Ravens trade up to pick 32 and draft Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson

Seven picks after drafting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst 25’th overall, the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring the 32’nd overall pick and selecting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

For the 32’nd pick, the Ravens sent pick #52 (second round), pick #125 (fourth round), and a 2019 second-round pick to the Eagles.

Jackson stands at 6’2″, 216 pounds. A native of Pompano Beach, Florida, Jackson played in 38 games over three seasons at Louisville, where he threw for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in that span.

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award. Jackson is just 21-years-old, and will not turn 22 until Jan. 17, 2019. In his Heisman-winning season, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns.

For a quarterback, Jackson resembles a speedy play-maker who relies on his ability to move out of the pocket and make plays with both his arms and his legs. He has a powerful arm and can easily avoid defenders with his speed. He’s a touchdown machine  both as a runner and a thrower, reminiscent of Michael Vick.

As the case is with any scrambling quarterback, the big concern with Jackson will be whether or not be can stay healthy at the NFL level. Although he did not miss a start over his last two seasons at Louisville, collegiate superstar quarterbacks, like Robert Griffin III, saw their professional careers fall apart due to injuries. With Jackson being less than 220 pounds, that’s definitely something to worry about. The more Jackson runs, the better chance he has of getting hurt.

Although scouts praised Jackson for his arm strength, his accuracy needs some improvement. He needs to lower the height on his deep balls, adjust his low release point, and stop staring receivers down. These types of things lead to tipped passes and interceptions, and Jackson has thrown 27 of them in his collegiate career.

For a team who’s owner said a few weeks after the 2017 season ended that the Ravens “had bigger fish to fry” than finding Joe Flacco‘s potential replacement in the 2018 draft, this is a stunner. Most expected the Ravens to take a quarterback in the mid rounds, but not this early. Although John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ brass said after the pick that Flacco is still their quarterback going forward, the writing is on the wall. Jackson will likely need some time to develop under Flacco, but if the 11-year veteran fails to lead the Ravens back to the postseason for the first time in four years, the Lamar Jackson era could very well begin in Baltimore. After all, Flacco has no more guaranteed money on his contract after the 2018 season.

The drafting of Jackson likely means that RGIII will not make the 53-man roster as training camp progresses. Jackson and Griffin are virtually the same quarterback, and the Ravens’ intentions are clear with this pick. Griffin will need an outstanding summer performance to even warrant the Ravens keeping a third quarterback on the roster.

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After trading down twice, Ravens draft South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst 25’th overall

The Baltimore Ravens traded back twice before finally making their first-round selection on Thursday night in the 2018 NFL Draft. With the 25’th overall pick, the Ravens drafted South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst.

Right as the Ravens came on the clock at pick #16, it was announced that the Buffalo Bills traded the very first pick of the third round (#65) to Baltimore, who moved down to the 22’nd overall pick. Buffalo also received pick #154 (fifth round) from the Ravens in the trade. Then, when the Ravens were on the clock for pick #22, they traded back again, this time with the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens moved down to pick #25 and also received pick #125 (fourth round), while the Titans received pick #215 (sixth round).

Hurst, 24-years-old from Jacksonville, will turn 25 on Aug. 24. That’s due in-part to the fact that Hurst was also a 17’th-round draft pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hurst played two years of rookie ball in 2013-14 before walking onto South Carolina’s football team.

Entering the draft, the biggest hole on the Ravens’ roster was clearly the tight end position. Following the departure of Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, and Vince Mayle made up the tight end room for Baltimore. Neither of them has accumulated more than 268 receiving yards in a season. Ever since Dennis Pitta‘s hip injuries derailed his career, the Ravens have lacked a sure-handed, pass-catching tight end that Joe Flacco loves to utilize. Hurst could fill that hole.

Over three seasons at South Carolina, Hurst accumulated 100 receptions for 1,281 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged at least 12.7 yards-per-catch in every season, and started every game over the last two seasons. He stands at 6’5″, 250 pounds, and ran a 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February.

According to scouting reports, Hurst is a fiery competitor who can line up all over the field. Having played multiple sports, now professionally, Hurst is a natural athlete. He consistently catches the football and has quick feet. His route-running and physicality on the line need some work, but the Ravens desperately needed a tight end that can stretch the field and give Flacco a security blanket.

Following their first trade-back with the Bills, the Ravens will pick three times over the second and third rounds on Friday night. Baltimore will pick 52’nd overall in the second round, along with picks #65 and #83 in the third round. The second round will get underway at 7:00 p.m. EST on Friday evening.

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Orioles drop abbreviated series to visiting Rays

The Orioles first series against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 was cut short to just two games after a rainout on Tuesday. This is the second time in April that the O’s have had one of their games postponed but that might be a good thing. At this point, the Orioles can probably use every extra off day they can get. April has been relentless in terms of competition and only allowed for one scheduled off day.

These teams will meet again next month. A doubleheader is now scheduled for Saturday May 12 to make up for Tuesday’s rain out.

Game 1 (8-4 TB): On Wednesday Alex Cobb got the chance to face off against his former team for the first time as a member of the Orioles. Cobb’s time in Baltimore has been rather lackluster so far due to an abbreviated spring training, but what better way to right the ship than against your former team.

Through the first four innings it looked like Cobb had finally figured it out. He surrendered a run in the first on a fielder’s choice but entered the fifth with just five hits allowed on 56 pitches.

Cobb’s strong start quickly faded and turned into another mediocre outing. The 30-year-old starter gave up four runs in the fifth and only managed to record two outs before being yanked by Buck Showalter. Sadly, five runs on ten hits through 4.2 innings of work easily qualifies as Cobb’s best start of the year. It’s a harsh reality that Orioles fans are coming to terms with, but Cobb is averaging less than four innings per start with a 13.11 ERA to go along with it.

To make things even worse, the offense was actually getting work done early in the game to give Cobb a lead. Following the Rays run in the top of the first, the Orioles responded with a run of their own and then added two more in the second inning. Adam Jones and newly acquired utility man, Jace Peterson picked up RBI doubles to bring home the three runs.

After Cobb’s exit, Miguel Castro and Tanner Scott combined to give up another three runs in the next two innings. The Orioles mustered a fourth run in the fifth on a Chance Sisco solo homer but only reached base once after that.

Game 2 (9-5 TB): Dylan Bundy kicked off his season with five good starts. In a year where nothing seems to be going the Orioles way, Bundy has been one of the few bright spots. His 1.42 ERA is a testament to that, but Bundy has been overdue for an off night and Thursday certainly qualified as one.

The O’s young ace surrendered seven earned runs in just 4.2 innings of work. It started with a pair of two run homers in the first and second inning but Bundy never managed to settle down. The Rays notched five hits and pushed two more runs across in the third inning, giving themselves a comfortable 6-0 lead that they would hold for the rest of the game.

Just like game one, the Orioles offense attempted to stage a comeback but could not overcome the defect created by the pitching staff. Trey Mancini started the effort with an RBI double and Manny Machado later brought him home with an RBI single.

Adam Jones put two more on the board in the fifth inning with a homer run to center field and Danny Valencia rounded out the scoring for the O’s with a solo shot.

Up next: The Orioles will wrap up this home stand over the weekend when the Detroit Tigers come to town. These teams just met last week with Detroit picking up a three game sweep.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

Series Preview: Orioles offense looks for signs of life with Rays coming to town

BALTIMORE — Going into the 2018 season, a lot of people (myself included) pointed to the Orioles’ starting rotation as the team’s biggest concern. 23 games into the 2018 campaign, the rotation is actually the most consistent unit of this Orioles ball club. Instead, Baltimore’s offense has put up numbers that, even with solid starting pitching, are nearly impossible to compete with.

The Orioles are averaging 3.17 runs-per-game, worst in the major leagues. Unlike in previous seasons, the offense has been particularly bad at home. Over their first 10 games played at Camden Yards this season, the Birds have scored two runs or fewer six times. Even with Andrew Cashner (Sun: 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 7K) and Kevin Gausman (Mon: 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7K) turning in solid outings against the Indians, the offense produced four runs between two games, both losses.

In the midst of their longest home stand of the 2018 season, a 10-game stretch (three series), the Orioles now welcome American League East-rival Tampa Bay to town for three games. This is the first of five series between the two teams on the 2018 schedule. The Rays (8-13) and the Orioles (6-17) sit in the cellar of the division, with Boston (17-4), Toronto (13-8), and the Yankees (12-9) all above .500.

Tampa and Baltimore are similar teams in terms of statistics. The Rays rank 22nd in both team ERA (4.71) and runs scored (88), while Baltimore ranks 23rd in team ERA (4.83) and 24th in runs scored (73). The Rays, winners of five of their last six contests, are on a four-game win streak that included a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field over the weekend.

Flashback: The Orioles went 8-11 against the Rays in 2017. The two teams played 10 of those games at Camden Yards, splitting 5-5. As a team, the Orioles pitched to a 4.93 ERA against Tampa, and hit .240. The Rays owned a 3.87 ERA against Baltimore last season with a .263 batting average.

Injury updates: Last night against Cleveland, infielder Tim Beckham left in the eighth inning with a groin injury that he apparently re-aggravated from spring training. After the game, manager Buck Showalter said that Beckham has also been dealing with a sore Achilles tendon. According to a tweet from Roch Kubatko of MASN, Beckham could be heading to the disabled list.

Mark Trumbo began a rehab assignment on Monday at Double-A Bowie, playing first base. At the plate, he went 1-for-3 with a walk. Trumbo suffered a grade 2 quad strain during spring training. The plan is for Trumbo to stay in Bowie and then head to Charlotte with the Norfolk Tides this weekend. He could return to the O’s next week if all goes according to plan.

After suffering a laceration on his knee while crashing into the left field wall during Friday’s game against Cleveland, Trey Mancini came off the bench to pinch-hit in last night’s 2-1 loss. Mancini suffered no structural damage to his knee, but required stitches. He’s questionable to play in tonight’s series opener.

Although there is no timetable for his return from an oblique injury suffered on Apr. 14, Jonathan Schoop resumed baseball activities yesterday and ran before the series finale.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Tuesday, Apr. 24, 7:05 pm – Jake Faria (1-1, 5.82 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (0-2, 15.43 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Wednesday, Apr. 25, 7:05 pm – Chris Archer (1-1, 6.59 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (1-2, 1.42 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Thursday, Apr. 26, 7:05 pm – TBD vs. Chris Tillman (0-4, 9.87 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Rays:

  • Outfielder Mallex Smith ranks eighth in batting average in the majors, hitting .344 with 21 hits in 61 at-bats.
  • Lifetime at Camden Yards, Archer is 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA in six starts, seven appearances.
  • While the Orioles’ offense slumps, the Rays’ bats have been on fire lately. In their weekend sweep of the Twins, Tampa scored 26 runs over three games, with at least eight runs scored in each of those games.

Notes on the Orioles:

  • Tuesday marks Cobb’s first start against the club that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. This is also Cobb’s first Oriole start at Camden Yards. Although Cobb has been awful in his first two starts in an Orioles uniform, remember that he’s still in spring training mode. After all, Baltimore signed Cobb just nine days before the regular season began. Be patient, Birdland.
  • Three Orioles – Beckham, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones – have struck out 24 times or more this season. The Orioles lead the major leagues with 10.30 strikeouts-per-game.

Image Credit: Getty Images 

Orioles grab win on Friday but drop sixth series of the year

Game 1 (3-1 BAL): The Orioles kicked off the weekend by breaking their six game losing streak. With Dylan Bundy on the mound there was plenty of reasons to be optimistic from a pitching perspective but could the offense pick up the slack? In his previous four starts, Bundy received just 1.5 runs of support per outing.

That changed on Friday though. Bundy started his night by surrendering a run in a bases loaded jam, but quickly settled down to go six innings and earn himself a long overdue win.

Short Stop Manny Machado had a great series offensively and defensively. With the Orioles offense still asleep, Machado jump started the scoring effort with a solo homer in the fourth inning to tie the game at one. The following inning the O’s put together some good at bats to get some runners on base before turning the lineup over. Leadoff hitter Trey Mancini followed this up with a two run double to the left center gap, giving the Orioles a lead they would not give up.

There hasn’t been very many reliable relievers in the bullpen so far this season but Buck Showalter pulled out his best options to hold the 3-1 lead. Richard Bleier worked through the seventh and eighth inning on just 19 pitches. After allowing a pair of base runners in the seventh, Bleier found himself in a little bit of trouble. Cleveland third baseman, Jose Ramirez smoked a ball up the middle that looked like an easy RBI off the bat. To the crowds surprise Manny Machado make a phenomenal diving stop before flipping the ball to second base for the inning ending out.

In the ninth inning Showalter opted to bring Darren O’Day out for the save instead of closer Brad Brach. The decision paid off as O’Day struck out two and retired the side on 16 pitches to earn his first save of the year.

The only problem to arise in Friday’s win was when Trey Mancini suffered a knee injury. In the eighth inning Mancini gave a pop up in foul territory a good chase before sliding and just missing out on a great catch. Unfortunately, Mancini’s momentum carried him farther than he wanted and his right knee made contact with the unpadded section of the third base line wall. Mancini immediately grabbed his knee in pain but returned to his feet to walk off the field. Post game MRI’s revealed no major issues but Mancini was left out of the starting lineup for the rest of the series.

Game 2 (4-0 CLE): The O’s limited offensive production did not carry over to Saturday afternoon. Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger pitched a complete game shutout, giving up just two hits and two walks. Meanwhile the Orioles were forced to send Chris Tillman out for another start. The veteran pitcher quickly fell behind the Indians and surrendered two runs through the first four innings but managed to keep his pitch count down.

Tillman entered the sixth looking pretty decent but ended up giving up a pair of solo homers that inning to end his afternoon. It was far from pretty but still marks the best start of the year for Tillman. A quality offense could certainly work with four runs through six innings but so far this year the Orioles offense has been anything but quality.

Tanner Scott tossed two clean innings of relief following Tillman’s exit, giving up just one hit. Scott saw action against the Yankees earlier this month and surrendered a run in 1.2 innings of work. This was certainly a nice bounce back performance for the 23-year-old lefty but we will see if Buck Showalter gives him more innings in the near future.

It was a rough afternoon for the Orioles but a few defensive plays by Chance Sisco are worth noting. With the Orioles facing a stretch of right handed pitchers, the left-handed-hitting catcher Sisco has gotten more opportunities to start behind the plate.

On Saturday the rookie threw out three Cleveland players trying to steal second base between the sixth and ninth inning. This is the first time an Orioles catcher has successfully thrown out three base runners in a game since Matt Wieters in 2012. Sisco has now stopped seven of the eleven base steal attempts against him this season.

Game 3 (7-3 CLE): The Orioles lineup came back to life in time for Sunday afternoons game. Andrew Cashner didn’t have his best stuff working, allowing four runs through six innings, but the O’s managed to score three runs off of Corey Kluber to make it a close game anyway.

Manny Machado hit two more solo home runs and Chris Davis brought home the third run on a RBI single. Through four starts prior to this weekend, Kluber had not surrendered more than two runs in an outing. However, the O’s could not keep that momentum going and were completely shutdown by the Cleveland bullpen.

With that being said, the Orioles didn’t have much of a shot at a comeback or walk off after Brad Brach gave up three runs in the top of the ninth. Place the blame wherever you want but at the end of the day the O’s, once again, found themselves in the loss column.

Game 4 (2-1 CLE): Monday nights series closer was another close game. Kevin Gausman looked like he might have been in for a rough outing when he gave up a two run homer in the second to Yonder Alonso, but found his rhythm and ended up giving up just two more hits through the next six innings. Gausman ended his night after eight innings with seven strikeouts.

Of course the offense was borderline nonexistent, rendering Gausman’s phenomenal start useless. The O’s responded to the Indians two run homer by getting one back in the bottom half of the inning but tat ended their run production for the night. With runners on first and second, Chance Sisco came to the plate and picked up his fifth RBI of the season.

The Orioles saw three different pitchers and struck out 11 times, marking the teams sixteenth game this season with double digit strikeouts. Coincidentally, the loss also marks the Birds sixteenth game where they scored three runs or less.

Up next: The Orioles will host the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday through Thursday this week. Alex Cobb is slated to start in the series opener, which will be his first time pitching against his former team. The Rays are the only AL East team the O’s have not faced yet this season and currently sit three games games above Baltimore in the standings.

Image credit: Gail Burton / AP 

Ravens officially land wide receiver Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS — On Friday, the Baltimore Ravens signed restricted free agent wide receiver Willie Snead to a two-year, $10.4 million offer sheet. The New Orleans Saints had a five-day window to match the Ravens’ offer and retain Snead. According to NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport, the Saints will not match the offer, officially landing Snead in Baltimore.

Snead, a four-year veteran out of Ball State, went undrafted in 2014. He bounced around in Cleveland and Carolina before being signed to the Saints’ practice squad in December 2014. Snead made the Saints’ 2015 53-man roster after a strong showing in training camp.

In three seasons, Snead has accumulated 149 receptions for 1,971 yards and seven touchdowns. 2015 marked Snead’s most productive season when he posted 69 receptions for 984 yards and three touchdowns.

Now in Baltimore, Snead looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 campaign. He served a three-game suspension early in the season for a DUI. After Snead returned from suspension, he suffered a thigh hamstring injury that lingered through the rest of the season and hurt his production. He finished the 2017 season with just eight receptions for 92 yards.

The signing of Snead marks another change to the Ravens’ wide receiver room. Baltimore cut Jeremy Maclin early in the offseason. Mike Wallace and Michael Campanero signed one-year contracts elsewhere. Snead will join fellow free agent acquisitions Michael Crabtree and John Brown on the Ravens’ revamped wideout corps, with Breshad Perriman (for now) and Chris Moore set to return.

Snead could develop into the slot receiver that the Ravens have long been searching for. Although last season was disappointing, when healthy, Snead has produced. With the NFL Draft just days away, the Ravens will likely add one or two more wideouts. There will be plenty of competition among wide receivers in training camp, and Snead will be hungry to put last season behind him and solidify a role in the Ravens’ passing attack.

Image Credit: Barstool Sports 

Orioles look to end losing streak in weekend series against Cleveland

In the span of three weeks the Orioles fan base has gone from cautiously optimistic to crisis mode. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a good reason though. The O’s enter this weekend with a six game losing streak and a 2-8 record in their last ten games.

The Birds have quickly sunk to the bottom of the AL East while the Red Sox continue to dominate and build a comfortable lead early in the season. As of today, the Orioles are nine games below .500 and 11.5 games out of first place with no signs of erasing that deficit anytime soon.

So what are we to blame for this terrible start? Surprisingly, the starting rotation is not the go to answer. Instead, the offense has continued to be the let down so far this season. Through the first 19 games, only four O’s players are batting above .250 and two of them, Pedro Alvarez and Chance Sisco, are not even playing everyday.

Of course this has resulted in some league lows in almost every offensive category. The Orioles currently hold the second worst batting average and slugging percentage in the league. The run production has suffered as well. In their last six games, the Orioles have been outscored 43-22 and have currently rank in the bottom five for RBI.

So where are these runs coming from? In years past it would be easy to point to some of the unreliable starters that made up the rotation but in a surprising turn of events, the bullpen has been the main liability so far in April. Only Brad Brach and Richard Bleier have an ERA below 3.50 while the other four to five regular members of the bullpen have traded awful relief efforts, costing the O’s and their anemic offense a few potential win opportunities late in the game.

Lets not let the starting five completely off the hook though. Sure, Dylan Bundy has shown signs of becoming a true ace in his first four starts and Andrew Cashner has proven to be consistent, but there are still some big issues present. Alex Cobb has clearly proved that he was not ready for the regular season after giving up 12 earned runs in two starts that lasted less than four innings.

Cobb could have benefited greatly from more time in extended spring training but with Chris Tillman and Mike Wright both struggling to go at least five innings in most of their starts, the Orioles were forced to roll the dice and bring their newly acquired starter up a little early.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Friday, April 20, 7:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (0-2, 1.40 ERA) vs Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.25 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Saturday, April 21, 4:05 pm – Chris Tillman (0-3, 11.91 ERA) vs Mike Clevinger (1-0, 2.70 ERA) – FS1, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Sunday, April 22, 1:05 pm – Andrew Cashner (1-2, 3.00 ERA) vs Corey Kluber (2-1, 1.52 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Monday, April 23, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.57 ERA) vs Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 2.60 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Image credit: NBC Sports