The Ravens didn’t dominate the 2017 NFL Draft. They picked up a shovel, climbed up to the top rope, and OBLITERATED the rest of the NFL with a powerbomb smack not seen since the days of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (or whoever the fuck wrestler).
Well, 1 thing is for sure. GM Ozzie Newsome and staff are certainly smellin’ what’s cookin’ on the defensive side of the ball for the Baltimore Ravens.
Sorry enough’s enough, I won’t hold you hostage to the WWE rabbit hole I just went down. HOWEVA (Stephen A. Smith voice) me and you both will be hostages for years to come to the wrath of the Baltimore Ravens defense. We all fondly remember the Ray Lewis/Ed Reed championship D’s of the 2000’s who not only had more talent than anyone but played like this wasn’t just a job but a mission. And failure was never an option, each and every game was life and death.
Over the last few seasons the black birds felt they could adapt along with the ever-changing high-flying passing league that the NFL has become. “Cool Joe” had a Superbowl ring under his belt and the thinking was “We got our guy.” They promptly signed him to a whopping 6 year, $120.6 million contract and looked to add some toys in the process on the slot and on the outside. A bunch of millions later, they locked down the #1 alleycat himself, the immortal Steve Smith. Big boys like all-pro Marshall Yanda anchored the offensive line and GM Ozzie Newsome was feeling pretty good about himself and the offense he’d created which was sure to match up with the Tom Brady and Drew Brees led aerial assaults lighting the league aflame.
There was just 1 problem with this genius plan. “Cool Joe” just isn’t any good.
Yea that’s right Cool Joe, you suck. Yes, he went on the hot streak of a lifetime during the 2012-13 playoffs tossing 11 TD with not 1 interception to blemish his resume. Quite a feat, I will admit. But then a little guy I like to call “Average Joe at best” came back into our lives in 2013 with SHOCKING FORCE.
19 TD and 22 INT later, the Baltimore Ravens weren’t feelin’ so hot every time they took a peek at the $1.67 million MONTHLY deposit into Cool Joe’s bank account.
Over the last few seasons there’s no question the Ravens had lost their identity. Long gone were the punishing Ray Lewis/Ed Reed-led defenses who made offensive players cringe, coming down with the flu at a shocking rate the night before the game. Can “Average Joe at best” win you a Superbowl? Obviously the answer is yes as he proved in 2012-13. But similar to the roadmap beautifully laid out by the similarly average and often incompetent Eli Manning, they need elite defenses to carry them there.
Well, after toiling in mediocrity for the last four seasons guess who got back to the basics. With an already impressive front 7 with guys like all-world Terrell Suggs accompanied by C.J. Mosley and Timmy Jernigan the Ravens knew they were on the cusp of something special. And with the infusion of defensive talent from the 2017 draft class, special is what they have become.
Let’s start with the 16th overall selection, where the Ravens went with stud corner Marlon Humphrey. I’ve exhaustively gone over my love affair for the Alabama defense and how their individual draft value incomprehensibly plummeted before the draft. And although I may have gone with fellow Crimson Tide Jonathan Allen with this selection (he went 1 pick later), it’s hard to complain about a lockdown defender of Humphrey’s caliber. With great size and speed and Mel Kiper’s #2 ranked corner, you have to love the value at #16.
While I loved this pick, let’s make 1 thing abundantly clear. The Ravens turned their defense from pretty good to FEARSOME with their middle round selections. The black birds were severely lacking on the pass rush front a season ago, and as we’ve seen with the Giants, Broncos, Seahawks, etc of the last few seasons a dominant pass rush is imperative to Super Bowl success (Ravens ranked 24th in sacks, with nobody topping 4 besides Mr. Suggs). So while I was a bit dismayed when they passed on superfreak Jonathan Allen, they landed 1 hell of a pass rusher with Tyus Bowser of Houston in the 2nd round. Bowser ran the 5th fastest 40-yard dash at the combine for LB and had the highest vertical leap for his position group. He’ll use those gifts from above to build on his 8.5 sacks and 11.5 TFL in just 8 games a season ago.
Those two dynamite prospects would have been enough for most teams to call it a day and switch gears to the offensive side of the ball. But Ozzie, John Harbaugh and co. had other ideas. Adding on to their haul of “The Bulldozer” (Bowser’s college nickname) and Humphrey, the Ravens went with DE Chris Wormley from Michigan and OLB Tim Williams from Alabama with their two 3rd round selections. I don’t think I’ve fully expressed my feelings for the Alabama and Michigan defenses (podcast here) and I have one more wrestling finisher move in me so viewer discretion advised: The People’s Elbow=Alabama and Michigan Defenses.
Wormley was the captain of a star-studded defensive line that went 7 deep, and is just as good a prospect as his former teammate Taco Charlton who went in the FIRST round to the Cowboys. Mark my words, the former Wolverine will prove to be a valuable asset both against the run and pass, at worst he will provide quality depth with leadership qualities and high character. Johnny Harbaugh may have gotten a little inside tip from his brother Jimmy on this one.
The Ravens other 3rd rounder, Tim Williams, is another Alabama superfreak to team with Crimson Tide teammate C.J. Mosley. Williams’ draft stock dropped for a few reasons, the primary one being that he’s a 1-dimensional player as he’s not good against the run. With 9 sacks and 16 TFL last season, that knock is fine by me. Besides the fact he will be an absolute menace in pass rush situations, with time and coaching he’ll upgrade his abilities against the run as well. He’s so fast off the line and athletic, he has the upside to become the Picasso of sack artists.
Some teams make changes one step at a time. Others do it in 1 fell swoop. That’s precisely what the Ravens did, and as my man the “Macho Man” Randy Savage would say, “The cream will rise to the top”.