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Late for Work 4/6: Was Eric DeCosta Bluffing or Showing His Hand?

General Manager Eric DeCosta during the 2022 Pre Draft Press Conference at Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, MD on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Analyzing Whether Poker-Faced Eric DeCosta Was Bluffing or Showing His Hand

Just as players put on their game face before taking the field, General Manager Eric DeCosta puts on his poker face before fielding questions at the Ravens' annual pre-draft press conference, otherwise known as the liars' luncheon.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer looked at some of DeCosta's comments from yesterday's press conference and tried to determine whether he was bluffing or showing his hand. Here are some excerpts:

Will the Ravens draft a cornerback early?

DeCosta: "There are opportunities for us, again, in the first round, second round, third round. … We feel like we have the opportunity to take one or two corners in the draft that could come in and contribute right away."

Verdict: "Showing his hand. The Ravens need talented cornerbacks because, well, they don't have a lot of them. … The Ravens not only need a slot corner to replace Tavon Young, but a potential successor for [Marcus] Peters out wide as well; he's entering the final year of his contract and will turn 30 in January. With Cincinnati's Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner unlikely to fall out of the top 10, the Ravens could have LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. and Washington's Trent McDuffie available at No. 14. Or they could find a gem later in the draft."

Will the Ravens draft an offensive tackle early?

DeCosta: "We feel that there's an opportunity in the draft to address the tackle spot at some point, whether it's in the first round or the fourth round. There's good players all throughout this year. It's a very, very deep position class. And so there's a lot of different ways for us to skin the cat. And we'll do that at some point."

Verdict: "Bluffing slightly. Even with Morgan Moses signed to play right tackle and Ja'Wuan James apparently impressing team officials, the Ravens' left tackle situation is perilous. DeCosta acknowledged that he's 'not sure how Ronnie [Stanley]'s going to rebound' from his second straight season-ending ankle injury. … The Ravens 'try to protect ourselves as best as we can,' DeCosta added later, and with the free-agent market unlikely to turn up another tackle like Moses, the draft is the safest path to stability. But how much security can a fourth-round pick offer? Only two tackles taken in the fourth round or later last year started more than four games as a rookie, and only one started more than eight."

Are the Ravens comfortable drafting a developmental center?

DeCosta: "Our philosophy, honestly, is, we want big guys. We want big guys at every position across the offense, across the defense, in general. And so it's a tough position to fill via the draft at times. And if there's a guy, if there's one or two outstanding prospects in the draft, they typically go pretty high. And then after that, you're looking at a bunch of guys that might be pretty good, might not be pretty good."

Verdict: "Showing his hand. The Ravens have already signaled their commitment to Patrick Mekari at center. There's only one center who's considered a first-round prospect, Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, and he's not necessarily a 'big guy.' According to MockDraftable, he's in the first percentile for wingspan and arm length and in the fifth percentile for weight (296 pounds) among offensive line prospects."

Lamar Jackson Is Ranked No. 1 on List of Players Eligible to Hit Free Agency in 2023

Lamar Jackson has been No. 1 on several lists over the past few years, including the top 100 NFL players and top players under 25 rankings.

One list Ravens fans probably never expected to see Jackson at the top of is free agents, but he is No. 1 on The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia's rankings of players set to his free agency in 2023.

"Jackson's contract status is one of the biggest storylines in the NFL going into the spring and summer," Kapadia wrote. "It's possible he's content to play out the final year, accept a franchise tag or two and then cash in (the Kirk Cousins model)."

If Jackson does indeed take the Cousins route, he wouldn't hit free agency until 2025. The chances of the Ravens allowing Jackson to become a free agent next year are virtually nil.

The Ravens have made it clear that they want Jackson for the long term, although a deal anytime soon appears unlikely.

According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Jackson has told the Ravens that he's currently too focused on having his best possible year and that he doesn't want to do a deal until the 2022 season is over.

J.K. Dobbins Among Favorites for Comeback Player of the Year

A year ago, running back J.K. Dobbins was considered a leading candidate to have a breakout season. This year, the 2020 second-round pick is among the favorites for Comeback Player of the Year.

Dobbins, who missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason, currently has the 10th-best odds to win the Comeback Player of the Year award, according to DraftKings.

When DeCosta was asked last month how Dobbins was progressing, he said he's "very, very confident he'll come back and be the type of player that he was two years ago."

Ebony Bird’s Kristen Wong believes Dobbins is "primed for a breakout season for the ages."

"Behind a revamped O-line in 2022, he should eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark without breaking a sweat, not to mention the impact he can make in the passing game," Wong wrote.

Dobbins ran for 805 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. He led all NFL running backs in yards per carry (6.0) and caught 18 passes for 120 yards.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Dobbins will flourish next season coming off a serious knee injury.

A recent study showed that only 28.5 percent of NFL players who suffered an ACL injury are still active in the league three years after the injury, and running backs, defensive linemen and linebackers performed the worst after the injury.

Running back Gus Edwards and Peters also suffered season-ending ACL injuries last year.

Ravens Bolster Defensive Line in Todd McShay's Two-Round Mock Draft

There's a growing sentiment that it will be a defense-heavy draft for the Ravens. Owner Steve Bisciotti even said it could be an all-defensive draft.

It remains to be seen how many of the Ravens' 10 picks will be defensive players, but ESPN’s Todd McShay had the team going with defense with their first two picks in his latest mock draft.

McShay mocked Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II to the Ravens with the 14th-overall pick.

"Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum would be a good pick after the Ravens lost Bradley Bozeman to free agency. But could the Ravens afford to ignore Johnson's fall out of the top 10 right into their lap at No. 14?" McShay wrote. "Johnson had 12 sacks and 46 pressures at FSU in 2021, frequently using his quick feet, powerful hands and arsenal of pass-rush moves to overwhelm blockers."

McShay had the Ravens selecting Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round (45th overall).

"Signing Michael Pierce doesn't mean Baltimore should completely check the defensive tackle box just yet," McShay wrote. "Mathis would provide depth, and his improving interior pass-rush skills are an added bonus. He plays hard and projects as a future starter."

Ravens Reportedly Met With Versatile QB Prospect

The Ravens had a Zoom meeting recently with University of Miami quarterback prospect D'Eriq King, according to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson.

"Most NFL teams are working out King as a quarterback while also intrigued by his versatility as a slot receiver and as a red-zone threat," Wilson wrote.

Before transferring to Miami in 2020, King played four seasons with Houston, where he spent most of his time at wide receiver. In his first two seasons at Houston, King caught 58 passes for 492 yards and three touchdowns.

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