It wasn’t long ago that the Ravens were swimming in pass-rush possibilities.

When free agency opened in mid-March, their need for an impactful edge rusher was as obvious as the array of promising paths to getting one. The Ravens could sign their guy in free agency. They could take him at No. 14 overall in the NFL draft. They could maybe even trade down and get him later in the first round.

Then general manager Eric DeCosta’s deal for free-agent outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith fell through. Then Michigan outside linebacker David Ojabo, a first-round prospect who’d blossomed under new Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald in Ann Arbor, tore his Achilles tendon. Then Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker became not just a sure-thing top-15 pick but also a possible top-two pick, with Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II’s steady rise perhaps taking him out of the Ravens’ range as well.

As team officials prepare for Thursday’s first round, they must weigh their need to address the pass rush against the realities of their draft board. The Ravens finished 28th in sack rate and 24th in pressure rate last season, according to Pro Football Reference. Top outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh are both coming back from offseason operations. The depth behind them is unremarkable. The interior pass rush remains a work in progress.

But given the Ravens’ best-player-available approach in the draft, their roster holes elsewhere and the caliber of edge rushers who could be available at No. 14 overall, DeCosta could have to hold off on adding help until at least Friday.

“There are some good players,” he said at the Ravens’ predraft news conference earlier this month. “Typically, those guys go fast. We think there will be a run of those guys, probably in the top 10. There might be a guy or two that falls down to us at 14, potentially.”

If one of those guys happens to be Johnson, however, the Ravens figure to take a long look.

The case for Jermaine Johnson II

It’s easy to fall hard for Johnson.

Measurables? The 6-foot-5, 254-pound Johnson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds (92nd percentile among edge rushers), posted a broad jump of nearly 10 1/2 feet (91st percentile) and has a 6-9 wingspan (70th percentile).

Run defense? Johnson is widely considered the best edge setter in the draft, finishing with 23 run …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Ravens draft preview: The pass rush needs a spark, and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II shows elite flashes

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