If there was one NFL team that needed a big draft, it was the Baltimore Ravens. However, the reason for this is not a negative one. In fact, quite the contrary. With an excellent offseason regarding free agent acquisitions, the Ravens needed to continue their positive momentum swing through the draft to keep up with the rest of the AFC powerhouses.
Luckily for Baltimore fans out there, the franchise not only cashed in with a good draft, but a great one, at that. In this article, I investigate each draft selection Baltimore made and grade it based on how it impacts the team. Here you have it.
Round 1, pick 27: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Everyone knows how lethal quarterback Lamar Jackson can be to opposing defenses. While this is practically a fact when it comes to his legs, his performance with the arm is more open to interpretation. Potential long-term accuracy concerns aside, Jackson needed more weapons that could help him open the field more. With the addition of Bateman, Jackson now has a more traditional down-the-field receiver in his arsenal who can run every lane in the route tree. While Bateman only played five games with the Golden Gophers last season, the potential is there. After all, look at his 2020 season. Even if he does not stick as a WR1 in the long-term, he is an asset who lengthens the field and diversifies what the QB can do. With Jackson at the helm, the opportunities are endless.
Round 1, pick 31: Odafe Oweh, LB, Penn State
Baltimore received this selection after trading away offensive tackle Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs on Apr. 23. With it, they decided to enhance an area ripe with turnover in their front seven. Oweh’s strength (aside from playing with star linebacker Micah Parsons) is his adaptability– he can play in a traditional linebacker role, take snaps on the edge and quickly read what the opposing offense is doing on the drop of a dime. Playing alongside Patrick Queen and Jaylon Ferguson will only gift Oweh with more perspectives once he inevitably finds his way into Baltimore’s defensive front. Baltimore will be pleased with how this player turns out. What team wouldn’t? Versatility was never a bad thing.
Round 3, pick 94: Ben Cleveland, OG, Georgia
Cleveland was primarily a right guard during his five-year tenure with the Bulldogs. With Kevin Zeitler currently holding tabs on this position, Cleveland will take reps at left guard with the opportunity to start there as early as this season. It will be a transition away from the norm for the Toccoa, Georgia native, but his size, capability to open rushing holes and protect the passing attack is an excellent combination for Baltimore’s dual threat-heavy offense. Keep an eye on Cleveland in the ensuing months – despite being a third-round pick, he could take off very quickly.
Round 3, pick 104: Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU
Let’s cut to the chase. It will be difficult for the former UCLA Bruin in Stephens to start right away in Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme. The talent and coverage capabilities are there, but with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters already stable and well-versed in the system, Stephens will more than likely take a supplementary role once camps conclude and NFL action officially begins. The Mustang product might not bring much bang for the buck (he only collected one interception in 23 career games at SMU and zero in 16 games at UCLA), but he is a depth option for a Baltimore defensive core that can use all the personnel it can get.
Round 4, pick 131: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
If you want an explosive pass-catcher with the potential to provide a plethora of good value, Wallace is the one for you. The former Cowboy was not shy to catching the ball and piling up the yard totals – in 37 career games at Oklahoma State, Wallace amassed 3,434 yards, averaged 16.8 yards per reception and tallied 26 total touchdowns. With these gaudy numbers, it is no wonder why he was once a Biletnikoff Award finalist (2018). Now, Jackson can throw dimes to him. Think of the possibilities. Once the dust settles, this selection might be one of the steals in the entire draft. And Baltimore nabbed him in the fourth round.
Round 5, pick 160: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
This selection is similar to the one involving Stephens. Wade is not expected to start right away, but he should be able to slot into the defensive back role as a depth option now and potentially start in the future. What Baltimore particularly fancies are interceptions and passes deflected. In 35 career games with the Buckeyes, Wade amassed six interceptions and 25 passes deflected. The ability to deflect and intercept the ball is pivotal in what is a pass-heavy conference and league entirely. In due time, Wade could show everyone exactly what he can do to prevent any long balls from connecting. Patience.
Round 5, pick 171: Daelin Hayes, DE, Notre Dame
After being a durable force to start off his career with the Fighting Irish, Hayes suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during the 2019 season after playing four games. However, Hayes was able to rebound and play in all 12 games during the 2020 campaign. He might eventually slot over to another defensive position, but as of right now, Hayes will be another defensive depth piece that will only enhance a gritty front seven. Should he stay healthy and get playing time, though, he should be an aggressive piece capable of chalking together tackles (he tallied 95 total tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss in 53 games played at Notre Dame).
Round 5, pick 184: Ben Mason, FB, Michigan
Generally, selecting a fullback might not net the highest grade in terms of draft selections. Keep in mind what Baltimore’s MO on offense is – run, run and run (with some passes sprinkled in, of course). Giving Jackson (and the running backs) another pass-blocking option only enhances what the offense has been in years previous, and what will continue to primarily be moving forward. This might not be the flashiest of draft picks, but Baltimore tends to hit on late-round selections. They seem to know a thing or two, so we should all give some benefit of the doubt.
Sure, the Ravens did not have a gluttony of draft selections, but boy, did they still turn out OK with this draft pool. They supplemented the defense, added more variety to the offense on the pass-catching side and additionally added in a couple high-upside depth options. Every pick will find a way to strengthen an already strong roster, which will only preserve Baltimore’s position atop the upper echelon of the NFL.
Overall grade: A-