NFL Executives Criticize Ravens' Draft Haul; GM Eric DeCosta Trusts His Analytics Team
It appears not everybody is ready to give props to the Ravens for their draft class last week.
Though the Ravens received unanimous praise from the media, NFL executives told The Athletic's Mike Sando they aren't so keen on the Ravens' selections. One was critical of their two first-round selections, safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum.
"A lot depends on how you view Linderbaum, because it is beauty in the eye of the beholder with him," an evaluator said. "There is not a great precedent of guys his size being great players in the league. He is very similar size-wise to Garrett Bradbury, who just got his fifth-year option declined. Kyle Hamilton checked every box except for the athletic component."
Another executive criticized the picks due to the positions they selected.
"I'm more bullish on Baltimore, but I can see the skepticism," an exec told Sando. "While I like a lot of the players they picked, the positions they focused on were kind of weird: strong safety, center, nose tackle, punter, two tight ends. Kyle Hamilton fell and probably for a reason. He is a weird shape, tall and slow. Linderbaum was highly rated, but he's a center. Ojabo, they got a quote-unquote value pick there, but he might not play. Travis Jones, he is a guy that the analytics loved. His measurables were very good. But his tape was not."
Regarding Hamilton, he's not regarded as a "strong safety." He's been called a versatile player capable of covering deep, playing man coverage on tight ends and he's a player that could even be used as a WILL linebacker in three safety packages. His film shows he's not slow.
On the topic of "positional value" when it comes to the Ravens picking a safety and the two tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said on "The Lounge" that these positions might be more valuable than others perceive.
"I don't really want to give away a lot of things analytically, but I think one of the things that we do is we listen to our analysts upstairs and I'm proud of those guys [and] the work that they do," DeCosta said. "And there's a sense that safeties and tight ends are actually worth a lot more than people would perceive them to be worth. And a lot of that has to do with the rise of the passing game and what their impact is on the passing game. Maybe they're not corners, maybe they're not wide receivers, but they impact the game quite a bit."
As for the tape on defensive tackle Travis Jones …
NFL.com Pundits: Ravens Earn Highest-Graded Draft Class
While NFL executives might not be "bullish on Baltimore," the latest draft class ranking from NFL.com's Gennaro Filice & Dan Parr have the Ravens topping their full 32-team list.
"In what is seemingly an annual tradition, the Ravens put on an exhibition when it comes to accumulating talent and finding value in the draft," Parr wrote. "Using NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah's prospect rankings as a guide, no team added more top-150 talent than Baltimore. The squad's first pick of the draft set the tone for what was to come. Hamilton's stock wasn't helped by his timed speed at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day, but he was NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein's highest-graded prospect this year. Jeremiah ranked him fifth overall. Landing him at No. 14 could prove to be a steal."
The 40-yard dash time has been brought up repeatedly, but Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz addressed this directly during last week's film session with the media.
"In Kyle's [Hamilton] specific case, you look at his game speed [and] what you see on tape," Hortiz said. "He's covering ground. He's flying up. He's showing bursts. He's showing explosiveness and range. Then you look at your grade, your speed grade, and you have a good grade, and it all matches up, and just the 40 [-yard dash time] didn't match up."
It's not just the players at the top of the draft that Parr thinks could be starting for the Ravens, though he likes selections of Linderbaum and outside linebacker David Ojabo.
"Their record six fourth-round picks yielded the massive [offensive tackle Daniel] Faalele, who could become a starting right tackle, and more good value in [cornerback Jalyn] Armour-Davis, Kolar and Likely," Parr wrote. "Some people might not love going with a punter in Round 4, but I'm not going to argue about specialists with a team that has demonstrated it knows what it's doing in that department. Baltimore might have just walked away with six or seven future starters. The Ravens let the board come to them and might just end up with an embarrassment of riches in a few years."
Tyler Linderbaum Further Demonstrates Ravens' Efforts to Improve Their O-Line
After the offensive line struggled in 2021, the Ravens have made multiple moves to improve the blocking for Lamar Jackson and the running game. One of the biggest splashes of the offseason was the first-round selection of Linderbaum, who is being praised for his athleticism and temperament by NFL.com's Michael Baca.
"At 6-foot-2, what Linderbaum lacks in size he makes up for in aggressiveness," Baca wrote. "The athletic 22-year-old excelled as a run blocker within a run-heavy Iowa program and finished his senior season as the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year."
The Ravens' efforts to improve also include re-signing offensive lineman Patrick Mekari, signing free agent tackle Morgan Moses and getting back offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley and Ja'Waun James from injured reserve. These developments have Baca believing the offensive line will improve for the 2022 season.
"With stalwart left tackle Ronnie Stanley looking to return back healthy from a season-ending injury and tackle Ja'Wuan James fixing to return after missing the entire 2021 season, the Ravens and Jackson should be excited for the potential of their O-line going forward," Baca wrote.
If all things pan out as hoped for, Baca sees the Ravens getting "back in order."
- According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, an NFL GM was hoping to trade for the Ravens' No. 139 pick to land punter Jordan Stout, but never sent the text because the Ravens picked him with their No. 130 selection.
- The Ravens will travel the third-fewest miles of any team in 2022, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.