General Manager Eric DeCosta joined "The Lounge" podcast Tuesday to review the Ravens' 2023 draft.
Here are some of the top takeaways from the interview, which you should listen to in its entirety (and subscribe!).
On if Zay Flowers was the wide receiver the Ravens wanted most of the four that went in a row from picks 20-23: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Seahawks), Quentin Johnston (Chargers), Flowers, Jordan Addison (Vikings):
Yes, Flowers was the wide receiver the Ravens targeted going into the draft, and they got him. DeCosta felt like Baltimore would have a good chance to get Flowers because other teams might discount him because of his size, which the Ravens feel comfortable with. They have conviction that he can play outside or inside, and feel like the other special attributes he brings to the table outweigh any disadvantage from his size. Basically, Flowers' size provided the Ravens with a discount.
"He was. In looking at all those guys, we felt like [Flowers] was an explosive player, very good run after catch, good hands. Despite a lack of probably elite size, he's a guy that we thought could play inside or outside, can catch punts, competitive, feisty player with a history of production over five years."
"I always felt pretty good about the receiver position because I felt like our board might be different from other teams' boards. The fact of the matter is, we liked all four of those guys – every single one of them. Every single one of those receivers was a viable option for us in the first round at different points. Now maybe some guys would be trade backs and other guys wouldn't be, but we saw all four of those receivers as potential first-round picks for the Ravens."
"Some of these things (like Flowers' size) are overblown. You look at the guy's production, you look at his skills, you look at his traits, you look at his mentality. The fact that he plays at [Boston College], maybe that's used against him. Maybe he doesn't have a great quarterback. Maybe his production isn't what it could have been. We have to look at it from the lens of, 'If this played at USC, or this guy played at Alabama, or this guy played at Oklahoma, what would he be?' We look at it and say, 'You know what, we can live with those other things, because we know we're getting X, Y, and Z.'"
On if he had a hunch that the Chargers weren't going to pick Flowers:
Yes, DeCosta felt like even though he stuck at No. 22, they would still get their guy.
"Tom Telesco, the GM, he does a phenomenal job. I felt like they would be potentially looking at Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston or Addison in different ways. They might be looking for an outside guy, an inside guy, but historically they've liked the bigger receivers, the route-runners. So I felt like probably one of those three guys made the most sense for them. But you never know."
On the option to trade back into the second round and possibility of being jumped for a receiver:
One fear DeCosta had was that a team, perhaps the Giants, who were slated to pick at No. 25, wanted to move up for a wide receiver. The Chiefs were also a player, as they had Patrick Mahomes work out with Flowers pre-draft and were also looking to add a wideout (they ended up taking Rashee Rice in Round 2). Baltimore also had the option to move out of the first round entirely, but DeCosta wasn't smitten with the options that would have been available at that point.
"We had gotten some calls from some teams behind us. It didn't take a rocket scientist … to tell me that they were coming up for receivers. We decided to stand pat at that point because we knew there was a legitimate risk that we were going to lose the guys that we coveted. The Giants being one of those teams. The Chiefs were behind us as well."
"As we looked at it in the second round and saw the types of players available, it just wasn't as appealing as we would have hoped, the players. For us to pick at 22 and get a guy that we thought was a top prospect versus trading back and getting a third-round pick maybe, it just didn't make as much sense this year. In some years it does, we roll the dice. This year, my mindset was let's just get the best guys we can get. Let's get the top talent that we can get. We don't necessarily need as many picks, but let's get the top talent in this year's draft, and that's what we tried to do."
On whether the Ravens would have picked CB Deonte Banks at No. 22 if Flowers were gone:
Undetermined. DeCosta passed on Banks and Joey Porter Jr., two players widely mocked to the Ravens, to grab Flowers. One cornerback he did say he really liked was Mississippi State's Emmanuel Forbes, who the Commanders took at No. 16.
"It's probably going to go unanswered. I will say this. I thought the Commanders did a great job. They took one of my favorite guys in the draft – Emmanuel Forbes. We had him come in and visit us. Spent the day with him. Ball hawk. A skinny dude, but just a straight out baller. Just a good player. He was a guy that we thought was an outstanding player and would have been a guy that we would have considered in the first at some point. Trade back potentially. Stand pat potentially. He went at 16. That was an aggressive pick, but I think that's going to be a pick that as you look back at the first round, you'll say, 'You know what, that was an awesome draft pick.'"
On the DeAndre Hopkins to the Ravens pre-draft rumors:
There are a lot of buzz linking the Ravens to Hopkins before the draft, which didn't come to fruition. Was DeCosta looking to throw other teams off the Flowers scent?
"Nobody loves smoke more than I do. Any time you can create a little distraction, then you should. The draft is the ultimate chess match. I'm aware of that. I think that was my 19thdraft that I've run. So there's a lot of experience there. It's a game within a game. It's other teams trying to figure out what you're going to do. It's people in the media trying to figure out what you're going to do so they can tell other people in the league, which happens quite a bit. I look at it as secrecy times 10. One of the more paramount things is just me knowing what we're going to do and nobody else knowing what we're going to do. … If you hear that the Ravens are doing something, be very skeptical of that. … Now, sometimes you actually tell the truth."
On whether they could have taken QB Will Levis at No. 22 if they hadn't reached a deal with Lamar Jackson:
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported "after asking around, that the Ravens would have considered quarterback Will Levis with the 22nd overall pick" had they not reached an agreement with Lamar Jackson earlier that day. DeCosta didn't reveal where Levis was ranked on the Ravens' board.
"I think(I) havesaid in the pre-draft luncheon that we had quarterbacks in our top 32 players. So we had quarterbacks as first-round picks. It would have amounted to the board falling the right way and then us making the decision to take the QB. I'm fortunate as the GM, that I actually am the guy that ranks the players. … As far as I know, no one has access to that list except for me. … So I'm the only guy that would know that."
On drafting LB Trenton Simpson in the third round:
The Ravens liked their options in the third round, but they started flying off the board. Some players at positions of need (other than wide receiver) who went before Simpson at No. 86 were cornerback Garrett Williams (No. 72), defensive end Zach Harrison (No. 75), linebacker Marte Mapu (No. 76), defensive end Byron Young (No. 77), outside linebacker D.J. Johnson (No. 80), defensive end YaYa Diaby (No. 82), cornerback Riley Moss (No. 83), inside linebacker Daiyan Henley (No. 85). The Ravens took Simpson because he was the best player available, not because they were looking to replace Patrick Queen.
"We didn't go into the third round thinking we're going to take Trenton Simpson. There were a lot of good players up there still. In a span of about 15 picks, a lot of the players that we coveted were gone, and he was the last guy up there that we felt was a true, legitimate difference-maker."
"People want to jump to conclusions [and say], 'Oh he's going to replace Patrick.' I can tell you this. Patrick Queen had a helluva year last year. Patrick Queen is a very talented, in my mind, Pro Bowl-type linebacker. He's going to have a great year this year. We want Patrick Queen on this team, we want to keep him on this team. We will, at some point, try to get him signed, hopefully, to an extension if we can. The fifth-year option was something that was more based on business and the salary-cap economics than actually Patrick Queen and his performance and what he does as a player. He's a difference-maker for us. When we had Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith last year over the last half of the season, we had a chance to see how dominant our defense could be. The appealing thing is getting Trenton in here with everything he can do as a blitzer, on third downs, off the edge, his special teams ability. It's really just us adding another fast, physical, smart linebacker to the mix and giving us a chance on defense to be the best that we can be."
Ravens Pre-Planned Going After Andrew Vorhees
The Ravens typically hold their post-draft press conference when they believe they are done making their picks. This year, DeCosta went down to talk knowing that Baltimore hoped to make one more selection. DeCosta was watching a TV in front of reporters hoping that guard Andrew Vorhees, who suffered a major knee injury at the Combine, wouldn't be selected by another team.
DeCosta worked out a deal with the Cleveland Browns to trade them a 2024 sixth-round pick for a seventh-round pick in this year's draft to pick Vorhees, who they plan to stash this year in hopes that he'll be a starter down the line. The Ravens had a starter-level grade on Vorhees and expected that he would go in the third or fourth round had he not suffered the injury.