Ravens Among Teams 'Whose Activity Will Drive the Draft'
The question on the mind of every Ravens fan is: Who will the team select with the 28th-overall pick in the draft?
That's assuming they will actually pick at No. 28. Don't be surprised if General Manager Eric DeCosta trades out of that slot, either moving down to land more picks or up to grab a difference-maker.
Regardless of what DeCosta ultimately decides to do, it'll be fun to see how things unfold in the draft, which begins April 23. The Ravens have nine picks, including seven in the first four rounds.
Fox Sports’ Ryan Dunleavy named the Ravens as one of five teams "whose activity will drive the draft."
"Eric DeCosta has proven in his short time on the job to be a dealer," Dunleavy wrote. "Whether leading up to or during the 2019 draft, the Ravens were involved in a trade in six of the seven rounds. The Ravens were ominously quiet in free agency [this offseason]."
Landing defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe is quiet? Plus, DeCosta already pulled off two trades to add more draft picks, adding a second-round pick this year and one in 2021.
NBC Sports' Peter King also thinks there's a good chance DeCosta will be wheeling and dealing during the draft.
"I think this is the classic year that you're going to see Eric DeCosta probably move around. That would be my gut feeling," King said. "There is not one area of the team that is destitute. To my way of thinking, they have enough ammunition to move around, and Eric DeCosta has proven he'll trade with anybody at any time.
"I would bet they would trade down and try to get one more [second-round pick] if he could."
The Ravens have a history of trading back in the first round, especially over the past decade. Since 2010, Baltimore has made five separate deals to either trade back in the first round or to move out of it altogether, per The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
King said he could see the Ravens trading out of the first round and selecting a running back or wide receiver with their first pick in the second round.
"Let's just say for the sake of argument that [Wisconsin running back] Jonathan Taylor is there when they trade down into the second round. I think he would be a fascinating guy for this team. He would fit the Ravens very, very well," King said. "The receivers in this draft, I think any one of them, especially the bigger receivers (i.e. Denzel Mims, Michael Pittman Jr., Tee Higgins), I think would fit the Ravens."
DeCosta said recently that this year's wide receiver class is so deep that a team could find starter-level talent in the fifth round.
With that said, however, would DeCosta trade up in the first round to land one of the top wide receivers such as CeeDee Lamb (who would join fellow Oklahoma players Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews as pass-catchers), Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III?
"With two picks in each of the second, third and fourth rounds, they certainly have the ammunition to do it," Zrebiec said of the possibility of the Ravens trading up. "The decision-makers abhor trading draft picks to move up, but they've shown a willingness to do it if they believe a special player is available."
Ravens Get LB, WR, OG With First Three Picks in The Athletic's Mock Draft
The Athletic's Dane Brugler undertook the daunting task of doing a seven-round mock draft covering all 255 picks.
He had the Ravens selecting Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun at No. 28. with two players often mocked to Baltimore – linebackers Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma and Patrick Queen of LSU – already off the board.
"Although he was almost exclusively a rusher at Wisconsin, Baun showed flashes of being able to do everything for the Badgers," Brugler wrote. "He can be an off-ball linebacker for the Ravens while also giving them blitzing options on subpackages."
For the Ravens' two picks in the second round, Brugler mocked Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler at No. 55 and Louisiana-Lafayette offensive guard Robert Hunt at No. 60.
Hamler would give the Ravens another explosive playmaker on offense, similar to what Baltimore added with Marquise Brown last year.
"Hamler is an undersized wideout with rare explosiveness," NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote. "He lines up out wide, in the slot and even takes some reps in the backfield. He is extremely sudden in his release, destroying the cornerback's cushion in a hurry. He excels on slants, shallow crossers and vertical routes. He simply runs right by everyone on the field. Despite his limited size/frame (5-foot-9, 178 pounds), he's very effective working in traffic."
Hunt also was mocked to the Ravens in Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz’s seven-round mock draft. In Kasinitz's scenario, the Ravens would trade up in the third round to take Hunt with the 81st-overall pick.
"Hunt's from a small program and didn't work out at the scouting combine because of a groin injury, but he showcased tenacity and impressive athletic traits during four years as a starter," Kasinitz wrote. "If Baltimore wants to find an interior offensive lineman who can compete for playing time in the wake of Marshal Yanda's retirement, it shouldn't hesitate to move up 11 spots to draft Hunt."
Brugler had the Ravens addressing their need for a pass rusher in the fourth round with the selection of Syracuse's Alton Robinson at No. 129.
Top LB Prospect: 'Would Mean the World to Play for Ravens'
Another linebacker prospect who could interest the Ravens is Appalachian State's Akeem Davis-Gaither. Projected to be a Day 2 or early Day 3 selection, Davis-Gaither said playing for the Ravens would be special.
"My idol is Ray Lewis, so that would mean the world to me … to suit up for the Ravens and be able to take a step in his shoes," Davis-Gaither said on Glenn Clark Radio. "It would be an awesome experience."
Draft analysts have taken note of the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Davis-Gaither's speed and versatility.
"You see the explosiveness from Davis-Gaither almost immediately on tape," Draft Wire’s Patrick Conn wrote. "He has the quickness and quick twitch to be a blitzer and an effective one. Has good length to combat with blockers and offensive linemen when chasing after the quarterback. He is very disruptive in the backfield.
"ADG has the versatility to line up at multiple spots as a linebacker. Shows good cover skills especially over the middle. Has the length to force incompletions over the middle of the field. Plenty of tape where he batted balls away from the intended receiver."
It sounds like Davis-Gaither fits the "play like a Raven" mold.
"It's my instincts, my ability to track down the ball," Davis-Gaither said. "Nobody ever beats me to the ball consistently — I'm just a playmaker."
Ravens Trail Only Chiefs in AFC Pecking Order
NFL.com took a look at the pecking order in the AFC heading into the draft, and to the surprise of absolutely no one, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens took the top two spots.
"The Chiefs and Ravens are stable organizations led by sharp head coaches, with MVP-winning quarterbacks on their rookie contracts," NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote. "If either team misses the playoffs in 2020, something went seriously wrong.
"The Ravens are listed second because their division is tougher and there's an extra year of data showing that the [Patrick] Mahomes-era Chiefs are a top-five NFL team until proven otherwise. There are plenty of reasons to believe Baltimore can prevent a regression after its epic regular season a year ago, primarily Lamar Jackson's maturation process and the steady leadership of General Manager Eric DeCosta and [Head Coach] John Harbaugh.
Two of the Ravens' rivals in the AFC North – the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns – were among seven teams Rosenthal identified as contenders.
"The Steelers and Browns are stuck in the conference's most competitive division, but both rosters have the star power and depth to make a playoff run," Rosenthal wrote. "Pittsburgh is the safer pick, with Mike Tomlin's defense coming off its best season since Troy Polamalu was roaming the field early last decade. If Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers' biggest question mark, they have a high ceiling.
"Cleveland has addressed some needs in free agency and should get a boost from a coaching change. A post-hype improvement could happen after a lost season overstuffed with bad fortune."
- NFL.com’s Chad Reuter and Lance Zierlein identified Queen and Clemson offensive guard John Simpson as the Ravens' ideal top two picks.