Now that the Baltimore Ravens are officially more concerned about their 2014 season than they are about the disappointment the 2013 season was, the focus shifts to the 2014 NFL draft. The draft is the team’s first chance to begin looking toward improvement to get back to the playoffs next year.
One of the worst aspects of the Ravens in 2013 was the disgusting play of their offensive line. In fact, the majority of the Ravens’ offensive line ranked at the bottom of their respective positions according to Pro Football Focus. Joe Flacco’s 2013 season was down in comparison to what we’re used to seeing, but a lot of it was not his fault.
Flacco’s 22 interceptions and 30 total turnovers were a career-high for him in 2013 in his six years as a pro. Sure, he’s prone to make some bad decisions every now and again, but one of the biggest reasons for his step back this season was the fact that his offensive line play was arguably the worst of his career as well.
The biggest struggle for the Ravens’ offense in 2013 was without question their 30th-ranked rushing attack. Having a back like Ray Rice with a backup like Bernard Pierce, the Ravens have no excuse not to run the ball well — except for, you guessed it, poor offensive line play. Baltimore needs to turn their run game around in a hurry prior to the 2014 season, and it begins in the draft.
The Ravens have to flip a coin to find out whether they have the 17th or 18th pick in this year’s first round, but either way they may have a shot to draft a guy like Taylor Lewan, depending on how the first half of the draft shakes out. The Michigan offensive tackle didn’t begin playing his current position until his senior year, but there is a reason he’s ranked as one of the top linemen in the draft.
Lewan is 6’7” and has put on 50 pounds since his senior year in high school, now lining up at 315 pounds. He has quick feet, enabling him to play on either side of the line but, more importantly, he can play the left side if needed. Lewan used to play defensive line, which is where his mean and nasty style of play comes from.
One of the best aspects of Lewan is his ability and drive to win his one-on-one battles on the line. Playing offensive line requires you to focus on beating your man, and if everyone on the line can do that, you’re going to find success. Lewan takes his individual battles seriously and knows how to win them. Fortunately for Flacco, Lewan also keeps his head on a swivel — which is an ideal trait of a left tackle.
If the Ravens see Lewan available at the 17th or 18th pick, which very well could happen, they should think long and hard about drafting this guy. He would be a great start to their 2014 draft class and could come in right away and make a difference in what was a true weakness in Baltimore this past season.