After striking out with some of the top wide receivers in free agency, the Baltimore Ravens entered the 2021 NFL Draft in desperate needs of weapons to surround quarterback Lamar Jackson.
They were successful, selecting a pair of targets that should immediately improve an anemic passing game that was the worst in football last season.
Baltimore wasted no time addressing their most glaring need by taking former Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman with the 27th-overall selection.
A three-year contributor for the Gophers, Bateman caught 147 passes for 2,395 yards and 19 touchdowns over his career. He earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors and was awarded the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award for his outstanding 2019 campaign.
“We feel really strongly about our receivers and competition is great. We’re trying to build the best team. He really checked off all the boxes,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said.
But the Ravens were not satisfied with just Bateman. They also drafted former Oklahoma State wideout Tylan Wallace. Wallace was a productive three-year starter and named a Second-Team All-American by a pair of outlets in 2020. He posted 205 career receptions for 3,434 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Baltimore also addressed the defensive side of the ball following some significant departures this offseason. They took their second first rounder and selected former Penn State edge rusher Odafe Oweh. While he neglected to record a sack in 2020, Oweh still managed to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors.
“He’s a great fit. He’s an aggressive player, runs to the ball, very fast,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s in the backfield constantly, he’s knocking people back into the backfield, running things down from behind. I think he’s a perfect fit for our defense, I know our defensive coaches are excited, I think our players are going to love him. We’re really excited to have him. This player is going to make a difference for us.”
They also snagged Notre Dame’s Daelin Hayes, one of two steals in the fifth round. Hayes was a productive edge rusher for the Irish with nine sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss over his career in South Bend.
The second steal was Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade. Wade was outstanding as a predominantly slot corner in 2018 and 2019, but displayed inconsistency upon transitioning to the outside a season ago. He still managed earn consensus All-American honors. Wade’s versatility to play slot corner or safety will make him incredibly useful in the Ravens’ scheme.
While they may have already had the league’s top rushing attack in 2020, the Ravens bolstered that as well selecting former Georgia offensive guard Ben Cleveland. An absolute bulldozer of an offensive lineman, “Big Country” help them remain elite for years to come.
“We’ll see how that goes. He’s a big, strong powerful guy that likes to rough people up. Ben was a guy that we really wanted,” Harbaugh said. “I was kind of being a little bit of a nervous Nellie. I kind of wanted us to trade up.”
2021 Draft Picks
R1, No. 27 WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
R1, No. 31 EDGE Odafe Oweh, Penn State
R3, No. 94 OG Ben Cleveland, Georgia
R3, No. 104 CB Brandon Stephens, SMU
R4, No. 131 WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
R5, No. 160 CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State
R5, No. 171 EDGE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame
R5, No. 184 TE Ben Mason, Michigan
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: A
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: B+
Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr: B+
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: B-