Ravens Have Most Complete Roster in NFL
The Ravens were the best team in the NFL during the regular season last year, and they've only gotten better this offseason. A strong case can be made that Baltimore has the league's most complete roster heading into the draft.
One pundit making that case is Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd, who placed the Ravens at No. 1 in his ranking of the NFL's top eight rosters.
"Baltimore [has] the best roster in the NFL. They were No. 1 in scoring last year, they've upgraded their defensive front and they have the best secondary by a mile in the league," Cowherd said.
To Cowherd's point, the Ravens' key moves during free agency were acquiring defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and placing the franchise tag on Matthew Judon.
The team re-signed veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith to maintain depth and continuity in the secondary. Baltimore also brought back defensive linemen Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis and retained core special teamers Anthony Levine and Chris Moore.
Cowherd's rankings were based solely on teams' players and did not consider their coaching staffs and front offices. However, he pointed out that the Ravens are among the league's elite in those areas as well. Retaining both coordinators, Greg Roman and Wink Martindale, is huge.
With offseason team activities in jeopardy because of COVID-19, Cowherd said franchises with stability such as the Ravens will have a significant advantage.
"There's always an advantage for veteran teams that are well run, but I think this year more than ever," Cowherd said. "The well-run organizations: the Baltimores, the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots ... are just going to flourish because they have stability [and] many of the same people."
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler also believes the Ravens have the NFL's most complete team, thanks to a combination of talent and continuity.
"There isn't a team in the league that has as much written in permanent ink as the Ravens," Schisler wrote." One big advantage for Baltimore is that Don Martindale and Greg Roman are coming back as John Harbaugh's coordinators. The Ravens went into the 2019 season with an idea of what they wanted to do. Their plan worked and they built on it. In 2020, the Ravens don't just have a concept of what kind of football they want to play, they have a well-constructed model. The Roman offense led by Lamar Jackson is just getting started."
Meanwhile, ESPN's post-free agency power rankings have the Ravens at No. 2 (up one spot from where they were in ESPN's post-Super Bowl rankings), trailing only the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Four Positions Ravens 'Must Add' to in the Draft
While there's no question the Ravens are in good shape, every team has needs and Baltimore is no different.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec broke down the Ravens' priorities heading into the draft, and he placed four positions in the "must add" category. Here are some excerpts:
Wide receiver: "Team officials believe there are so many enticing receivers in the draft that it wouldn't have been prudent to take away from their modest cap space to add a veteran wideout. Now, they have to hit on one or two of those. ... A wide receiver will be under consideration with the 28th-overall pick. If the Ravens don't take one in the first round, they'll likely come out of Day 2 with at least one new target for Lamar Jackson."
Interior offensive line: "The Ravens haven't made any moves to augment their offensive line. That's a show of confidence in young holdovers Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari and in how position coach Joe D'Alessandris has developed offensive linemen. There still needs to be competition, and the draft isn't overflowing with projected Day 1 starters."
Outside linebackers: "The addition of a dynamic edge rusher could take the defense to another level. Finding that player won't be easy. It's not a strong edge rusher draft class, and some of the better ones will probably go earlier than they deserve. The Ravens have done well finding late-round pass rushers, like [Matthew] Judon, Pernell McPhee and Za'Darius Smith."
Inside linebackers: "Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale relies heavily on sub-packages, and the Ravens didn't have two inside linebackers on the field all that often in 2019. However, a three-down linebacker who can play the run and hold his own in pass coverage would fill a void. Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray and LSU's Patrick Queen both fit the profile, but neither may last to pick 28. [General Manager Eric] DeCosta will need a Plan B."
Tony Jefferson: Ravens Are Going to Love Campbell
Campbell revealed during his recent appearance on "The Lounge" podcast that former Ravens safety Tony Jefferson's praise for the organization helped convince him that Baltimore would be a great fit.
Jefferson, who played with Campbell in Arizona from 2013-2016, told CBS Sports' and 105.7 The Fan's Jason La Canfora that the Ravens are going to love Campbell just as much as he is going to love being a Raven.
"Oh my gosh, it's the absolute perfect fit," Jefferson said. "I had talked to him the day before it happened. I guess when he was hearing it might go down, and I was ecstatic for him. I was so happy for him, because I know the type of player he is, not just on the field, but what he brings to the locker room.
"He is going to fit right in. This organization is going to love him. He's just a loving guy who cares and works hard, and he's just a beast on the field. He's 6-8 and has an unbelievable swim move that he uses and I just think that Wink saw him at the Pro Bowl and was like, 'We need this guy. He is definitely going to be a huge factor in our defense and how our guys play inside upfront.' That was a very good get by [Eric DeCosta] there."
Campbell told La Canfora that he did his own research, but Jefferson's opinion of the Ravens carried a lot of weight. Campbell had to agree to a reworked contract in order for the trade to happen.
"The way he spoke about (this opportunity), especially for a guy who just got cut - because usually when a guy just got cut they're a little upset and they don't speak highly of the team - but Tony had nothing but good things to say," Campbell said. "He really led me to believe that the culture there is very, very strong. He was a big influence on me."
Jefferson, who was released last month after three seasons in Baltimore, was one of the team's most respected and well-liked defensive players. Currently a free agent, the 28-year-old Jefferson said he hopes to rejoin the organization as a scout after his playing days are over.
"I think they are run the right way and that comes from the top, starting with [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] all the way down," Jefferson said. "And I felt like it was a place I wish I could've been when I first came into the league, but think I came in at the right time to help build a great organization and help turn things around on defense and have the younger guys like Chuck [Clark] come up.
"And when it was his time he was ready, and that's a testament to the older guys, not just me, but all the other guys I shared that locker room with, how close knit everybody was together. I'm going to really miss that a lot, just the brotherhood all together, and the city all together. Like I told Eric, when I'm done playing hopefully I'm able to get in there and do some scouting."
Jackson's Season Was One of Best Ever in Fantasy, Too
Last year, Jackson had perhaps the best season ever for an NFL quarterback - both in reality and fantasy.
The MVP's 2019 performance came in at No. 5 on Sports Illustrated's rankings of the top-10 fantasy football campaigns of all time. He was one of only two quarterbacks on the list (the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes' 2018 season was No. 6).
"Jackson was fewer than two points shy from producing the most fantasy points ever at the quarterback position," Sports Illustrated's Matt Brandon wrote. "Although he didn't break the record, he played in one fewer game than Patrick Mahomes or Peyton Manning in their respective historic seasons. ... Jackson averaged more than 27 fantasy points per contest. The lightning-quick signal caller was simply unstoppable, and there is no reason to think that he won't continue to produce at extraordinary levels."
Jackson's ADP (average draft position) in standard scoring fantasy leagues last year was 106th overall, which was 14th among quarterbacks, according to FantasyPros.com. Now that's what I call value.
Ray Lewis in the 2005 "Madden" game made Snoop Dogg's list of most unstoppable video game athletes.