This past Saturday night, the Baltimore Ravens were stunned by the Tennessee Titans, eliminating them from the NFL playoffs and ending their promising season. The Titans’ 28-12 victory in Baltimore came as a massive surprise, as the Ravens were riding a 12-game winning streak and were the #1 seed in the AFC.
The Ravens experienced a historic season. Their 3,296 rushing yards were the most by any team in a single season. They finished with a 14-2 record and won the AFC North division, led by the league’s likely Most Valuable Player, Lamar Jackson. Baltimore also had 12 players named to the Pro Bowl, which ties the 1973 Miami Dolphins for the most Pro Bowl selections from a single team in a season. The Ravens’ Pro Bowl selections include Jackson, Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, Marshall Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Earl Thomas, Matt Judon, Morgan Cox, Patrick Richard, and Justin Tucker. Despite all the accolades, the 2019 season ended in utter disappointment.
They enter the 2020 season with roughly $35 million in cap space. However, they have a long list of unrestricted free agents such as Matt Judon, Michael Pierce, Jimmy Smith, Patrick Onwuasor, and Pernell McPhee. In addition to a litany of free agents, Baltimore will have to pay left tackle Ronnie Stanley a contract in the range of $17-18 million per year. The good news is that the Ravens can create additional cap space by releasing players such as Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. But, the budget will be fairly tight after signing cornerback Marcus Peters to a big contract extension. With that said, the Ravens will have to turn to the 2020 NFL Draft to address their team needs.
When it comes to team needs, what they need to remain a contender is quite easy to see. Inside linebacker, pass-rusher, wide receiver, and interior offensive line are the Ravens’ biggest holes. Despite picking at the end of round one with the 28th pick, they should be able to find an impact player who will make an immediate difference. Let’s take a look at three players that could help the Ravens take the next step in 2020.
Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Oklahoma Sooners
The Ravens have a long lineage of outstanding linebacker play, led by Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Last offseason, they did everything in their power to keep C.J. Mosley, but the Jets offered a deal that was too good to pass up. This created a big hole in the middle of the Ravens’ defense.
In Saturday’s loss to the Titans, Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort were awful. Derrick Henry had 195 yards rushing, setting the tone for the game, while the Ravens’ linebackers had no answers for him.
Luckily for Baltimore, Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is the perfect fit for their defense and should be available when they are on the clock. In an article I wrote in early December, I detailed the traits that make Murray special. He is a physically imposing stud who possesses the speed, instincts, and intelligence to be a game-changing linebacker at the next level. His play recognition is impressive, and he will hit you with a vengeance. You will hear the cliche, “Play like a Raven”, and that is a box that Murray checks. Not only is his play on the field something that fits the Ravens’ mold, but his leadership and passion also do as well.
As seen in the clip below, Murray plays with relentless pursuit and does a good job of staying clean from blockers:
Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray is having a huge game so far. Look at that range to make this play. pic.twitter.com/01eOrqrXoq
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) October 12, 2019
Murray is a top-25 player in the 2020 NFL Draft and would be a perfect selection for the Baltimore Ravens. He would be an instant plug-and-play piece in their defense and fill the team’s biggest need.
Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama Crimson Tide
Having a solid edge-defender has been instrumental for the Ravens’ success since their inception into the league in 1996. However, they do not have a player under contract that will carry on that tradition. The Ravens couldn’t afford to keep Za’Darius Smith last offseason, so he went to the Green Bay Packers and had an All-Pro season. In addition to losing Smith, a long term defensive stalwart for the Ravens, Terrell Suggs left the organization to become an Arizona Cardinal. Baltimore will struggle to keep Matt Judon this offseason, as his price tag might be tough for Baltimore to swallow. In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Ravens selected EDGE-rusher Jaylon Ferguson, and his play in 2019 was pedestrian, at best. To say the Ravens need a plan to address this need is quite the understatement.
There will be a few impact EDGE-defenders available when the Ravens are on the clock in the 2020 Draft, such as Curtis Weaver (Boise State), Julian Okwara (Notre Dame), and Jonathan Greenard (Florida). But, it is a school with which Baltimore is very familiar that might give them their best option. The Ravens have long been linked to the Alabama Crimson Tide, as recently retired General Manager Ozzie Newsome played his college ball there and had a rolodex filled with contacts from Bama.
When it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft, Alabama pass-rusher Terrell Lewis is a player whose stock is on the rise. When it comes to rushing the passer, Lewis is the total package, as he is explosive, flexible, and plays with a tremendous motor. Physically, he looks the part. He has long arms, strong hands, and it’s evident that he spends a good amount of time in the weight room.
In the clip below, you will see how Lewis’ violent hands allow him to discard the blocker and explode to the quarterback for a sack:
Terrell Lewis is a bad man. pic.twitter.com/YVgSEzMJu9
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) October 20, 2019
Lewis is extremely quick and twitchy. This is highlighted in the clip below, and it’s worth noting that the quarterback who he brings down is the very athletic Kellen Mond from Texas A&M:
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) January 7, 2020
The only reason that Lewis will still be available when it’s the Ravens turn to make a selection in the 2020 NFL Draft is that he comes with some injury concerns. He tore his ACL in 2018. However, his play in 2019 shows that the injury didn’t cause him to lose any of his explosiveness. Lewis would be a homerun draft selection for the Baltimore Ravens.
Tyler Biadasz, Center, Wisconsin Badgers
Drafting an interior offensive line won’t make for a sexy pick. However, the Ravens have built their identity by building in the trenches. Rumors are swirling that Ravens’ Marshall Yanda might retire this offseason, and their center Matt Skura is coming off of a significant injury. Interior offensive line is certainly a need for Baltimore, even more so when you consider the offense that offensive coordinator Greg Roman is running.
Tyler Biadasz is the best interior offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. He comes with the Wisconsin pedigree, meaning he is a mean, tough, and strong mauler. He plays with a nasty streak and with power, allowing him to move defenders with ease.
One wart when it comes to Biadasz is that his play in 2019 was nowhere near as good as his level of play in 2018. One reason for this could be that both starting offensive guards from 2018 went on to the NFL. With solid coaching, there is no doubt that he can return to the elite player he was in 2018.
Biadasz is extremely athletic. The clip below will give you a glimpse of his athleticism, as he pulls and blocks two Michigan defenders:
— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) October 14, 2018
There are times when Biadasz simply dominates the line of scrimmage. The clip below will highlight his ability to bully defenders:
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) July 18, 2019
Biadasz is one of those players that will enter the league and play at a Pro Bowl level for the next decade. The run-happy Ravens could use a bully like him to take their offensive line to the next level.
Whether it’s Murray, Lewis, or Biadasz, the Ravens would be getting a player that could immediately make them better. There is little doubt that the Ravens will be contending for an AFC Championship in 2020, and it will be key for them to continue to draft well.