After NFL draft, offensive line remains Ravens' biggest weakness

Team added two players who will make an immediate impact, but it didn't fix most pressing need

May 11, 2014|Mike Preston

An average football team had an average draft.

The Ravens came away from the annual event held over the weekend with nine rookies, but only two — linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Terrence Brooks — will have immediate impact. A third, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, could make this draft a little bit more special.

Ideally, the Ravens wanted to draft a quality offensive tackle or guard. They did get better on defense, but the biggest weakness from a year ago is still a major problem.

The Ravens gave us the usual glee talk after the draft about how they filled most of their needs, but who is going to play right tackle in 2014?

Will left guard Kelechi Osemele completely recover from back surgery? If he does, will he play guard or right tackle? Is Ravens coach John Harbaugh serious about starting second-year player Rick Wagner or Jah Reid at right tackle, or did he just not watch some game tape from a year ago?

That's one of the reasons the Ravens had an average draft. They didn't get better where they really needed to improve. They got help for a defense that was ranked No. 12 last season, but not protection for a quarterback who was sacked 48 times in 2013.

In all honesty, there wasn't much the Ravens could do about it. Of the eight picks they had entering the draft, four were compensatory and couldn't be traded.

They couldn't wheel and deal much, couldn't move up or drop. While they had a lot of offensive players ranked high in the draft, basically all they could do was sit and wait at their allotted slots and hope someone fell to them.

The Ravens couldn't draft Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin because the Dallas Cowboys took him one pick before they chose at No. 17 overall. Martin was the last of the great tackles to go early in the draft, and there was a huge dropoff between him and the rest of field.

Some of the blame goes to the Ravens, who handcuffed themselves last season when they traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for left tackle Eugene Monroe.

The Ravens probably had some offensive players rated near the defensive players they drafted, but general manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't like to reach often. He believes in taking the best player available.

But maybe this time he could have "reached" for an offensive lineman a little like he did in 1998, when he took the University of Miami's Duane Starks at No. 10 overall. Starks went on to start at cornerback on the Ravens' first Super Bowl team.

Instead, the Ravens selected three straight defensive players in the opening rounds this weekend. They made a good choice in selecting Alabama's Mosley in the first round, and he'll add some necessary speed in the middle. Brooks, the third-round pick out of Florida State, is interchangeable at safety; physical enough to play around the line of scrimmage and rangy enough to play on the back end in pass coverage.

Jernigan was somewhat of a reach because he comes with baggage. He seems to find trouble, or trouble finds him. Jernigan is in the mold of Chris McAlister or Sergio Kindle, and he is going to need a lot of tutoring and supervision.

If he matures, Jernigan can become a great run-stopper. If not, the Ravens might have another second-round failure on their hands, like Kindle, or a part-time player, like Terrence Cody.

The rest of the Ravens' draft picks are basically projects who hopefully can contribute on special teams this season. That doesn't give one a lot of hope for the immediate future.

But here is hoping that Wagner is having a beast of an offseason, and that Reid has become more athletic. Let's hope veteran wide receiver Steve Smith has something left in the tank and both tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels, remain healthy.

Let's hope that Gary Kubiak can bring the same magic to Baltimore that he brought to Denver, when he was the Broncos offensive coordinator, and he can make quarterback Joe Flacco more accurate in his West Coast offense.

And let's wish the Ravens trade for an offensive tackle.

"We're not done as far as building this football team," Newsome said about the offensive line.

Let's hope not. We all thought that was going to change in the draft. It didn't.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

Mike Preston's draft grade

Final grade: C

Analysis: The Ravens added defensive help, but they didn't get any much-needed muscle for the offensive line. Safety Terrence Brooks, out of Florida State, might end up being the best player in the team's 2014 draft class.

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