The Ravens pounced on Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6-overall pick in last year’s draft, despite still having Eugene Monroe on the roster at the time.
Good thing they did, because Baltimore could have been in a major pickle this year had it passed on the Notre Dame left tackle.
This year’s offensive tackle draft class is not highly regarded. While that makes Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta feeling “very fortunate” to get Stanley last year, it presents a challenge for a team looking for a starting right tackle after the free-agent departure of Rick Wagner.
“I think last year was a very, very strong offensive line class, and I think we were recipients of that,” DeCosta said Wednesday. “I think this year the numbers are probably down a little bit.”
Last year, five offensive tackles were taken in the first round, including four in the top 16 picks. There were five in 2015, four in 2014 and five in 2013. In 2013, three were taken in the first four selections.
This year, there are three tackles projected to be first-round selections – Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama’s Cam Robinson and Utah’s Garrett Bolles – and there’s no guarantee that they’ll for sure go then.
It’s not just a lack of numbers at the top either. There isn’t much depth to this year’s offensive tackle class.
It begs the question: if the Ravens are going to find a plug-and-play right tackle, do they need to get that player with either pick No. 16 or 47?
“You don’t have the volume of players, but you have some very good players on the offensive line,” DeCosta said.
“What we try to do is really target specific players that we think might be options for us in various rounds. Looking at it from that standpoint, we have probably one or two or three guys at tackle that we would consider in the first round, second round, third round [or] fourth round. So, we have options.”
The Ravens used first-round picks on Stanley (2016) and Michael Oher (2009). The team used a second-round pick on Kelechi Osemele (2012). Both Oher and Osemele started at right tackle during their rookie seasons.
In 2013, the Ravens used their fifth-round pick to grab Wagner. He didn’t start as a rookie, but took over at right tackle in his second season and eventually became the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle this offseason.
So, could Baltimore wait to find its right tackle of the future?
“We have done a good job, I think, in the past of taking offensive linemen in the mid-rounds and then developing those guys in-house and seeing those guys become players for us,” DeCosta said.
“You don’t have to necessarily take an offensive lineman in the first round to get rewards from that. You can take a guy in the second round, third round, fourth round, fifth round [and] put him through your process in-house with your coaching, and your offseason program, and these guys do get better and end up being pretty good players for you.”