Glenn Clark: Are The Ravens Now More Capable Of Beating The AFC’s Best Teams?

If there’s one word that most defines the annual aftermath of the NFL Draft, the word would of course be “bias.” There’s more bias on display in the days after the seventh round ends than there was inside the Dean Smith Center on Feb. 20, 1986.

“I really liked this player and the team that took him got him lower than I think they should have been able to, so obviously they had the best draft.”

“I typically believe this team has drafted well over the years so even if I don’t like a particular pick they made I’m probably going to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re the team that found a Pro Bowl-caliber guard in the fourth round a few years back.”

“I don’t really know as much as I pretend I do but I’m very much interested in engagement humping on social media so I’m just going to say anything at all because nothing in the world is real anymore. YOU GUYS IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL THAT IS ANYWHERE NEAR AS GOOD AS THE BAND THE GOO GOO DOLLS?”

OK, so maybe the last one is less about “bias” and more about another gripe I have with … absolutely everything. But I feel better. As I was saying, draft recap columns are largely worthless to anyone other than the author. Did the Dolphins do well overall? Who flipping knows? Did the Ravens reach for Brandon Stephens in Round 3? Maybe?

The sad part is that you know as well as I do that more people would have clicked on this column had we made the title “NFL Draft Grades: Glenn Explains Why The Ravens Deserve An A.” But you know better! You know we can’t have these answers for some time. The Orioles will have a catcher capable of framing a pitch before we get these answers.

And the more frustrating part is that these aren’t really the answers that necessarily matter. Necessarily. Did I say necessarily? Because necessarily.

Context is so critical here. For example, Odafe Oweh might turn out to be a tremendous NFL edge rusher. But if he’s largely a non-factor this season while the Ravens’ issues at right tackle doom their pursuit of their first Super Bowl appearance in damn near a decade and Teven Jenkins dominates in Chicago, was the selection the right one?

Which is why, particularly in Baltimore, the relevant question isn’t necessarily how the Ravens did in the Draft. The more relevant question is “so are we on to horrendous butt sweat weather until Labor Day or are we going to still get a day or two of spring in there somewhere?” Or I’d settle for “is this Ravens roster now capable of beating the best teams in the AFC?” Or at least “more capable?”

And that answer is much more definitively … still a solid “maybe? I’m just not sure.” Which is the most frustrating part about all of this.

Look, I can’t pretend like bias isn’t a factor for me here. I was absolutely of the belief that Rashod Bateman was the best fit for what the Ravens were looking for at receiver among draft prospects. He’s a Raven now. I can’t pretend like that alone doesn’t make me more comfortable with what they’re doing offensively as a whole.

Yet I also can’t pretend that I’m completely confident with Ben Cleveland starting at left guard and “starting right tackle to be named at a later date” starting at right tackle. When combined with Ronnie Stanley’s return from a serious injury and Bradley Bozeman potentially moving positions (albeit to one he has plenty of experience with), there’s more than a little reason for concern along the offensive line.

And “Odafe Oweh had zero sacks last year” is already about as exhausting as reminders that Jimmy Graham used to play basketball. But with the Ravens needing to bring down very good AND very athletic passers like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen to win the AFC, it’s not unfair to reference the statistic in the context of the Ravens hoping he’ll be part of the solution for replacing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. (And if we’re being honest, they actually need MORE production than what that duo gave them.)

While a couple of veteran signings are likely this week, we know that this is largely the group that will try to get the Ravens over the hump. And it’s more than a little reasonable to wonder whether they can. Offseason additions alone did not change the AFC hierarchy. On paper, the Chiefs are very much still the team to beat with the Ravens in the next tier of teams capable of competing. (And this is before a hypothetical Aaron Rodgers acquisition by the Broncos!)

They still need more things to go their way. They need advanced development, particularly from second-year players like linebacker Patrick Queen (who needs to be better in coverage) and running back J.K. Dobbins (who CAN’T suffer more bad whiffs on blocks and has to get involved in the passing game) and offensive lineman Tyre Phillips (who we might found out was ALWAYS the plan at right tackle and how silly of us to not realize). They need good fortune. It would behoove them to not have to hear about any offseason orgy incidents that spill into roster-altering practice incidents.

(I know, I know, “pandemic” and all but how long ago does it feel like that story was? At least six years, right?)

They need fortuitous health. They need play calling evolution. They need their rookies to out-produce last year’s.

And it STILL might not be enough.

So how did the Ravens do in the draft? I dunno, man. If they win the Super Bowl it was the greatest draft in team history, I guess.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Glenn Clark

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