The 2021 NFL Draft is almost two weeks behind us and that has given the NFL world plenty to discuss. Numerous draft pundits have torn apart every aspect of every draft class, dissecting the most minute of details in order to discern which teams had a great haul and which teams didn’t. The Baltimore Ravens, being an NFL team that made selections, were not exempt from being placed under the microscope. After three days of drafting, the general consensus of Baltimore’s draft class is that the Ravens faired well and came out a better team. Now that we have all had a chance to simmer down and absorb the picks that have been made, let’s take a deep dive into the 2021 Baltimore Ravens Draft Class to get a better understanding of how this team did.
Round 1 (27): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Ravens needed a number one wide receiver and they somehow managed to have one fall to them near the end of the first round. Bateman doesn’t come in as big as he had been listed in college (6’0, 190 lbs) but he’s a route running technician that can work at all levels of the field. Whether he is lined up in the slot or outside the numbers, Bateman is a sure-handed receiver that can help open up Baltimore’s passing game in ways not seen in quite some time. In a sense, this pick was the perfect marriage of team need and player value. The Ravens hit a first round home run yet again.
Round 1 (31): Odafe Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
There perhaps wasn’t a more athletically gifted player in this draft than Odafe Oweh. The Penn State pass rusher ran a blistering 4.39 in the 40 yard dash at 6’5, 257 lbs. That shouldn’t be possible. Thus, it’s easy to see why the Ravens were so enamored with Oweh. The EDGE situation in Baltimore going into draft weekend was bleak to say the least. The Ravens lost a plethora of pass rushers in free agency and had a few spots to fill at that position. The biggest knock on Oweh is his lack of production. With only seven career sacks, including zero in his final year at Penn State, it’s clear that Oweh needs to add much more polish to his game in order to be a consistent contributor. Fortunately for Oweh, the Ravens have a phenomenal track record at developing pass rushers. With all of the physical attributes a team can ask for, it’s up to Baltimore’s coaching staff to build up Oweh into a fearsome quarterback hunter.
Round 3 (94): Ben Cleveland, IOL, Georgia
The Ravens sought to add a mountain with a mean streak to the interior of their offensive line and found the perfect fit in Ben Cleveland. His size and strength makes Cleveland virtually impossible to move while making him an ideal fit in Baltimore’s power run scheme. The Ravens offensive line was simply manhandled throughout the season last year as inquires and losing perennial Hall of Famer Marshall Yanda proved too much to overcome. Cleveland can come in right away and be plugged right into a starting spot. For a third round pick, there isn’t much more a team can ask for.
Round 3 (104): Brandon Stephens, DB, SMU
This may have been Baltimore’s biggest reach of the draft but Stephens undeniably has some physical intangibles that the Ravens covet. Initially a running back at UCLA, Stephens transferred to SMU and moved over to the defensive backfield where he really began to shine. Stephens has great size for a defensive back that displays great range and ball skills while offering positional versatility. Even though the strength of the Ravens’ defense is their secondary, injuries have ravaged that area for the last several years. Adding an athletically gifted player with positional flexibility can only help insure the defensive backfield stays strong.
Round 4 (131): Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Had Tylan Wallace gone two rounds before this spot, no one would have batted an eye. The fact that the Ravens got him here towards the end of the fourth round is a coup. While most didn’t think the Ravens would double dip at wide receiver due to limited roster space, Wallace was just too good of a prospect to pass up. Though he is only 5’11, 193 lbs, Wallace is one of the toughest receivers in this entire draft and plays much bigger than he actually is. He isn’t afraid to fight for contested balls and makes difficult catches look easy. Much like Bateman, Wallace offers versatility and toughness that Lamar Jackson should fall in love with very quickly.
Round 5 (160): Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Say what you will about his final season at Ohio State but his two years prior to that had many convinced he was a first round talent. While he may have fallen off a bit after his move to the outside, Wade has all the trappings of a fifth round steal. Wade’s strength is at nickel and that’s where Baltimore needs him the most. Though Tavon Young is a highly talented slot cornerback, injuries have taken away each of his last few seasons. He simply cannot be relied upon to stay healthy and that is where Wade has his greatest value. Backing up Young while learning the nuances of the NFL, only being pressed into significant playing time if there is injury, is the best possible scenario for the former Ohio State defensive back. Wade has a wealth of potential and if used correctly can be an astounding NFL player and the Ravens have the ability to get the most out of him.
Round 5 (171): Daelin Hayes, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Ravens double up on pass rushers to give the team some insurance just in case Oweh isn’t quite ready to contribute as much as hoped in Year 1. Hayes doesn’t quite have the same upside as his first round counterpart but he has the potential to outproduce Oweh. He is a big-bodied pass rusher with some surprising burst off the edge. Hayes can carve an early down role for himself and adds phenomenal depth to a position that the Ravens need bodies at.
Round 5 (184): Ben Mason, FB/TE, Michigan
If 31 other teams had drafted Mason this early, this would be a failing grade. But the Ravens simply use fullbacks in ways most other teams don’t and Mason fits the mold of a Baltimore fullback perfectly. The Ravens announced Mason as a tight end, indicating they want to use him in multiple different ways. Whether he is lining up in the backfield as a full back or on the line as the team’s coveted third tight end, Mason is multifunctional player that the Ravens can use all over the field. This is a Baltimore pick through and through and it’s clear John Harbaugh wanted to grab him before the Ravens wrapped up their draft.
The Ravens hit on a majority of their biggest needs in the draft and added some high upside players on both sides of the ball. Due to the odd nature of the draft because of the global pandemic, teams simply could not evaluate players like they could in years past. Thus, the Ravens relied more on evaluating athletic intangibles rather than collegiate production. It was a bit concerning that Baltimore didn’t address the offensive or defensive lines more than they had but the Ravens still made out with a high upside class that has the potential to lift the franchise over its playoff hump.
Overall Grade: B+