First Round draftee C.J. Mosley
Once again, the seemingly all-knowing draft experts have shown us that they really know nothing; the Baltimore Ravens went against expectations in making their first three draft picks for the defense. The only offensive selection was for a tight end which, by they way, is a position that already holds two pro-bowlers.
Crocket Gillmore was the aforementioned tight end drafted, and was part of a group of five offensive players taken by the Ravens in the 2014 NFL Draft. Each offensive player taken came out of the third round or later, each for a different position on the team, and the likelihood that any would make an instant impact is fairly slim.
The only offensive position the Baltimore Ravens did not go after was offensive tackle. More precisely, right tackle, a position that was held by the departed Michael Oher. Yet not a single rookie was drafted for that position by the Ravens. Obviously the brass did not like what was left in the draft regarding the tackle prospects after the top one left the board. Of most interest was the selection of the Dallas Cowboys; Zack Martin left the board just one selection above the Ravens. It makes one wonder; had Dallas not selected Martin, would the Ravens still have gone with C.J. Mosley as the 17th overall pick?
With Martin off the board as the fourth offensive tackle taken, Ricky Wagner’s day could not have gone better. As it stands, Wagner will have no competition as a second-year player, and looks to have the inside track to start at the right tackle position come game time in September.
Although Wagner is still an unproven commodity, Ravens fans should feel better with him at the position as opposed to Jah Reid or any other career backups left on the roster. There is also still the possibility of free agency bring in someone if Wagner struggles through camp. Eric Winston is a name that keeps popping up now and again. Winston played under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston and is currently a journeyman, so don’t be surprised if he is brought in for competition.
Even though right tackle is the most glaring post-draft need for the Ravens, it is still not the only position of need left in Baltimore. The running back depth chart is still thin, despite the Ravens selecting Lorenzo Taliaferro in the fourth round. The reason for the issue lies mostly on the back of Ray Rice, as his domestic violence case has only brought uncertainty to the team. The only reason the NFL has not felt the need to dish out a punishment is mainly due to the fact that the case is still being played out. The punishment, however, will most likely be in the form of a multi-game suspension. Unfortunately for the Ravens, it will come during the intra-divisional stretch of the first three games in 2014.
If Rice does get the mandatory vacation, Bernard Pierce will become the lead running back. In 2012 Pierce drew a lot of attention when he outplayed Rice in December. Since then, Pierce has found himself in the mediocre realm as injuries and poor blocking schemes have rendered him ineffective. A disappointing 436 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2013 did not help his advancement in the eyes of the coaching staff.
Hope does remain that the new scheme of Kubiak’s will make life easier for both Pierce and Rice. Nevertheless, the addition of Taliaferro adds a tough yardage gainer to the rotation. More often the not, a fourth rounder isn’t called up early but if Rice does manage to find himself sitting at home early on and for an extended period of time, Taliaferro could become a very important piece of the offense.
Even though both rushers are important, the one that gets forgotten is the fullback. The unnecessary luxury of Vonta Leach is no longer with the team. Kyle Juszyczyk now looks to be the starter at the role in his second year. He is known to be the typical H-back type of receiver but can he be tough nosed as well?
Every good running scheme is highly dependent on the guys upfront blocking. With three new faces joining the line (Jeremy Zuttah at center, Wagner most likely at left guard and Kelechi Osemele at right tackle), the line seems to be set. With an average of 3.1 yards per carry last season and 83 yards per game, this can only be a good thing as the aim is to improve the awful rush offense from a year ago.
Sure, these questions are troubling now, but keep in mind that it is still only May. There is still plenty of time before kickoff to solve most of these problems or even add another impact player. There have also been undrafted free agents like Justin Tucker and Marlon Brown that can step up in many ways. There was clearly a reason for the Ravens to draft like they did and it is exciting to think of all the possibilities that could befall them as they start their new NFL careers.