It’s no secret that the biggest problem for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 was the rushing attack or lack thereof. Yes, QB Joe Flacco’s 22 interceptions certainly didn’t help matters, but had the run game been even remotely efficient, you have to imagine that number would be smaller. So should the Ravens think about addressing the running back situation via the 2014 NFL Draft?
In my opinion, no. At least not in terms of dumping both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and spending a high draft pick on the position. I think it’s far more likely they’d look to add another back in the middle rounds while retaining both Rice and Pierce.
Remember, Rice will still only be 27 by the time next season rolls around, and he’s got a very affordable salary remaining ($10 million spread over the next three seasons). Plus, it’d be foolish to throw in the towel on him after one poor season. This is still a guy who rushed for more than 1,100 yards each of the previous four seasons and has also been one of the more reliable receiving options for Baltimore with 369 receptions over the last six years.
Pierce will only be 24 by the time the 2014 season rolls around and also has a very amenable deal ($1.2 million over the next two seasons). And we shouldn’t be so quick to forget he averaged nearly five yards per carry last year spread out over more than a hundred carries.
It’s not like these two guys all of a sudden lost their ability to run the ball. No, the real culprit for the lack of rushing attack should be attributed to the porous offensive line which is exactly where the Ravens should be putting their focus in the draft.
The return of G Marshal Yanda and a healthy Kelechi Osemele will boost the line, but they have a lot of questions regarding what to do with the rest of the hogmollies. LT Eugene Monroe, who the Ravens traded for earlier this season, is a free agent, as is RT Michael Oher. Re-signing Monroe is much more likely than Oher, especially since the latter is looking to be paid amongst the highest in the league among right tackles.
They also need to figure out if C Gino Gradkowski and G/C A.Q. Shipley are in their long term plans — which they likely won’t be, at least in the case of Shipley. Gradkowski just completed his first full season of game action and could still have a backup role if the team decides they’re not ready to throw the towel in on him just yet.
Still, if the Ravens found a solid running back in the middle rounds that they like, by all means they should go for it. It’s not like I’m saying they should consciously ignore a good deal if they come across it. James Wilder (Florida State), Terrance West (Towson) and Jeremy Hill (LSU) all would be good fits in the Ravens’ scheme, and all are big, durable backs who would help a young and developing line look even better. Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) or Bishop Sankey (Washington) would be even better fits considering their well rounded games in the passing attack, but probably won’t be around past the second round.
Plus, adding a running back in the middle rounds would provide insurance in case the seasons Rice and Pierce just had weren’t aberrations and were actually indicative of things to come.