Fri, 09 Jun 2023

Does Selecting an Offensive Tackle in the First Round Make Sense for Ravens?

Upgrading the offensive line figures to be high on the Ravens' priority list this offseason, so it's not surprising that pundits are predicting the team to select an offensive lineman in the first round of the 2022 draft.

A player who has been linked to the Ravens in multiple mock drafts is mountainous Minnesota offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. In The Athletic's Dane Brugler's latest mock draft, he has Baltimore selecting the 6-foot-9, 380-pound Faalele with the 31st-overall pick.

A native of Australia, Faalele was a three-year starter at Minnesota playing mostly right tackle.

"He's a former Rugby player, who is relatively early in his development," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "But his combination of size and athleticism has made him one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft."

On the surface, Faalele sounds like a good fit for the Ravens.

"It is imperative this offseason that the Ravens improve the tackle depth in the organization and bring in some young talent at the position," Zrebiec wrote. "Selecting Faalele would be a step in that direction. The Ravens love big and physical offensive linemen and Faalele fits that mold."

On the other hand, drafting an offensive tackle late in the first round does not come without risk.

"Obviously, the Ravens and other teams will spend a significant amount of time vetting Faalele in the pre-draft process," Zrebiec wrote. "Developmental traits are important, but the Ravens need to be sure that he's ready to play on Day 1. There is a boom-or-bust vibe to Faalele that would be a concern for a first-round pick.

"There are exceptions, of course, but the draft's top tackles go off the board pretty quickly. If the Ravens are drafting late in the first round, it's certainly fair to question what kind of tackle they'd be getting at that point. They have too many needs to be reaching to fill a position."

A little over a year ago, the Ravens had a pair of Pro Bowl tackles in Ronnie Stanley on the left side and Orlando Brown Jr. on the right who were just entering their prime.

But Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November 2020 just days after signing a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $98.75 million. He returned to the field for the 2021 season opener after undergoing surgery and rehabbing the injury, but the ankle was still giving him problems and he ultimately decided to undergo another surgery, which ended his season after one game.

Brown asked to be traded so that he could play left tackle. The Ravens granted his request, sending him to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the 31st-overall pick (which ended up being edge rusher Odafe Oweh).

"Without Stanley and Brown, this year's Ravens have struggled to find stability at the tackle spots," Zrebiec wrote. "Veteran Alejandro Villanueva has struggled mightily at times and could be one-and-done with the Ravens. Converted center Patrick Mekari has done a commendable job at right tackle, but he's a pending restricted free agent and it isn't clear that tackle is his best position long term. The Ravens have relied on former third-round pick Tyre Phillips, who they prefer at guard, and a few different well-traveled veterans to provide depth.

"They are hopeful that Stanley and Ja'Wuan James, who is currently rehabbing an Achilles injury on the non-football injury list, will be healthy enough to be their starting tackles next season, but there are no guarantees of that."

The Most Surprising Aspect of Lamar Jackson's Recent Rash of Interceptions

Lamar Jackson's recent rash of interceptions is surprising considering his career interception-to-touchdown ratio was 76-21 heading into Week 6 in October. Even more surprising than the number of interceptions is where they're occurring, The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote.

Throughout Jackson's career as an NFL starter, he has thrived throwing inside the numbers, but that hasn't been the case over his past five games.

"In the five games since his record-breaking passing performance against the Indianapolis Colts, the middle of the field has turned from Jackson's breadbasket into his Bermuda Triangle, a place where would-be completions mysteriously disappear," Shaffer wrote. "Consider: Over the season's first five weeks, Jackson averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, threw five touchdowns and two interceptions and posted a 103.2 passer rating on middle-field throws, according to Sports Info Solutions. Over the past seven weeks, he's averaged 6.5 yards per attempt, thrown four touchdowns and eight interceptions and posted a 63.7 passer rating on middle-field throws.

"Jackson's surprising struggles reached a new level Sunday. All four interceptions came on targets over the middle to Andrews, his most reliable receiver. All four came on throws from clean pockets. And all four appeared to be Jackson's fault."

This Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is a golden opportunity for Jackson to get back on track on inside-the-numbers throws.

"Opposing quarterbacks have completed 68.1% of their passes over the middle against the Steelers this season, averaging a solid 7.7 yards per pass attempt and throwing twice as many touchdowns (six) as interceptions (three)," Shaffer wrote. "Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow went 11-for-12 for 101 yards there Sunday in Cincinnati's 41-10 rout."

Odafe Oweh Is Proving to Be a Prime-Time Player

As noted in Monday's Late for Work, Oweh was one of the standouts for a Ravens defense that dominated the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night. Oweh's performance continued a trend this season of the rookie playing lights out under the bright lights.

"There must be something in the air whenever the Ravens play on prime-time that turns rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh into a menace," The Baltimore Sun's Ryan McFadden wrote. "Oweh, who finished with two tackles, a sack and four quarterback pressures, has forced a fumble in each of the Ravens' three prime-time home games. He had the clutch forced fumble late in the fourth quarter of the home-opening victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and during their win over the Indianapolis Colts, Oweh rocked quarterback Carson Wentz, causing him to lose the football."

Oweh, who had no sacks in seven games at Penn State last year, is second on the Ravens in sacks (five) and tied for second in quarterback hits (13), according to Pro Football Reference.

After seeing Oweh's performance on Sunday night, ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid said edge rush prospects such as Oweh are forcing college scouts to look beyond sack numbers.

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