The Baltimore Ravens’ annual pre-draft press conference is still several weeks away, but there won’t be much suspense with what the team’s decision-makers have to say. That’s because the message doesn’t deviate much from year to year.
Repeat after me: Keep the board. Choose the best player available. Don’t chase the need.
These are not hollow refrains. The Ravens reminded everyone of their draft approach last year when they used the 14th pick on Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton despite already having veteran safety Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark and Geno Stone on the roster. They then doubled down and took a second tight end in the fourth round when Isaiah Likely was the highest ranked player still on their board.
This April, however, they may have to focus on need. The Ravens may not have the salary-cap space to be active in free agency, particularly if quarterback Lamar Jackson is in line to play the season on the franchise tag. Plus, they currently only have five draft picks, and that’s not including a second-round pick, which they sent to Chicago in the Roquan Smith deal.
All of that means that barring a major move, like a trade for Jackson or another key player, the Ravens’ biggest asset in improving the team is their 22nd pick in the first round. And that asset should probably be destined to fill its biggest gap on the list.
It still seems too early to project what the Ravens will do with their first-round pick on April 27. But it doesn’t seem like a stretch to narrow down what position the Ravens could tackle at No. 22, even with the team’s accession. to the approach of the best available player.
If I had to guess right now, and that’s what we’re doing here with a big board early, the most likely target would be a wide receiver or cornerback. With the help of the athletic one In NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler’s Top 100 list, here’s a look at some of the players the Ravens could pick for their two most-needed positions.
Updated Dane Brugler NFL Draft Rankings: Top 100 Prospects in 2023
The Ravens don’t need a wide receiver. They need multiple receivers. Even if the Ravens add a veteran pass catcher via free agency or a trade, they will still go into the draft looking to improve their receiving corps. General manager Eric DeCosta has never been shy about prioritizing the draft position despite the organization’s poor reputation for picking and developing receivers. From 2019 to 2021, Baltimore selected a league-high six wide receivers. That included two first-round picks (Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman) and two third-round picks (Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay). They will likely have to go to the pit again this year, and it looks like it will be sooner rather than later.
Jordan Addison, USC
Brugler range: twenty
Addison is 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds and there are questions about how he’ll deal with the NFL’s physical defensive backs. Ideally, the Ravens would give Jackson a big target who can make contested catches and thrive in the red zone. However, they are not in a position to be selective. Addison, a Frederick, Md. native, is an explosive playmaker who threatens defenses in a variety of ways. He also has a nose for the end zone with 26 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Brugler range: 22
The Ravens have lacked a bona fide deep threat for a long time. Enter Hyatt, which has elite speed and field-spreading ability. Hyatt had a breakout year in 2022, catching 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged just under 19 receiving yards. He’s not considered a good route runner, but teams tend to overlook some flaws by prioritizing speed.
Quentin Johnston, TCU
Brugler range: 25
Probably no player has been more connected to the Ravens in the various mock drafts than Johnston, who averaged 19 receiving yards in his three seasons at TCU. Johnston brings size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), athleticism and playmaking ability. He has struggled at times with drops, but Brugler believes he has more upside than any other receiver in the draft.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Brugler range: 26
After a 95-receiving, 1,606-yard sophomore season at Ohio State, Smith-Njigba was on his way to earning early first-round consideration. However, injury issues kept him sidelined for most of 2022. Teams will have to be comfortable with his health, but there’s a lot to like about the slot receiver. He is a polished road racer with reliable hands.
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Zay Flores, Boston University
Brugler range: 55
There will be teams obsessed with Flowers’ less-than-ideal size (5-foot-9, 182 pounds), but it’s easy to watch video highlights of the former Boston College star and imagine the possibilities. Flowers had 3,401 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns in four seasons with the Eagles. He is fast, elusive and plays with an energy and confidence that are easy to admire.
The Ravens have Marlon Humphrey and a bunch of question marks at cornerback. Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller, Kevon Seymour and Trayvon Mullen are pending free agents. Young corners Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams are coming off mixed or injury-marred seasons. Veteran Daryl Worley re-signed but is not sure to make the team in September. If the Ravens don’t re-sign Peters, they need to find a starter opposite Humphrey. And even if they do, they need to improve their depth at the position. Team officials like to say that you can never have enough cornerbacks. They should remember that at draft time.
Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Brugler range: eleven
There’s a strong possibility that both Christian Gonzalez and Oregon’s Porter are gone long before the Ravens are on the clock. If Porter falters a bit, he would be a perfect fit. He’s the kind of long (6-foot-2, 200-pound) cornerback and physique they love. Also, it would be a story if the son of a Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, Joey Porter, ended up in Baltimore.
Devon Witherspoon, IL
Brugler range: fifteen
Witherspoon seems to always be around football. In his final season at Illinois, he had 14 pass breakups and three interceptions. He plays with good instincts and discipline, and is a willing, physical tackler. At 6-foot-183, Witherspoon isn’t the ideal size, but he makes up for it with smarts and competitiveness.
Deonte Banks, Maryland
Brugler range: 31
Banks is a fast-rising prospect who has the combination of size (6 feet, 207 pounds) and speed that teams look for on the outside corners. He also plays with physicality and is a versatile scheme. Banks is a Baltimore native, so the Ravens should have plenty of information on a player who seems to be highly regarded by the scouting community.
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Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Brugler range: 32
An early contender to become one of the most controversial players in the draft, Ringo is an elite athlete with great playmaking ability. He has the size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), strength and speed to make a quick and successful transition to the NFL. However, there are concerns about how many plays he allows and his anticipation abilities. He fits the profile to rise or fall.
Emmanuel Forbes, State of Mississippi
Brugler range: 3. 4
The fact that Forbes has set SEC and FBS records for career interception return touchdowns (six) should get every team’s attention. He is also long (6 feet, 174 pounds), quick and has very good ball skills. But he will be challenged in matchups against big receivers and isn’t considered an asset in run support.
(Quentin Johnston Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)