When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh, they went against what they normally do with edge rushers in the NFL Draft. First, the Ravens hardly go after pass rushers in the first round.
Secondly, Oweh is a traits machine. He’s 6-5. He’s got prototype traits that you find in a player-created in a video game. Athletically speaking, Oweh just has it. Oweh has what you can’t coach. This actually is something Baltimore seldom goes after.
Terrell Suggs was insanely explosive but he was 6-3. Matt Judon and Tyus Bowser fit the same kind of mold as Suggs in terms of traits. Baltimore Ravens edge rushers tend to have a ton of heart and a very solid build usually under 6-4. It’s been a pattern.
The Ravens are taking a chance on Oweh because they see a potential payoff that’s through the roof. Oweh has a head start because he’s got the perfect 6-5 257 pound build and the explosive burst that goes with it. The Baltimore Ravens just went for it.
Think about the outside linebackers the Ravens have drafted in the past decade. Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Kamalei Correa you can go back all the way to Courtney Upshaw. They all have a similar frame and build. They weren’t NFL combine standouts. The Ravens kept chasing after Terrell Suggs types and didn’t take big swings in the first round.
Breaking the pattern:
To the Ravens’ credit, the Ravens have found some good players. Za’Darius Smith has flourished with the Green Bay Packers. He showed flashes in Baltimore and was solid. The Ravens hit, they just couldn’t keep him. Judon was a very important player for the Ravens; he was so important that he played under the franchise tag in the 2020 season. Bowser gets to try and be the next Judon. Oweh gets to try to be the next Suggs
If the 2021 NFL Draft goes the way it’s supposed to for the Baltimore Ravens, it will be the draft of big swings. It will be the draft where they finally got the big-time wide receiver in Rashod Bateman and they finally find the next great pass rusher in Odafe Oweh. This was an aggressive draft.
The concern for the Oweh pick is getting less pronounced as the offseason lingers on. That being said, the concern for the 27th overall pick was a valid one. Oweh is a raw player. He’s much more of a traits-based prospect than a production-based prospect. The Ravens took a chance here.
The Ravens don’t like to gamble with first-round picks. They usually take somebody safe at a position they have a good track record with. Think Hayden Hurst before trading back into the first round to get Lamar Jackson. They traded back and still drafted Hurst first. Think Ronnie Stanley, Patrick Queen, and Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens think the best player available much more willingly than they think high ceiling gamble. They love drafting a player that is a safe bet.
The take-home point of this article:
Make no mistake about it. Oweh was a gamble. That’s not the point here though, the point is that the Ravens are doing something different in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s quite possible that 10 years from now this kind of move will be the signature difference between Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome. Oweh isn’t the story here. Oweh is an example of how things are changing.
When you look at the rosters of those purgatory years after the Super Bowl XLVII title, you see a common thread. The Ravens lacked star power for their otherwise equipped rosters. The Ravens are looking for superstars now. Eric DeCosta isn’t okay with having underperforming wide receivers. He drafts Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman. He isn’t okay with having a lackluster pass rush so he rolls the dice on a raw player in Oweh who has traits galore.
Jaylon Ferguson was a sign that the Ravens were moving in this direction as well. While the 2019 third-round pick hasn’t worked out, that doesn’t make him a bad example. He was a 6-5 edge rusher with the nickname of “Sack Daddy” at Louisiana Tech. You know exactly what the Baltimore Ravens were going for here.
The Ravens still stick to the best player available model. That’s why the Ravens got J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. That’s what their board dictated. The Ravens are just less into a scouting comfort zone that they have grown into over the years. Analytics and prototypical traits matter more with DeCosta than they did with Newsome.
Baltimore Ravens bottom line:
The Ravens want their own Myles Garrett or their own T.J. Watt. Baltimore got tired of watching freaks of nature rush after Lamar Jackson without having some of their own to go after Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger. They want superstars and they’re willing to take the kinds of changes that they seldom took before DeCosta moved up to the top job.
The Ravens are going to start prioritizing star power. They know that stars make things easy. They’re seeing it with Lamar Jackson. He’s a game-changer and Baltimore knows they need more of those. It’s not a huge shift in philosophy, but it’s going to result in big shots like this taken in the NFL Draft. The Ravens are looking to hit on players with built-in advantages and high ceilings.