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Late for Work 4/29: Trenton Simpson 'Could Develop Into Steal of the Draft'

Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson (22) plays against Louisiana Tech during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson (22) plays against Louisiana Tech during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

'Excellent Value Pick' Trenton Simpson 'Could Develop Into Steal of the Draft'

Given the Ravens' track record, no one should be surprised that they got great value with their lone pick on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

With the selection of Clemson inside linebacker Trenton Simpson, General Manager Eric DeCosta adhered to the organization's best-player-available approach and came away with a freakish, versatile athlete who was expected to be gone before they were on the clock with the 86th-overall pick.

The selection was given high grades from pundits:

The Athletic's Scott Dochterman: "Grade: A. The Ravens did what the Ravens do: Find great value and select it. That's what happened here with Simpson, who was [The Athletic's Dane] Brugler's No. 38 overall player and went 86th."

Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski: "Grade: A. The Baltimore Ravens do it every time. The organization remains patient and lets the board come to them. In this case, they landed a top-three linebacker in this year's class after Simpson slid to a degree."’s Chad Reuter: "Grade: A. Baltimore used its second-round pick this year (as well as a fifth-rounder) to acquire Pro Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith last season. Selecting Simpson in the third round was still a good pick, though, because he's going to explode into the backfield and chase down plays outside in the Ravens' scheme. He could replace Patrick Queen if Queen has his fifth-year option declined and leaves in free agency next year."

The List Wire’s Barry Werner: "Grade: A-. It took until pick 86 in the third round for the Ravens to make a sound. They have done plenty in the offseason already, so no one is going to scoff at them. Trenton Simpson of Clemson was the choice. The linebacker joins Roquan Smith. The Ravens have had their share of greats at the position. No one should doubt that."

Sports Illustrated’s Gilberto Manzano: "Grade: B+. Simpson, one of the best inside linebacker prospects, could develop into the steal of the draft for Baltimore. He has a nose for the football and possesses sideline-to-sideline speed. He'll form a solid duo with Roquan Smith."

CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso: "Grade: B+. Explosive, in-space linebacker who's a better athlete than a LB right now."’s Eric Edholm: "A classic Ravens value pick for a player who was projected to crack the top 50. Simpson's speed is his superpower, and he closes on the ball in a hurry. His take-on strength is only average and there are some limitations to his game, but he'll contribute in a meaningful way."

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "Trenton Simpson is an excellent value pick for the Ravens, carrying a borderline first-round grade from some analysts. His production at Clemson did not always match his physical ability, but 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebackers who run the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds aren't easy to find. Simpson, who played both inside and outside in college, was the best prospect available on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s board."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "This is a classic best-player-available Ravens pick. Baltimore had a list of players it would have considered taking with the No. 86 pick, and Simpson was the last man standing when the Ravens were finally on the clock. They have had a lot of success sticking to their board, so it's hard to knock it now."

What Does Simpson Selection Mean for Patrick Queen?

One of the questions for the Ravens this offseason is whether they will pick up Queen's fifth-year option, and the selection of Simpson has made the 2020 first-round pick's status even more of a talking point.

Moments after the pick was announced, Queen reacted with a one-word tweet.

"There was already speculation that Queen could be traded with it appearing unlikely the Ravens would exercise his fifth-year option. This will only make that talk louder," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens certainly don't have to do anything with Queen. He could remain the starter alongside Smith, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald can pick his spots with Simpson as a reserve and take advantage of his versatility.

"However, the Ravens are suddenly well-stocked at inside linebacker with Smith, Queen, Simpson, Malik Harrison, Josh Ross, Del'Shawn Phillips and Kristian Welch. It feels like somebody will be moved."

The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer wrote: "His value as a trade asset will never be higher than it is this offseason: one more year on a team-friendly rookie contract for a supremely athletic, extremely durable 23-year-old coming off a 117-tackle, five-sack, two-interception, 14-quarterback-hit breakout season."

In last night's press conference after the Simpson selection, DeCosta praised Queen but said he won't make an announcement regarding his fifth-year option, which is worth a fully guaranteed $12.7 million in 2024, before Tuesday's deadline.

"We love Patrick. I love Patrick," DeCosta said. "Patrick is, in my mind, one of the better WILL linebackers in the league. He's smart. He works his butt off. I think he's a Pro Bowl linebacker in the making. In Trenton, we get a guy that was, honestly, the very best player available at the time. That's our philosophy. That's how we build our team."

Offseason Moves Have Propelled Ravens Into Super Bowl Conversation

Over the past three weeks, the Ravens signed three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., agreed to terms with Lamar Jackson on a five-year contract extension, and drafted speedy wide receiver Zay Flowers.

Those moves and the presence of All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver Rashod Bateman, and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards give the Ravens an offense that appears capable of going toe-to-toe with AFC offensive powerhouses Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cincinnati.

"Now we're going to get to see Lamar in a real passing game for the first time since [he was at] Louisville," The Ringer's Steven Ruiz said on "The Ringer NFL Show” podcast. "We're going to get to see 11 personnel – three receivers on the field. … It's going to be fun to see what [Offensive Coordinator] Todd Monken puts together.

"This is a team that I think has a chance to win in the AFC. I think they're a Super Bowl contender if Lamar stays healthy. Last year when he was healthy it was the best version of Lamar we've ever seen of him, even going back to 2019 when he won MVP. And now he has the best array of talent around him in terms of skill position players."

"Good Morning Football's" Jamie Erdahl also believes the Ravens are legitimate contenders, and not just because of the offensive additions.

"The whole saga [with Jackson's contract] really distracted me for a time from how good the Ravens are as a roster," Erdahl said. "Now the Ravens have Roquan Smith on defense; they've got Lamar Jackson as their quarterback; and the guys he's throwing the ball to are Mark Andrews, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and now Zay Flowers. That's a great team. … Now they are built for years to come, which is a scary thing within the AFC, specifically within their division."

What Are the Ravens Doing at Cornerback?

The biggest surprise of the draft thus far for the Ravens is that they didn't use either of their first two picks on a cornerback, which is considered their biggest position of need.

"The assumption was the Ravens were going to pick a cornerback [in the third round] no matter what, and some good ones fell into their lap," The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon wrote. "Georgia's Kelee Ringo, Utah's Clark Phillips III and South Carolina's Darius Rush — potential second-round picks ranked in the top 80 in the industry consensus big board — all would have been a good fit and addressed the Ravens' biggest area of need."

The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz wrote: "It's safe to say General Manager Eric DeCosta feels better about the cornerbacks on the roster than anyone else, but it feels like a giant hole on an otherwise potentially dominant unit."

The Ravens have three picks remaining: one each in the fourth (No. 124), fifth (No. 157) and sixth (No. 199) rounds.

DeCosta and Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz said there are still good cornerbacks options on Day 3, and DeCosta noted that they could also address the need in other ways.

Top veteran cornerbacks available in free agency include Marcus Peters and Rock Ya-Sin, the latter of whom reportedly visited the Ravens last month.

Ian Rapoport: Ravens Could Still Be Interested in DeAndre Hopkins

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport echoed Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort's comment from Thursday that he doesn't envision wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins being traded during the draft, but Rapoport said there were active trade talks before the draft, and he specifically mentioned the Ravens.

"I know the Baltimore Ravens have had previous contact with DeAndre Hopkins," Rapoport said. "They now have a lot of cap space because they got the Lamar Jackson deal done. Potentially a team to watch for the future."

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