'Best-Player-Available' Takes Precedence
The more picks a team has, the more darts they have to throw at the dartboard.
In Eric DeCosta's case, he's hitting the bullseye.
Count me as one of the people who didn't expect the Ravens to select a running back with their first pick in the second round, but DeCosta couldn't pass up on a player he viewed as a first-round talent.
"We didn't anticipate that," DeCosta said of J.K. Dobbins falling to No. 55. "We just had to take him. He's just a talented guy and it made too much sense to take him."
There was plenty of discussion about how DeCosta and the front office would navigate the second and third rounds, but it's clear the "best-player-available" strategy took precedence, especially early on.
"Dobbins seemed to be a best-player-available selection for the Ravens, despite more pressing needs elsewhere," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "An early run on wide receivers in the second round likely [prevented] the Ravens from addressing their needs there. Eleven of the draft's first 49 picks overall were wide receivers, and Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr., Penn State's KJ Hamler and Notre Dame's Chase Claypool were among the 13 players taken before No. 55."
As our own John Eisenberg wrote earlier this month, the Ravens didn't have to target every need with specific picks.
After beefing up the defensive line with the additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, the Ravens selected Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike at No. 71.
They drafted a speedy slot receiver in Texas' Devin Duvernay at 92. They also double-dipped at linebacker with Ohio State's Malik Harrison at 98 and added Mississippi offensive lineman Tyre Phillips at 106, but it's clear the front office's focus was value.
Daniel Jeremiah: Dobbins Is 'Perfect Pick' for Ravens
Despite running back not being a clear need for the Ravens, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah liked the idea of making a strength an even bigger strength.
Jeremiah said Dobbins is the perfect fit for Greg Roman's offense.
"The Ravens added six players in the first two days of the draft, with three more picks left for Saturday. None, for me, was more impressive than J.K. Dobbins, the running back from Ohio State," Jeremiah wrote. "I got a lot of grief for giving the Ravens a running back in the first round in a couple of mock drafts, but remember, this is a team that predicates everything on offense around the running game. You can never have enough running backs in Baltimore.
"Dobbins' running style fits perfectly with what offensive coordinator Roman loves to do. At Ohio State, Dobbins was a no-nonsense back -- just hit it and go. He'll allow the Ravens to keep all of their backs fresh and maybe even take some of the rushing load off of their aging veteran and MVP quarterback."
The pick makes sense when you consider the fact that Mark Ingram turns 31 next year, and the Ravens return the NFL's leading rushing offense. They averaged over 200 yards a game on the ground last season, and now have a deep rotation of backs.
"Dobbins is an underappreciated workhorse runner with outstanding vision, balance and body control," NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks added. "He is a big-time RB with the burst to take it the distance on inside or outside runs. The Ravens get a dynamic RB1 with a game that suits their style."
High Draft Grades Keep Rolling
We still have one more day left, but it looks like the Ravens' report card is going to be one to hang on the fridge.
"I]t's easy to be a winner on Day 2 when you have five picks, but I really like what Baltimore did here,” [ESPN’s Mel Kiper wrote. " … This Ravens class is in the running for an A."
Kiper added that Dobbins was his second-ranked running back and a great value pick. The ESPN analyst also said he's a "big fan" of Madubuike and that he and Dobbins made his list of favorite prospects by position.
Here's a look at more Day 2 grades:
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: "Grade: A. The Ravens already had some depth at running back and certainly could have used the second-round pick they acquired in the Hayden Hurst trade with Atlanta elsewhere, instead of spending it on Dobbins … He can also catch consistently to give Lamar Jackson a nice safety valve. Madubuike is a quality defensive lineman, giving the team more bulk inside along with Brandon Williams, Daylon Mack, etc. Duvernay is a good slot receiver who can play the Willie Snead role in time … Baltimore found another value pick at linebacker in the athletic Harrison after shoring up that position on Thursday night with first-rounder Patrick Queen. Phillips is a massive human who played tackle at Mississippi State but projects as a powerful guard for the Ravens. He showed nice value inside at the Senior Bowl, and I suspect he'll eventually be a good starter."
Fansided.com: "A-plus. The Ravens are not playing fair. They shored up their defense with a defensive tackle and a linebacker while giving the 2019 NFL MVP two new weapons and a new protector. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson should have no reason to regress in 2020. A stellar second round for Poe's favorite team."
NBC Sports’ Jacob Camenker: "Grade: A. The Ravens made their already-scary rushing attack scarier by adding Dobbins to the fold. Then, they nabbed Madubuike, who was a fringe first-round prospect in our book, in the third round. Duvernay is a speedy slot man who will add yet another weapon to Lamar Jackson's arsenal. And Harrison is a great thumper at linebacker who could be a three-down player … Overall, this was a great day for Baltimore and one that should only strengthen their case as one of the AFC favorites."
DraftWire’s Luke Easterling: "Grade: B-plus. One of many already rich teams that only got richer through the first three rounds of this year's draft, the Ravens got strong value throughout their early picks, filling positions of need with players who should have already been off the board."
Queen and Harrison Can Be Perfect Complements
The Ravens double-dipped at one of their biggest positional needs, adding two talented rookie linebackers who should complement each other on the field.
"Having two young studs in Queen and Harrison is outstanding," Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. "The two could blossom into top-tier starters for the Ravens and no one would be surprised. the best part is they complement each other so well."
Lamar Jackson called Queen "Ray Lewis Jr." for his instinctive sideline-to-sideline traits. Harrison is almost 20 pounds heavier than Queen as a two-down, run-stuffer who led Ohio State in tackles last season.
"Harrison is a violent presence who can line up all over the field," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "He ranked second at Ohio State in pressure percentage (12.5), trailing only No. 2 overall pick Chase Young. His 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage were the fifth-most in the Big Ten."
Shaffer believes Harrison's size projects him as a natural strong-side linebacker, allowing Queen to roam the weak side.
"Harrison had impressive numbers at the NFL scouting combine, posting a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and 36-inch vertical jump," Shaffer wrote. "He should challenge L.J. Fort, Chris Board, Otaro Alaka and Jake Ryan for snaps as a rookie, though he'll likely start his career as a two-down linebacker best suited for stopping the run. He's a hard-hitting enforcer who's unafraid to take on blocks."
Trade Chart Says Ravens and Patriots Trade Was a Tie
It was only a matter of time before DeCosta made a trade.
The Ravens opted to move back in the second round, sending their 60th-overall pick and 129th-overall pick to the New England Patriots for the 71st-overall pick and 98th-overall pick. The Ravens essentially moved back 11 spots from Round 2 to Round 3 in order to move up 31 spots from Round 4 to Round 3.
New England traded up to select Michigan linebacker Josh Uche, while the Ravens landed Madubuike and Harrison. According to Drafttek.com’s trade value chart, it was dead-even between the teams.
"For the Ravens, the trade back made a lot of sense," Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote. "Several players that were rated highly by draft analysts were still on the board and though they could have picked a player they likely would have been happy with, they got to move back and still get two guys they're thrilled with."
As Stevens noted, potential targets like Auburn defensive end Marlon Davidson, Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson, and Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims were off the board by 60.
"All in all, the trade was a no-brainer for both teams," Stevens added. "Of course, how those players pan out will really determine the winners and losers of the deal but for right now, it's an equitable trade."
Laremy Tunsil Resets the Market for Ronnie Stanley
In non-draft news, the market for Ronnie Stanley just got more expensive.
On Friday, the Houston Texans signed offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to a 3-year, $66 million contract that includes $57 million guaranteed.
Tunsil becomes the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman at $22 million a year. That's four million more per year than the next highest-paid lineman, and Stanley will be in that territory when he signs his next contract.
The 2016 first-round pick will earn $12.8 million playing on his fifth-year option in 2020.
"Stanley, David Bakhtiari, Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney and Taylor Decker are among the other linemen poised to enter the 2021 free-agent class," Bleacher Report’s Joseph Zucker wrote. "Tunsil's extension is bound to impact what kind of deal they'll be looking to sign."
What to Watch for on Day Three
Day Three kicks off at noon today, and the Ravens still have plenty of draft ammo to work with. They own one pick in the fourth round (No. 143), one in the fifth (No. 170), and one in the seventh (No. 225).
DeCosta told reporters that he'd like to add an extra pick for next year's draft, and said taking another wide receiver isn't out of the question.
The Ravens have a track record of finding high-quality starters in the fourth round or later. The race to sign undrafted rookies will also be something to watch.
"It'll be an important afternoon for the Baltimore Ravens, who have three picks remaining … and maintain an urge to build a large contingent of young talent," Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote.
Some of the potential targets Kasinitz and Shaffer highlighted include LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss, Fresno State guard Netane Muti, Utah edge Bradlee Anae, Boise State edge Curtis Weaver, and Iowa safety Geno Stone.
- The story of Phillips' journey to the NFL is worth the read.
- Fans are curious about John Harbaugh's birdhouse collection