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Ravens Insider: Ravens roundtable: Answering NFL draft questions and grading Eric DeCosta


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For Eric DeCosta, the stakes are clear entering the 2024 NFL draft.

“There’s going to be some spots that need to be filled,” the Ravens general manager said during the team’s annual predraft luncheon earlier this month. “The burden is on me to find those players.”

With nine picks, the Ravens must restock a roster that was raided in free agency after an NFL-best 13-4 regular season and the franchise’s first trip to the AFC championship game in a decade. Baltimore is expected to target players at offensive line, cornerback, running back and wide receiver, among other positions, but how those picks are spent — and where they are ultimately made — remains a mystery.

Before the first round starts Thursday, Baltimore Sun reporters Brian Wacker and Childs Walker and columnist Mike Preston answer questions about positions of need, potential trades, late-round targets and DeCosta’s draft history.

Which positions — offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback and edge rusher — should the Ravens target early, and which prospect is the best fit?

Wacker: All options being equal, they should target the offensive line. It’s their biggest need with three starting positions to fill and they have a chance to land a top prospect they can plug in for years to come. Washington’s Troy Fautanu, who can play tackle or guard, would be ideal, but he’s unlikely to be available by the time Baltimore picks at No. 30. The next best option is Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton. He has the size (6 feet 8, 322 pounds), length, footwork and tools to be a highly productive pass protector who Baltimore can start at right tackle this year before sliding him over to the left side whenever the Ravens move on from Ronnie Stanley. Guyton had just 14 career starts in college, but the tape and results speak for themselves with the Sooners star allowing just two sacks over three seasons, including two in which he allowed none.

Walker: The Ravens won’t lock in on one position, and that approach has led to a very good track record in the first round. That said, an offensive lineman makes a lot of sense given their need for multiple starters, their draft position and the depth of quality tackle prospects. Arizona’s Jordan Morgan, a potential Day 1 starter at right tackle or guard, has become the player most linked to the Ravens in mock drafts, and it’s hard to argue with his versatility. But they would be tempted by the greater upside of Georgia’s Amarius Mims or Guyton if either tackle prospect slides to No. 30.

Preston: It all depends on how the draft is going and whether there are runs on certain positions in the first round. The Ravens need offensive linemen, but the consensus is that this draft is filled with quality linemen, so there might not be a sense of urgency, at least in the first round.

If there is a receiver or edge rusher who the Ravens have rated highly and is available when they pick in the first round, they should go with their draft board because they can’t go wrong with a top player at either position.

It’s easier to make that decision when a team has a pick in the top four, but much harder near the tail end of the first round. With that said, I’ve always been an advocate of building strong interior lines on both sides of the ball.

Oklahoma offensive lineman Tyler Guyton (60) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
The Ravens could target Oklahoma offensive lineman Tyler Guyton with the No. 30 overall pick in the NFL draft. (Alonzo Adams/AP)

Given the state of the roster, should the Ravens trade up in the first round for a premium player or trade down to amass more picks?

Wacker: Picks, picks and more picks. That’s the Ravens way and that should be the objective this year if their top player isn’t on the board when they’re on the clock, especially given the depth of the offensive line and wide receiver classes. They could slide out of the first round for a quarterback-needy team, acquire an extra pick and still get a starting-caliber cornerback, offensive lineman and wide receiver. It’s not a deep draft, but there is value in the early-to-middle rounds.

Walker: A trade up would be a major upset and a sign that some prospect the Ravens love is plummeting, whereas a trade down seems very much in play given that there will likely still be excellent offensive line prospects available around pick No. 40.

The Ravens never want to reach for a player when they can squeeze more total value out of a draft, and DeCosta has made it clear the next two years will present a major opportunity to rebuild the team’s roster depth. That said, the Ravens have plenty of picks in a draft that’s not deep overall. They need to come away with a starting offensive lineman, so if a candidate they fancy is sitting there at the end of the first round, they should not get too cute.

Preston: If the Ravens are using this draft with the primary purpose of building the offensive line, then it might be in their best interest to trade down and acquire more picks, and certainly more talented offensive linemen. Passing on an offensive tackle such as Guyton in the first round, though, would be a tough decision.

I don’t see the Ravens trading up. The history of this organization has always been to acquire more picks, so I think they will either stay put or trade down.

FILE - South Carolina wide receiver Xavier Legette (17) looks for his teammates after a 65-yard touchdown reception during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina's best playmakers on offense the past two years are all gone, meaning this spring is a search for consistency and production from an attack that had its struggles last season. With Spencer Rattler and Legette awaiting NFL draft picks Legette a likely first-rounder, Rattler a mid-round choice it's up to inexperienced newcomers and transfers to push the Gamecocks forward. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr., File)
South Carolina wide receiver Xavier Legette could be a player the Ravens target in the second or third round. (Artie Walker Jr./AP)

Which Day 2 or Day 3 prospect are you most interested in as a potential Ravens target?

Wacker: There will still be plenty of tantalizing wide receiver options in what is a deep class if the Ravens don’t go that direction in the first round. Michigan’s Roman Wilson is small (5-11, 185 pounds) but a dynamic, explosive and efficient slot weapon perfect for today’s NFL. South Carolina’s Xavier Legette is big (6-1, 221 pounds) with enough speed to be a deep threat and a good complement to the smaller Zay Flowers. Central Florida’s Javon Baker, who reportedly had a predraft visit with the Ravens, is also on the bigger side (6-1, 202 pounds) with a wide catch radius and was one of the best in the country in yards per route run (5.07) last season. Another player to keep an eye on later in the draft will be Marshall running back Rasheen Ali, an instinctive runner with good burst who can also line up out wide.

Walker: We’ve talked so much about offensive linemen, but this draft is also rich in wide receivers, and the Ravens need another one of those with Rashod Bateman potentially approaching the last year of his rookie deal. Legette is a big, fast (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) outside target who would complement Flowers after developing for a year as the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 option. He would also be an immediate candidate to help on special teams, either as a returner or in coverage, and we know how much the Ravens value that quality in rookies.

Preston: Oregon cornerback Khyree Jackson, Georgia cornerback Kamari Lassiter or safeties Beau Brade of Maryland or Trey Taylor of Air Force. Southern California running back MarShawn Lloyd is also worth a look.

After saying goodbye to Tyler Huntley, the Ravens have Josh Johnson and Malik Cunningham as Lamar Jackson’s backups. Should they invest a middle or late-round pick on a quarterback?

Wacker: Only if they fill all their other needs and/or if the players they want are off the board at that point. Then, if someone like Florida State’s Jordan Travis falls to them, it would be good to snap him up.

Walker: Never rule out a late-round quarterback, but it’s not a priority given their need to add young depth in the secondary, on the edges of their defense and at running back. Remember, Huntley was an undrafted free agent. It seems more likely the Ravens will go that route to add another arm for training camp.

Preston: I would. It’s always good to have four arms in training camp, primarily to keep the starter fresh. But the Ravens brought in Todd Monken as the offensive coordinator last season, so allow him to make a selection. If he can find a quarterback to work with in those rounds, that’s a major positive for the future.

DeCosta is about to oversee his sixth draft as Ravens general manager. How would you grade his performance thus far?

Wacker: A former colleague once described DeCosta as a .275 hitter with occasional pop, though that was also taking into account the totality of his work and before last year’s draft and free agent signings. I’d go a bit higher and give him a B, given the immediate impact Flowers had last season, a highly successful 2022 class that included All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton, Pro Bowl center Tyler Linderbaum and fourth-round tight end Isaiah Likely. There have been several misses, too, particularly in the middle and late rounds, but no one has a high success rate in those rounds. And trading a second- and fifth-round draft pick for All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith turned out to be a steal for Baltimore.

Walker: DeCosta has yet to miss badly on a first-round pick, though the Ravens need a breakout year from Bateman for him to go down as a successful choice. Hamilton and Linderbaum both made the Pro Bowl in their second seasons, so the 2022 draft is DeCosta’s magnum opus. The jury remains out on his 2023 class, with players such as Trenton Simpson and Andrew Vorhees in line for major opportunities this season. DeCosta has missed on plenty of later-round picks, as most general managers do, but he usually pulls at least one major value from the middle rounds, whether we’re talking Justin Madubuike in 2020, Brandon Stephens in 2021 or Likely in 2022. Let’s go B+ overall.

Preston: B. DeCosta got off to a slow start, which was to be expected because the pressure is greater being in the GM’s chair as opposed to being the top assistant. He has drafted some top players at their positions in Linderbaum, Hamilton and Madubuike while snagging some good mid- to late-round picks such as safety Geno Stone, punter Jordan Stout and Likely.

The Ravens have as much depth as any team in the NFL. They’ve proved it over the past four or five years.

NFL draft

Round 1: Thursday, 8 p.m.

Rounds 2-3: Friday, 7 p.m.

Rounds 4-7: Saturday, noon

TV: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Ravens 2024 draft picks

No. 30 (first round)

No. 62 (second)

No. 93 (third)

No. 113 (fourth, from Denver via N.Y. Jets)

No. 130 (fourth)

No. 165 (fifth)

No. 218 (sixth, from N.Y. Jets)

No. 228 (seventh, from N.Y. Jets)

No. 250 (seventh)

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