The Baltimore Ravens managed to make it back to the playoffs in 2018, but with that success comes added expectations. To keep things going on a positive trajectory, the team is going to need to address several positions during the NFL draft that’s set to take place later this month.
Baltimore is picking No. 22 overall and has a total of eight selections this year. The Ravens don't have a second-round pick (was part of the deal with Philadelphia last year that got Baltimore back into the first round so they could take Lamar Jackson) but do have two in both the third and fourth rounds.
So with five of the first 123 picks, here are some players who could be on Baltimore's radar in the early rounds this year:
1. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens could use a physical, athletically gifted wide receiver Brown. At this point in Lamar Jackson’s career, he’s not going to be a guy who’s asked to push the ball downfield frequently. That means that finding another weapon that can excel in the middle of the field — and underneath — is an absolute must.
Baltimore hasn't had that sort of physically imposing wideout since Anquan Boldin was causing terror to opposing defenses from 2010-12. After seeing the success that JuJu Smith-Schuster has found during his time in Pittsburgh, the Ravens would be wise to target a similarly skilled prospect in Round 1.
If not Brown, then maybe Baltimore targets a guy like N’Keal Harry. The Arizona State product wins in a much different way than Brown, but he’d at least add some top-tier talent to a position group that’s lacking in that department.
2. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
The days of Ozzie Newsome calling the shots have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean that the former general manager’s opinion will be ignored come draft day. This is one of those situations where that opinion might come in handy.
Wilson isn’t the same caliber of prospect that C.J. Mosley was coming out of Alabama — at least not at this point in his career. Wilson still possesses a skill set that could allow him to develop into a high-quality, impact linebacker on the next level.
With Mosley now in New York after signing a five-year, $85 million deal with the Jets in free agency, the linebacking corps is in a state of transition. Current options include Patrick Onwuasor, 2018 fourth-round pick Kenny Young, and newly signed Matthew Thomas, but it's pretty clear this group needs more talent. If Wilson is still available late in the second round, a trade up may be warranted to ensure he comes to Baltimore.
3. Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A&M
Baltimore lacking a second-round pick is going to really hurt this year. The amount of talent that can be had between picks No. 33 and 64 is substantial. That’s a major reason why some sort of trade down could be in the cards — if the front office can find a suitable trade partner.
If new GM Eric Decosta is able to trade back into the late 20s while picking up a few extra picks, a player such as McCoy could be an excellent option. No, the offensive lineman out of Texas A&M isn’t a “sexy” pick, but he fills a major need that seems to have been neglected over the last few years.
Teaming McCoy up with Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda, and Orlando Brown Jr. would help give Jackson some much-improved protection heading into the 2019 season.
4. D'Andre Walker, EDGE, Georgia
It’s possible that Decosta and the rest of Baltimore’s front office decide to go with an edge rusher in the first round. After all, future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, combined for 15.5 sacks last season, both left via free agency. Based off where the Ravens are currently picking, it’s likely that they’d have to reach on a guy in order to fill that role, however.
Another option could be waiting until the third round to see what’s available. In some ways, Walker is exactly the type of player who could find himself in a starting role as a rookie. The Georgia product’s ability to set the edge against the run would automatically help his case, but he also possesses plus traits as a pass rusher — although, he’s still developing in that area.
Either way, Walker is a guy who’d fit nicely in Baltimore — should the team choose to wait on adding another pass rusher to the mix.
5. Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
Wide receiver is arguably the Ravens’ biggest need entering the draft. Last year’s starters, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, are both gone after only one season in Baltimore. As if that wasn’t enough, there are too many unknowns when it comes to guys like Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, who didn't contribute much as rookies.
In other words, Baltimore is going to need to add at least one or two receivers in this draft. If the Ravens choose to go with a vertical field-stretcher such as Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, they will still need a big, physical presence in the slot.
In some formations, that will role will be handled by second-year tight end Mark Andrews. But a guy like Hurd could still be a valuable addition late on Day 2. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound running back-turned-receiver is still learning the nuances of the position, but he’s shown enough in his one season to warrant a selection late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
The big-bodied receiver would do well as a threat out of the slot, in the red zone and in short-yardage situations as a running back. That versatility could be extremely beneficial for an offensive mind like new coordinator Greg Roman.
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.