthur Jones). Still, you can bet the offense will consume most of the attention this offseason. It’ll be interesting to see what the ‘Wizard of Oz’ does next.