The Baltimore Ravens saw their 2020 season end in disappointing fashion with a divisional-round loss to the Buffalo Bills. As usual, they saw key contributors signed away in free agency. Also as usual, they also entered the 2021 NFL Draft with plenty of capital to address their needs — including a second first-round pick.
Baltimore put together one of the more well-regarded draft classes with that capital, just as the Ravens almost always do. As part of our ongoing series here at CBSSports.com, in the space below, we are going to discuss one thing the Ravens didn’t do in the 2021 NFL Draft, and also break down one thing they definitely got right.
Tackle still a long-term need
Mere days before the draft, the Ravens traded star right tackle Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs. They landed KC’s first-round pick in the deal, as well as additional value as part of the swap.
The Ravens came away from the draft with their usual excellent haul of contributors and extra picks, but the one thing they didn’t do was address the tackle position. Their lone selection along the offensive line was guard Ben Cleveland.
The Ravens, being the Ravens, have the tackle position covered for the 2021 season, at least. They signed former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva earlier this week to a two-year contract, and he’ll presumably man Brown’s former spot on the right side of the line while Ronnie Stanley returns to protect Lamar Jackson’s blind side.
Villanueva will be 33 years old this coming season, though, and is not really a long-term solution at the position. His presence gives the Ravens the ability to figure out what they want to do either next offseason or the one after, with multiple chances to find Brown’s long-term replacement, as opposed to forcing a pick in this year’s draft when they didn’t necessarily feel the value was right for them.
Basically, even when the Ravens don’t do something, it’s for a good reason and they leave themselves outs to address it in the future.
New weapons for Lamar, replenished stock of edge rushers
One of the Ravens’ clearest needs entering the draft was at wide receiver. Baltimore struggled to create in the passing game last season, and none of the team’s non-Marquise Brown wideouts drew more than 48 targets on the year. Brown seems best utilized as a field-stretching home-run hitter, so the Ravens needed to find complements that diversified their options in the passing game. Enter Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace.
Bateman, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist during his sophomore year at Minnesota, is an excellent route-runner whose strength is creating quick separation. The Ravens’ lack of a quick passing game last season was noticeable, and Bateman should help in that regard. His speed and elusiveness allow him to create yards after the catch on those quick-strike throws, making him a fit for Baltimore’s big-play-centric passing game. It certainly helps that he’s also a threat to take the top off the defense himself — even from the slot, where he’s often been at his best.
Wallace, meanwhile, brings an element of physicality and toughness to the mix. He’s not all that much bigger than Hollywood or Bateman, but he plays bigger than his size and is a consistent ball-winner at the point of the catch. With speedsters all over the field and Mark Andrews drawing attention over the middle, Wallace should have enough space to create openings for himself and and become a chain-mover for Jackson on the outside.
The Ravens also did one thing they always do better than just about every other team in the league: they found even more edge rushers who can develop into contributors in either part- or full-time roles. Baltimore seems to print these guys off an assembly line, and it seems likely that one or both of Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes will follow in the footsteps of players like Pernell McPhee and Matt Judon before them, out-playing their draft slot, getting paid on the open market, and eventually seeing the Ravens draft a replacement while picking up a compensatory selection in the following year’s draft.