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Late for Work 4/22: Best-Case Scenario for Ravens in the First Round

Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II (11) is shown during an NCAA football game against Notre Dame on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021 in Tallahassee, Fla. Jermaine Johnson II was voted The Associated Press All-ACC defensive player of the year in results released Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II (11) is shown during an NCAA football game against Notre Dame on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021 in Tallahassee, Fla. Jermaine Johnson II was voted The Associated Press All-ACC defensive player of the year in results released Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

What Is the Best-Case Scenario for the Ravens in the First Round?

Who will the Ravens select in the first round? Will they trade up? Trade back?

Mock drafts and trade scenarios have been circulating for months. With less than a week to go before the start of the draft on Thursday, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec offered his thoughts.

What is the best-case scenario in the first round for the Ravens, who own the 14th-overall pick?

"That they'll be on the clock and at least three of these players are available: Florida State outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning, [Georgia defensive tackle Jordan] Davis and [Utah inside linebacker Devin] Lloyd," Zrebiec wrote. "At the very least, that would guarantee the Ravens would get a player who fills a major need.

"Also, if all those guys were available, the Ravens would have the luxury of trading back a few spots to pick up more draft capital, and they still would be assured of getting one of those guys. It's always hard to tell how a team feels about a particular player in the draft with all the subterfuge and misdirection. However, if Johnson or Stingley falls, the Ravens should run up the card."

In looking at which positions the Ravens are most likely to address in the first round, he ranked edge rusher at No. 1 (35 percent chance), followed by cornerback (30 percent), offensive tackle (25 percent) and "other" (10 percent).

"Given their myriad needs, this is one of those years when the Ravens' first-round pick could come from five or six positions and it wouldn't be a surprise," Zrebiec wrote. "But the need for an impact edge rusher and starting-caliber corner trumps everything else."

Regarding the likelihood of the Ravens moving out of the No. 14 spot, Zrebiec said they "are always more likely to trade back," but he wouldn't be surprised if they traded up if the draft board falls in certain ways. Baltimore owns 10 picks overall, including nine in the first four rounds.

"They know that the more swings they take, the better chance they have to connect on some good players. That said, the Ravens go into every draft with a few guys in mind whom they are willing to trade up for if they drop a bit," Zrebiec wrote. "This is all speculation because Ravens officials protect their draft board at all costs, but it will be interesting to see whether Baltimore tries to move up if Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux or Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner is still available in that eight-to-10 range.

"I don't believe the Ravens will be willing to pay the draft capital required to go from pick No. 14 into the top five or six, but I easily can see a scenario where they might be willing to move into the back end of the top 10 to get a stud pass rusher or corner."

Ravens Ranked Among Top Three Teams in Getting Draft Value Over the Past Decade

The Ravens are perceived as one of the best franchises in the NFL when it comes to the draft. Over the past decade specifically, that perception is reality, according to an ESPN study.

The Ravens are ranked No. 3 in terms of getting draft value during that span.

To determine the rankings, ESPN evaluated the players taken in each of the past 10 NFL drafts using Approximate Value (AV) — Pro Football Reference's method of measuring the performance of every NFL player. It then took each player's career AV and measured it against a value based on where that player was taken in the NFL draft to come up with the Career Approximate Value Over Expected (CAVOE).

The Ravens' CAVOE was 125.9, trailing only the Seattle Seahawks (176.6) and Kansas City Chiefs (165.6).

Baltimore's 2018 draft class —which included quarterback Lamar Jackson (first round), offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews in the third round, and center Bradley Bozeman in the sixth round — was cited as the team's best from 2012-2021.

The Ravens also were ranked No. 3 in CAVOE in terms of Day 3 draft picks (Rounds 4-7).

"Finding talents like center Ryan Jensen, linebacker Matt Judon and fullback Kyle Juszczyk in that range, the player that was the most impressive find was tight end Darren Waller," ESPN's Jordan Reid wrote.

ESPN’s Louis Riddick said the common denominator with the top three teams is that they all hit on the quarterbacks they drafted (Jackson in Baltimore, Russell Wilson in Seattle and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City).

"It really allows them then to take swings at other positions, and if it doesn't work out necessarily the way that you want it to, the quarterback is able to make up for a lot of the insufficient draft picks maybe that you had at other spots," Riddick said.

"Baltimore getting Lamar Jackson, trading back into the first round and getting him at the end of the first round, has paid dividends for them over and over and over again with the way that this young man turned into an MVP-caliber type of player and made them into one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL."

To Riddick's point, the Ravens have had stability at quarterback for the past 14 years after selecting Joe Flacco in the first round in 2008 and Jackson in 2018.

Rich Eisen: Deebo Samuel in Ravens' Offense Would Put Entire League on Notice

NFL Network's Rich Eisen weighed in on whether the Ravens should trade for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel. His answer was an emphatic "yes."

"What would Deebo Samuel look like in Baltimore Raven purple? What would he look like in that offense, with Lamar Jackson and him meeting at the mesh point?" Eisen said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "What would he look like outside the numbers for Lamar Jackson? What would he look like with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards and all the running backs in that system?

"I tell you what he'd look like. Like a championship football player. … The AFC North wouldn't want to think about that. The rest of the AFC wouldn't want to think about that. And I think the entire league wouldn't want to think about that."

It's hard to disagree with Eisen's assessment, but as enticing as the thought of Samuel in Ravens purple is, Baltimore trading for the All-Pro seems far-fetched.

As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the 49ers reportedly have "zero interest" in honoring Samuel's trade request unless a team would "get crazy with an offer." Getting crazy is not how the Ravens operate (and it's served them well).

Moreover, Samuel reportedly doesn't want to continue to be deployed as a hybrid tailback/wide receiver because of the wear and tear he's incurred in the role.

Quick Hits

  • Miami Dolphins running back Chase Edmonds mentioned the Ravens when talking about teams with winning cultures during his appearance on the “All Things Covered” podcast: "When you see (good) culture teams in the NFL, like the Baltimore Ravens, the New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers, those teams that no matter how talented they look, bro, from top to bottom, they just somehow find a way to win damn games. They just somehow find ways to continue to be in big games and successful seasons year after year."

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