Though the NFL offseason is in full swing things are, at the moment, at a lull.
While we all patiently await the start of the new league year in March, this down time does allow us to reflect upon the negative and positive things from the season, particularly the 2016 draft class.
In a recent article on NFL.com, analysts Bucky Brooks and Connor Orr rated the leagues best and worst classes.
The best draft classes included the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Diego Chargers. The worst? The Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills, along with the Ravens’ AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
In the days immediately following the 2016 draft, NFL pundits were heaping praise on Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens scouting department for, in their eyes, putting together another solid draft class.
“11 picks and what do you get? Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh nailing need and value across the board, drafting for both present and future,” said Sporting News draft analyst Vinnie Iyer. “It’s rare the Ravens either pick that high to start or end up with so many selections, and they took advantage of it. They got offensive and defensive linemen to fit their schemes to a tee. Dixon and Reynolds are nice new backfield options.”
Iyer was hardly alone.
“The Laremy Tunsil controversy might have pushed the Ravens to take Stanley, but they still got one of the draft’s best pass-protecting offensive tackles,” remarked Sam Palazzollo of Pro Football Focus. “Kaufusi is one of the most productive players in the draft, and he brings his 29.3 pass rush grade (fifth-best among interior defensive linemen in the draft) and strong run-defending ability to the 3-4 defensive end position in Baltimore.
“Lewis is a favorite of offensive line coaches around the league, and he’s better in pass protection at this point. Dixon was a steal in the fourth round after notching the top receiving grade among running backs in the class.”
Looking back at draft grades after a season always reminds me that games aren’t won in May. With that in mind, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Ravens, at this time, look to have put together a middle-of-the-road draft class in 2016.
The Laremy Tunsil drama followed the Ravens all the way to the number six overall pick, with the organization opting to snatch the safer Stanley to protect Joe Flacco’s blind side. Stanley played well in his rookie season, starting 12 games (he missed four due to injury) and despite playing alongside another rookie offensive lineman, he gave up just three quarterback sacks in 2016. Stanley has the tools to be a franchise left tackle and will get better as he gets more snaps and stays healthy.
What in the world happened to the Ravens’ second-round draft pick?. The high-intensity, high-motor player we saw in training camp fizzled out quicker than a dud firecracker on the fourth of July. Correa provided zero impact in his 48 defensive snaps while being negated to mostly special teams reps as the season wore on. Not exactly what the Ravens expected from the rookie linebacker.
Kafusi’s season was over before it even started, as the highly-acclaimed third-rounder suffered the team’s first serious injury of training camp. The BYU defensive end was expected to boost a lacking pass rush in 2016. Here’s to hoping Kafusi is fully recovered and ready to deliver in 2017.
Young was one of the most surprising rookies to watch in 2016. It was easy to see why he made his way into John Harbaugh’s starting lineup as he did everything that was asked of him. He performed well on special teams and earned time on the defense. Young played on over 830 defensive snaps, and had more ups than downs. His biggest knock was his size and at 5’9″ opposing quarterbacks were temped to look his way. While he only had eight passes defensed last season, he will remain a key cog moving forward into 2017.
Moore rarely made an impact on the offensive side of the ball in 2016 despite his fourth-round draft pick status. He hauled in just seven of his 16 targets for for 46 yards in 15 games played. The speedy wideout out of the University of Cincinnati did, however, give the special teams a much-needed boost with his coverage skills. Moore was on the receiving end of two touchdowns via special teams, one on a fumble and another on a blocked kick. With veteran Steve Smith Sr.’s retirement, Moore should see the field more often in 2017.
The tough, gritty Lewis made his presence felt early and often throughout the training camp and preseason. Team officials were high on the fourth-round pick and felt he had a real chance to start the season at left guard where he ended up started eight games. While raw, Lewis played admirably before suffering a concussion and a severe ankle injury, forcing the rookie to miss valuable time. Lewis’ return should give the Ravens some relief at the left guard position.
Defensive tackle Willie Henry did not see a single defensive snap in 2016, as he was a healthy scratch for most of the season. The rookie fourth-rounder was a victim of a deep position along the defensive front. With the Ravens likely unable to be able to afford to keep Brandon Williams in 2017, Henry could easily see his stock rise with a solid camp.
Dixon brought some pop to the offense – that is, on the odd chance the team decided to run the ball. Dixon, the number two back behind Terrance West, carried the ball just 88 times for 382 yards (4.3 avg.) and two touchdowns. He also provided the offense with another quality set of hands out of the backfield, hauling in 30 receptions and one touchdown. Dixon appears in the mix for more carries moving forward despite team officials wanting another speed back in 2017.
The Grand Valley State product was one of the Ravens’ best young defensive players in 2016. It seemed for several weeks when the defense needed a play, Judon was there to provide it. Judon played 309 defensive snaps in 14 games and recorded 12 solo tackles and four sacks. The Ravens must get him on the field more in 2017 as their pass rush is in dire need of improvement.
For all the hoopla that surrounded Reynolds when the Ravens selected him in the sixth round, the former Navy quarterback -turned-wide receiver was a work in progress. His failure as a kick/punt returner in training camp and the logjam at wide receiver kept Reynolds from sniffing the turf on game days. While it’s tough for any sixth rounder to get reps, the Ravens appear to have been better off avoiding Reynolds on draft day.
The Ravens took the late-round flier with their last pick and the rookie appeared in four games (negated to special teams duty). Canady suffered a hamstring injury early in the season and was sent to injured reserve in October. Canady could provide the Ravens some depth at CB in 2017 but it will be an uphill battle for the youngster out of Virginia.
So there we have it – that’s why the Ravens 2016 draft class wasn’t listed in the best of or worst of category by NFL.com writers. There were several things to be proud of in the rookie class, while there were negatives and questions marks as well.
More importantly, what the front office hopefully learned was whether or not these 2016 draft picks are the answers to any of the questions that surround this team moving forward.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
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