Anonymous NFL Executives Judge Ravens Draft Class
Since draft night, Ravens fans have heard compliments and critiques regarding the team's draft from analysts and pundits.
Now, NFL executives and evaluators are having their say, with the grace of anonymity of course, as they spoke to The Athletic's Mike Sando. Most compliments were centered around wide receiver Zay Flowers.
"Flowers' upside is Stefon Diggs," an evaluator said to Sando. "He has that from a route-running capacity."
"Even though Zay is a small target, from a ball-in-hand, explosive play, run-after-catch standpoint, he gives them that more than Hollywood Brown did," an executive said. "That is where I don't have a problem with the player. I just think you have to have a plan for him."
Not all were supportive of the Flowers selection, saying his size doesn't work well with quarterback Lamar Jackson.
"If we learned anything at Baltimore with Lamar Jackson, it's that small, short receivers don't do well," an evaluator told Sando. "The guy he throws it to is the 6-6 tight end."
Maybe they missed when the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Marquise "Hollywood" Brown posted a 1,000-yard season with the Ravens in 2021?
One evaluator was more interested in the offense, and believes the Ravens have the talent to get things done, but there are question marks remaining.
"Monken is a receiver coach by trade," an evaluator said. "OBJ will be the big wild card. Is he going to still have big-game potential? … I like their core. It has gotten better. That said, none of those guys are true No. 1s, which the Ravens can actually get away with. It is scheme, play-action, and their No. 1 guy is Mark Andrews, basically."
Flowers Named Ravens Rookie to Make Biggest Impact
With the clearest path to immediate playing time, Flowers was Jeff Zrebiec's pick in The Athletic's 32-team rookie picks to make "the biggest immediate impact."
"It has to be wide receiver Zay Flowers," Zrebiec wrote. "It all comes back to Flowers, who figures to have a significant role on offense from the jump. Lamar Jackson loves throwing the ball between the numbers, so Flowers should get his targets. He also could factor into the team's return game."
While it's the easy choice to take the team's top pick, Zrebiec outlines why the rest of the draft class wasn't outranking Flowers as his top pick.
"It's hard to project what linebacker Trenton Simpson's role will be as a rookie," Zrebiec wrote. "Fellow linebacker Tavius Robinson will likely be a rotational guy at the start. Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly will need to establish himself on special teams before earning a role defensively. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu is a developmental offensive lineman."
PFF’s Amelia Probst and Arjun Menon also have Flowers as the "biggest impact player from the draft" for Baltimore.
"Despite signing Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor in free agency, the Ravens continued to add to their receiver room by drafting Zay Flowers in the first round," PFF wrote. "Both Rashod Bateman and Beckham should help Baltimore in the intermediate part of the field, while Flowers can serve as the team's deep threat and premier after-the-catch receiver. The rookie should also see action on screens and jet sweeps."
USA Today’s Doug Farrar highlighted Flowers in his "best player/scheme fits among first-round picks" for the deep-passing game, too.
"But it's the deep stuff where Flowers might be the most valuable to his new team, and the most received now that he has a quarterback who can make those go, seam, post, and over throws to the third level," Farrar wrote. "It should be a massive relief for Jackson, as well. Last season, Devin Duvernay led Baltimore's receivers with six catches on throws of 20 or more air yards, on six targets.That's a lot of the reason Jackson completed 14 deep passes on 47 attempts. To put that in perspective, Josh Allen led the league with 104 deep attempts."
The Athletic also did an "All-Draft Pick Team" and Flowers was one of two wide receivers selected.
"This was a strange receiver class, with depth in the middle and not a lot of sparkle at the top," wrote Diante Lee and Nick Baumgardner. "Flowers, though, was a first-round grade on more boards than people realized, and his combination of toughness, speed and general football character is the perfect fit in Baltimore. Things are looking up again for the Ravens."
Stephen A. Smith: Ravens, Jackson Positioned for a Super Bowl
With the Ravens and Jackson coming to a long-term agreement and the New York Jets landing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and friends by trade and in free agency, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith and Dan Orlovsky debated which quarterback and team are better positioned for a Super Bowl, with Smith taking Jackson and the Ravens.
"We have a Baltimore Ravens defense that was ranked top three. Top three overall in points allowed, top three against the run," Smith said. "Even without Lamar Jackson they nearly beat Cincinnati in the postseason. So, let's take that into consideration. Now you have Lamar Jackson. Not only do you have Lamar Jackson, but you've got the J.K. Dobbins in the backfield. You've got a relatively decent offensive line. You've got the coaching of Harbaugh there with you whose got a good relationship with Lamar Jackson. Then, in your receiver corps, in franchise history you've never had one Pro Bowl receiver. Well now guess what. You brought Odell Beckham Jr. You still got Mark Andrews there. You still got Bateman there. You draft Zay Flowers. I'm looking at it from that standpoint and then I'm taking this into account."
However, in the end, Smith's affinity for Rodgers got the better of him, though he argues the Ravens have the edge.
"I believe in Aaron Rodgers," Smith said. "If you ask me to bet my money, it would be on Aaron Rodgers, but I'm just saying just looking at it on its face, in terms of who's better positioned, I would give the edge to the Ravens."
- According to NFL.com, the Ravens are projected to gain a fourth-round compensatory pick in 2024.
- NBC Sports’ Peter King ranks Ravens No. 7 in offseason power rankings. "Lamar Jackson has the best weapons, by far, that he's had since being drafted five years ago," King wrote. "Now he needs to stay on the field, and his collective weaponry should improve his 33-to-20 TD-to-pick differential over the last two years.