Are Ravens' High Expectations for Fourth-Round Picks Realistic?
General Manager Eric DeCosta said earlier this week that he expects all five of the Ravens' fourth-round picks to be playing for the team this season.
"Now, does the data back that up?" DeCosta said. "Probably not, but that's what we think. That's what we expect. We make every pick with that type of conviction, so that's just the way we play the game."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec looked at the data, and DeCosta's assumption was correct.
"The question, though, and it seems pertinent given the Ravens' extensive list of needs, is whether the team will rely on its fourth-rounders to add depth or to plug significant holes," Zrebiec wrote. "If it's the former, that seems like a reasonable expectation. If it's the latter, the Ravens sure are asking a lot. The fourth round is typically a place to find young depth, not immediate Day 1 starters.
"Of the 39 players taken in last year's fourth round, more than half of them (21) didn't start a game all year and 31 of the 39 started fewer than five games. The lack of depth in last year's draft class was well documented, but the previous draft in 2020 didn't produce much in the way of high-impact players out of the fourth round, either. Of the 40 fourth-rounders taken that year, only eight became full-time starters by their second NFL season. Nineteen of the 40 have started two games or fewer over their first two seasons."
Zrebiec noted that the Ravens have found some gems in the fourth round over the years such as
Edwin Mulitalo, Ed Hartwell, Jarret Johnson, Jason Brown, Le'Ron McClain, Dennis Pitta, Kyle Juszczyk and Za'Darius Smith. Many of them didn't make an immediate impact but ultimately became key contributors.
However, of the Ravens' 24 fourth-round selections from 2010 to 2020, only three (Pitta, Tavon Young and Chris Moore) have received second contracts with the team. Smith and Juszczyk became stars elsewhere.
"The team's recent history in the fourth round … is underwhelming," Zrebiec wrote. "It's too early to make any judgments on [Tylan] Wallace, who had two catches for 23 yards as a rookie, but contributed on special teams. However, [Ben] Bredeson (2020) is already gone and none of the team's three fourth-rounders in 2019 (Justice Hill, Ben Powers, Iman Marshall) are considered locks to be on the team when the roster is cut to 53 in September. The team's three 2018 fourth-rounders (Anthony Averett, Kenny Young and Jaleel Scott) are all ex-Ravens as well."
It should be noted that Averett had a strong tenure in Baltimore as a reserve cornerback who stepped up last season when injuries struck. Young was part of the 2019 trade package that landed Marcus Peters.
Pundits Push for Ravens to Pursue DK Metcalf
With DK Metcalf rumored to be on the trade block, and Lamar Jackson recruiting the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver on Twitter, the question of whether the Ravens need to add a true No. 1 wide receiver has resurfaced.
“The SB Nation NFL Show’s” RJ Ochoa strongly believes the Ravens should pursue the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Metcalf if he is available.
"We've been saying this since last year. Go get Allen Robinson. Go get Kenny Golladay, [who] even we were willing to settle for the Ravens last year. Somebody. And you haven't done anything," Ochoa said. " … They haven't helped [Jackson] out. They have given him nothing. Mark Andrews is awesome. Cool. Give him a wide receiver that is a big-bodied dude like DK Metcalf. Increase the wide receivers' catch radius, which DK Metcalf obviously does."
"Good Morning Football's" Emmanuel Sanders also thinks the Ravens should pursue Metcalf.
"What do the Ravens really do? They run the ball. So what would you want? A receiver who can block as well as make plays for you. It's the perfect fit," Sanders said. "I feel like the Baltimore Ravens really need a No. 1 receiver to really get over that hump to be able to go on to win the Super Bowl. Because Lamar Jackson has that kind of talent.
"He has never really had a receiver around him who can give him a security blanket. So if you give Lamar Jackson DK Metcalf, with Marquise Brown taking the top off the defense, the Ravens are a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous team."
There's no question a player of Metcalf's caliber would make any team better. There are two pertinent questions, though: Are the Seahawks willing to trade him? And if so, what would a team have to give up to get him?
Seattle has given no indication that Metcalf is available. Howard Eskin of Sports Radio 94 WIP reported this week that the New York Jets were going to offer the 10th-overall pick for Metcalf, but the Seahawks said they're not trading him.
For Seattle to even consider parting with Metcalf, ESPN’s Brady Henderson said it would likely take a minimum of two first-round picks. That does not sound like something the Ravens would do, especially since DeCosta has said that he's "very comfortable" with the team's wide receivers.
As for Ochoa's contention that the Ravens "haven't done anything" to provide Jackson with more weapons at wide receiver, that's simply not true. Baltimore drafted wide receivers in the first round in 2019 (Brown) and 2021 (Rashod Bateman).
Brown had more receptions and yards than Metcalf last season; Brown posted 91 catches for 1,008 yards, while Metcalf had 75 catches for 967 yards. However, Metcalf had 12 touchdowns to Brown's six. Bateman's rookie season was hampered by a groin injury, but he showed flashes of what he's capable of when healthy.
Regarding Ochoa's contention that the Ravens should've pursued Robinson (who was franchise-tagged by the Chicago Bears) and Golladay (who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the New York Giants), the two veteran receivers had 75 catches, 931 yards and one touchdown combined last season.
Justin Tucker Goes in First Round in 2012 Redraft
The Ravens signed Justin Tucker as an undrafted free agent, but he didn't make it out of the first round in a 2012 redraft by NFL.com’s Adam Rank.
Rank had Tucker going to the Los Angeles Chargers with the 18th-overall pick.
"Imagine how differently the past decade would have turned out for the infamously snake-bitten Chargers if they'd nabbed the most accurate kicker in NFL history (91.061 percent field-goal rate), who went undrafted in real life," Rank wrote. "Since 2012, the Chargers have had 12 different players attempt at least one field goal for them. With this pick, they secure someone who could still be winning games for them today.
"And while one could make a solid argument for basically any team above to draft Tucker, we have to at least nod to the fact that kickers simply don't get picked in the first round — only one kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, who went 17th overall to the Raiders in 2000, has been chosen in Round 1 in the past 44 years. So No. 18 feels like a fair place to slot Tucker."
The Ravens had the 29th-overall pick in 2012, but they traded it to the Minnesota Vikings. Rank had the Ravens keeping the pick and selecting offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele.
"Osemele was an excellent selection for Baltimore in the second round in real life but likely wouldn't last until the 60th overall choice in a redraft," Rank wrote.