OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As the Baltimore Ravens wrapped up their 2017 draft on April 29, team officials stressed that the heavy emphasis on defense has made the team better, and dismissed concerns about the fact that they did not draft any offensive skill position players for the first time in team history.
The Ravens concluded their draft process with three third-day picks, selecting a pair of offensive linemen and a sixth-round safety. Those players join the four defensive players selected by the Ravens in three rounds of the draft.
"We have, no doubt in our mind, made our football team better," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.
Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta reiterated that, saying, "One of our main focuses this offseason was to really work to improve the secondary and also the pass rush, critical things, and I think we’ve really been able to do that."
After the Ravens focused exclusively on the defense with their four picks in the first two days of the draft, the Ravens turned their attention to the offensive line in Day 3, picking up San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa – no relation to former Raven Tony – in the fourth round and Texas A&M guard/tackle Jermaine Eluemunor in the fifth round.
The Ravens face holes on the offensive line after losing tackle Rick Wagner to the Lions as a free agent and trading center Jeremy Zuttah to the 49ers.
The Ravens closed out their draft process by selecting Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark in the sixth round.
The Ravens began the draft with seven picks and, uncharacteristically, did not make any trades. It marks the first time since 2001 and just the second time in franchise history that the Ravens have not made at least one deal during the draft. The finished the draft with seven picks, their fewest since 2010.
There was other history made as well: For the first time, the Ravens drafted no skill position players on offense.
Newsome had spoken at the "State of the Ravens" news conference about the team’s need to find a complementary receiver in light of Steve Smith Sr.’s retirement, but they did not find that player in the draft.
The three receivers considered the most elite in the draft all went in the top 10 overall picks, long before the Ravens were on the clock at No. 16. Newsome said the Ravens had some receivers targeted in the draft, but he stressed that each time they were on the clock, other players were rated higher on their board.
While Newsome stressed that the task of building the roster is an ongoing process that does not end when the draft does – undrafted rookie free agents will be signed in the coming days – he also said current receivers on the roster deserve the first shot at an expanded role.
"We sat here last year, and the question was asked, ‘Who is going to be the inside linebacker?’ and we just said we’ll work on it. We already had him here in Zach Orr," Newsome said. "We’ve got to give our own players every opportunity, and that’s what John and his staff do, give them every opportunity to compete and win jobs, even before we just start scouting the waiver wire."
A lot of resources have been committed to improving the defense, not only via the draft but with the free-agent additions of safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr and the re-signing of Brandon Williams and safety Lardarius Webb. Coach John Harbaugh said he was “not afraid” to overstate expectations: "I expect these guys to be great. … We expect to put a great team on the field in all three phases.
"The way the draft fell, and the way free agency fell," Harbaugh continued, "like Ozzie was saying, there were plenty of offensive guys that we looked at both in the draft and in free agency that we tried to get, but it worked out for defense, OK? So we made our team that much stronger, and our offense, our defense and our special teams will all play off each other in a complementary way. …
"We expect to put a great defense on the field. We kind of expect to do that every year."
Here is the Ravens' full 2017 draft class:
1st round – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
2nd round – Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
3rd round – Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan
3rd round – Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
4th round – Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State
5th round – Jermaine Eluemunor, G/T, Texas A&M
6th round – Chuck Clark, S, Virginia Tech