Eisenberg: Ravens Stayed Put And Instantly Bolstered Their Roster

Left: WR Rashod Bateman (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara); Right: OLB Odafe Oweh (Penn State/Mark Selders)

In the days leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, speculation swirled about the Ravens possibly engineering some major drama.

They had two picks in the first round, the No. 27 and No. 31 selections, as well as two picks apiece in the third and fourth rounds. Given that array of assets and General Manager Eric DeCosta's history of moving up and down during the draft to maximize the value of his picks, it seemed anything might happen.

Maybe they would trade up. Maybe they would trade back.

But in the end, there was no such drama during the first round Thursday night.

Rather than move around the draft board, the Ravens stayed right where they were and selected two players. They took Rashod Bateman, a wide receiver from Minnesota, at No. 27. Four picks later, they took Odafe Oweh, an edge defender from Penn State.

Instead of putting on an exhibition of draft-night wizardry, the Ravens just methodically bolstered their roster.

"I love to make trades. I love (acquiring) additional picks. But this was a time when being conservative and adding these two guys who could help us win football games was probably the smart thing to do," DeCosta said.

Given the players they landed, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Although Bateman and Oweh play on opposite sides of the ball, they're identical additions in that they instantly make the Ravens faster, more athletic and more dynamic. "Excellent players at positions we wanted to address," DeCosta called them.

The Ravens' wide receivers ranked last in the league in catches and yardage in 2020, and while that was partly attributable to the nature of the team's run-first offense, there's no doubt quarterback Lamar Jackson would benefit from having a new, big-bodied target who gets open and makes plays. Bateman is a perfect fit for their needs.

A starting-caliber tackle, a play-making safety and several quality edge rushers were among the prospects still available when the Ravens made the pick. The fact that they took a receiver in the first round for the second time in three years indicates how much they like Bateman and how determined they are to make their offense more balanced.

"He checked off all the boxes," DeCosta said. "From my perspective, it was an easy pick to make."

On a night when several other teams made odd picks and/or reached for players, the Ravens were left with an impressive group of prospects to choose from. That's probably why they stood pat. DeCosta admitted teams were calling with trade offers for both picks, but he saw more value in the players he could add.

The Ravens surely were disappointed to pass on Oweh at No. 27, but he was still available at No. 31.

"This was a year when things fell the way we wanted," DeCosta said.

That the Ravens needed an edge defender was obvious after they suffered key subtractions during free agency. Freakishly athletic, Oweh not only pressures quarterbacks but also sets a hard edge against the run and has the ability to drop into coverage.

The fact that he didn't register a sack in 2020 likely gave some teams pause, but the Ravens were all in after Joe Hortiz, their director of player personnel, saw him live at Penn State's Pro Day.

"We were able to watch him perform right in front of us. Watch him bend, watch him explode," Hortiz said. "It really matched up with what you're seeing on tape in terms of athleticism."

Head Coach John Harbaugh said, "He's an aggressive player. Runs to the ball. Very fast. In the backfield constantly, knocking people back. I think he s a perfect fit for our defense."

In other words, adding Oweh just made too much sense, as did adding Bateman.

"We could have traded," DeCosta said, "but we felt these players were the right picks for the club."

Sorry, but sometimes, it's just that simple.

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