Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

April 29, 2018 at 10:44 pm.

2018 Ravens draft: Offense upgraded in first round

The Baltimore Ravens landed a few players ready to make an immediate impact and others that will help lay the foundation for the future in this year’s NFL Draft.

General manager Ozzie Newsome made several deals in the first round to secure a couple players rated highly on his board. He took South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th overall pick and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson at 32.

Hurst is expected to earn a starting role immediately because the team is thin at tight end. Jackson will have the opportunity to learn from veteran Joe Flacco for at least a season before he could possibly take over the full-time job.

“I just want to get that playbook in my hands as soon as possible and get to it,” Jackson said. “I want to compete.”

The Ravens started the draft with the 16th overall pick. However, Newsome, who plans to retire after the 2018 season, traded picks No. 16 and 154 overall (a fifth-rounder) to the Bills for their 22nd overall pick and No. 65. Newsome then gave up the 22nd pick and a sixth-rounder to Tennessee for the 25th overall pick and a fourth-round selection.

The Ravens were able to take Hurst with that deal. Joe Hortiz, the Ravens’ director of college scouting, liked the tight end’s versatility and his ability to run after a catch.

“They’ve played him in so many roles down there,” Hortiz said. “Flexed out, on the line, they’ve used him as a wing, and I think you guys have probably seen the highlights of him actually lining up in the backfield. He’s productive in all of those roles. He’s a good blocker, obviously, the way they use him.

“But his athleticism as a receiver and then his hands, he just doesn’t drop the ball, and he makes some spectacular catches. He can run after the catch. So, he’s just a versatile and talented athlete who can help us in pretty much all phases of our game.”

The Ravens, however, were not done dealing. As the first round began coming to a close, Jackson was still available and Newsome decided to make another move.

He traded the a fourth-round pick to the Eagles, along with the Ravens’ second-rounder and a second-round pick in 2019, for No. 32 and 132. This enabled Baltimore to select Jackson with the last selection of the first round.

However, there are no plans to rush the strong-armed quarterback into action.

“(Jackson’s) a great quarterback – start with that,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “But Joe Flacco is our quarterback – that’s the thing we have to remember. Lamar is going to have a great chance to develop. I think you get to this stage in a quarterback’s career – you’ve seen it done in New England, we’ve seen it done in a lot of places – it’s time to start thinking about drafting a quarterback.

“When the opportunity came to get a really good one, I think you have to jump on it and take it. This really doesn’t change things in a sense that we’re going to go with Joe, and Joe’s going to roll.”

Newsome continued to maneuver throughout the draft.

The Ravens picked up two more potential starters from Oklahoma in the third round. The team selected tackle Orlando Brown Jr. with the 83th overall pick. He is the son of former Ravens offensive lineman Orlando “Zeus” Brown and will compete with James Hurst for the starting role at right tackle for the Ravens.

Baltimore then selected tight end Mark Andrews three picks later. He is a solid blocker that also has good hands. Both he and Hayden Hurst could be on the field at the same time because the Ravens like to use two tight ends.

“We came away with two players from the University of Oklahoma. One, we have some familiarity with – ‘Lil’ Zeus,'” Newsome said. “We brought him in for one of the 30 (player) visits, and I can just remember when he was here, when he was 10, 11 years old when his dad would bring him around. He comes in and he has an opportunity to compete at our right tackle spot.
“Mark Andrews, his teammate, is another target for Joe (Flacco). We feel like we don’t want to put ourselves in a position with the roster, that if you get an injury, that we have to go out on the street and try to find another pass-catching tight end.”

The Ravens also added depth on the defensive side of the ball by adding Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett and UCLA linebacker Kenny Young in the fourth round. Both players could push for playing time. The team added to the depth at receiver in the fourth and fifth round by picking up Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley.

Overall, the Ravens had 12 picks in this year’s draft, which tied for the most in franchise history. The team currently has 64 players on the roster so there is room for these rookies to earn a spot.
“I feel like this is his best draft since I’ve been here, heck, maybe the best ever,” Harbaugh said.




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