Heading into last year’s playoffs, there wasn’t a hotter team in the NFL than the Baltimore Ravens. They owned a 14-2 record, winning the AFC North Division and earning the top seed in the AFC. Ozzie Newsome’s final first-round pick as general manager was magnificent, selecting quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick.
Jackson was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2019 and has redefined the modern-day quarterback. The Ravens entered the playoffs as the favorite to win Super Bowl LIV, but that was quickly proven wrong, as Baltimore was completely embarrassed at home by the Ryan Tannehill led Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoff round.
The Ravens offense and Jackson, who played spectacular in the regular season, played poorly. However, it was the defense that really let them down. Titans running back Derrick Henry ran through the Baltimore defense like a knife cutting through hot butter. It was made crystal clear during free agency that the Baltimore front office was focused on enhancing their front-seven on the defensive side of the ball to prevent the embarrassment that occurred in the playoffs from happening again.
The Ravens made one of the first splashes of the 2020 NFL offseason when they traded a fifth-round selection in the draft for Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Campbell has been one of the NFL’s best defenders for almost a decade. Of course, he is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro and will be 34-years old when the 2020 season starts. However, he is a major upgrade to the Baltimore defensive front.
Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t stop there, as they signed former Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. While Wolfe has battled injuries the last couple of seasons, he has the traits that personify “playing like a Raven”. The additions of Campbell and Wolfe should drastically improve Baltimore’s run defense.
Team Needs: OL, EDGE, LB, WR
The 2019 NFL Draft was the first for DeCosta as the general manager of the Ravens. Before taking over as GM, DeCosta spent years as the sidekick to the legendary Newsome, but 2019 was his turn to run the show. With his first pick, DeCosta selected the electrifying Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to be a weapon for their star quarterback. Although we didn’t see jaw-dropping production from Brown, we saw glimpses of a future superstar. While that was a major positive for the organization, DeCosta failed to build solid depth in the trenches, which is something that will need to be addressed in the 2020 draft.
The Ravens are tasked with replacing future Hall of Fame offensive guard Marshall Yanda, who announced his retirement at the start of the 2020 season. Despite his age and injury battles, Yanda was the Ravens’ best offensive linemen in 2019, and his retirement leaves a major hole to fill.
The Ravens slapped the franchise tag on Matt Judon, which temporarily gives them an upper-echelon pass-rusher, but does Baltimore count on him being their long term? If not, the cupboard is bare when it comes to pass-rusher for the Ravens. This is an area where they need more production in 2020.
Finally, it would be wise for the Ravens to continue to stockpile receiving weapons for the reigning league MVP. NFL defenses will do their best to adjust to Jackson’s game, and for him to sustain the success he had in 2019, he will need to continue his evolution as a passer.
Round 1, Pick 28: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
If you’re a fan of the Ravens, you are probably scratching your head and asking yourself, “We just had the best rushing attack in 2019. Why in the world would you give the Ravens a running back in round one?” It’s not a bad question, but what if I told you that the lethal running game of the Ravens could be even better by adding a new dimension, such as Georgia’s stalwart D’Andre Swift?
Swift is an extremely different runner than Mark Ingram. Swift is explosive and a big-play threat, while Ingram is the type of player that can consistently eat 5 yards at a clip. In fact, this is a scenario with which Ingram is quite familiar. Ingram played in the backfield with Alvin Kamara when he was a member of the New Orleans Saints, and the best NFL comparison for Swift is Kamara. NFL defenses would be in big trouble if they were tasked to stop a Baltimore running game featuring Jackson, Ingram, and Swift.
One thing that has led to the Ravens being one of the most successful teams in the league when it comes to the draft over the last 20 years is their willingness to take the best player available over filling a position of need. There is no doubt that when the Ravens are on the clock with the 28th pick, the best player on the board will be star running back Swift.
Round 2, Pick 55: Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
As I mentioned above, priority number one for the Baltimore Ravens should be finding a replacement for Yanda. Enter Lloyd Cushenberry, who is one of the best interior linemen prospects in the 2020 draft. He is strong, plays with tremendous length, and excels in pass protection. He offers versatility, possessing the ability to line up at either guard spots or center. Also, Cushenberry is well-respected by his teammates, as he oozes leadership qualities.
The beauty of this pick is that Cushenberry is a true plug-and-play prospect. You can count on him winning a starting position on day one and being penciled in for the next decade. This big, battle-tested center instantly makes the Ravens’ offensive line better.
Round 2, Pick 60: Josh Uche, Edge, Michigan
Whether the Ravens sign Judon to a long term extension or not, pass-rusher is one of the organization’s biggest needs. In 2019, they spent a second-round selection on Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson. Ferguson had a quiet rookie season, and while it would be foolish to discount him as a potential impact player, it would be equally foolish to depend on him as one of the players that will effectively chase the opposing quarterback.
Josh Uche is explosive off of the edge and should serve as a successful pass-rush specialist at the next level. He won’t give you much in run defense, as that is not his game. He wins by beating offensive tackles with his quick initial step and his speed on the edge. If there is one person that could give Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh any inside information on Uche, it would be his brother and Michigan Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Round 3, Pick 92: Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
The Ravens added a speedy receiver last year when they selected Brown in the first round of the 2019 Draft. They also selected the big, physical Miles Boykin in the third round of the same draft. With that said, the Ravens still need more out of the wide receiver position to balance their offense.
Gabe Davis is one of the most underrated players in the entire 2020 draft. He is coming off a stellar 2019 season for the University of Central Florida, as he hauled in 72 receptions for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a big, physical receiver who comes with good fluidity and ball skills. Davis is the perfect complement to “Hollywood” Brown and should bolster the Ravens’ passing attack immediately.
Round 3, Pick 106: Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
If you asked a majority of Ravens’ fans what the team’s biggest need in the 2020 Draft is, the answer you would hear most is linebacker. The teams’ starters, L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes, were horrendous in the Ravens’ devastating playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Jacob Phillips possesses a great combination of size and physicality that will make him feel right at home in Baltimore. He does a tremendous job at filling gaps and shedding blockers. He is a sound tackler, playing with tremendous technique. He needs some work, but there is no doubt that in time, Phillips will find himself starting in the middle of the Baltimore defense.
Round 4, Pick 129: Jonah Jackson, OL, Ohio State
Remember when I said the Ravens have made taking a best-player-available approach their identity when it comes to the draft? Well, they take that approach here and land another high-quality interior offensive lineman that possesses immediate starter potential.
Jonah Jackson spent four seasons at Rutgers before transferring to Ohio State. Much like Cushenberry, Jackson has the versatility to play center or guard. He is reliable, durable, and gets to the second level with ease. With Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown, Jr. on the outside and an interior offensive line consisting of Matt Skura, Cushenberry, and Jackson, the Ravens might just have one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Round 4, Pick 134: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Ravens have one of the league’s best cornerback tandems in Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. Also, they have their brilliant nickel-cornerback Tavon Young returning from injury and were able to sign Jimmy Smith to a one-year extension. Baltimore is loaded at the cornerback position, but that doesn’t stop them from taking the best player available.
There was a time when Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall was widely considered a first-round prospect. He suffered a significant ankle injury in 2019, ending his collegiate career, which has ultimately hurt his draft stock. The Ravens can redshirt him for a season and develop him. If handled correctly, we could look back in five years and conclude this pick as one of the biggest steals of the 2020 draft.
Round 5, Pick 170: Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
The tight end combination of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle is a very good one. The third wheel, Hayden Hurst, was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round pick. So, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea for the Ravens to add to the unit.
Thaddeus Moss, the son of former NFL great Randy Moss, burst onto the scene during the College Football Playoff. He is a well-rounded player, possessing the ability to block and provide a significant red zone threat. This is a low risk, high reward selection that could pay huge dividends for Baltimore.
Round 7, Pick 225: Shaq Quarterman, LB, Miami
Linebackers from the University of Miami have done well for the Baltimore Ravens. While Shaq Quarterman is a far cry from Ray Lewis, there is a position for him in today’s NFL.
Quarterman is a tremendous leader and a good football player but lacks the speed and athleticism needed to be a three-down player at the next level. With that said, he has traits to be a productive run stopper and spot starter for the Ravens.