Baltimore Ravens 2023 Positional Needs

The Baltimore Ravens 2022 season was another rough outing, despite the team finishing with a 10-7 record and a playoff berth. Baltimore’s star quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the latter half of the season with an injury and the offensive struggles mounted in his absence.

The last few weeks have been tough sledding for fans and the team itself as all of their frustrations boiled over following Baltimore’s Wild Card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. With rumors swirling about Jackson’s departure, there is little room for optimism for fans. 

Despite this, the Baltimore Ravens staff is already taking steps into rectifying their recent failures. Chiefly, the team announced Thursday afternoon they will be parting ways with maligned offensive coordinator, Greg Roman.

In addition to a new offensive coach, the Ravens have several positional needs that must be filled. The team possesses only five draft picks, so they may need to rely more heavily on free agency this time. Despite this, here are the following positional needs for the Baltimore Ravens. 

Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens Needs by Position Heading into 2023

Wide Receiver 

It’s a tale as old as time for the Baltimore Ravens. Wide receiver is a position that has the team perpetually snakebit, and is always a topic of conversation. Every off-season the Ravens seek to add receiver talent, with varying degrees of success. The team has found quality players in Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, however, the former has struggled with injuries early in his career. 

Unfortunately for the Ravens, the free agent class of receivers isn’t stellar this year, with many of the potential additions playing past their prime in 2022. Many fans clamor for veterans like DeAndre Hopkins, but with limited draft capitol it may be a bit more difficult to trade for a player of that caliber. 

Conversely, the 2023 NFL Draft boasts several exciting receiver talents. USC’s Jordan Addison, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and UNC’s Josh Downs are three players that would be immediate upgrades on offense. With a late first-round pick, the Baltimore Ravens could be in range for either one of those players to address their needs at wide receiver. 

Cornerback

Marcus Peters and Kevon Seymour will be free agents and will be entering their age-30 seasons this year. Kyle Fuller is coming off of a knee injury and may not return in 2023, despite a promising start. Brandon Stephens and Pepe Williams have flashed in their limited playing time this past year but are not enough.  

Similar to the wid receivers, the free agency pool isn’t inspiring however the draft has far more promise. While they’re likely out of range for star players such as Christian Gonzalez or Joey Porter Jr., Baltimore could settle for someone like Devon Witherspoon or Kelee Ringo — great consolation prizes for Mike MacDonald’s defense.  

Five-Technique Defensive End

Calais Campbell is 36 years old and mulling his retirement, while Brent Urban is a free agent yet again. Both have been key parts of Baltimore’s past defensive philosophy, and a lot of what they do up front hinges on a stout five-technique. 

Urban is younger and could come back on a team-friendly minimum deal. Additionally, veterans like Dean Lowry, A’Shawn Robinson, and Matt Ioannidis would be typical Baltimore Ravens signings that would help bolster their front seven. 

As for the NFL Draft, there are quite a few players who fit the Baltimore Ravens mold at the defensive end. Tyree Wilson is the best of the bunch, while Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness is a high-upside player who could be more in their range. Conversely, later options such as Keion White from Georgia Tech or Colby Wooden could be plug-and-play starters for Baltimore. 

Offensive Guard 

A sneaky need for the Baltimore Ravens, as both Ben Powers and Trystan Colon-Castillo are set to hit free agency. Additionally, Baltimore may not feel comfortable playing former-third round pick Ben Cleveland after his struggles during camp and in the preseason. Given the free agency crop this year, Baltimore may be better off signing one of the two rather than taking a chance with a veteran past their prime. 

However, prospects such as O’Cyrus Torrence and Emil Ekiyor feel like players Baltimore could feasibly target — despite their limited picks in 2023. Torrence is often mocked in the latter half of first-round mock drafts, which is right in range for the Ravens.

Edge Rusher 

Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul are both aging free agents that are not guaranteed to return to Baltimore in 2023. Former first-round pick Odafe Oweh had a sophomore slump in 2022, despite expectations. Rookie David Ojabo flashed in his limited play time, so the jury is still out if he can become the elite pass rusher the Baltimore Ravens envisioned for him. 

This isn’t as much of a pressing need for the Ravens as other positions, so signing low-risk free agents such as Clellin Ferrell, Arden Key, or Jadeveon Clowney would be smart.

The 2023 edge class is also incredibly deep, so locating a rotational pass rusher on day three is on the table as well. Names to watch for Baltimore include CMU’s Thomas Incoom, Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV or Auburn’s Eku Leota. 

2023 NFL Draft: Darnell Wright Scouting Report

Mammoth Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright is poised to be a great value pick in the 2023 NFL draft

Offensive tackle is one of the most important positions in football and we see so many of them get drafted high come April. In this upcoming class, countless talented tackles have been mocked in the top 50. One of those is Darnell Wright, an absolute mammoth of a man controlling the right side for the Tennessee Volunteers. Wright stands at 6’6”, 335 pounds and is a force with his raw strength.

A former five star recruit, Wright has the pedigree of a top tier player. He’s currently projected to land somewhere in the late first-to-mid second round this spring. Let’s dive into the scouting report on Darnell Wright!

Darnell Wright Scouting Report

Darnell Wright Scouting Report
Photo Credit: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Strengths on tape

Games Watched: Pitt (2022), Florida (2022), LSU (2022), Alabama (2022)

The first thing that immediately stands out about Wright is his otherworldly raw strength, particularly in his hands. It truthfully does not matter who’s in front of him. If he gets his hands on you, it’s over. With absolute vice grips attached to his wrists, Wright can shut down an array of moves from opposing edge rushers.

This was extremely evident in the Pittsburgh game. The same skip move (the James Houston move) was tried on him three separate times (it failed all three times). Seemingly every move was thrown at Wright this season and he never flinched. 

His patience and polish in pass protection is what really stands out. Not even a pro yet, Wright has nearly perfected the snatch-and-trap move. This move appears on his film multiple times each game. So many times he just shuts down whatever gets thrown at him, and it looks to be effortless as well. He has perfected the ability to win each rep with his hands.

Wright’s strength and power have emerged as his trump cards for anything thrown his way. Whether he’s de-cleating someone mid-spin move or just refusing to let Will Anderson disengage, Wright was an impenetrable force in pass protection.  

Concerns 

Look, he’s big and slow. If you can’t get past that, then he is not a player who should be on your board. Despite all his size and power, Wright really struggles to get on the move. There are some positive reps as a puller, but that is also inconsistent because of his limited range. Teams who ask their linemen to get out on the move should not be looking towards Wright.

Another concern is inconsistent hand placement. There are a handful of reps where he allows his hands to drift high and get up around the facemask of who he’s blocking. That getting cleaned up would make him even more reliable in pass protection. 

Team fits 

Whether it’s the late first or the mid second, there are a good amount of teams who should be heavily considering Darnell Wright. One of those is the Dallas Cowboys. With Tyron Smith’s availability issues, Dallas could consider moving on and plugging in Wright on the right side to pair with future Hall of Famer Zack Martin.

Another team who may consider Wright is the Arizona Cardinals. With a new head coach coming in, it is imperative to do everything they can to ensure that Kyler Murray is a $200 million quarterback whenever he returns. The best way to do that is to protect him.

Packers Offseason: What Would I Do If I Was Brian Gutekunst?

The offseason is here; we are all disappointed in the Packers performance. Changes will have to be made, like any other offseason. This article will explore what I would do with this offseason if I was Packers GM Brian Gutekunst?

There is a lot to do for him and the front office. There will be a lot of moving parts that affect one another. Beyond the usual free agency and NFL draft that has to be dealt with, there is of course the cap. At this point they are over by 5.36 million per OverTheCap. There is also the Aaron Rodgers ‘will he or wont he retire’ issue. That one will be the most important one that needs dealt with, and should be dealt with first. So, let’s get to it.

Will Packers QB Aaron Rodgers retire in the offseason?
Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

What to do with Aaron Rodgers?

This is obviously a complicated situation. The Packers kind of married themselves to him last offseason with the contract extension they gave him. It does not make it easy for them to get out of. With his massive cap hit, there isn’t a lot of maneuvering to be done other than restructures — and the Packers have borrowed from the future three off-season’s in a row. Eventually you have to pay the man, so to speak.

As we all know, there is the old saying of about the definition of insanity… Well they would be doing this offseason what they did the previous three; and it has not worked out. What makes them think it magically will this time? I would rip off the band-aid. If he wants to come back, I would trade him after June 1. The Packers get a net gain of about one million in cap space in that scenario.

Packers Offseason Free Agents

Gutekunst has a number of free agents he will have to figure out what the Packers want to do with in the offseason — and not much cap space to work with. The unrestricted free agents are Allen Lazard, Eric Wilson, Justin Hollins, Rudy Ford, Keisean Nixon, Corey Ballentine and Dallin Leavitt.

I would attempt to re-sign Hollins to a 1-year 1.80 million deal with a 500k signing bonus. With Nixon, I would offer him a two-year, 2 million dollar deal with a 1 million dollar bonus. I would also offer Rudy Ford a vet minimum deal with a small signing bonus, but he probably gets more on the open market.

Adrian Amos, Randall Cobb, Dean Lowry, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jarran Reed, and Mason Crosby all have voids in their contracts. In this scenario, I let them walk and thank them for their service.

The Packers have just four restricted free agents in Yosh Nijman, Krys Barnes, Tyler Davis, and Jake Hanson. I would give Nijman the 2nd-round tender and Barnes that right of first refusal. I would let Hanson and Davis walk.

Cuts

Since we are ripping off band-aids here, we will be also cutting any vets who don’t fit in the long term with the roster. I will cut David Bahktiari, Preston Smith, Aaron Jones, Vernon Scott, Luke Tenuta, and Jonathan Garvin.

Where does that leave us?

All these moves leave the Packers with 8.4 million in cap space. That is not enough for the draft class, UDFAs, and in-season space. Per Ken Ingalls, the Packers will need about 11 million for their draft class, 3.45 for the practice squad, and about 5 million in season. Which means they need to create almost another 20 million in space.

Restructures

This obviously means restructures need to be made. It was going to have to be done regardless of what happens with Rodgers this offseason. With a simple restructure of Kenny Clark’s contract they can create $10.37 million in space, which gets us half way there.

Restructuring Jaire Alexander’s contract gets the Packers another $8.86 million which gets them to 19.23 million. Then we get a simple restructure of De’Vondre Campbell to get the Packers another 2.46 million. We are done. This would leave the Packers with almost $22 million in space so they could also sign a couple vet minimum guys. They could also redo Douglas’ deal and clear up another $1.5 million. The Packers could do that this offseason, but we don’t need to here.

Extentions?

Rashan Gary is an obvious first thought for a contract extension, but coming off the ACL I would want to see him play in-season just to make sure he gets back to his previous self. It might cost more in the long run, but its safer. AJ Dillon is another player you could think about extending, but I don’t think he has done enough to warrant one. Yet.

Where does this leave the Packers in 2023?

It actually leaves them with a competitive roster. They won’t get in the playoffs, but they won’t be competing for at top five pick in April either. They’d have to bite the cap bullet in 2023, but would get some relief in 2024 with $62 million in cap space and are pretty much in the clear beyond that.

Packers Offseason Roster

QB: Jordan Love/rookie or cheap vet

RB: Dillon/rookie

WR: Watson/Doubs/Toure or rookie or Melton

TE: Deguara/Austin Allen/rookie/rookie and or cheap vet

OT: Tom/Nijman

OG: Jenkins/Runyan

C: Myers

or my favorite

OT: rookie/Nijman

OG: Jenkins/Runyan or Myers

C: Tom

ED: Enagbare/rookie or Hollins (until Gary is back)

DL: Clark/Slaton/Wyatt

LB: Campbell/Walker

CB: Stokes/jaire

Nickel/Safety: Rasul

S: Savage/rookie

Final thoughts on the Packers Offseason Plans

The Packers could start to build through the draft and augment any holes with free agents starting in 2024. If Jordan Love isn’t the guy, there is going to be a pretty good quarterback class that year. With picks from a Rodgers trade, they could move up to take one. Also note the numbers in this article are all ball park figures. I’m not the best “numbers” guy.

If you have enjoyed reading the article you can check out my other stuff. I will also be doing a second part on what I think Gutekenst will do, so be on the look out for that.

Bijan Robinson: The unquestioned RB1 for the 2023 NFL Draft?

Is Bijan Robinson RB1 for the 2023 NFL draft?
Photo Credit: Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bijan Robinson was an absolute legend at Texas. Robinson capped off his brilliant collegiate career with a stellar 2022 season; landing him ninth in Heisman Trophy voting and winning the prestigious Doak Walker award. Now, with Bijan Robinson likely turning his eye to the 2023 NFL draft, his name seems to be the only one that comes up when discussing who will be the top running back off the board. 

The value of the running back position has dropped precipitously in recent years, with many teams electing to ignore the position in the first round completely. In 2022, only three running backs were taken in the first two rounds, with none coming off the board until Breece Hall at pick 36 to the New York Jets. 

Robinson has been mocked anywhere from the top ten picks to the late second round. But, in every mock draft, one thing always remains the same: He’s the first running back selected. Every time. Is Bijan Robinson the clear best player at his position for the 2023 NFL draft? Does anyone even come close?

Tale of the tape

Photo Credit: Texas Athletics

Games watched: Alabama (2022), Iowa State (2022), Kansas State (2022)

The first thing that immediately jumps off the screen with Bijan Robinson is his size. He’s listed at 6-0, 222 pounds on the Texas official roster (the real numbers will be revealed at the combine). When bent in his stance, Robinson looks more like a linebacker than a running back. The size of his legs alone serve as a sign to defenses that it’s going to be a long day. 

Robinson is so remarkably hard to tackle. He easily sheds would-be tacklers time and time again. Whether it’s a stiff-arm or just simply bouncing off of them, Robinson rarely goes down on first contact and typically requires multiple tacklers. He also couples these extra yards with elite vision. If a hole appears, the chances are rather high that you might find number five in burnt orange bursting through it. Robinson keeps the Longhorns on schedule repeatedly with his meat-and-potatoes running style. 

While he doesn’t possess elite long speed, Robinson does have the requisite quickness and fluidity to find the hole and also hit those cuts to the outside. He has countless reps where he hits the edge and picks up some yards. His strength and contact balance make him a nightmare for defensive backs to come up and tackle.

While being one of the best runners in the country, Robinson had a surprisingly impactful role in the passing attack. He’s not a crisp route runner like Christian McCaffrey, but he is a diabolical weapon in the screen game with his ability to get downhill, follow his blockers, and shrug off tacklers. He can also catch the ball and turn up-field quickly.

Where he stands to improve in the pass game is in pass protection. He lacks instincts there and could use some work. However, there are some encouraging reps, including one against Alabama where he delivers a powerful blow to Will Anderson. 

Biggest Competitor to Bijan Robinson for NFL Draft RB1

The 2022 running back class looks like a deep one, but there seems to be a drop off after the first two names. That other name is Jahmyr Gibbs, originally a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket who transferred to Alabama prior to the 2022 season. Gibbs is a player who has the potential to be an elite weapon in the passing game.  

Gibbs excels at those angle/Texas routes out of the backfield, and also spent a good portion of his time lined up out wide and working the middle of the field. He has also shown some nice reps in pass protection. While not perfect in that area, he is good enough to make him one of the better third down backs in the 2023 NFL draft class. 

As a runner, Gibbs is incredibly dynamic. He has good vision and does a nice job following his blockers to find the green grass. His explosiveness and speed make him a threat to score on every play. Speedy guys typically don’t fight for extra yards, but Gibbs showed many times that he never quits on a play and can lower his pads to power through for extra yards. 

What’s the verdict?

Almost everyone you ask will have Bijan Robinson as the top running back in the 2023 NFL draft class. There is certainly good reason to do so. Robinson may have the highest ceiling in this class. He should without a doubt be the first running back taken. How high should that be? 

Many draft websites have him as a top five player in the class. That means he almost certainly gets taken in round one. Whether or not that is wise to do so is up in the air. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne went in the first in 2021, and Robinson looks like an unquestionably better player than both. Could he go in the top 20, which no running back has done since Saquan Barkley in 2018? We shall see.

2023 NFL Draft: Early Look At Potential Packers — Defense

On Wednesday, we took an early look at some potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects for the Packers offense. Today, it’s time for the defense! Of course, there’s still a lot of information to be gathered, especially since the Packers rely on athletic testing, but these will be players on defense to familiarize yourselves with who could be on Packers NFL draft board.

Since it is highly unlikely that the Packers will pick in the top five, I will not be including players who are expected to go that high — Jalen Carter or Will Anderson, for example. I will also be going off players that fit what the Packers look for with the information we have. So, for example, no Siaki Ika.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s take a look at some 2023 NFL Draft prospects on defense who should be on the Packers radar come this April

DL:
Photo Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is probably the best defensive line class in three or four years. Like a lot of the rest of the roster, the Packers prefer very athletic defensive linemen. Agility testing is important to them. Usually between 6’2-6’5 and 300-330 pounds. They also like guys that can have some impact on the passing game.

  • Bryan Bresee, Clemson
  • Gervon Dexter, Florida
  • Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
  • Brandon Dorlus, Oregon
  • Jaquelin Roy, LSU
  • Zacch Pickens, South Carolina
  • Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson
  • Keion White, Georgia Tech
  • Kobie Turner, Wake Forest
  • Zi’Yon Hill-Green, Louisiana-Layfayette
  • Cory Durden, NC State
  • Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
  • Mazi Smith, Michigan
  • Jowon Briggs, Cincinnati
  • Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
Edge:
Photo Credit:  Michael McCammon, 247Sports

This is another really good class. Strong at the top, with a lot of depth. This is another position the Packers tend to be very specific in. They like highly athletic as in 8+ RAS scores. Guys with long arms and guys who can play the run. Usually 6’3-6’5 and 260-275 pounds.

  • Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
  • Myles Murphy, Clemson
  • Andre Carter, Army
  • Zach Harrison, OSU
  • Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh
  • Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
  • Derick Hall II, Auburn
  • Ali Gaye, LSU
  • YaYa Diaby, Louisville
  • Dylan Horton, TCU
  • Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan
  • Bralen Trice, Washington
  • Andre Jones, Louisiana-Lafayette
LB:
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Overall this class is pretty weak at the top, with just okay depth. This position is one that Packers are not too specific on. They like guys who are 6’1+ and 235+. Cover skills are not a priority. They tend to draft guys that are okay athletically.

  • Trenton Simpson, Clemson
  • Noah Sewell, Oregon
  • Jack Campbell, Iowa
  • Ben VanSumeren, Michigan State
  • Darius Muasau, UCLA
  • SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh
  • Shaka Heyward, Duke
  • Jimmy Phillips Jr., SMU
  • Payton Wilson, NC State
  • Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati
CB:
Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This corner class is pretty solid. There is no Sauce Gardner in it, but there is potential with a number of the guys. The depth is ok. Like edge rusher, the Packers like their corners to be elite athletes. Green Bay has a height threshold of 5’10 1/4″ that they stick to. They also like them to be 190+ — preferably closer to 200. They also like long arms and an ability to play press.

  • Kelee Ringo, Georgia
  • Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  • Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
  • Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
  • Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford
  • Julius Brents, Kansas State
  • Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
  • Cory Trice, Purdue
  • Anthony Johnson, Virginia
  • Lance Boykin, Coastal Carolina
Safety:
Photo Credit: Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This safety group is interesting. There are a lot of talented guys, but with some big question marks. It is also not a great class depth wise. There is a sharp drop after the 3rd round. The Packers thresholds here are similar to corner. The main difference is they like their safeties a little bigger: 5’11+ and 200+.

  • Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
  • JL Skinner, Boise State
  • Brian Branch, Alabama
  • Jordan Battle, Alabama
  • Josh Proctor, OSU
  • Patrick McMorris, SDSU
  • Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
  • Gervarrius Owens, Houston
  • Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
  • Macon Clark, Tulane
  • Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa

For more on the Packers, check out my piece detailing the struggles on defense and what the team should do about them. You can also find the NFL draft database I update almost daily over at our good friends RiseNDraft.