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Late for Work 4/25: Ravens Get It Right When Picking in Top Half of First Round

GM Eric DeCosta

Ravens Get It Right When Picking in Top Half of First Round

One of the consequences to the Ravens' status as perennial contenders is that they rarely have a pick in the first half of the first round.

Over the past two decades, the Ravens have selected 16th or higher four times. Only the New England Patriots (three) have had fewer top-16 picks during that span.

When the Ravens have had the luxury of owning a pick in the top half of the first round, they have taken advantage of it. Baltimore hopes to continue that trend when it's on the clock with the 14th-overall pick on Thursday night.

"The Ravens have a perfect track record when selecting 16th or higher since 2002, landing first-team All-Pro players every time: outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (No. 10 in 2003), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (No. 12, 2006), offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (No. 6, 2016); and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 16, 2017)," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote.

Hensley noted that the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts are the only teams that come close to Baltimore's success rate.

"The Patriots hit on first-team All-Pro selections on two of their picks in the top half of the first round (linebacker Jerrod Mayo and defensive tackle Ty Warren), but it's tough to project quarterback Mac Jones after one season," Hensley wrote. "The Colts landed stars in Hall of Fame pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, quarterback Andrew Luck and dominant guard Quenton Nelson, but they missed on safety Malik Hooker, whose career has been defined by injuries."

While Hensley focused on the past two decades, a look at the Ravens' success rate with early first-round picks prior to 2002 also is impressive, beginning with Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden (No. 4, 1996).

From 1997-2000, the Ravens selected: four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware (No. 4); cornerback Duane Starks (No. 10), a starter on the record-setting 2000 defense; three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister (No. 10); and All-Pro, record-setting running back Jamal Lewis (No. 5).

All five of those players were starters on the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning 2000 team.

ESPN Pundit Predicts Marquise Brown's Future

With wide receivers from the 2019 draft class about to reach the end of their current deals, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked the top eight based on who he'd want to invest in over the next several seasons.

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, the first wide receiver off the board (No. 25 overall) in 2019, came in at No. 6 in Barnwell's rankings, trailing A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson and Deebo Samuel.

"Brown can certainly be frustrating at times, but he deserves more credit than he's getting in public conversations about these receivers," Barnwell wrote. "He is more of a star (or a star more often) than it would seem if you only pay attention to his drops. They're a problem — he had seven drops a year ago, and four of them would have likely produced touchdowns if caught — but having a wide receiver who can separate vertically and get open for long scores is valuable, even if he doesn't always catch those deep opportunities.

"Going back from the start of 2020 and through Week 13 of 2021, when Lamar Jackson played his last full game of the season before suffering a high ankle sprain, Brown's numbers were right alongside other significant wide receivers. Over that time frame, he caught 128 passes for 1,635 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's similar to A.J. Brown, who had 116 catches for 1,690 yards and 14 scores over that same period. Mike Williams, who just got $20 million per year on a new deal from the Chargers, had 109 catches for 1,672 yards and 12 touchdowns over that same stretch, and he needed to run 101 more routes than his Ravens counterpart to get there."

 Barnwell predicted Brown will remain with the Ravens the next two years and hit free agency in 2023.

"At $15.5 million over two years, he is going to make less over the next two seasons than most of the players on this list would average per season on their new deal," Barnwell wrote. "The Ravens don't seem in a rush to extend him, and after paying tight end Mark Andrews, using a first-round pick on wideout Rashod Bateman and seemingly resigning themselves to a series of franchise tags for Jackson, I'm not sure general manager Eric DeCosta & Co. are really in position to give Brown something north of $20 million per season on his next contract."

Edge Rusher Jermaine Johnson II Emerging As Popular Pick for Ravens in Mock Drafts

Several edge rushers have been linked to the Ravens in mock drafts, but one in particular being mentioned more frequently is Florida State's Jermaine Johnson II.

A mock draft by The Athletic's college football reporters had the Ravens selecting Johnson at No. 14.

"Johnson, who totaled 12 sacks and 18 TFLs while winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, makes too much sense to pass up," The Athletic's Christian Caple wrote. "At 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, Johnson's ideal size and length, plus his breakout senior season, are what stand out. Plus, he's a high-effort guy who has proven he can stay on the field."

ESPN’s Robert Weintraub listed edge rusher as the Ravens' top need and said Johnson is one of the best fits. Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson also had Johnson going to Baltimore in their latest mock drafts.

Players the Ravens Could Target on Days 2 and 3

While most of the draft talk focuses on what will happen in the first round, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also looked at potential targets for the Ravens on Days 2 and 3. Here are some excerpts:

Day 2

Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson: "Booth only played 25 games at the college level and he has a lot of room to grow. He's long, athletic and plays corner with physicality and confidence."

Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota: "Connected to the Ravens for months now, the native Australian would be an intriguing developmental project for offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris. He's 6-foot-8 and 384 pounds and he moves well for a big man. He just lacks the polish."

Luke Fortner, C/G, Kentucky: "Fortner is an extremely smart player who is big and athletic enough to contribute immediately in the interior. The Ravens value intelligence and leadership qualities from their center and Fortner earns high marks in those areas."

Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington: "Gordon's stock has fallen a little bit in the pre-draft process, partly because of a sluggish performance at the Scouting Combine."

David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan: "Ojabo would have been in the mix to go to the Ravens in the first round had he not recently torn his Achilles at the Wolverines pro day. The injury probably knocks him out of the first round, but Ojabo shouldn't have to wait too long to hear his name called. He's too talented and explosive for a team not to take a chance on him. Why not the Ravens, who have more Michigan connections than any other team in the NFL?"

George Pickens, WR, Georgia: "Ravens officials have been consistent in saying that they are not looking to invest a major asset in a receiver this offseason, but Pickens could be tough to pass up in the second round. The Ravens need a bigger receiver and Pickens is a 6-foot-3 force on jump balls and contested catches. If he didn't miss most of the 2021 season, he'd be a near-lock for the first round."

Day 3

Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State: "Araiza and Penn State's Jordan Stout are two highly-regarded punting prospects who will be drafted at some point on Day 3. Ravens punter Sam Koch still has one year left on his deal, but if the Ravens are looking to create cap space and prepare for the future, they could find his successor in this draft."

James Cook, RB, Georgia: "The brother of Minnesota Vikings star Dalvin Cook, James didn't get a ton of work in the Bulldogs crowded backfield. He did show an ability to find space and make plays in the passing game. He profiles well as a complementary back in Baltimore's offense."

Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Maryland: "The former Terrapin standout fits what the Ravens need behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, which is an athletic tight end who can run and stretch the field. Okonkwo, who attended the Ravens local pro day, is one of the fastest tight ends in the draft."

Zach Tom, OT/C, Wake Forest: "Ravens officials mentioned the possibility of transforming a college tackle into an NFL center. They won't have to do much projecting with Tom who played some center early in his college career before moving to tackle."

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