When the Ravens first moved to Baltimore in 1996, the organization’s lifeline was the annual NFL Draft because the team didn’t have enough cash to land the best players in free agency.
Sixteen years later, that philosophy hasn’t changed.
With the draft three weeks away, the Ravens held their annual predraft lunch at The Castle on Tuesday, and it’s safe to say there won’t be any big showers when the first round begins April 28 in Las Vegas.
The Ravens have a total of 10 picks, including nine in the first four rounds and four in the top 100. After making some big signings in free agency, he still has bright holes in the pass rusher, interior defensive line, middle linebacker and offensive line. They want to gain more depth on the outside linebackers and cornerbacks.
The Ravens may go up or down a few slots to draft a particular player, but they would prefer to remain the status quo.
“I think we have a lot of flexibility, which is something that we want — the opportunity to go up and down,” general manager Eric DeCosta said on Tuesday. “Sometimes, you get into a situation, we see it with other teams where they want to do a trade with us and they want to maneuver, but they don’t have the choice to do that. Sometimes- Sometimes, you can’t find the combination to do that. So, I think having the picks in the first, second, third and fourth rounds, and then the pick of the sixth round, lets us do what we want to do .
The Ravens have been bucking a trend lately by the last two Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before winning the title in 2020, Tampa Bay signed quarterback Tom Brady, moved Leonard Fournet and receiver Antonio Brown back to free agency and traded for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Before the start of last season, the Rams traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford, then later in the year acquired linebacker Von Miller and receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Ravana is in a different position. Brady was calling the shots for the Books and the Rams were ready to toss out draft picks in their “win now” campaign.
The Ravens are more than a player or two away from winning the Super Bowl, and DeCosta will not abandon the approach used by his predecessor, former general manager Ozzy Newsom.
In 1996, DeCosta was hired as a personnel trainee and later became a Midwest Scout before taking over as GM in 2019.
“I really think it speaks to the culture that we’ve established over the years,” DeCosta said. “We weren’t a big team. Here I was, we weren’t a big spender in free agency in 1996 and in 1997. We didn’t have the funds to do that, so the draft really became our lifeblood. Ozzy me got a chance to see and [former director of player personnel] Phil Savage in front of me and see how those people operate and look at the value of the draft and what it does for the franchise, what it does for a community and how it allows you to be competitive every single year , regardless of the salary cap. So, for us, it works.
“There are many different ways to do it, of course. I have a lot of respect for teams that have a different way of doing it and who can be successful, but for us, the draft will always be … , And we think it works for us.”
It’s hard to argue against Ravens’ philosophy. They have been one of the most consistent and top-notch franchises in the NFL since winning the Super Bowl in 2000.
But since the DeCosta era began three years ago, they haven’t been able to draft a rookie who would have made a significant impact. He’s had some success, but hasn’t made a big difference on the field and in the community, except perhaps to overtake JK Dobbins, who was taken in the second round in 2020 but missed last season with one. Knee Injury.
DeCosta knows what a difference players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs can make on a franchise. Ravan is overdue.
They have quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is about to enter his fifth year, but little is known about his definitive long-term plans these days.
It is a game of guessing as well as drafting. Predraft lunch is always interesting because it is full of deception. Front office staff members will say a few things to persuade other teams about a possible selection, and the truth is hard to determine.
But the general consensus of most draft experts is that this class has a surplus of pass rushers and cornerbacks and a good crop of offensive linemen and inner defenders.
The Ravens agreed and did not rule out selecting a cornerback despite expected returns from early Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, both of whom suffered major injuries last season.
“I think we are definitely concerned,” DeCosta said of the cornerback depth. “We think Marlon is going to come back with a vengeance. We feel like Marcus is going to come back with a vengeance. But we think the depth behind those two guys is thin. First round for us, second round. , there are opportunities in the third round.
“coach” [John Harbaugh] Looking at the corners. We think we have an opportunity to take a corner or two in the draft that may come and contribute immediately, we are excited about that.
The same can be said of the Ravens’ lack of depth on the offensive line and a potential return to the Pro Bowl, but at least they have potential starts in Jawuan James and Morgan Moses. The Ravens are desperate for pass rushers, and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II will pair well with linebacker Odafe Oweh for a second year out.
Georgia’s defensive lineman, either Travan Walker or Jordan Davis, would also fit nicely into the Ravens’ front line.
Regardless, the Ravens should be able to do well with so many picks. The last time they made 10 selections was in 2020, and still many of those selections are in the starting position.
But then, there were no game-changers. DeCosta has not produced any with his first-round selections, which include receiver Marquis Brown in 2019 and linebacker Patrick Queen in 2020.
Oweh, ranked 31 in last year’s draft and total number 27 receiver Rashod Bateman, are yet to be decided. This year has brought a new opportunity to find a star.
“I think we’ve had more people over the years,” DeCosta said of the team’s evaluation of the draft’s worthy players. “I don’t know if our scouts were more optimistic or if it was just more players. But we almost have … and that will change, because we have another set of meetings next week, but we have about 180 players There are, I guess, give or take, on the front board who we think are the players draftable for the Ravens. That number will probably be between 170 and 195 players, when it’s all said and done.