Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund Says Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum Are Top Two Value Picks
The consensus entering the draft was that edge rusher, cornerback and offensive tackle were the top three needs for the Ravens.
Not only did they come away from the first round last night without players at any of those positions, but they also traded away No. 1 wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
Yet the Ravens and General Manager Eric DeCosta are still being universally praised by pundits for their Day 1 performance. It's easy to understand why.
By landing safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th-overall pick, the Ravens got a top-five talent who had gone as high as No. 2 in mock drafts. Then they traded back into the first round and nabbed center Tyler Linderbaum, who is regarded as the best center prospect in some time, at No. 25.
Both picks could be categorized as steals. In the case of Hamilton, there was only an 8.5 percent chance of him being still on the board at No. 14, according to ESPN’s Draft Day Predictor.
NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund ranked Hamilton and Linderbaum as the Nos. 1 and 2 best value picks from Day 1.
"Before the picking even started Thursday night, my models rated Hamilton as the prospect in this year's class most likely to become an All-Pro. And then he became a Raven at No. 14 overall, and the fit created a noticeable win-share lift," Frelund wrote. "A very good rookie safety win-share increase is 0.58 wins (looking over a 10-season sample); Hamilton on a team like the Cowboys, who have many solid pieces but need a safety, would have been 0.74. But on the Ravens? The win-total increase is 0.78, which is the highest for any team. The flexibility of multiple safety looks, which have become increasingly valuable in recent years as defenses attempt to stop guys like Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, gives Baltimore a huge advantage.
"The Ravens got my ninth-ranked player at No. 25 overall, hitting the jackpot (I had to!) again in Round 1. Factoring in the team's run-heavy scheme, Linderbaum's arrival in Baltimore adds a win-share value of 0.52 wins, which compares favorably to one of the NFL's top centers, Creed Humphrey, who added 0.53 last season. An average center adds about 0.44 wins. Linderbaum allowed just two sacks in 1,144 pass-protection snaps in his career, per Pro Football Focus."
Here are some more takeaways from the first night of the draft:
Ravens Make Lists of Day 1 Winners
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: "How about the Ravens doing Ravens things in this draft? They traded down twice, picking up some valuable draft capital. And they still were able to get my No. 4-overall prospect in Hamilton, who plays faster than his 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He can be a playmaker all over the Baltimore defense. It's clear the Ravens front office wasn't in love with veteran wideout Marquise Brown, so it was able to get a first-round pick from Arizona to move him. And they ended up with a starting center in Linderbaum, who could anchor their offensive line for years to come. Baltimore got great value on Day 1."
Draft Wire’s Gavino Borquez: "Patience is a virtue. As the draft board unfolded, the Ravens sat tight at pick No. 14 only to have the play-maker of Kyle Hamilton fall into their lap. Hamilton is an elite defender with the cover skills, speed, and athleticism. However, the work did not stop there, as Baltimore used their additional first-round pick acquired via trade with the Cardinals for Marquise Brown to take the draft's best center in Tyler Linderbaum."
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: "Grade: A+. The Ravens have to be thrilled with Hamilton falling to them. Forget his 40-yard dash time, which drew a lot of poor reviews this spring. Hamilton showed great instincts and intelligence in the Notre Dame secondary. His height and length make him a solid tackler in the open field and his range is excellent. I believe he will be a long-time playmaker in Baltimore. Trading Marquise Brown to the Cardinals made a lot of sense to me. Gaining the 23rd overall pick in that deal, the Ravens then traded back with the Bills to get another fourth-round pick and the opportunity to select a new center in Linderbaum. I projected the team would trade down in the first round and pick Linderbaum months ago. He's not a big center, so he'll need to make sure he anchors well against NFL nose tackles. But Linderbaum's strong hands, quick feet and intelligence make him an excellent pick."
High Individual Grades for Hamilton, Linderbaum Picks
Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar: "Hamilton: A+++. There is no better player in this class than Kyle Hamilton, and the Ravens — who seem to have a preternatural ability to sit and wait for value — have done it yet again. Baltimore benefits from the fact that a lot of teams don't value safeties as they should, and don't seem to understand the transformative effect Hamilton can have on a defense. Look at the NFL comps at the end of this article, and I'm telling you this: The Ravens haven't had a safety this good since Ed Reed.
"Linderbaum: A. I've mocked Linderbaum to the Ravens more than once, and I was doing it to their 14th overall pick. For Baltimore to get a guy at a position of need that General Manager Eric DeCosta compared to future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda at the scouting combine? That's a spicy meatball, and when you combine this with Baltimore getting (STEALING) Kyle Hamilton with the 14th pick, it looks like the Ravens are on their way to crushing yet another draft."
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "Hamilton: A+. The Ravens have been searching for that special playmaking safety since the glory days of Hall of Famer Ed Reed after Earl Thomas didn't pan out for long. They get that answer here in a top-five overall talent in this draft. Hamilton is a thumper against the run and a ballhawk in pass coverage. He just has a nose for impact plays. He's an immediate strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year working next to solid free-agent addition Marcus Williams.
"Linderbaum: A+. No one should be surprised that the Ravens ended up with two first-rounders under Eric Costa and nailed them both. Linderbaum fills a big need to anchor the middle of the offensive line with his overall blocking and leadership and it didn't hurt that his mentor was former Ravens all-everything guard Marshal Yanda, a fellow former Hawkeye."
SBNation’s James Dator: "Hamilton: A+. I don't care about position, Kyle Hamilton was one of the Top 5 players in this draft. With unnatural football IQ and leadership potential, Hamilton is destined to become the next great Ravens safety. I really think he could have gone anywhere from No. 3 onwards and it would have been justified, but this is an absolute steal. I love this selection, and this happened because of the trades for the two wide receivers."
"Linderbaum: A+. For a long time I had the Ravens taking Linderbaum at No. 14, so moving back, making trades and getting here is a huge steal as far as I'm concerned. Linderbaum is the most talented center to come along in a very long time, and I think he's going to be a 10-plus-year Pro Bowl player. He's incredible, and I love the value here."
Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Hanson: "Hamilton: A+. The Ravens get a steal with my second-ranked player overall. Hamilton's timed 40-yard dashes — 4.59 at the combine and in the 4.7 range at Notre Dame's pro day — disappointed, but he has outstanding range. With a rare combination of size and length at the position, Hamilton's athleticism, fluidity, smarts and instincts allow him to make plays all over the field against the run and pass.
"Linderbaum: A. After getting a huge value with Hamilton at No. 14, the Ravens get another value with Linderbaum at No. 25. Not only is he my top-ranked center and arguably the best center prospect over the past several drafts, but he is also 14th-ranked prospect overall. While he has sub-32" arms and a frame that limits him to center, Linderbaum has elite lateral mobility and is an outstanding run blocker who will fit well with what the Ravens want to do on offense."
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly: "Hamilton: A. The Ravens are annoyingly good at this, aren't they? Hamilton is a rangy and highly instinctive defensive back who combines size, ball skills, and versatility. He fills a need for Baltimore and should pair well with newly signed Marcus Williams, giving new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald plenty of schematic options.
"Linderbaum: A. Linderbaum lacks length but he makes up for it with just about everything else, boasting strength, flexibility, foot-quickness, and intelligence. The Ravens got good value with their trades and while they'll surely miss one of their most productive receivers, Linderbaum ultimately fills a bigger need for this team's offense."
The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia: "Hamilton: A. Hamilton (6-foot-4, 220) has rare size for a safety and showed off outstanding range during his 19 college starts. He lined up at free safety and strong safety for Notre Dame, while also logging more than 200 snaps in the slot. … The Ravens were patient and landed a terrific prospect. I love the match between player and team here.
"Linderbaum: A-. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has called the draft a 'luck-driven process' and he's undoubtedly aware that center historically has a strong hit rate in the first round. We can debate positional value with centers, but Linderbaum's athleticism gives him a high ceiling, and this fills a need for the Ravens."
Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm: "Hamilton: A. Every year it seems the Ravens just let the draft come to them. How? We're talking an annual draft pastime. Hamilton would have been a steal at 11; at 14, he's grand larceny. He'll be a Day 1 post safety who can move into the slot or box as needed. The Ravens didn't make enough plays in the secondary last year. This pick will change that.
"Linderbaum: B. GM Eric DeCosta didn't even try to hide his love for Linderbaum at the NFL combine, comparing him to Marshal Yanda and calling him 'the type of guy that can really be the centerpiece of your offensive line.' So much for subterfuge. The Kirk Ferentz connection clearly made this pick an easy one. The Ravens don't care if you know their plans. They get good players one way or another."
Fox Sports’ Rob Rang: "Hamilton: B+. Year in and year out, the Ravens get extreme value on draft day. Baltimore was a big winner by landing Hamilton — a player some viewed as the best prospect in this class — at 14th overall. Hamilton's size, physicality and range make him an ideal match in the rough and tumble AFC North.
"Linderbaum: A. Few clubs prioritize the offensive line like the Ravens, and that was proven yet again with the selection of Linderbaum, the clear-cut top center in this class. The Iowa standout offers terrific initial quickness, balance on the move and the tenacity to be a longtime starter."
ESPN's Matt Miller Says Linderbaum Was Best Pick of the Night
"It's hard to pick between safety Kyle Hamilton and Linderbaum going to the Ravens, after they picked up an extra first-rounder by trading Marquise Brown to the Cardinals," Miller wrote. "But Linderbaum is an immediate starter at center and has the agility, toughness, instincts and high character to be a team captain. At pick No. 25, he's potentially the steal of the draft."
Twitter Reactions to Ravens' Picks
Say Goodbye to Hollywood
On the night the Ravens welcomed first-round picks into the fold, they said goodbye to a former first-rounder.
It came as a surprise when it was announced that the Ravens had traded Brown, Baltimore's 2019 first-round pick, to the Cardinals.
But DeCosta revealed last night that Brown requested a trade after the season ended. DeCosta said trading Brown was "something I anguished over for a long time."
While moving on from Brown wasn't an easy decision, doing so does make sense.
"Baltimore already committed significant resources to tight end Mark Andrews on an extension. DeCosta used a 2021 first-round pick on wideout Rashod Bateman. Brown was about to get a raise from $2.1 million in 2022 to $13.4 million in 2023, and the wideout market is only going to get more expensive with time," ESPN's Bill Barnwell wrote. "Were the Ravens ever really going to commit $25 million per year to Brown on a new deal when they've invested so much elsewhere and have [Lamar] Jackson about to start what appears to be a series of franchise tags?"
On a night when there was a lot of wheeling and dealing, ESPN's Jordan Reid said the Brown trade was his favorite move.
"General manager Eric DeCosta worked the order of the draft just like he's accustomed to doing. Getting Hamilton at No. 14 overall was great, but then acquiring the No. 23 overall selection and an extra fourth-round pick from the Cardinals and turning it into Linderbaum (at No. 25) was savvy navigation of the board," Reid wrote.
Trading Brown does however leave a void at wide receiver, but DeCosta could draft one this weekend, and he said there are options in free agency.