You don’t draft players for their abilities as a wordsmith, but go read Laviska Shenault’s piece in The Players Tribune and tell me he won’t play like a Raven. And if the letter doesn’t convince you, then just watch the tape.
Shenault made so many plays out of the backfield at Colorado that it’s almost tempting to forget how effective he was as a receiver. In September, one NFL scout referred to him as “Julio Jones, but bigger”, and said he would go in the Top 5 picks. While that’s obviously not happening, and the Jones comp might be overkill, Shenault would make an incredibly effective running mate for Marquise Brown towards the top of the Ravens receiving chart.
Pardon me if the Shenault-to-Ravens connection is starting to bore you, but it’s only so common it makes so much sense. Shenault has the physicality to line up in the slot, the size/speed blend to play like a traditional X receiver, and also demonstrated the kind of versatility to make plays as a wildcat quarterback or a more traditional running back as well. Shenault with Greg Roman? We’re starting to flirt with that “un-defendable” offense Eric DeCosta wants so badly.
Josh Uche lacks the physical traits to become one of the league’s truly dominant pass rushers, but his skill set makes him a perfect compliment to the Baltimore defense. The tape shows there’s not nearly the disparity between him and K’Lavon Chaisson that some are making there out to be, and his speed makes him a great weapon for Don Martindale’s blitz-heavy defense. Whether it’s running stunts with Calais Campbell or Derek Wolfe or chasing down quarterbacks when the pocket collapses, Uche’s the kind of complimentary chess piece that can round out a rebuilt Ravens defensive line.
With Matthew Judon playing on the franchise tag, Uche also serves as a classic “now and later” Ravens pick, and Uche drops back into coverage much more naturally than other edge prospects like AJ Epenesa or Yetur Gross Matos. Versatility is valued in the positionless Martindale defense, and Uche fits the profile.
When you watch the tape, Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks like a blend of Mark Ingram and Ray Rice. He’s too talented for me to use a word like “scrappy”, but his physicality is impressive for a 5’7″ running back, and his natural ability as a receiver makes him capable of being a three-down back. A running back at 60 might feel unnecessary, but Ingram is still a candidate to be cut after 2020, and Gus Edwards will play on the one-year ERFA tender.
Edwards-Helaire gives the most run-dependent offense in the league another back to share the workload, and also adds another element to the offense with his pass-catching abilities. His 4.6 40-yard dash may not jump off the page, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. He’s one of the most shifty backs in the draft class and has the necessary afterburners to rip off huge chunks of yardage when he finds a seam in the defense. Unlike some successful SEC running backs (read: Trent Richardson), Edwards-Helaire thrives because of his ability to read gaps, not in spite of it.