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Late for Work 5/2: Steelers Drafted Wide Receiver Ravens Wanted

Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III carries the ball after making a catch against SMU in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn.

Ravens Were Interested in a Fourth-Round Receiver

After trading Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Arizona Cardinals during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Ravens didn't draft a wide receiver. When General Manager Eric DeCosta spoke to the media following Day 3, he stated, "It wasn't for a lack of effort."

According to Pro Football Talk's Peter King, who was in the draft room on Day 3, they were a pick away from nabbing one.

"A middle-round receiver, Calvin Austin III of Memphis, a smurfy guy who runs a 4.32 40, was Baltimore's target here," King wrote. "Guess who else runs a 4.32? Hollywood Brown. Though Austin's a small guy, he was durable at Memphis, playing 49 games in four years and averaging 16.3 yards per catch. Baltimore's not a deep-throwing team—thus Brown's frustration, leading to his trade request, and the trade to Arizona—but the Ravens could use speed depth. Austin wasn't a must-have. But he was the next target. He was Baltimore's guy."

Unfortunately, one pick before the Ravens selected in the fourth round for the fifth time, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the Memphis speedster. It was the second receiver Pittsburgh drafted, following Georgia's George Pickens in the second round.

"'Gotta be kidding me,' someone blurted out as the Ravens began to process it," King wrote.

"Ravens on the clock … 4:40 4:35 … DeCosta had to think now. He had open trade offers with Kansas City and Jacksonville, and he could pull the trigger on either. He didn't love his options here. But his expression didn't change. [Ravens Head Coach John] Harbaugh's expression didn't change, nor did [Executive Vice President Ozzie] Newsome's. These things happen in the draft. They pondered alternatives. They had two linebackers and one slower receiver with good grades left, but didn't love any of them."

With the No. 139 pick, the Ravens selected a player Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was fond of: tight end Isaiah Likely. But King asked DeCosta about losing Austin.

"DeCosta said, 'That's the draft. We gambled on the punter, and we're glad we got him,'" King wrote. "'To us, [Jordan] Stout was the only one we'd have taken. These are the kinds of decisions you make every year in the draft. You never get everyone you want.'"

If the Ravens hadn't taken Stout, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have. They selected Georgia's Jake Camarda three picks later.

Should the Ravens Go 'All-in' For Deebo Samuel*?*

After missing on some possible wideouts in the draft, the Ravens may look to add a veteran in free agency to fill the teams' need at wide receiver. One suggestion on how to do so comes from Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon, who believes the Ravens "should go all-in for Deebo Samuel."

"With the draft in the rear-view mirror and Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay likely leading the receiver depth chart, the Ravens must realize that it's time to pull the trigger on a deal for disgruntled San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Deebo Samuel," Gagnon wrote.

Samuel is one of five wide receivers this offseason to request a trade from their current team; the four others, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Brown, have since been traded, with the latter two being traded during Day 1 of the draft.

Gagnon says the Ravens should make the trade for Samuel because it would help convince Lamar Jackson of their commitment to supply him with more weapons. He also cites the all-too-likely first-round picks they'll need to send the San Francisco 49ers' way to acquire Samuel aren't expected to be high selections with Samuel added to an already solid roster.

"A team in win-now mode with a quarterback who doesn't appear to be antsy about extending his expiring contract has to be willing to sacrifice future draft capital in a situation like this for a player like this," Gagnon wrote. "If you expect to be good—and the Ravens should expect that, especially with Samuel on the roster—first-round picks are less valuable anyway. It's time for Baltimore to employ that approach and offer Kyle Shanahan and Co. an offer they can't refuse for a player who might force the Niners' hand anyway."

Ravens Appear to be Building Back with 2019 In Mind

In 2019, the Ravens closed out the regular season with a franchise best 14-2 record, an all-time NFL rushing record and the second-ever unanimously voted league MVP in Lamar Jackson. They won games with their multi-threat rushing attack paired with heavy formations on offense sporting multiple tight ends, along with a strong defensive back group capable of matching opposing personnel.

Following the 2022 draft, Russell Street Report's Darin McCann finds the Ravens building the roster with the past in mind.

"Essentially, they did the proverbial 'zig when everyone else zags' thing, snubbing their nose to a modern NFL that feature[s] inherent advantages to new-age passing games, and maintaining their organization-long love affair with fielding a nightmare-enduring defense," McCann wrote. "This year's offseason, particularly with this week's draft, tells me they're recommitting to that kind of attack."

McCann wasn't alone in considering this was a concerted effort on the Ravens' behalf. The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer noticed the same correlations.

"The similarities are most notable along the line of scrimmage. Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, the Ravens' second first-round pick (No. 25 overall), is considered one of the best center prospects in years and is expected to start as a rookie," Shaffer wrote. "The run-heavy Ravens, who struggled to establish the line of scrimmage at times last year, should have their most talented right side of the line since 2019, led by the ultra-athletic Linderbaum, standout right guard Kevin Zeitler and powerful right tackle Morgan Moses."

The offensive comparisons don't end there, as the Ravens double-dipped at tight end on Day 3, starting with Iowa State's Charlie Kolar, who, according to a personnel executive for an AFC team could be, "another Mark Andrews."

"[With the tight ends and] Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, the Ravens could have the personnel to recreate their 2019 success, when quarterback Lamar Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman stressed defenses with two- and three-tight-end formations," Shaffer wrote.

Regarding the defense, the first-round selection of Hamilton, who's regarded as a safety with hybrid coverage abilities, offers the defense a chance to emulate personnel packages like the 2019 unit.

"Even with shaky cornerback depth, the Ravens' flexibility at safety could lead to a renewed reliance on dime personnel groupings," Shaffer wrote. "In 2019, when the Ravens had the NFL's fourth-best pass defense, according to Football Outsiders' efficiency rankings, the team used six or more defensive backs on 41% of its snaps, third most in the NFL. The return of cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters should bolster the secondary, which finished last in the league in yards allowed per game last year, and DeCosta wouldn't rule out adding more help."

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