Before the Ravens ever made a decide, they executed a transfer that may eclipse their draft, signing quarterback Lamar Jackson to a five-year extension that may hold him on the middle of every thing the franchise does. The Ravens additionally drafted six gamers, led by one other goal for his or her franchise quarterback, shifty broad receiver Zay Flowers from Boston College. Their 2023 crew is taking form.
Here are 5 issues we discovered from the draft.
The Ravens made good on their promise to ‘attack’ their broad receiver scarcity, however there’s threat in utilizing one other first-round decide on the place.
General supervisor Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh weren’t kidding once they stated broad receivers can be their No. 1 undertaking of the offseason, apart from extending Jackson. They started with a modest free-agent addition, Nelson Agholor, turned up the warmth by signing injury-prone celebrity Odell Beckham Jr. and garnished their meal with Flowers, a 5-foot-9, 182-pound bundle of gliding pace and ferocious confidence. If 2021 first-round decide Rashod Bateman is as wholesome as Harbaugh pronounced him Thursday night time, the Ravens may have their most proficient crew of broad receivers since Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith helped them win a Super Bowl in 2012.
It’s straightforward to know why the Ravens would go all in on playmakers as a loud vote of confidence for Jackson and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who’s anticipated to design a extra refined passing recreation after three years of mounting fan frustration along with his predecessor, Greg Roman.
But let’s not fake this plan is a assured winner given the harm histories of Beckham and Bateman and the crew’s spotty file choosing and creating broad receivers within the higher reaches of the draft. Flowers was a beloved prospect for a lot of evaluators, as a lot due to his relentless effort and vibrant persona as for his regular manufacturing in an undermanned Boston College offense. He gained over Ravens’ scouts, who thought of him the highest broad receiver within the class due to his versatility and dedication so as to add yards after the catch. There’s each motive to suppose he’ll get essentially the most out of his profession.
Except we’ve heard the Ravens spew optimism about their younger broad receivers earlier than solely to finish up with one of many league’s least productive teams. DeCosta acknowledged their previous difficulties when he met with reporters on the NFL scouting mix: “If I had an answer, that means I would probably have some better receivers, I guess. Sometimes it is tied to the quarterback, and I think it’s tied to things like durability; it’s tied to a lot of things. We’re going to keep swinging. There have been some guys that have been successful players for us that were draft picks. We’ve never really hit on that All-Pro type of guy, which is disappointing, but it’s not for lack of effort.”
Some followers have a look at this and marvel why the Ravens didn’t use their first-round decide on a cornerback — Deonte Banks of Maryland or Joey Porter Jr. of Penn State — to play throughout from Marlon Humphrey.
Well, they see this because the time to reverse their offensive decline from the final two seasons, to belief in Monken, a former broad receivers coach extensively praised for his capacity to speak with move catchers. But as DeCosta urged when he stated they might “keep swinging,” the payoff is just not assured.
Trenton Simpson was a Ravens decide if there ever was one.
No one had inside linebacker on the prime of the Ravens’ record of wants. But they went into the draft’s third spherical with a listing of seven or eight gamers they thought can be good values on the No. 86 decide, and Simpson was the one one left by the point they chose. They may have traded again however didn’t see sufficient worth in that proposition. So DeCosta adopted the credo he discovered from Ozzie Newsome way back: take the perfect participant in your board.
There’s a lot to love about Simpson, the Clemson linebacker whom some analysts slotted on the prime of the second spherical. He’s probably the greatest all-around athletes at his place in latest reminiscence, with a 4.43-second time within the 40-yard sprint (about the identical as Flowers) and a 40.5-inch vertical leap. He can drop into protection or rush off the sting as readily as he chases ball carriers. Harbaugh described him as a “missile.”
Like Flowers, he’s not missing self esteem. “You’re not going to regret this pick,” he stated Friday night time. “I’m going to maximize every opportunity, and Trent Simpson is going to go down as one of the greats for the Baltimore Ravens — believe that.”
The decide added urgency to questions concerning the Ravens’ plans for his or her 2020 first-round decide, Patrick Queen, who thrived taking part in beside Roquan Smith final season. They have till Tuesday to select up Queen’s fifth-year choice for 2024, and it appears unlikely they might pay him $12.7 million for that season once they’ve already made a large dedication to Smith.
“Sheesh,” Queen tweeted seconds after the Ravens chosen Simpson.
But that doesn’t imply they should rush Queen out the door through commerce. This is a crew constructed to win in 2023, and he’ll assist them try this if he stays. The versatile Simpson, in the meantime, may fill in all around the area and put together to turn out to be a starter in 2024.
This is the best way the Ravens have all the time achieved enterprise, stockpiling proficient younger athletes and piecing the puzzle collectively when the time comes. Fans who’ve celebrated this philosophy ought to applaud the Simpson decide, even when it was not the one that they had in thoughts.
If the Ravens appreciated this cornerback class, they positive didn’t present it.
In the primary spherical, the Ravens took Flowers over a number of cornerbacks they have been linked to in mock drafts. In the third, they went for an inside linebacker over Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, whom the Eagles traded as much as take in the beginning of the fourth spherical. DeCosta stated Friday night time there may nonetheless be good values on the place within the fourth and fifth rounds. But with an opportunity to take Darius Rush of South Carolina at decide No. 124, they as an alternative went with 6-foot-6 move rusher Tavius Robinson from Ole Miss.
Robinson is a brilliant, high-effort participant who was trending in the correct route on the finish of his school profession and confirmed a knack for creating turnovers when he reached the quarterback. DeCosta in contrast him to Za’Darius Smith for his inside-outside versatility. But analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic had a sixth-round grade on Robinson, projecting him as a “rotational defensive end.” Not precisely a prospect the Ravens had to take if there was a cornerback they fancied on the board.
They lastly made a price play once they took four-year Stanford starter Kyu Blu Kelly within the fifth spherical. Kelly, whose father, Brian, performed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a long-armed, quick-footed cornerback who was considered a third-round expertise by some analysts however lacks top-tier pace. He’ll compete for snaps with the massive pool of defensive backs the Ravens have drafted in recent times.
“We realize the value of that position, and we’ll continue to address that via the draft, via other means,” DeCosta stated Friday night time.
It’s trying like “other means” would be the main reply, and nobody will probably be stunned if the Ravens announce they’ve signed Rock Ya-Sin or Marcus Peters in a number of days. They may even add two veteran cornerbacks, with a Kyle Fuller reunion among the many different prospects. That’s tremendous for 2023, however sooner or later, they’re going to need to discover a younger starter to pair with Marlon Humphrey.
The Ravens made this draft extra concerning the future than the current.
Flowers will probably be anticipated to affect the offense this season, but it surely’s not clear what number of snaps the remainder of this class will play in 2023. Simpson’s pace and flexibility may power the Ravens’ hand, but it surely appears he and Robinson usually tend to push for main roles in 2024. The two mauling offensive linemen the Ravens added within the sixth and seventh rounds, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu of Oregon and Andrew Vorhees of USC, are developmental prospects (Vorhees as a result of he tore his ACL on the NFL scouting mix).
With simply 5 picks and no second-rounder, the Ravens didn’t go in with a whole lot of possibilities to spice up their short-term fortunes. DeCosta as a lot as stated this was a part of their plan after they drafted 29 gamers over the earlier three seasons.
They didn’t commerce down for extra picks partially as a result of they didn’t anticipate having open slots for rookies (although they did use a 2024 decide to leap again into the seventh spherical once they noticed an opportunity to snag Vorhees).
“We think our roster is pretty good,” DeCosta stated. “It’s going to be hard for guys to make the team. We’ve had a lot of draft picks in the last three or four years and so we went into this year really not thinking that we wanted 10 picks.”
Not that they might have turned away from a possible starter in the event that they noticed one sitting there within the fourth spherical, however they didn’t, in order that they went with gamers they’ll develop at positions the place you possibly can by no means have too many proficient our bodies.
Even if this class makes a modest early splash, the Ravens are at their most optimistic level since 2020.
That’s the ability of locking in Jackson after two years of worrying negotiations that left followers, and even gamers, unsure the place the franchise was headed. The Ravens had already laid some thrilling groundwork earlier than Jackson texted DeCosta final Tuesday night time to say a deal was lastly inside attain. Fans had spent the final two seasons calling for Roman’s ouster, and Monken, recognized much less for a particular offensive philosophy than for tailoring plans round his expertise, was a lauded rent. The signing of Beckham, nonetheless a fantastic technician and big-play menace when wholesome, added a dose of star energy.
But these strikes would have been nothing greater than nice finger meals if Jackson had not signed on to be the primary course.
The Ravens outplayed and outhit the Cincinnati Bengals within the wild-card spherical of final season’s playoffs. Though they misplaced on a fluky fumble return, their protection was championship high quality, they usually moved the ball, even with Jackson’s backup, Tyler Huntley, on the controls.
If we take that because the jumping-off level, it’s not troublesome to ascertain a Jackson-led model of an analogous crew — with higher skill-position expertise — pushing deep into January. Flowers may add sizzle to this win-now machine, however the Ravens gained’t want a lot from their rookies. This was the best way they designed it after they added an enormous class final yr and used their 2023 second-round decide so as to add Roquan Smith, their new defensive fulcrum. Signing Jackson was the one transfer they had to make to finish the puzzle, they usually received it achieved.