Best and Worst-Case Scenarios: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens just missed the playoffs the past two years with mediocre records of 9-7 and 8-8. Defense has always been their strong suit, so, in his final year as general manager, Ozzie Newsome went all in on offense. In the first round of the draft, the Ravens had two picks. They selected Hayden Hurst, a tight end from South Carolina, and then later chose Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s former Heisman Trophy winner, projected to be the quarterback of the future. In free agency, the Ravens focused on playmakers, so they brought in receivers Michael Crabtree (Oakland), Willie Snead (New Orleans) and John Brown (Arizona).

Best case:

Jackson pushes incumbent Joe Flacco to his best season since 2014, when the veteran set career highs in touchdowns (27) and QBR. The Ravens went 10-6 that year. Crabtree steps in and becomes the number-one target. He caught the eighth-most touchdown receptions in the league in 2017 after catching the ninth-most in 2016. He becomes Flacco’s most productive receiver since Steve Smith Sr. in 2014 (79 receptions and six touchdowns).


The offensive line gets a boost with Marshal Yanda returning. He missed the final 14 games last year with an ankle injury, but, he comes back this year and earns his seventh Pro-Bowl selection. 2017 All-Rookie guard Jermaine Eluemunor and third-year tackle Ronnie Stanley both improve and help bolster the line beside Yanda.

Ideally, running back Alex Collins reduces his turnovers and maintains his yardage production, which was tenth-best in the NFL last year.

The Defense stays sharp after a solid 2017. They get top cornerback Jimmy Smith for the season opener after he missed the final four games in 2017 with an Achilles injury. He bounces back and replicates his early season form from last season. The Ravens led the NFL in takeaways, three of which were Smith interceptions (He had a pick-six and a fumble returned for a touchdown).

Baltimore gave up the tenth-fewest passing yards last year, and with the turnovers they forced, were ranked the second-best pass defense by With returning linebacker stars Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley able to control the run and disrupt the pass game, they continue to force takeaways and smother opponents on defense.


The Ravens sweep the Bengals for the first time since 2012 and they take both games from Cleveland for the third straight year. They split with Pittsburgh and finish with an 11-5 record, winning their first AFC North title since 2012, their Super Bowl season.

Worst case:

Flacco sputters and Jackson does not appear to be ready to start. Flacco’s QBR in 2017 was his worst since his rookie year in 2008. He gets off to another mediocre start, putting Head Coach John Harbaugh in a difficult position where he has to bench the quarterback who has started in each of Harbaugh’s seasons in charge. It takes a while for Jackson to get used to running a pro-style offense, and early losses bury the Ravens’ chances at the postseason.

The rest of the offensive weaponry doesn’t live up to expectations. Brown and Snead both have poor outings after they struggled in 2017. Without another quality receiver, Crabtree gets smothered by defenses. Collins’ fumbling issues do not go away. He was third in the NFL in fumbles for running backs last season, and this year, due to poor quarterback play, he gets extra action and fumbles more often.

Unfortunately, the Ravens’ past strength, defense, takes a hit after coordinator Dean Pees retired, unretired and then took a job with Tennessee. During six years in Baltimore, Pees led three top-ten scoring defenses.


Age also factors in the defensive production. The 35-year-old Terrell Suggs starts to slow down after a Pro-Bowl year, and with their outspoken leader struggling, the rest of the defense loses some edge. With their offensive woes, the defense spends a lot of time on the field, which taxes them later in the season, leaving them vulnerable.

The Ravens miss the postseason for the fourth year in a row with a 6-10 record, and Coach Harbaugh’s seat starts to heat up.

Prediction: 10-6

When will the Five 2018 First Round quarterbacks Play?

The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens all drafted a quarterback in the first round. They all have also signed or traded for at least one other new quarterback this offseason.

With each of these teams having other options at quarterback, when will the new draftees be given their time on the field in 2018? Will they at all?

Cleveland Browns

In recent years, it has been expected that quarterbacks chosen with the number one overall pick start opening week. Five of the last six have since 2009, the only hold out being Jared Goff in 2016 for the Los Angeles Rams.

With the 2018 first overall pick, Cleveland chose former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Prior to the draft though, the Browns made a deal to bring in Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo, a quarterback who started 15 games including one during the playoffs in 2017.

Generally, with Taylor the Browns know what they will get.

Taylor is a disciplined and athletic player without a particularly strong arm. Last year, he threw the ball 420 times, only four of which were interceptions. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes. But, Taylor ranked at just 25 in the NFL in touchdowns, and has hovered around .500 as a starter in his career at 23-20.Close

Mayfield, fresh off of winning the Heisman, has a much stronger arm and similar athleticism. His bigger personality could also spark some swagger in a team that has seemed depleted in recent years. He has the potential of being a star for the Browns, something they have not had at quarterback since returning to the league in 1999.

With that, he also has bust potential as all young quarterbacks do. His lack of size and his attitude could send him down a path similar to other Browns busts like their last first round quarterback Johnny Manziel.

But the possible reward is worth the risk for an organization looking for someone to lean on. If Mayfield does not appear ready, then they have a guy in Tyrod Taylor to throw out there to hold down the fort until the reigning Heisman gets more instruction.

Week one starter: Baker Mayfield

New York Jets

Within a week of signing former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the New York Jets traded up in the draft to select at number three. With that pick, they selected Sam Darnold out of USC, a player with a rocket arm who was fifth in the NCAA in passing yards in 2017.

The Jets’ moves give Head Coach Todd Bowles three options to start week one. Bridgewater and Darnold will also battle Josh McCown, who started 13 games for New York in 2017 and

threw 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

Due to McCown’s familiarity with the system and the fact that in 2017 he was effective, we should see him come out of the preseason with the starting job. The Jets will certainly transition to Darnold, but when might be up to McCown’s play.

The former USC quarterback displayed lots of skills in college, but his glaring weakness was turning the ball over. Spending the offseason with professional coaches and sitting behind a quarterback who has over a decade of experience could help shape him into a more disciplined quarterback.

Darnold will debut once McCown fails to lead the Jets to wins. The former USC quarterback would also come in once Bowles feels like the rookie has shown that he is ready in practice and wants to put him out for early experience.

It shouldn’t take Darnold a whole season to get ready, perhaps around weeks five or six he will have enough instruction to get into the game.


Photo via @nyjets

Teddy Bridgewater, 25, is a wild card. The Jets have their veteran place holder and hopeful future face of the franchise, but where does that leave Bridgewater, who, prior to a knee injury in 2016, was a playoff quarterback in Minnesota?

With the direction the Jets are going, Bridgewater is an odd fit for this roster. If he comes into camp looking like his 2015 self, then perhaps he could challenge McCown for the week one starter spot.

This team will be led by Darnold soon, so whoever he replaces is irrelevant for the future of the franchise. McCown is the safer bet at backup due to his healthy history and experience with many types of offenses.

Week one starter: Josh McCown

Buffalo Bills

The Bills ended the longest active NFL playoff drought last season by squeaking their way into the Wild Card round.

Their quarterback was Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills were not high on. Buffalo benched him midway through the season for one half before Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions against the Chargers, forcing Coach Sean McDermott to put Taylor back in.

Taylor has since been traded, and the Bills in another deal acquired former Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

McCarron has been rumored to get traded to a team needing a quarterback since he received starts in 2015 after Andy Dalton suffered an injury. He performed well in four starts and almost won a playoff game before a defensive collapse buried the Bengals against Pittsburgh.

With just Peterman on the roster, it appeared McCarron would be handed the starter’s job. That was until Buffalo traded up in the draft to seven, where they selected Wyoming QB Josh Allen.

Allen has a great arm, one that allows him to make throws that other quarterbacks cannot.

But, he has had accuracy issues throughout college, and his offense looked flat against their two toughest opponents last year (Wyoming only put up 26 total points in their two losses to Iowa and Oregon).

Regardless, Allen has the build and arm to make big plays in the NFL. But for a team that just made it to the playoffs, perhaps turning things over to the raw talented rookie isn’t in their best interest if they want to get back to the postseason.

McCarron should start week one, and if he plays like he did in 2015, he should stay the starter this season. Allen’s talent could use some molding, so having him backup in 2018 seems like a logical decision. If McCarron fails to keep Buffalo in the playoff race though, then Allen’s time should come sooner rather than later.

Week one starter: A.J. McCarron



Arizona Cardinals

There are three new quarterbacks in the desert.

After Carson Palmer’s retirement, The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford, despite injury holding him out in 2017. Mike Glennon was brought in after the Bears released their 16-million-dollar backup. And like the Jets and Bills, the Cards traded up to get their quarterback of the future, Josh Rosen out of UCLA.

Arizona will treat Bradford with caution in camp considering his latest injury. With the reps off Bradford will be getting, Rosen will have a chance to gain more with the first team. That extra work and exposure, if Rosen performs well, could show Head Coach Steve Wilkes that the rookie is ready to go week one.

Rosen’s biggest question has never been skill. His passer efficiency rating over three college seasons was over 140 and he threw for over nine thousand yards.

His issue has been maturity and ability to lead. He was difficult to coach at UCLA according to scouting reports, and on the field, he took unnecessary risks leading to 10 interceptions in 11 games last year. The Bruins were just 18-20 with him as quarterback.

But, Bradford has yet to lead a team to the playoffs since he entered the league in 2008, as the first pick for St. Louis. Bradford is a consistently accurate quarterback, but he doesn’t throw down the field well and has never been able to elevate a team in the pros.

Week one starter: Josh Rosen

Baltimore Ravens

2008 was the last time Baltimore drafted a quarterback in round one of the NFL draft. Their draftee, Joe Flacco, has been the starting quarterback ever since. The Ravens made it to the playoffs from 2008 through the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl.

Then, Flacco was made the richest quarterback in history at the time, and the Ravens have made it to the postseason once in the past five years.

Over the past two seasons, the Ravens were one play away from the playoffs.

On Christmas day in 2016, during week 16, Antonio Brown of the Steelers reached the ball over the goal line for the game winning touchdown with nine seconds left. That game ended Baltimore’s season.

In week 17 of 2017, a 53-yards touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-13 in the final minute knocked the Ravens out of the wild card spot.

Flacco’s performance in those two seasons have gone similarly. Average to poor play prior to the bye week. Following their bye weeks, he has looked like a quarterback worthy of his pay check.

Last season, before the bye, Flacco had a quarterback rating of 73.6 while throwing eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions. After their bye, his rating shot up to 89.5, and he threw 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

But, with his early season struggles, the Ravens over the last couple of seasons have lost games in the opening weeks to teams that received a top ten draft pick. If the Ravens had won those games, they would have almost certainly made it to the playoffs in 2016 and 2017.

With the disappointments of the last few seasons, Ozzie Newsome’s last first round pick before retirement was selecting Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner from Louisville.


Photo via @Lj_era8

Jackson led the Cardinals to three straight winning seasons. He threw for 9,043 yards and ran for another 4,132. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick with his ability to make plays with his legs.

With his speed, Jackson will need to learn to throw more accurately on rollouts and on the run. That could take some time to work on, therefore sitting behind a quarterback who had the sixth most completions last year could help Jackson’s accuracy development.

Flacco has been the guy in Baltimore for a decade. They have gotten him new weapons for 2018 in hopes of improving the production of the passing attack. Flacco will more than likely be the Ravens’ starter for this season, but another disappointing finish outside of the playoffs and Lamar Jackson will be the starter come 2019.

Week one starter: Joe Flacco

Draft Grades: AFC North

A quick note, be sure to check out Episode 3 of Two Kids in a Trechcoat to hear more takes from this wild NFL Draft.

Baltimore Ravens: B-

Round 1, Pick 25: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina DbMezvWXkAEkJWl.jpg

Round 1, Pick 32: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Round 3: Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma

Round 3: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Round 4: Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama

Round 4: Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico St.

Round 5: Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA

Round 6: DeShon Elliott, S, Texas

Round 6: Greg Sanat, T, Wagner

Round 6: Bradley Boseman, C Alabama

Round 7: Zach Sieler, DE, Ferris State

The Ravens nailed it with Jackson, Brown and Andrews. It seems strange that they passed on a lot of receivers and tight ends, all better, and much younger, than Hurst. Baltimore still added some decent pass catchers and bolstered its O-Line, which is never a bad move.

Cincinnati Bengals: A

Round 1, Pick 21: Billy Price, C, Ohio St.


Round 2: Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest

Round 3: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio St.

Round 3: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Round 4: Mark Walton, RB, Miami (FL)

Round 5: Devontae Harris, CB, Illinois St.

Round 5: Andrew Brown, DE, Virginia

Round 5: Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan

Round 7: Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo

Round 7: Rod Taylor, G, Mississippi

Round 7: Auden Tate, WR, Florida

This is only the second A I’ve awarded, the other Being Miami’s A-. While we’re talking about A minuses, I just wanna ask why do they equal a 3.67? NO WAY the difference between a 93 and a 92 is .33 points.


The Bengals no longer have a human turnstyle starting at center, and filled other needs with great picks to follow. Bates definitely flew under the radar, and was a smart choice in the second. Cincy got great value in Hubbard and Jefferson in the third.

Cleveland Browns: C

Round 1, Pick 1: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma DcH0_a5V4AE87Hk

Round 1, Pick 4: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.

Round 2: Austin Corbett, T, Nevada

Round 3: Chad Thomas, DE, Miami (FL)

Round 4: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida

Round 5: Genard Avery, LB, Memphis

Round 6: Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M

Round 6: Simeon Thomas, CB, Louisiana

C is for Cleveland. The Browns’ Draft left me with so many questions. Why take Mayfield No. 1? Why pass on Chubb at 4? Mayfield and Ward are both great football players, but I’m still scratching my head. Cleveland passed on someone better at every one of its first four picks.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C

Round 1: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech CxqagF9UcAEInIM.jpg

Round 2: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St.

Round 3: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma St.

Round 3: Chuks Okorafor, T, Western Michigan

Round 5: Marcus Allen, S, Penn St.

Round 5: Jaylen Samuels, RB, NC State

Round 7: Joshua Frazier, DL, Alabama

Edmunds was a str——————-etch  (get it?) in the first round. What prevented me from giving the Steelers a D was the great idea of taking Washington and Rudolph with back-to-back picks. Big Ben will likely call it a career after this season, which gives Rudolph a year to learn before taking over. Then, he gets to throw to his top college receiver AND Antonio Brown.


Here are the rest of the completed NFL Draft Grades:

AFC East

AFC South

NFC North