The Baltimore Ravens are certainly interested in drafting at several positions, but pass rusher seems to be their main focus.
I mean, they’re watching everybody at every position at the Combine, but they are putting their laser-stare attention on those edge guys.
Clifton Brown of BaltimoreRavens.com agrees:
“If it happens in the first round, or on Day 3, adding someone who can harass the quarterback on a regular basis is on the Ravens’ to-do list as they continue to evaluate prospects at the NFL Combine. The status of the team’s best pass rusher, outside linebacker Matthew Judon is uncertain as he approaches free agency, and even if the Ravens retain Judon via the franchise tag or a long-term deal, they are consistently looking for pass rushers to add.”
Defensive linemen and linebackers will be doing on-field workouts Saturday in Indianapolis, and Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta expects to see a host of players he likes.
“The challenge for us will be to find the right guys at the right spot in the draft,” DeCosta said. “We think it’s a good year. We’re always looking at these defensive ends, undersized defensive ends in college, 4-3 defensive ends that we can convert to outside linebacker. We see those type of guys. But we’re also looking at some guys that we can play five technique that can rush the passer as well. We’re also looking at the three technique, the disruptive guys who can rush as a defensive tackle. We’re trying to find guys that can get after the quarterback.”
“They’ve had a great track record of finding pass rushers late in the draft,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.
The Ravens may not wait that long this year, especially if Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is still on the board when Baltimore picks at No. 28. Gross-Metos measured 6-foot-5, 266 pounds with an 82-inch wingspan at the combine, and an impressive combine workout would help solidify his status as a potential first-round pick.
Baltimore was encouraged by the rookie season of outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who finished with 2 ½ sacks and 31 tackles last season. Adding Gross-Metos to a pass rushing mix with Judon, Ferguson and Tyus Bowser (five sacks) would give Baltimore a start on improving a pass rush that produced 37 sacks last season, to rank 21st among the NFL’s 32 teams.
“If you look at great defenses they historically do three things – they can rush the passer, can cover and can stop the run,” DeCosta said. “We really do believe all three of those things are really important. We’re trying to build a defense that can do all three. It’s tough with the confines of a salary cap and trying to keep as many good players as you can on offense. It is a little bit of a puzzle, but we’ll continue to try and do that.”
If the Ravens were to lose Judon, finding a pass rusher would become an even higher priority. But even if Baltimore waits past Day 1 to find one, there should be edge rushers remaining on the board with potential such as Bradlee Anae of Utah, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson of Auburn, Akeem Davis-Gaither of Appalachian State, Terrell Lewis of Alabama, James Lynch of Baylor, Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem of Notre Dame, Curtis Weaver of Boise State, Kenny Willekes of Michigan State and D.J. Wonnum of South Carolina.