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Ravens Insider: Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 2024 draft, including splendid timing with top two picks


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The Ravens wasted no time addressing two of their greatest needs, selecting cornerback Nate Wiggins and tackle Roger Rosengarten in the first two rounds of the draft. They proceeded to fill out their nine-player class with solid values at edge rusher and wide receiver.

Here are five things we learned from their 2024 draft.

The Ravens were smart, lucky or both in the timing of their first two choices

Once the board is set, with scouts’ takes on players examined and reexamined, Eric DeCosta’s mind turns to game theory.

Where will runs on certain positions pop off? When will scarcity set in? How many potential trade partners will be eager to climb or fall back? You hear the Ravens general manager describe these mental simulations, and it’s apparent that the draft remains one of the great fascinations of his life.

Going into Thursday night’s first round, DeCosta thought the Ravens would come away with an offensive lineman or a cornerback at pick No. 30. If he didn’t like the values at either position, he would trade back. But he figured he could miss out on the first tier of tackles and still come up with a starter in round two or three. At cornerback, he’d have only the one chance to strike.

Sure enough, a feeding frenzy ensued for offensive players of all types, including tackles. The top cornerbacks waited through 10 picks, then another 10. The Ravens wouldn’t need to move an inch to have their choice of three players — Wiggins, Iowa’s Cooper DeJean and Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry — widely linked to them in mock drafts. They couldn’t say Wiggins’ name fast enough when the time came. The next four cornerbacks flew off the board in the first 11 picks of the second round.

“We feel fortunate,” DeCosta said. “We took Nate, and then we saw those corners go at the beginning [of Round 2] — all of the guys we liked get picked.”

The second round broke their way as well. Teams lined up to snatch wide receivers, then defensive tackles, then corners. The offensive tackles, prom kings on Day 1, found themselves relegated to the corner. DeCosta said he felt jumpy at one point, wondering if his preferred target, Rosengarten, really would fall to pick No. 62.

They considered an offer to move down a few spots but opted to stay put and again, had a choice between appealing options: Rosengarten and BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia, both rated as potential Day 1 starters at right tackle.

Again, they made their pick and in the immediate aftermath, watched all their favorite tackles and guards vanish. “I’ve never seen anything like what we saw today, where every single guard and tackle on the front board got picked in a span of 20 picks,” DeCosta said. “Never seen that before.”

Two positional runs, and the Ravens managed to be on the front end of both of them. DeCosta could hardly have gamed out a more serendipitous big picture.

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins defends against Georgia Tech wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. on Nov. 11. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)
Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins defends against Georgia Tech wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. on Nov. 11. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)

In Nate Wiggins, they went with a different style of corner

In DeJean, the Ravens could have picked a rugged, versatile defensive back and potential special teams star. In McKinstry, they could have opted for another accomplished product of the Nick Saban cornerback tree.

Either would have fit the image of the defensive backs they’ve drafted and signed in recent years. Instead, they chose Wiggins, a lithe sprinter dinged by draft pundits for his lack of thump as a run defender.

Here’s the thing: If you clock a 4.28-second 40-yard dash with a spidery frame and fluid hips tailor-made for shadowing world-class receivers, maybe you don’t need to be a big hitter.

Marlon Humphrey’s calling card is his inside-outside versatility. Marcus Peters at his All-Pro peak with the Ravens was the league’s best ballhawk. Brandon Stephens plays rough and feisty.

But the Ravens haven’t had a coverage artist who could shut down one side of the field in recent years. Wiggins has that potential.

Defensive coordinator Zach Orr and defensive pass game coordinator Chris Hewitt beamed at Wiggins’ introductory news conference. They’re sold not only on the 20-year-old’s physical dynamism but on his acumen. Hewitt said he cut short his meeting with Wiggins at the NFL scouting combine because the kid needed just a few minutes to convince him of “what was in between the ears.”

They downplayed concerns about Wiggins’ slight build, with Hewitt noting the passion he showed on a pair of chase-down strips in his last season at Clemson. DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence he’ll bulk up quickly.

None of that will dictate how we look back at the Wiggins pick. Modern NFL defenses rise and fall on third down and late-game situations — stopping the pass when you know it’s coming. A shutdown corner is a major building block in that quest, and the Ravens believe they found one.

The Ravens’ tackle choice reflected a sea change under Todd Monken

This was another stylistic conundrum. Did you prefer the quick feet of Rosengarten, the former basketball player who protected Michael Penix Jr.’s blind side at Washington? Or the burlier, more powerful Suamataia?

Analysts were divided, but the Ravens went with finesse, a reflection of where Monken wants to take their offense, employing more zone concepts and depending on tackles who can block quick edge rushers without aid. Harbaugh said he expects Rosengarten to compete for the team’s open right tackle job, presumably against mammoth Daniel Faalele.

“In our offense, we do a lot of things out in space,” DeCosta said. “Guys have to be able to pull, and our screen game was good this year. And we get these guys out there, and we have fast players, and our quarterback, obviously, is a tremendous athlete, so you want guys that are mobile. We want big, strong guys, but we want these guys to be mobile, too.”

That’s Rosengarten, who ran the fastest 40-yard time of any lineman at the combine and received wide praise for exploding out of his stance. He didn’t allow a sack in two seasons as Washington’s starting right tackle.

It’s power the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Rosengarten lacks, at least relative to the tackle prospects ranked ahead of him in a deep class. “Lacks ideal mass in his lower half to sit down and anchor versus power,” The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote.

“He’s a young player,” DeCosta said. “He’s going to get stronger, [and] we’ll get him in the weight room. He’s a very gifted athlete. He’s played some left tackle. He played left tackle at the Senior Bowl. [He has] very good feet, body mechanics, change of direction, agility. He’s just got to get physically stronger, as a lot of guys do, and so, he will.”

Another quality the Ravens like is Rosengarten’s self-awareness, a theme he echoed when he spoke with reporters. “I think there’s a lot in my game that I need to critique and get better at,” he said.

Iowa State defensive back T.J. Tampa, left, defends Ohio wide receiver Tyler Walton during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023 in Athens, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Iowa State defensive back T.J. Tampa, left, defends Ohio wide receiver Tyler Walton on Sept. 16. (Paul Vernon/AP)

With two boxes checked, the Ravens felt free to chase value and more value

DeCosta spoke of the anxiety he felt about missing on a cornerback or tackle. With Wiggins and Rosengarten in hand, he saw the rest of the draft as “an open highway.”

“We can just sit back and just draft the best guys that we see on the board,” he said, “without any real thought to position or how they’re going to fit roster-wise; we’re just going to draft the best football players.”

Their next three picks, Penn State edge rusher Adisa Isaac, North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker and Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa, play positions where the Ravens wanted to add depth. It’s not as if they ignored specific needs. But these choices were defined more by the value they represented, according to consensus boards.

Isaac, who led the Big Ten in tackles for loss, received borderline second-round grades from several top evaluators, and the Ravens got him at the end of the third. Even if his primary value comes as a third-down disruptor, he was a fine choice. The Ravens are betting outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith can unlock more production from his flexible, 6-foot-4 frame.

Walker might have a lower floor than similarly ranked receiver prospects because he’s not known as a route technician, but his size and vertical speed give him a higher ceiling. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. felt Walker could have been a significantly higher pick with another year of college experience.

Tampa was the biggest steal of all on paper, listed as a second-round talent by Kiper and Brugler and too good for the Ravens to pass up at the end of the fourth. A 4.58-second 40-yard dash on his pro day probably depressed his draft position, but Brugler wrote that with his size and ball skills, Tampa has “the tools and potential to be a starting perimeter cornerback in various schemes.”

DeCosta referred to Tampa as a “guy we quite honestly could have taken on the second day of the draft as a press corner.”

We could argue the Ravens needed a safety more than another cornerback, but that wasn’t the point of their efforts Saturday. In a class short on draftable players, they spent the afternoon grabbing guys who could be starters or high-end reserves under the right circumstances. Most of those drafted in the middle and late rounds never make much mark on the NFL, so it was time to take those swings DeCosta loves to talk about.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, general manager Eric DeCosta and director of college scouting David Blackburn speak to the media following their final pick in the 2024 NFL Draft at the Owings Mills facility. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)
From left, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, general manager Eric DeCosta and director of college scouting David Blackburn speak to the media after finishing up the 2024 NFL draft on Saturday. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

If there was a disappointment, it was the Ravens not drafting another offensive lineman with a chance to start at guard

They accomplished their mission at tackle, but the Ravens also need starters at both guard spots. Andrew Vorhees is akin to a mid-round pick after his redshirt rookie season. Ben Cleveland is still looking for a shot in his fourth season. Offseason addition Josh Jones was a 2020 third-round pick.

Those are three maybes for a team that had the luxury of depending on Kevin Zeitler the last three seasons. A third- or fourth-round guard would have been another maybe but would have at least freshened up the competition.

As DeCosta said, other teams took that possibility out of the Ravens’ hands by snatching 10 guards and tackles over the first 22 picks of the third round. They might have taken Connecticut’s Christian Haynes or Kansas’ Dominick Puni over Isaac but didn’t have the chance. Their board said the value was largely sucked out of the guard class by pick No. 93.

“In the fourth round, we probably had a couple opportunities to get somebody, and quite honestly, looking at [Walker], looking at [Tampa], we kind of knew when we had a chance to select those guys that we might miss out on one of the better guards available,” DeCosta said. “I think we have some viable guys to compete. I’m excited about the group overall, and honestly, I don’t feel too bad about it because of the type of guys we got in the fourth and fifth round.”

The Ravens also could use a third safety to replace Geno Stone and complement starters Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams. They have Ar’Darius Washington and added Purdue’s Sanoussi Kane with their last of nine picks but seem likely to sign a veteran free agent.

DeCosta reiterated that the draft was a significant step, but still only a step, in building the 2024 Ravens.

“We’re not finished, for sure,” he said Saturday. “I’m not going to sit up here today and say, ‘Oh, the team is set. We’ve got this great team.’ We have a lot of work to do, and there’s a lot of different ways to do that. We have a lot of different opportunities between now and September to build the team.”

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