What Mink Thinks: Eric DeCosta Went Bargain Shopping And Found Gems

Left: Notre Dame Safety Kyle Hamilton; Right: Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (Justin Elsner/hawkeyesports.com)

Bargain shoppers should identify with Eric DeCosta's core principle. It's all about finding value.

DeCosta and the Ravens entered the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft with multiple holes to fill in the wardrobe. They didn't cross off any of the most pressing items, but the Ravens' wild first night was a master class in scouring the clearance bin and emerging with gems.

With Baltimore's first pick of safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14, the Ravens came away with a player the top analysts had ranked around No. 5 overall on their big boards. He's a dynamic player who can change the game at all three levels of a defense.

DeCosta thought there was no way Hamilton would get to No. 14. When the Notre Dame safety visited Baltimore, the Ravens told him that they didn't expect they'd get a chance to pick him, but if they did, he would be their guy.

Lo and behold, after a run on wide receivers and the Eagles leapfrogging Baltimore to grab Jordan Davis, Hamilton was available. Even though the Ravens already had their starting safeties with new free-agent addition Marcus Williams and respected leader Chuck Clark, the value of getting Hamilton at No. 14 was too good to believe.

DeCosta said it felt like the early Ozzie Newsome days when blue-chip prospects (such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs) just seemed to fall in their lap. Like in the Newsome days, DeCosta stuck to the best-player-available credo.

"Never dreamed in a million years that he would be there," DeCosta said. "It was a no-brainer for us, really."

Then came the biggest shocker of the night with the trade of wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Arizona Cardinals. A shocker to the rest of us, that is, but not DeCosta, Brown and the Cardinals, who had kept the pre-determined trade a secret.

As DeCosta said, it was going to be tough for the Ravens to be "winners" by trading away their top wide receiver of the past three years. But given Brown's trade request, DeCosta was charged with making the best of the situation.

Once again, he found value, dealing a player he drafted at 25th overall three years ago for what ultimately became the 25th-overall pick this year. Brown gave the Ravens three strong seasons of play at a low cost. He was set to cost a whole lot more in the near future, a price Baltimore may have found tough to swallow.

Then DeCosta flipped that pick into more value, grabbing Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum near the back end of the first round after some analysts felt he was good enough for Baltimore to take at No. 14.

Linderbaum doesn't check the Ravens' typical mold for big-bodied centers, but, once again, the value and player were just too good. Linderbaum is by far the best center in this year's draft class and may be the best center prospect in some time. What he lacks in height, weight and arm length, he more than makes up for in power, athleticism and technique. It doesn't matter how big he is, so long as he moves the man in front of him, and Linderbaum's tape shows him winning a lot of tussles.

Pairing Hamilton with Williams may give the Ravens the best safety duo in the league for years to come. If Linderbaum is a multi-Pro Bowl center, which DeCosta said he envisions, then the Ravens got a steal.

The Ravens' top needs on the 2022 draft bingo card were cornerback and edge rusher. Baltimore didn't get either with their two first-round picks, and now added another need at wide receiver.

But if people look back on this draft in three years, or even sooner, and Hamilton and Linderbaum are two of the game's top players at their respective positions, folks will wonder how the heck the Ravens got both without shopping in the top 10.

Bargain hunting. That's what EDC does.

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