Ravens draft preview: With the help of the necessary offensive line, it’s time to think big

The countdown to the NFL draft is on.

The first round begins April 27 in Kansas City, but until then, the Ravens have a lot to figure out. In particular, the deadlock in his contract with star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has requested a trade while under the $32.4 million non-exclusive franchise tag. If he gets his wish, the Ravens’ draft could look very different.

Baltimore owns five picks: Nos. 22 (first round), 86 (third round), 124 (fourth round), 157 (fifth round) and 199 (sixth round). A successful deal for Jackson would significantly increase the size of that haul, but the Ravens are guaranteed at least one additional first round this year if Jackson signs a pre-draft offer with another team and Baltimore refuses to match it.

As we get closer to the draft, The Baltimore Sun will be examining which players at each position of need (attack player, the wide receiver, cornerback, defensive line, edge runner and offensive line) could be available in the early, mid and late rounds when the Ravens are on the clock.

With the return of Ronnie Stanley and the addition of Morgan Moses and Tyler Linderbaum last year, the Ravens’ offensive line was once again a strength. But with the departure of Ben Powers in free agency, there will be yet another competition at left guard. While there are already promising candidates on the roster, the Ravens could look to the draft to find not only a potential starter, but perhaps a young building block to eventually take over at tackle.

Here’s a look at some of the possibilities:

Early: Ohio State’s Dawand Jones

As for Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence, who is widely considered the best guard prospect in this draft, it would be a bit difficult for the Ravens to select an interior lineman with the No. 22 overall pick. Taking an intriguing tackle prospect as Jones could be wiser.

At 6-foot-8 and 374 pounds with 36 3/8-inch arms and a Senior Bowl-record wingspan of 7-foot-6, Jones would immediately be one of the most imposing players in the NFL as a rookie. A former Division I basketball recruit, the Indianapolis native became a two-year starter at right tackle for the Buckeyes, earning second-team All-America honors as a senior. A dominant run blocker, Jones has also shown the potential to be a top-tier pass protector, allowing just five pressures in 419 pass-blocking plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Of course, that size comes with its limitations. Analysts say Jones plays on slow feet and has a hard time keeping his balance and redirecting his weight when he blocks. He, too, has taken 16 penalties over the past two seasons, including five false starts in 2022. His quick sets have helped him get an early lead on pass protection, but occasionally he can jump in too early. Pass rushers and twisty stunts, in which defenders switch assignments or spaces after the snap to confuse the offensive line and create mismatches, could take advantage of Jones’ athletic limitations.

The 21-year-old is considered a work in progress, but after the selection of 6-9, 380-pound Daniel Faalele and 6-6, 357-pound Ben Cleveland in recent drafts, the Ravens are clearly interested in molding a player with rare size. Jones has also drawn comparisons to Orlando Brown Jr., who became a two-time Pro Bowl selection in Baltimore before being traded. With questions lingering about Stanley’s durability and Moses turning 32 last month, it might be time to start planning for the future at tackle.

Middle: Braeden Daniels of Utah

The Ravens likely won’t call their mid- or late-round picks to play right away unless one of their starters suffers an unforeseen injury. That should give them time to develop an up-and-coming player like Daniels, who could become their right tackle of the future.

As a three-year starter at Utah, Daniels played 17 games at left guard, 14 at left tackle, and 12 at right tackle, earning 12 first-team All-Pac honors as a senior guarding the blindside. He was remarkably consistent at all three spots, allowing just five sacks in nearly 1,400 pass-blocking plays during his college career, according to PFF. Utah coaches told The Athletic’s Dane Brugler that Daniels has also snapped the ball up the middle in practice and was the vocal leader of the offensive line. He didn’t miss a game during his four college seasons.

While the 6-3 Daniels weighed in at just 294 pounds at the NFL scouts’ combine, he increased to 307 pounds for his pro day. He performed well in the athletic tests, ranked in the 80th percentile or better among offensive linemen since 1999 in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, three-cone drill, vertical jump, and long jump, but he could handle adding more mass and strength at the next level. His footwork and technique also need more refinement, analysts say, and his small hands (9 3/8 inches) are a handicap when it comes to hitting and holding blocks.

With proper coaching and strength training, Daniels could emerge as a reliable swing tackle with the versatility to play all five positions. If he meets his development goals, he could take over a starting job in the near future.

Late: Ryan Hayes of Michigan

It wouldn’t be a proper Ravens draft without a Michigan player, right?

The 6-6, 298-pound Hayes was a two-year starter at left tackle for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors for a unit that won back-to-back Joe Moore Awards for best offensive line in baseball. college football. The former high school tight end is noted for his impeccable technique, as he’s only received six career penalties from him in the past four seasons, including one as a senior.

What makes him a Day 3 pick is the lack of the desired length and weight, especially for his height. He ranks in the fifth percentile by weight among offensive line prospects since 1999, according to MockDraftable, and in the sixth percentile for arm length (32 1/2 inches). While he performed above average in athletic tests, including a 7.39-second elite three-cone drill that ranked third among offensive linemen in the scouting combination, he has been criticized for his lack of game strength. . NFL-caliber pass-rushers could overwhelm Hayes at the point of attack.

Still, there’s a lot to like about the 23-year-old Michigan native as a potential late-round midfielder. His experience at the primary offensive line position for one of the nation’s top programs is remarkable, with analysts praising his movement efficiency and ability to get to the second tier in the running game. Powers went from a fourth-round afterthought to a highly sought-after free agent during his time in Baltimore. Perhaps Hayes could follow a similar path.

nfl draft

Thursday April 27 to Saturday April 29



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