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Pundit Says Edge Rusher Is Top Need, But History Says Ravens Won’t Take One in First Round

Other than wide receiver, edge rusher has been the position most frequently mocked to the Ravens at No. 27 overall.

However, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec said that while the Ravens’ biggest need is an impact edge rusher, it would be atypical for them to address the position in the first round.

“A dynamic edge rusher who can disrupt the quarterback stands as the Ravens’ biggest need heading into next Thursday’s first round, but the organization’s history suggests it won’t necessarily be its top priority, at least not with its pick at 27th overall,” Zrebiec wrote. “The Ravens haven’t used a first-rounder on an edge rusher since they took Terrell Suggs 10th overall in the 2003 draft. The only other time their first-round pick was an outside linebacker was Peter Boulware in 1997.”

The question of whether pass rush or pass coverage is more important in today’s NFL has been often asked. Zrebiec said it’s obvious the Ravens believe it’s the latter.

“Ravens officials have never provided a definitive verbal answer, but it’s not hard to reach a conclusion on where they stand based on the front office’s actions,” Zrebiec wrote. “In recent offseasons, the team’s decision-makers have made sure they remained well-stocked at cornerback while allowing several high-priced edge rushers to leave and replacing them with cheaper alternatives.”

Zrebiec pointed out that the Ravens’ philosophy regarding edge rushers could be in reaction to the trend of quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker and sack numbers dropping significantly over the past two seasons.

Still, he emphasized that an outstanding edge rusher, whether acquired through the draft (which has a deep edge rusher class) or free agency (veteran Justin Houston reportedly visited the Ravens last week), is what the Ravens need to make their good defense even better.

“The strength of the cornerback group allows them to play the style of defense that they do, and it’s hard to argue with the results,” Zrebiec wrote. “Over the past three seasons with [Wink] Martindale at defensive coordinator, the Ravens are at or near the top of the league in many of the relevant statistical categories. But there is obviously a downside to being so dependent on blitzing and not having an elite, in-his-prime edge rusher

“Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Ravens are first in the NFL with 73 sacks off of the blitz since 2018. However, they are last with just 45 sacks off of a four-man rush during that span. Their defensive style has been no match in three consecutive years for the Chiefs, whose star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, has repeatedly picked apart Ravens blitzes. The Ravens will ultimately have to get by the Chiefs if they’re going to make a playoff run, which is why the next three weeks could be especially important.”