With heralded draft class, Ravens set up for bounce-back season — and maybe a throwback, too – The Denver Post

After three days, two nights, and 11 Ravens draft picks, Eric DeCosta entered the auditorium contained in the staff’s Owings Mills facility late Saturday afternoon, sat subsequent to educate John Harbaugh, supplied his thanks and repeated each NFL basic supervisor’s favourite springtime line.

“I think we’re a better football team today than we were last week,” he stated.

That was lengthy the expectation in Baltimore, the place staff officers had focused this yr’s deep draft as an important roster-building alternative. Almost 5 months after the tip of a irritating 8-9 season, the Ravens entered the primary spherical Thursday with 10 picks. They left Saturday with 11 alternatives, together with two within the prime 25 and 10 among the many first 141 general.

The path from their prime choose, Notre Dame security Kyle Hamilton (No. 14 general), to their final choose, Missouri working again Tyler Badie (No. 196 general), was neither direct nor abnormal. There was an out-of-the-blue commerce that despatched prime large receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for an additional first-round choose. There had been six fourth-round alternatives, an NFL file for probably the most in a single spherical. There was even a punter taken.

But if the Ravens are a greater staff than they had been final week — and the glowing draft grades from analysts means that they’re at the very least extra proficient — they’re additionally far nearer in composition to their record-breaking 2019 staff.

The similarities are most notable alongside the road of scrimmage. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, the Ravens’ second first-round choose (No. 25 general), is taken into account the most effective heart prospects in years and is anticipated to begin as a rookie. The run-heavy Ravens, who struggled to determine the road of scrimmage at instances final yr, ought to have their most proficient proper facet of the road since 2019, led by the ultra-athletic Linderbaum, standout proper guard Kevin Zeitler and highly effective proper deal with Morgan Moses.

There’s larger uncertainty on the left facet, the place Patrick Mekari may now emerge as a prime contender on the vacant guard spot. But staff officers stay optimistic about left deal with Ronnie Stanley’s restoration from a second straight season-ending ankle damage.

If Stanley and Ja’Wuan James wrestle to stay wholesome, the Ravens discovered a possible long-term alternative Saturday. A yr after buying and selling away Pro Bowl proper deal with Orlando Brown Jr., the Ravens made their first choose of the fourth spherical somebody even larger.

Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele (No. 110 general) ranks within the 96th percentile or greater amongst offensive linemen in top (6 foot 8), weight (384 kilos), wingspan and hand measurement. An Australia native and former rugby and basketball standout who didn’t play soccer till he was 16, Faalele allowed only one sack and two quarterback hits in 301 pass-block snaps final season because the Golden Gophers’ proper deal with, in keeping with Pro Football Focus.

“The first thing you notice is size, but then you’re, like, struck by how well he moves for that size,” DeCosta stated. “And then he’s just consistently knocking people off the ball.”

Even with extra urgent wants elsewhere, the Ravens’ first double-dip of the draft got here at tight finish. After drafting Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar at No. 128 general within the fourth spherical, they grabbed Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely 11 slots later.

The roster battle on the place may very well be the summer time’s most intriguing. All-Pro Mark Andrews is likely one of the NFL’s finest younger gamers. Kolar was a three-time All-Big 12 Conference performer and has expertise as an in-line and indifferent tight finish. Likely doesn’t have “an obvious position fit,” Harbaugh stated Saturday. “He’s just kind of a playmaker-type guy.” Ravens coaches are hopeful that Nick Boyle will return to power in 2022, and Josh Oliver appeared in 14 video games final season.

Together with Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, the Ravens may have the personnel to recreate their 2019 success, when quarterback Lamar Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman pressured defenses with two- and three-tight-end formations.

“We definitely want to control the middle of the field,” Harbaugh stated on ESPN after the draft. “That’s been a big part of what we’ve done since 2019. … We want to control the ‘A’ gaps in the run game first. We want to control the middle of the field in the pass game always, attack down the middle, be strong down the middle.”

He added: “But also, then, attack sideline to sideline.”

The Ravens gained’t be doing that with any rookie picks at large receiver. The undersized however well-rounded Badie, who performed briefly at Friends School and went on to steer the Southeastern Conference in dashing yards final season, was the Ravens’ solely different ability place pickup within the draft. The Ravens’ alternative for Brown must both come from inside or by way of free company.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort,” DeCosta stated of not drafting large receivers. “I wouldn’t say it was a great receiver class in general, compared to some of the years. There were very good players at the top. … Similar to corner, they just fly off the board — in some cases, maybe a round to a round and a half earlier than you’d expect. I said this last year, but we like our receivers. We do.”

On protection, the Ravens’ swings this draft had been larger. Hamilton, broadly thought-about a top-five prospect earlier than he posted a gradual time within the 40-yard sprint, will probably play vital snaps at a place with three different starting-level abilities.

Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo (No. 45 general), a first-round prospect earlier than tearing his Achilles tendon final month, may miss a part of this season whereas rehabilitating, however Connecticut defensive deal with Travis Jones (No. 76 general) ought to give the Ravens’ inside cross rush a lift.

Alabama cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis (No. 119 general) matches the Ravens’ mildew for an outdoor cornerback — measurement, velocity, success towards SEC competitors — however has an damage historical past, a pink flag after the staff’s injury-plagued 2021. Houston’s Damarion Williams (No. 141 general) is a scheme-versatile defensive again who performs with an edge however may very well be restricted to a job as a nickel cornerback.

“When you’re getting down to the fourth round, there’s a reason why those players are usually available, in some cases, especially corners,” DeCosta stated. “Probably lacking something, maybe. But you want traits, and you want guys who can cover; that’s important for that position. And if you get a guy that’s willing to come up and tackle, that’s even better.”

Even with shaky cornerback depth, the Ravens’ flexibility at security may result in a renewed reliance on dime personnel groupings. In 2019, when the Ravens had the NFL’s fourth-best cross protection, in keeping with Football Outsiders’ effectivity rankings, the staff used six or extra defensive backs on 41% of its snaps, third most within the NFL. The return of cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters ought to bolster the secondary, which completed final within the league in yards allowed per recreation final yr, and DeCosta wouldn’t rule out including extra assist.

“We may not be done, but we do see that now we have guys that can go out there and practice right away,” he stated. “We know we’re going to get Marcus back, we know we’re going to get Marlon back, but these guys provide a nice buffer for us in the short term.”

The most rapid roster change the Ravens’ draft would possibly produce is on particular groups. In taking Penn State punter Jordan Stout with the No. 130 general choose, the Ravens may very well be pushing Sam Koch out. Koch has performed probably the most video games in franchise historical past (256), however he’s getting into the ultimate yr of his contract and has a $3.2 million wage cap hit. The Ravens, nonetheless eyeing free-agent alternatives, would save $2.1 million by releasing him.

DeCosta stated no choice has been made on Koch’s future. Added Harbaugh: “Jordan will come in here and learn from him, and then we’ll just see where it goes.”

For now, it’s again to free company — not solely veterans, however undrafted rookies as nicely. As the Ravens attempt to construct a greater roster, each choose, each transfer, each greenback saved is necessary.

“We really do try to draft the best players,” DeCosta stated. “We actually do. I do know typically individuals say, ‘They don’t simply draft [the] finest obtainable gamers,’ however we actually do strive to try this. I do know I attempt to actually stack the board that manner. …

“If you think the player’s value is greater than where he is available, you take him, you buy him. That’s what we do. Sometimes, we miss out on guys. It happens all the time. Our pockets have been picked many times. It’s a horrible feeling. But every once in a while, you get really good players that fall to you, and it’s an exciting thing.”


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