After missing the playoffs their previous three seasons, the Baltimore Ravens rebounded to a 10-6 record and wild card berth in the AFC. Although they lost the playoff game, it was their best season since 2014. The Ravens were 13th in scoring at 24.3 points per game and 2nd in fewest points allowed at 17.9 per game. Clearly needing more help on offense, the Ravens used four of their first six selections in the NFL draft on that side of the ball. Let’s examine these picks.
Round 1 (25th) Marquise Brown (WR) Oklahoma
At the College of the Canyons in California, Brown had 10 receiving touchdowns among his 50 receptions for 754 yards. Enrolling at Oklahoma the following season, Brown had 57 catches for over 1000 yards and seven touchdowns. As a junior, Brown was first team both Big 12 and AP after catching 75 passes for ten touchdowns and over 1300 yards.
In need of playmakers, the Ravens were confident Brown was the top on the board at the time of their selection. He has excellent speed and a threat to go the distance on any play. One concern is his size, at 5’ 10” and 175 pounds, and his durability, coming off a foot injury. Brown won’t be the best to contend with balls in tight coverage against bigger corners. However, Brown’s speed should allow him to be a huge deep threat and tough to catch in the open field.
Round 3 (85th) Jaylon Ferguson (DE/OLB) Louisiana Tech
As a freshman, Ferguson lead the team with six sacks and have 15 tackles for loss of yardage. He started every game as a sophomore, racking up 49 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 16 for loss of yardage. Ferguson was named first-team all conference as a junior after registering seven sacks among his 39 tackles. He lead the nation in sacks as a senior with 17.5, to go along with 64 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Expected to go higher in the draft, the Ravens were fortunate to land Ferguson with the 85th pick. Five pass rushers were selected before Ferguson, who was not at the combine after not being invited due to a conviction for battery his freshman season. If Ferguson can stay out of trouble, he brings an excellent pass rusher to an already fearsome defensive unit.
Round 3 (93rd) Miles Boykin (WR) Notre Dame
A member of the scout team in 2015, Boykin had a modest six receptions in 12 games in 2016. Although catching only 12 balls as a junior, Boykin showed playmaking capabilities, averaging over 21 yards per reception. Last season, Boykin started and lead Notre Dame with 59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.
Keeping to their theme of bolstering the wide receiver group, Boykin adds the size to contend with tough balls in traffic. He’s 6’ 3” and 220 pounds and has a knack for finding the end zone. Brown should be a good option for inside the red zone. The addition of Boykin and Brown immediately improves a group considering one of the weakest in the league.
Round 4 (113th) Justice Hill (RB) Oklahoma State
Hill lead all freshman running back with 1142 yards rushing and 5.5 yards per carry in 2016. The following season, Hill added 1467 more yards and 15 touchdowns, earning first team recognition in the conference. Despite lower numbers last season due to an injury, Hill averaged 5.9 yards per carry and nine touchdowns, against first-team All-Big 12 selection.
Adding another weapon to the mix, Hill was the fastest of the running backs at the NFL combine. He has the ability to take the ball the distance on any play. While the other top backs on the Ravens are more power oriented, Hill supplies that excellent change of pace to compliment the attack. Expect significant contributions from this 4th round pick this season.
Round 4 (123rd) Ben Powers (G) Oklahoma
Powers began his college career at Butler Community College in 2015 before signing with Oklahoma, where he started the last 10 games in 2016 at left guard. Showing versatility, Powers appeared in two of his 14 games the following season at right game. Last season, Powers was named first-team All-Big-12 starting every game at left guard.
Although one of the biggest needs on the team, the Ravens elected to wait until the 123rd pick to address the position. Powers should compete immediately for a shot at the starting left guard position. It’s uncertain whether or not Powers earns the job this season, but he is projected by many to be an eventual starter in the NFL. This is a solid choice for the Ravens at this stage of the draft.
Round 4 (127th) Iman Marshall (CB) USC
Marshall made an immediate impact as a freshman for USC in 2015, recording 67 tackles and three interceptions. Earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a sophomore, Marshall had 51 tackles and three interception. Although missing time due to a knee injury as a junior, Marshall was still able to record 52 tackles. Starting 12 games last season, Marshall was second-team All-Pac 12.
The ability Marshall has to make plays, along with his physicality were attractive attributes to the Ravens. Although breaking up many passes, Marshall has been unable to come up with interceptions and has been hit with numerous penalties. He is a raw talent that needs to iron out some kinks in his game, but has the potential to contribute to an already stellar defense.