In his final draft as the Baltimore Ravens’ general manager, Ozzie Newsome went out with a bang, finishing his storied career with one of his finest drafts. Through six trades and 12 picks, Newsome built an impressive class that made contributions immediately. Though it’s far too early to definitively comment on the group, it appears to be one of the finest draft classes in franchise history.
Newsome’s fantastic maneuvering on draft night netted the Ravens a top player at a position of need — tight end Hayden Hurst at pick No. 25 — and a franchise quarterback several picks later — Lamar Jackson at No. 32. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. considered Baltimore one of the biggest winners in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Almost a year later, those high marks still hold up.
In his re-evaluation of each team’s 2018 draft class, Kiper upgraded the Ravens’ haul to an A-minus grade. Only the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts received higher grades for their classes.
“Because of how good the rookie classes looked in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Denver, this Ravens draft — GM Ozzie Newsome’s last — went a little under the radar,” Kiper wrote. “There are some really good pieces here, though.”
The gem of the class is, of course, Jackson. The legacy of this class is ultimately predicated on Jackson’s success, and should he become the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be, this class would be nestled with the vaunted 1996 class as one of the Ravens’ best ever. So far, Kiper seems to think that the Jackson pick is panning out.
“[Jackson is] an elite athlete and runner, and there were times when he befuddled defensive coordinators,” wrote Kiper. “He hit some big throws as John Harbaugh & Co. changed their offense to play to the rookie’s strengths.”
While Jackson gets most of the attention, lost in the fold are the other quality offensive players Baltimore picked up in the draft. Of the Ravens’ first four selections — Hurst, Jackson, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews — all appear to be starting material. Also worth mentioning is running back Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent who ascended from the practice squad to become Baltimore’s leading rusher last season.
While this draft class shows great promise already, there is still plenty of untapped potential. Because of injuries and more experienced depth above them, four of the 12 rookies — wide receivers Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, safety DeShon Elliott and offensive tackle Greg Senat — didn’t play a single snap in 2018. In addition, cornerback Anthony Averett and linebacker Kenny Young could both see more playing time after showing flashes of talent last season.