The Baltimore Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to drafting talent and the 2011 NFL Draft was no different. The Ravens addressed issues in the secondary by selecting Jimmy Smith out of Colorado and Chykie Brown out of Texas; and pass catchers with size in Torrey Smith out of Maryland and Tandon Doss out of Indiana. Baltimore was aggressive by trading their 90th and 191st picks to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up into the third round to select the physically violent offensive tackle Jah Reid out of Central Florida. However, drafting only one defensive lineman – d-end Pernell McPhee out of Mississippi State – after the lack of a consistent pass rush the past couple of seasons was a bit of a shock. Because of this, I’m giving them a “B+” grade. The Ravens’ eye for talent in the signing of undrafted rookie free agents is their calling card and finding defensive line talent eventually will not be an issue.
But selecting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the fifth round may be a revelation. Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco will be the team’s starting signal caller for Week 1 of the NFL 2011 season, for sure. If the Ravens are contemplating pursuing free agent Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha without signing Flacco to an extension in the near future, could the four-year quarterback or running back Ray Rice be out as Ravens? Especially with not having defensive tackle Haloti Ngata signed to a long-term deal yet?
“There were some guys we liked,” said director of player personnel Eric DeCosta in the Ravens’ press conference on Saturday. “But I think, quite honestly, we like our guys. We’ve got a number of inside linebackers that we think can get better for us. We’ve got some young guys. We’ve taken a few guys these past couple years. We’ve signed a couple undrafted free agents who have gotten a lot better, too. We like our inside backers. We think they’re getting better – they’re young players on the come. We didn’t see that as a big priority for us this year.”
Quality quarterbacks are rarely found among undrafted rookie free agents and to pass up on the opportunity of drafting a talented one like Taylor, with (perhaps) thoughts of making a major decision in the near future, was too much. When Taylor steps on the field of play, he will be quarterbacking and that is what he was selected for, according general manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.
“No. 1, we drafted him as a quarterback, and he was evaluated as a quarterback by Craig (Ver Steeg, offensive assistant, quarterbacks coach) and Cam (Cameron, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach),” said Newsome. “As far as him coming into our system, we feel like he has the skill sets to play the position and he also brings the added dimension of being a terrific athlete that can – as we see so much now – guys that can get out of the pocket and hurt people. He has the ability to do that also.”
Taylor does not lack the confidence to play in the NFL as he believes in his abilities and is willing to learn.
“I believe I’m the most dynamic quarterback in the draft,” said Taylor, according to NFL.com. “I have the ability to move the pocket and keep the play alive, and I also have the ability to stay in the pocket and make every throw that they ask for. My style is kind of a mixture of all.
“I want to do whatever it takes to help the team and in the best situation. Most teams have talked to me as a quarterback. I’m evaluated as a quarterback. After talking to the Ravens’ coaching staff, they look at me as a quarterback and want to mentor me and mature me as a quarterback.”
According to sources, in late-October the Ravens’ organization had concerns with the development of Flacco. If this is true, Taylor could be the next man. If Joe Cool continues to struggle against the Pittsburgh Steelers – especially in the playoffs – the quarterback questions will flame up.
Shortly after the Steelers eliminated the Ravens from the Divisional-Round playoffs last season, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison left the organization for the same position at the University of Michigan. When Chuck Pagano was introduced as the team’s new defensive coordinator shortly thereafter, he expressed his aggressive approach to the defense.
Pursuing Asomugha could be in the Ravens’ plans. If this is the case, the Ravens will have a critical decision to make. Asomugha will command top dollar, but probably would take a slight pay cut to play for a Super Bowl contender – which the Ravens are. With franchised Ngata waiting to be signed to a much deserve long-term deal, the Ravens most likely could not re-sign both Flacco and Rice (a Pro Bowler). With the market for a top NFL quarterback around $20 million per season, if Ngata is not signed by the end of the 2011 season with Asomugha possibly on the roster, someone will be out.
Assuming that quarterback Marc Bulger signs elsewhere, Taylor will be Flacco’s backup. Drafting Taylor may signal a major change in the Ravens’ future plans. With aging future Hall of Famers linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed near the end of their playing careers, the Ravens could be in the market for Asomugha, who can help Baltimore to win now.
Stay tuned for this possible development.