The Baltimore Ravens hold the No. 28 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Fans and analysts seem to agree that their biggest needs going into the draft include edge rush, inside linebacker, wide receiver and interior offensive line.
Daniel Jeremiah worked as a scout for the Ravens from 2003-2006 before his current media career. He currently serves as the lead NFL Draft analyst for NFL Network. He will anchor NFL Scouting Combine coverage from Indianapolis alongside Rich Eisen Feb. 27-March 1. This is the first year that Combine workouts will be live in prime time, with quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends on the field from 4-11 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.
PressBox: You have the Ravens taking an inside linebacker with the 28th pick? Some would argue they have a bigger need at edge rush. Is this more about the quality of the player (Murray) or do you believe edge rush isn’t quite as much of a need as others do?
Daniel Jeremiah: I just look at this team and I think defensively, because of the scheme they have, they’ve always been able to generate pressure. Even if you look at [linebacker Terrell] Suggs as kind of coming down the hill in his career, they were still able to kind of manufacture pressure with what they do there schematically. So I think as long as you have [defensive coordinator Don] “Wink” [Martindale] there, I don’t think you feel like you have a gun to your head where you’ve got to get the edge rusher. But yeah, you could say they need an upgrade there and I just think when you look at overall athleticism and ability there at the second level and [the ability to] be a playmaker off the ball as a linebacker — I think that could have a dramatic impact on that defense, and that goes back 20 years where the Ravens went from one Hall of Famer [Ray Lewis] to another All-Pro [C.J. Mosley] at the inside linebacker position and it just seems like they’re a little light there right now.
PB: Would your opinion change if the Ravens don’t bring back Matthew Judon or don’t address edge rush significantly otherwise in free agency? Would you feel like they had a more pressing need to take an edge rusher in the first round?
DJ: I don’t think there’s tremendous depth in the edge rushers in this year’s draft so that to me would make the case that if you don’t do anything in free agency — you mentioned the guys you already have on campus, you feel OK about that, I don’t think there’s any real proven NFL commodities there provided Judon leaves. So to me it comes down to what they get accomplished in free agency. If they don’t get an edge rusher in free agency, now I think there is some urgency to say, ‘If we want to upgrade the edge rusher position we’re going to have to do it really early in this draft, in the first couple rounds,’ because I think it dramatically falls off.
PB: If the Ravens do take an edge rusher first, who are the players that could practically be available with the 28th pick that you think would be a good fit?
DJ: I look at a guy like Marlon Davidson. Some people will list Marlon Davidson from Auburn as a D-tackle because he’s around 300 pounds but to me, I’ve seen him play outside on the edge. I watched him against LSU the other day and they have a tackle who’s gonna be a top-50 pick and he just grabs him and throws him on the ground. He was dominant at the Senior Bowl. He’s that big power rusher that we’ve seen the Ravens play with who also has the versatility to kick inside if you want him to. So he’s one that makes sense.
A.J. Epenesa is kind of a classic Ravens-type player from Iowa. I don’t think he’ll make it all the way down there. He’s big, long, just a real physical power rusher. He’d be another one. The real athlete of the group that has a chance to get down there is [K’Lavon] Chaisson from LSU, who’s raw, kind of almost a similar body type to [current Ravens edge rusher] Jaylon Ferguson. He’s a more athletic version of Ferguson in that same type of body. He’d be another one that I would keep an eye on. After that you start getting to guys like [Jonathan] Greenard who’s from Florida, who’s real, real smooth and athletic, I think you’ll see his star start to rise a little bit after the Combine. He’s somebody that’s real bendy and maybe not that same power rusher as those other guys but man, he’s got some juice and some bend off the edge and I think he’s probably gonna go late [Round] 1/early [Round] 2, that’s where I’ve got him pegged.
PB: Going back to inside linebacker for a second, we saw a number of teams (including the Ravens) get back to more a run-dominant offense last year. Does that make inside linebacker more valuable in general? Some analysts (myself included) would argue that you should only draft an inside linebacker that early if he has a chance to be a truly game-changing player, like (former Panthers linebacker) Luke Kuechly. Is Murray that type of player?
DJ: He’s my 35th player, so when you start talking about guys like Kuechly and you go even last year and look at the two kids that came out last year – [Buccaneers linebacker] Devin White and [Steelers linebacker] Devin Bush — those guys were in my top 13, 14 players, so he’s not in that class. He is in that class speed-wise, range-wise. Tremendous athlete. But instinct-wise, especially when he’s inside the box he can get lost a little bit. He’s a little bit slow to trigger. I think when you get him outside the box and let him kind of run, hit, be able to see clearly, that’s where you see that athleticism take off. He’s somebody — that as we talk about the league getting back to a little bit of the run game — but as long as you’re going to be in the same conference as Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ track club, having linebackers like that that can really, really run and you can use him as a matchup guy in coverage against the [tight end Travis] Kelces of the world, that’s still a pretty darn valuable commodity.
PB: I know this will stun you, but we’re talking about wide receivers in Baltimore again this year. Who are the players that could practically be available at 28 that you think would make sense in a Greg Roman-Lamar Jackson offense?
DJ: I look at a guy like Tee Higgins from Clemson, just bringing some size and athletic ability. He’s acrobatic down in the red zone, his ability to go up and get the football. I think that would complement some of the other pieces that they have in place there. And he’s also somebody they can get on top of coverage in the middle of the field, too. So to me, I think that’s probably about the range where he goes.
If you wanna just go for the fun factor, Laviska Shenault from Colorado. He is not super polished, but if you wanna give the most creative offense and [give] Greg Roman another toy, just look — if you watched how San Francisco was using Deebo Samuel, using him almost like a wing back, right? He’s in the slot then you can motion him and fly sweep, line him up in the backfield and throw him a swing, you can the hand the ball off to him if you wanted to, he can do some Wildcat quarterback. He is a 220-pound athletic freak who is still developing and growing as a pure wide receiver. If you’re asking me who, selfishly, I would like to see plugged into that offense? That would be my choice.
PB: One of the more compelling draft candidates is Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, who is transitioning to wide receiver/returner. What do you think about him?
DJ: He is fun to watch. We had him at the East West Shrine Bowl and he did not play any quarterback all week. Played receiver and was a little bit up and down as you can imagine adjusting to it. They gave him one snap at quarterback in the game and he took an option I think about 50 yards for a touchdown. Just a total stud. He was fun to watch, I think he’s gonna be somebody that’s gonna be interesting as we go toward the Combine.
For more from the interview, including Jeremiah’s thoughts on whether the Ravens should overpay to keep Judon, listen below.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Oklahoma Athletics