NBC Sports Ranks NFL GMs, and Eric DeCosta is Outside the Top 10?
Over the offseason, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta received high praise for his free agent acquisitions, excellent draft haul and roster construction. But NBC Sports' Patrick Daugherty doesn't consider these offseason efforts worthy of DeCosta to be ranked in the top 10 of his NFL General Manager rankings. DeCosta was ranked No. 12 on Daugherty's list of NFL general managers.
"12. Eric DeCosta, Ravens: Eric DeCosta's 2021 was a lesson in what can go wrong even when you have a franchise quarterback," Daugherty wrote. "The league's run-heaviest offense had its backfield wiped out by ACL injuries before so much as a real snap was played. The secondary soon followed."
Though Daugherty ranked DeCosta outside his top 10, his commentary is almost all positive, noting last season's roster depth, a successful draft and good offseason additions.
"Despite all that, DeCosta's club was sitting at 8-4 entering Week 14. That's what happens when you have a deep roster," Daugherty wrote. "…DeCosta coped the only way a Ravens executive knows how — by knocking the draft out of the park. Safety Kyle Hamilton was arguably the most talented player in the entire class. DeCosta got him at No. 14. Tyler Linderbaum was unquestionably the best center. DeCosta got him at No. 25, helping to stabilize the Ravens' road-paving line. S Marcus Williams was one of the glitziest signings of free agency, while Ravens returnee Michael Pierce was one of the most down low."
Daugherty didn't offer criticisms of DeCosta's decision-making, only citing "problems" DeCosta will need to navigate, including wide receiver depth, the health of left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Lamar Jackson's contract situation. With those problems, Daugherty expressed confidence in DeCosta handling whatever lies ahead.
"But DeCosta is showing the same aptitude for adapting and reloading on the fly as his mentor Ozzie Newsome," Daugherty wrote.
Ravens Roster Mostly Improved After Offseason Dust Settles
With the state of the Ravens roster heading into camp looking rather settled, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec judged whether each position group improved, worsened or stayed the same. For the most part, Zrebiec believes the Ravens improved, as five positions received the "better" label.
"Outlook: As long as [Marlon] Humphrey and [Marcus] Peters are back playing at a high level, the Ravens will be in good shape," Zrebiec wrote. "They have an intriguing combination of experience ([Kyle] Fuller, [Kevon] Seymour) and talented youth ([Brandon] Stephens, [Jalyn] Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams) to figure the rest out. The Ravens have corners who can play outside and in the slot and safeties who can play corner. Now, they have to figure out a way to keep their top cover guys healthy."
"Outlook: With a healthy [Ronnie] Stanley, [Kevin] Zeitler, Linderbaum and [Morgan] Moses, this group looks formidable regardless of who winds up winning the left guard job," Zrebiec wrote. "However, there's no guarantee on Stanley recapturing his pre-injury form and Linderbaum faces a learning curve. Still, DeCosta vowed to solidify the offensive line this season and he delivered. The Ravens are deeper, particularly at tackle, and they may even have an excess of 53-man caliber offensive linemen to trade late in the summer."
"Outlook: It remains to be seen how quickly [Marcus] Williams picks up the defense and how Hamilton transitions to the NFL," Zrebiec wrote. "However, the decision to double down on the position solidifies what should be one of the better secondaries in the NFL. The Ravens have five safeties that they like and that doesn't even include Stephens and [Ar'Darius] Washington, who could get opportunities in the nickel role rather than being lost on the safety depth chart."
However, Zrebiec believes the wide receiver and outside linebacker units did not improve over the offseason.
"Outlook: Not everybody is of the belief that Brown is a big loss for the Ravens. However, until a few of the team's young receivers step up and become consistent producers and legitimate threats, it's hard not to conclude that his departure doesn't create a void of some significance," Zrebiec wrote. "It still feels likely that the Ravens bring in a veteran receiver at some point. However, unless DeCosta has a major surprise up his sleeve, it's hard to believe that the player will alter what the Ravens do offensively."
"Outlook: You can throw out plenty of 'What ifs' that work in the Ravens' favor," Zrebiec wrote. "What if Oweh makes a significant second-year leap, Bowser comes back strong, Houston finds the fountain of youth, Ojabo is ready before midseason? That's a lot to ask. It's hard to ignore the Ravens' inability to close the Za'Darius Smith deal or land another bonafide double-digit sack guy. Add in the fact that three of their top guys had offseason surgeries and Houston is a year older and the concerns are legitimate."
James Proche is the Ravens 'Best-Kept Secret'
All eyes have been on the Ravens wide receivers this offseason and how the unit will perform after the Brown trade. According to Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport, a player on that unit, James Proche II, is the team's "best-kept secret."
"Proche was ridiculously productive at SMU, posting 204 receptions over his last two collegiate seasons," Davenport wrote.
Davenport acknowledged Proche hasn't had the same production at the professional level but believes more is on the horizon for the young wideout.
"Per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, Proche has shined at OTAs, leading to speculation that his offensive role could increase significantly in 2022," Davenport wrote. "If Proche does emerge as a viable option on third downs, the 5'11", 193-pounder will smash new career bests across the board."
Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried believes "the secret [of Proche] could be out soon enough."
"The 25-year-old is expected to serve as the Ravens' No. 3 wide receiver behind second-year pro Rashod Bateman and special-teams ace Devin Duvernay," Fried wrote. "That should lead to plenty of opportunities for the former second-team All-American. And if prior history is anything to go on, look for Proche to make the most of every snap he receives."
Patrick Queen Makes All Under 25 Defensive Team
Third-year linebacker Patrick Queen will head into the 2022 season as one of the best young defenders in the NFL. CBS Sports' Tyler Sullivan released his NFL all under 25 defensive team for 2022, and Queen joined his former LSU teammate Devin White on the list.
"[Queen] was immediately able to total over 100 tackles in his rookie year, which helped him finish third in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2020," Sullivan wrote. "He followed that up with another solid season in 2021 where he played all 17 games and had a team-high 98 tackles and a career-high 10 tackles for a loss. Queen received a 65.9 pass rushing grade by PFF for 2021 and a 17.2 pass rushing win rate, which both ranked 13th among linebackers."
Ravenswire's Kevin Oestreicher believes this season could be big for Queen.
"With another year under his belt and another offseason to hone in on his game, the third-year linebacker could make plenty of noise for the Ravens' defense during the 2022 NFL season," Oestreicher wrote.
- PFF’s Bryant Horn ranks Mark Andrews the No. 2 tight end in the red zone. "Andrews saw the most red-zone targets (22) of any qualifying tight end and caught 14 passes, which tied for the most with two others," Horn wrote. "His 102 yards ranked second, and his nine receiving touchdowns were the most of any qualifying player."
- Ravens 2018 draft ranks No. 3 in PFF Era (since 2006). "After that, you have a former MVP, a tackle vying to be the highest-paid player at his position, the reigning first-team All-Pro tight end and five other players who have been starters at one point or another during their NFL careers (with two currently slated to start in Zach Sieler and Bradley Bozeman)," Michael Renner wrote. "That is a haul no matter how you slice it."