Ravens take Gilbert. #KRM
MGBode our long time sparring partner from WFNY makes his bloggy-posty debut here with a comprehensive looksee at our enemies in “periwinkle.” Well played, that.
One of the great things about doing a reader mock draft is that many of us get too narrowly focused in our brown framed, orange-tinted glasses when we think and discuss the draft. This multiple team mock draft forces us to drop those preset bounds and think about the draft in terms of other teams. In doing so, new ideas or even moments of clarity about how we want the Browns to draft can sometimes happen.
I had such a moment while digging into the history of Raven draft picks. It is with deep regret that I can confirm that the Ravens are always focused on grabbing elite talent. When there is not a player that Ozzie considers elite, then he will still look to BPA with a lean towards need. Yes, I believe that Baltimore cares about team needs and they factor this category in, but I think it is merely a category and not an obsession as it is for many teams.1 This mindset made me think of who may be available for the Browns to snag with a small trade-up for players that could be elite at their position. The names that came up as potential mid-to-late teen picks who could be elite were Gilbert, Dennard, Clinton-Dix, Lewan, Evans, Lee, Donald, Mosley, and Ebron. Some of these names will drop and give teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore a chance at obtaining elite talent at sub-elite draft slots. In an ideal world, the Browns would determine which of these players was most worthy a trade-up and jump our division rivals to ensure that player is on our team instead.
Team Needs for the Periwinkle2 and Black:
After the Baltimore Ravens spent almost the entire 2013 UFA period & draft (top four rounds) on defense, you would think they would be set there. And, they did find four starters (or part-time starters) in that mix (Matt Elam, Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith, and Chris Canty). However, they also lost 5 starters in the 2013 offseason (Kruger, Ellerbe, C.Williams, Ed Reed, B.Pollard) and have now lost 3 more in 2014 (Arthur Jones, Corey Graham-CB3, Ihedigbo). That has left them with significant holes at SS, DE, and CB3. They also would like to upgrade at the other DE and ILB, but likely will not this offseason.
At the same time, they have seen a ton of turnover on the OL the past 2 seasons (McKinnie a busted signing so they needed to trade for Monroe, Oher left for Tennessee, Gradkowski busted pick at center no matter how long they tried him there) though 2012 pick “Dancing Bear” Osemele and 2007 pick Marshal Yanda continue to impress at the OG spots. Trading for the mediocre Zuttah (OC, TB) is likely their 2014 solution at center and the mostly disappointing Monroe will get an OT slot. That leaves just one opening at OT, but a lot of questions for how they will function as they helped Flacco have a career worst season in 2013 with career-highs of 22 INTs and 48 sacks (and many more QB pressures) to go along with the fourth worst rushing attack in the NFL at 3.8YPC.
They also have continued to attempt to patch a complement for Torrey Smith using lower level guys like Jacoby Jones though they may have found a hidden gem in UDFA Marlon Brown from Georgia. This offseason they signed an angry (good thing for him) but older Steve Smith to continue to try to patch WR2 and it looks like he is the plan for 2014 though they certainly could use a more legitimate second WR weapon moving forward.
At TE, they had a trio of has-been oft-injured guys in Dickson, Clark, and Pitta. Clark and Dickson are all still unsigned by the entire NFL. I believed that they could get any of the three back at a pittance, but the Ravens decided to give Pitta a 5 year contract that averages $6.5mil/year. I do not understand that move. However, they continued to go the veteran TE route by signing Owen Daniels, who could be an impact signing for their offense. That is especially important for Flacco who completed 76 passes to TEs last year despite the constant flux at the position. There are also reports that Baltimore may utilize the 2-TE set as their base offense, so they could still use depth at the position as well.
Flacco has started every single game of his career, so they are not likely worried about QB2 much. If Flacco goes down, then their playoff hopes likely go down with him (they may choose a later round QB to develop as Tyrod Taylor would be especially awful even as a spot-starter).
Final Defense Need Tally: SS, DE1, CB3, ILB, DE2
Final Offense Need Tally: OT, WR2, TE3, QB2, OL-depth
Here is the pro-football-focus chart, though I have people in slightly different positions and also have updated for offseason moves:
Wait, the Ravens have been dominant for a decade plus and just won a Superbowl. How did all of that above happen?
Well, a lot of that issue stems from paying Flacco as if he is Peyton or Brady, but, in reality, the top 6 earners are all at fault as they count a crippling 50% of their cap budget for 2014 ($65mil). Those players are: Ngata, Flacco, Webb, Rice, Yanda, and Suggs. They are all at least contributing positively to the team, but you can see why there was real talk about Ray’s arrest providing the team with the excuse needed to cut him for additional cap space (however, I am working off the assumption they decided to keep Rice and they will run with Rice & Pierce & newly signed Forsett at RB).
Please note though that their consistency of defensive systems is what keeps them a playoff contender despite the losses of personnel and coaches over the years. They have still struggled to find an offensive identity (outside of Flacco’s Eli-style playoff run) despite constantly hiring respected offensive minds with previous head coaching experience (Cameron, Caldwell, now Kubiak). However, I do think that they made a fantastic hire of Gary Kubiak for OC (he is the perfect OC for their defensive oriented identity), but it will be interesting to see how they handle another big shift in offensive systems particularly on the OL. And, while Flacco is not Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, or Rodgers, he is a good QB who will keep them in games as long as he gets some decent protection. Protecting Flacco to ensure he has time to make his reads should be the first priority of Ozzie in the draft. Except, as I noted, Ozzie is not going to allow himself to be blinded by this priority to let an elite player slip through his grasp to reach for a need.
Wizard of Oz GM tendencies:
Ozzie is definitely a BPA picker with a slight lean towards team need. In the first round he has picked OL(3), DL(1), LB(3), DB(5), QB(2), RB(1), TE(1), and WR(2). You can get a little more of a glimpse into what he covets for team building when you look at the top3 rounds: DB(11), OL(10), LB(8), DL(7), WR(6), RB(5), QB(3), and TE(2). When you look deeper at those drafts, you would see he refused to reach for a player even on those teams where he sorely needed a QB (the most often reached position IMO). He merely took the player he thought was best that fit team needs and system. He is also not a GM who is going to move around in the draft a ton (unless someone wants to gift him extra picks for moving down 1 spot and he still gets to pick the perennial pro-bowler he covets).
So, despite a rather lengthy history, it is difficult to discern too much of what Ozzie would want until you see who is on the board. Ozzie has proven in the past that he is willing to eschew team needs if there is a player that he believes is elite on the board. It is more important to him to obtain as many of those players as possible and then fill in the depth with smart drafting later. But, if an elite OT drops or he values a SS available, then that may be the pick as you can see he prescribes to the solid theory that you can never have enough at OL or DB and he has needs at those slots. As noted, they have needs in both groups. But, Ebron, TE, UNC could be the exception to those positions in this draft as he is an elite talent at a position of dire need (taken #12 in our draft by the Giants & RoD). And, if one of the WRs that Ozzie has ranked highly falls, then I could see him pulling the trigger there despite higher needs elsewhere.
Ozzie will look for the elite guys first. Here are the ones I thought might drop and crossed off those already selected: Gilbert, Dennard, Clinton-Dix, Lewan, Evans, Lee, Donald, Mosley, and Ebron.
Clinton-Dix – The Ravens would be back to having a fearsome safety duo if they were able to acquire the Alabama defender. I am a firm believer that Elam will be an above average FS as he learns NFL offenses and Clinton-Dix could provide the explosiveness that they would need at SS. He is not an option for our mock, thankfully.
Gilbert / Dennard – If the Ravens feel either guy is going to be a shut-down CB, then it will be very difficult to pass up such value at #17. They don’t technically need a CB starter, but they could use an upgrade and NFL defenses have to constantly trot out 3 CB defenses a great percentage of the time now as well.
Evans / Lee – Lee feels the more obvious complement to Torrey. He is a more refined route-runner and has that quickness to add to his elusiveness rather than the straight-line speed of Torrey. However, Evans is much more like Boldin who the Ravens know firsthand can help them in a playoff run.
Mosley – They need depth, youth, and aggressiveness in their ILB slots. The question is how much higher they have Mosley slotted compared to the ILB that will be available later in the draft and if they have Mosley ranked anywhere near Gilbert and Lee. It is hard to gauge some of these Bama defenders as they all have great athleticism, but they also have played around such great talent that they tend to look better than they are on film (due to other great players being accounted for by the opposing team). Also, Baltimore does have a patchwork ILB between Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes though it obviously is not an ideal situation for them (they basically ended up platooning them with Smith the pass defender and Bynes the run defender).
Donald – Aaron Donald was an absolute force last year, he ran a more impressive time than Clowney at the combine given his size, and would be an absolute steal and a position of dire need for Baltimore. If he’s here, then he’s the pick and he might be enough of a talent & need for Ozzie to consider a trade-up to get ahead of the Bears.
BPA would also be my pick, and I even believe that Ozzie would take a couple minutes to laugh maniacally before turning the card in with his name:
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
If we need further convincing on taking Justin Gilbert over Marquise Lee, then there are also these items:
(1) Justin Gilbert makes the entire Baltimore secondary better.
- It pushes Jimmy Smith to the CB2 role
- The pick gives Baltimore amazing size at both outside CB spots, which allows them to copy the successful Seattle secondary.
- It also keeps Ladarius Webb at the slot CB role where he thrives.
(2) Justin Gilbert has elite measured athleticism
- 40time = 4.37 (best DB at combine)
- Arm length = 33.13 arm length (2nd longest DB at combine)
- Vertical = 35.5 (only 23rd DB at combine though it’s still a good number)
- Bench = 20-rep (5th DB at combine)
- shade over 6’ and 200lbs (very good size for a CB especially considering the above measurable arm length making him longer than his height)
(3) Justin Gilbert has elite game film
(4) The AFC North has the best set of WR1s in the NFL.
The Ravens have to face Josh Gordon, AJ Green, and Antonio Brown six times each season. Having a player like Justin Gilbert to help slow down those WRs is essential. Jimmy Smith might be capable, but Justin Gilbert has more tools.
(5) Oh, did I mention that he’s a potentially elite KR/PR as well?
As mentioned in the opening, doing the research for the Ravens made me re-think the Browns.
For the Browns, my personal feeling is that neither Clinton-Dix nor Gilbert (despite our mock here) will drop and Dennard isn’t as assured to be an elite guy. If Lewan drops, then his legal issues may be a bigger issue than the media is letting on. Donald, whom I love as a prospect, is still too much at a full position even going BPA. And Mosley still has the Bama-system stigma to give me the elite secure feeling for a trade-up. That leaves the pass-catchers (which also works well due to no other QB being worthy a 1st round pick IMO and Clowney picked in this mock already).
The strange thing with them is that as much as I attempted to talk myself out of Ebron, I couldn’t do it. We have seen NE be successful with 2 great catching TEs, so we there is precedent for the system and the mismatches that it creates. We signed a blocking TE in Dray that can be paired with either or both in an ultra-short-yardage package that a defense will still have to account for the possibility of a pass. And, Gordon + Cameron + Tate + Ebron as a starting weapon point on offense makes that group extremely dangerous and flexible. The one area of concern with a rookie TE is that the position usually takes longer to master in the NFL than many others. But, Ebron is such a refined route-runner and pass-catcher that we can use him in a mostly non-blocking role and he should create great mismatches on the field. The Browns don’t technically need a TE, but they need to be dynamic offensively and I think he could give us ability. If Ebron goes too high to go and get (as he may have in our mock), then either Evans or Lee would also be great talents to acquire. As much as I like both Beckham and Cooks, they are not in the same tier as those two WRs who would be worth the mid-round pick it would take to move and get them.
So. Damn. That’s an analysis.