Ravens' 2022 Draft Draws Comparison to Landmark 1996 and 2018 Hauls
In the Ravens' inaugural draft in 1996, Ozzie Newsome's first two picks were Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. In Newsome's final draft in 2018, he landed NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, All-Pro Mark Andrews and multi-time Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr.
Time will tell how successful the Ravens' 2022 draft class will be, but Russell Street Report’s Dev Panchwagh believes General Manager Eric DeCosta may have delivered a 1996 or 2018 of his own by following his predecessor's blueprint of taking the best players available and eschewing the temptation to fill an immediate need with a player ranked lower on the team's big board.
Panchwagh likened DeCosta's selection of safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th-overall pick to Newsome taking Ogden over running back Lawrence Phillips (who was owner Art Modell's preference) at No. 4 in 1996.
"With the selection of safety Kyle Hamilton at pick 14, DeCosta planted his flag in the ground. At the moment of truth, he chose Hamilton because he was far and away the best player left on the board," Panchwagh wrote. "He took Hamilton over Jermaine Johnson from Florida State, who could have filled a glaring need at the edge position. He also took Hamilton over a wide receiver like Treylon Burks from Arkansas, which would have filled that need after the Marquise Brown trade went down.
"Like Ogden before, the exact fit and where Hamilton plays may not have been so obvious on the surface. But you find a way to plug him in. In 1996, Ogden played left guard. In 2022, Hamilton will see the field as a hybrid safety, floating between post safety and dimeback roles."
After selecting Hamilton, DeCosta also got outstanding value with his next three picks: center Tyler Linderbaum (No. 25), outside linebacker David Ojabo (No. 45) and defensive tackle Travis Jones (No. 76).
Panchwagh said it was like 2018 all over again.
"In 2018, Ozzie's last draft as GM, it seemed like he executed a master class on taking the best players, period," Panchwagh wrote. "He also addressed needs along the way. But some of those players like Orlando Brown Jr. and Mark Andrews were simply elite football players who didn't check all of the testing boxes. To me, DeCosta took that same approach with the 2022 class: 'Position value and testing be damned. I'm taking the best football players!'
"We'll find out soon enough if the strategy will pay off. One thing I can say with confidence – this draft should provide a serious talent infusion along the offensive line, defensive line, and pass rush groups. Those are areas the team needed to badly revive. Coaching and player development now takes center stage to see if these young players can match some of the greatness of the players from previous landmark drafts."
Analysts Having Hard Time Deciding Who Ravens' Best Pick Was
A testament to how highly the analysts think of the Ravens' 2022 draft is that there isn't a consensus on which of the team's picks was their favorite. Hamilton, Linderbaum, Ojabo and Jones have all received mention.
NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger chose Hamilton as his second-favorite pick in the entire draft.
"You just don't see 6-foot-4, 220-pound safeties that have his range," Baldinger said. "He can play anywhere."
Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson identified Linderbaum as his favorite pick in the first round. Hamilton was one of two players who also received consideration.
"There were plenty of excellent picks in Round 1, and what separates this one is the potential value involved," Monson wrote. "Linderbaum is the best center prospect to enter the NFL since PFF began grading college football in 2014. He earned a 95.4 grade last season on the back of a 91.5 mark the season before."
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker said a case can be made for both Ojabo and Jones as the Ravens' best pick.
"Their best pick for immediate value was Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones at No. 76 overall," Walker wrote. "He could give them much of what Georgia's Jordan Davis would have delivered, had the Ravens been able to use the No. 14 pick on the more touted interior defender. Jones has the athletic ability to pressure the pocket and occupy multiple blockers.
"That said, second-round pick David Ojabo was the potential home run swing. The Ravens would have seriously considered picking him at No. 14 if he had not torn his Achilles tendon at his pro day. He could be a rare difference-maker on the edge, and they already have a feel for his character because of their deep ties to the Michigan program."
Ravens Get Only A Grade Among AFC North Draft Report Cards
It's been almost a week since the draft concluded, but the grades are still rolling in.
NFL.com’s Dan Parr released his AFC North draft report cards. Not surprisingly, the Ravens were at the head of the class.
Baltimore received the only A grade, while the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all got B's. It's exactly how ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. graded the teams.
"Oops, they did it again," Parr wrote. "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. Also, we should mention they were able to acquire a first-round pick for Marquise Brown (no Pro Bowl nods, average of 787 receiving yards per season), even though we're not evaluating trades involving veteran players in these grades. … 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."
Here are some excerpts from Parr's analysis on the rest of the division's draft hauls:
"The Steelers selected a quarterback in Round 1, which means retiring general manager Kevin Colbert's final draft with the organization will largely be judged based on how [Kenny] Pickett fares in the NFL. For now, the decision to use the 20th overall pick on a passer seems fine. No one from this year's QB class made evaluators swoon. … I might have invested a pick at cornerback or the offensive line at some point, but this is a decent haul for Mike Tomlin and Co."
"Fresh off an AFC title, Cincinnati's most pressing needs heading into the draft were in the secondary, and the Bengals took two big swings at the defensive backfield with their first two selections. They even made a rare trade up the board to nab a cornerback late in Round 2. I can't argue with the strategy. It's going to take a stronger secondary than the team had last year to make a similarly deep postseason run in the loaded AFC. … The draft class is on the smaller side and won't do much to help the offense but there's no doubt the Bengals gave the defense a lift here, which was the main task on the to-do list."
"Cleveland did not have a first-round pick this year, and Browns fans should get used to the feeling of a late start in the draft. The team currently does not hold another Round 1 selection until 2025 after dealing away three first-rounders in the Deshaun Watson trade. Keep in mind that the swap is not accounted for in this grade, as we're evaluating each team's picks relative to their draft capital and needs. General Manager Andrew Berry did an adequate job by those standards. … They ended up with a respectable draft class despite their limited capital."
Ravens-Bengals Game in Cincinnati Is Among Top 10 Games to Watch In 2022
Speaking of the AFC North, the Ravens-Bengals game in Cincinnati was ranked among the top 10 games of the 2022 season by NFL.com’s Nick Shook.
The Bengals swept the Ravens last season by a combined score of 82-38.
"We had to find a way to get Lamar Jackson — one of the league's most electrifying players — on this list, and there's no better matchup than a meeting with the team that bullied Jackson's Ravens in 2021," Shook wrote. "Cincinnati blossomed from little brother to neighborhood menace last season, handling Baltimore in both meetings and legitimizing its standing as a true contender in the AFC on its way to a conference title.
"The Ravens have had an entire offseason to stew over the results from those two losses, and after a multi-month period of reinforcing their roster and getting healthy, they'll have a chance to exact revenge. What better place than the Bengals' home of Paul Brown Stadium to give Joe Burrow a serving of humble pie? Or will the Bengals prove 2021 was no fluke?"
Pundits Still Think Ravens Should Trade for Deebo Samuel
Pundits continue to push for the Ravens to trade for San Francisco 49ers All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
"Trading away draft picks isn't Baltimore's MO, but an exception can be made for a player of Samuel's ability and age," The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz wrote. "The Ravens just made 11 draft picks — none of which were spent on wide receivers — so it's not like they're hurting for an injection of young talent, anyway. They can afford to give up some picks.
"A receiving trio of Samuel (26), Mark Andrews (26), and [Rashod] Bateman (22), last year's first-round pick, would give Jackson a young, talented group of receivers to grow with as he continues to develop as a pocket passer. And adding another dangerous ball carrier to the offense could reduce Jackson's workload in the run game and limit the hits he takes."
CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin wrote: "The 49ers rightfully won't surrender him for a mild offer, but if Deebo stays firm in his desire to relocate, extending his holdout into the summer, they'll eventually be more proactive in trade talks. Baltimore is a perfect fit, not only because their run-based offense could incorporate Samuel in motion, or because Lamar Jackson needs more weaponry following Marquise Brown's trade, but because Deebo would get his apparent wish to be closer to home in South Carolina."
Something to consider when discussing Samuel as a trade target is that he apparently doesn't want to run the ball as frequently as he has in San Francisco.
"Some of the reports that we've heard are that he doesn't like the way the 49ers have used him when it comes to his role and he doesn't want to be a part of that anymore," ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said. "And this is what I would say to that: What makes him different makes him great. And if that's the case, and you are a team that is interested in acquiring Deebo Samuel, that lessens his value to you."
On a side note, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith pointed out that the relationship between Samuel and the 49ers may be improving judging by Samuel's latest social media activity.
"Samuel started following the 49ers on Instagram again, and he also liked an Instagram post about 49ers General Manager John Lynch saying that the issues between the team and Samuel can be worked out," Smith wrote. "That's a reversal for Samuel, who last month unfollowed the 49ers and removed all references to the team from his social media. Samuel's latest actions are no guarantee that he'll sign a long-term contract with the 49ers, but they're a hint that the situation is improving."
Meanwhile, CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reported that the Ravens are "doing due diligence at the wide receiver position." The top remaining free agent wide receivers include Will Fuller V, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton.
- The Ravens are not projected to receive any compensatory picks next year.
- Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown, an undrafted free agent reportedly signed by the Ravens, made "Good Morning Football's" list of the best late-round picks and UDFA signings.