Ravens Earn Strong Draft Grades Despite Limited Capital
The Ravens entered the 2023 NFL Draft with little capital and their only trade to obtain more occurred in the seventh round.
But even with fewer picks than previous years, they earned strong grades across the NFL media landscape for this year's class.
To review, here are the Ravens' picks:
· Round 1 – WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
· Round 3 – LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
· Round 4 – OLB Tavius Robinson, Ole Miss
· Round 5 – CB Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford
· Round 6 – OT Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Oregon
· Round 7 – OL Andrew Vorhees, USC
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: "Grade: A. The Ravens found a tough and quick receiver in Flowers to complement Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman. Even after wisely trading their 2023 second-round pick for linebacker Roquan Smith last season, Simpson's closing speed and ability to play outside or inside made him a home run pick in Round 3."
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "Grade: A. The Ravens delivered the best possible outcome with limited volume after re-signing Lamar Jackson to a lucrative extension right before the draft. Flowers is a key extra weapon for the new, more wide-open offense of Todd Monken, while Simpson gives them the NFL's best linebacker corps. The key is Kelly turning into an absolute gem to replace a big need at corner minus Marcus Peters."
DraftKings Nation’s Grace McDermott: "Grade: A. The Ravens knew what they needed coming in, and they went out and got it where they could. They grabbed one of the best receivers in the draft right off the bat to give the recently re-signed Lamar Jackson a full slate of top receivers. Simpson was the best player still on the table, and will be an asset right off the bat to their defense. While Kelly was a solid choice to fill their cornerback void, they will need to sign a more veteran CB, but still grabbed a solid developmental choice here. Baltimore started strong, and despite having mostly Day 3 picks, did an excellent job with what they had."
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr: "Grade: B+. Baltimore's best move on Thursday? Signing Lamar Jackson to a long-term deal, of course. Everything else was overshadowed by the news that the quarterback would be back. And still, getting my top-ranked wideout Zay Flowers (22) a few hours later had to have made Jackson even more happy. … Baltimore traded away its second-round pick in this draft to land off-ball linebacker Roquan Smith, and it took my top-ranked off-ball 'backer in this class in Round 3. Trenton Simpson (86) could be a steal -- I had him ranked No. 35 on my board. He can play on third downs and stick to tight ends in coverage. …DeCosta didn't do his usual wheeling and dealing with trades this weekend, but he landed a nice class, headlined by my guy Flowers."
USA Today’s Nate Davis: "Grade: B+. It may not technically count as part of the draft, but finally striking an extension with QB Lamar Jackson set a nice tone Thursday and allowed GM Eric DeCosta and Co. to focus on player procurement without distraction. And he wasted little time getting Jackson another nifty weapon in explosive first-round slot WR Zay Flowers. DeCosta traded his second-round pick last year to get LB Roquan Smith – well spent capital – and got rangy Trenton Simpson, who might be Smith's running mate in the long term, in Round 3."
The Washington Post’s Mark Maske: "Grade: B. The best thing the Ravens did was getting Lamar Jackson signed to a record five-year, $260 million contract extension. They made him even happier by using a first-round selection on WR Zay Flowers. The use of a third-round choice on LB Trenton Simpson fueled speculation that Patrick Queen could be traded."
New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy: "Grade: B. Another strong draft from the Ravens. What else is new? Flowers' elite speed and ability to separate combines with Odell Beckham Jr. for the best weapons of Lamar Jackson's career. Simpson — the best coverage linebacker in the draft — offered great value at No. 86."
Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame: "Grade: B. The Ravens had another good draft. What else is new? A four-year contributor with Boston College, Flowers should step in and form a nice trio with veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman. Baltimore also did a nice job to land Simpson in the second round, who should provide a nice rotational piece alongside Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen at the second level. Kelly is also a sleeper in the fourth, a Senior Bowl standout who could eventually replace Marcus Peters, who is currently a free agent.
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly: "Grade: B. The Ravens had a relatively quiet draft and picked just twice in the first three rounds (they gave their second-rounder to Chicago last year in the trade for linebacker Roquan Smith), but I liked what they did with limited capital."
Associated Press’ Rob Maaddi: "Grade: C+. With Odell Beckham Jr. in the flock, should've addressed the secondary in the first round instead of taking WR Zay Flowers at No. 22. Went defense with next three picks."
Ravens Considered a "Legitimate Threat in a Rugged AFC"
The transformation of the Ravens wide receiver corps over the past month has pundits believing in the new-look offense. With Jackson agreeing to a long-term deal and the selection of Flowers, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal thinks the Ravens are championship contenders.
"Lamar not only has a great contract now, he has much better weapons, thanks to the additions of free agent Odell Beckham and first-round pick Zay Flowers (No. 22 overall), as well as Rashod Bateman's return from injury," Rosenthal wrote. "With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken in place, it feels like a new era in Baltimore. The excuses are gone, because this roster is ready to compete for a title."
To compete for a championship, they'll first have to go through an arms race in the AFC. But with a roster filled with talent and depth across the board, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec sees the Ravens in contention for the conference.
"The Ravens have a pretty deep roster, and with Jackson healthy, they'll again have to be considered a legitimate threat in a rugged AFC. DeCosta still has some work to do with fortifying positions, and expect some of that work to get done soon," Zrebiec wrote. "They have their quarterback in place. Their wide receiver corps has been significantly upgraded. They've added some speed and depth on defense. A number of key players, a group that includes Dobbins, Edwards, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo, are another year removed from major injuries and should be closer to their pre-injury form in 2023."
Pundits React to Day 3 Picks
Here were reactions to each pick on Day 3.
Tavius Robinson, EDGE, Ole Miss
Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann: "Tavius Robinson is a player with some interesting potential, and another athletic selection this weekend. I think he projects as a sub-package rush-end at the start, which could be interesting in situations when Odafe Oweh slides inside — something we saw him do with some success late last season. He looks like a good depth piece with a real opportunity to develop into an explosive player in the future."
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski: "He is more potential than production at this point, showcasing a tremendous athletic profile. He'll have a chance to be a rotational piece alongside Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens continue to get younger at outside linebacker, drafting an edge rusher for a third straight year. …This addresses an underrated need for Baltimore, which hasn't re-signed veteran outside linebackers Justin Houston or Jason Pierre-Paul (a combined 877 snaps last season). Robinson, a native of Ontario, Canada, had a breakout season last year as an impact pass-rusher. His seven sacks were tied for sixth most in the SEC."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Stephen Bopst: "Robinson is a dynamic defensive lineman who can play on different fronts and in multiple stances but has had most success playing outside the tackles in a four point stance. He has the measurables to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL but his frame will limit him to playing on the outside. He has long arms as well which will give him the potential to cause multiple strip sacks and fumbles. Expect him to be a year one rotational player with starter upside."
Kyu Blu Kelly, Cornerback, Stanford
Russell Street Report’s Jared Pinder
"Kelly was one of the late round fits for the Ravens we discussed here at RSR so I can't complain. He may never be a star because of his lack of deep speed, but he plays press well and is good in man coverage. Kelly is explosive though and did put up great numbers at Stanford. Can't complain about a solid starter in the 5th round."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Vasilis Lericos: "Kelly is a high floor prospect with NFL bloodlines. He has the requisite size, quickness and physicality to play on the boundary, but his make-up speed is subpar. Kyu will compete with 2022 Day 3 cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams for a spot on the Ravens cornerback depth chart."
NFL.com’s Eric Edholm: "But here, they find really nice value with the son of former Bucs DB Brian Kelly. The younger Kelly, who had a solid career for the Cardinal, had a positive showing at the Reese's Senior Bowl."
Sala Aumavae-Laulu, Offensive lineman, Oregon
Sobleski: "The Baltimore Ravens love hulking, physical and nasty offensive lineman. Oregon's Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu is a 6'6", 317-pound blocker who helped lead the way for a resurgent Ducks offense. The sixth-year senior started three seasons at right tackle, though he's more likely to move to guard and provide depth behind the aging Kevin Zeitler."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko: "A classic developmental offensive lineman pick from the Ravens. Aumavae-Laulu played offensive tackle at Oregon but the Ravens will likely try him at guard, where his agility and power may transition better. His physical traits suggest some untapped potential despite being pretty raw overall."
Andrew Vorhees, Offensive lineman, USC
PFF.com Staff: "Pick Grade: Elite. Vorhees made news at the combine after putting up 38 bench press reps (98th percentile) after tearing his ACL in the drills. That speaks to the kind of power that he brings to the interior. Vorhees earned 80.0-plus PFF grades in each of the past two seasons as a starter for USC and is an intriguing 'redshirt' selection here for Baltimore in the seventh round."
Platko: "If not for his injury at the combine, Vorhees would have been drafted much earlier this year. Vorhees has the qualities of a starting-caliber guard should his rehab and recovery go smoothly. This is a worthwhile move for 2024 and beyond to fill a potential need. A great cherry on top of the weekend."
Hensley: "The Ravens' best value pick came on their unexpected last selection of this year's draft. …The Ravens don't expect Vorhees to play this season, but they wanted him so much that they traded a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to get him."
Russell Street Report’s Kevin McNelis: "I LOVE the selection of Andrew Vorhees for the future. Teams have been wary of him because of the injury sustained only a few months ago that will likely sideline him for the coming season, but this is a guy who was garnering looks as a potential 1st to 3rd round pick prior to that."