This year’s Ravens draft class was their smallest since 2009, when they also selected just six players. It was nearly half the size of last year’s haul, which featured 11 players, many of whom played meaningful snaps and will do so again this year.
In other words, the impact of this year’s class will be different — but different doesn’t necessarily mean insignificant.
“We don’t see a lot of big, glaring holes, and we have solutions as well still out there in free agency, potentially,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said Saturday. “So, if you’re not going to have a lot of picks, this is probably the year to not have picks. We were able to fortify.”
To that point, the Ravens’ depth chart in some positions — quarterback, running back, fullback, tight end, offensive tackle, center, interior defensive line, safety — remains largely the same as it was before the draft. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way in the months ahead.
“The roster is never set,” DeCosta said. “I think what you’ll see is in the coming weeks, there are a lot of potential moves for us to make: free agents, guys that we’ve had, guys that we like who are available.”
Already, the Ravens have agreed to deals with 19 undrafted free agents. But which rookies will play right away? Who are developmental prospects? Here’s a breakdown of where the Ravens’ draft picks will likely fit in and where to expect the biggest contributions.
The jewel of the Ravens’ draft class was wide receiver Zay Flowers.
ESPN analyst and former safety Louis Riddick, who was also director of player personnel for Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles, said the smartest decision of any team was made by the Ravens when they took Flowers at No. 22 overall in the first round. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said he’s been touting Flowers since he watched Boston College practices last summer, with coach Jeff Hafley calling Flowers the “Energizer Bunny.”
Baltimore’s receiving corps was already overhauled this offseason with the free agent signings of two-time All-Pro Odell Beckham Jr. and veteran Nelson Agholor. Now it gets Flowers, who joins Beckham and Rashod Bateman as the team’s top three targets.
Next in line are Devin Duvernay, Agholor and James Proche II or Tylan Wallace, with Andy Isabella, Shemar Bridges, Mike Thomas, Tarik Black and undrafted free agent Dontay Demus rounding out the group. The Ravens likely won’t finish last in the NFL in yards among wide receivers like they did last year.
It’s also worth watching what they do with Duvernay. A Pro Bowl selection as a kick returner in 2021, he’s probably too expensive at $4.3 million if he doesn’t have a more notable role on offense. Demus led the Terps in receiving yards in 2019, 2020 and through the first five games of 2021 before going down with a season-ending knee injury. He had seven 100-yard games for Maryland before the injury but none last season, though his best game (five catches, 67 yards) did come against No. 2 Ohio State.
Guard and tackle
Most of the starting offensive line is back, with a healthy Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Morgan Moses at right tackle, Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Tyler Linderbaum at center. Left guard, after Ben Powers left for the Denver Broncos in free agency, is once again up for grabs.
The underachieving Ben Cleveland and John Simpson, who struggled with the Las Vegas Raiders before coming over at the end of last season, will battle for the starting role, though veteran Patrick Mekari and second-year pro Daniel Faalele could be possibilities as well, according to coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens also selected two offensive linemen in the draft, Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Southern California’s Andrew Vorhees.
Vorhees, whom they got by trading back into the seventh round with the Cleveland Browns for a 2024 sixth-round pick, won’t play this season after he tore his ACL during the NFL scouting combine in March. But as a five-year starter at USC and Pro Football Focus’ top-rated offensive lineman in the Pac-12 the past two years, he was ranked much higher than where he was drafted and could end up being a steal once he’s healthy.
Sixth-round pick Aumavae-Laulu, meanwhile, played mostly right tackle for the Ducks but also got snaps at guard, so that gives the Ravens some flexibility.
“I think he can play both,” DeCosta said, adding that offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris will have a better idea on the best spot for him once he’s in camp. “The things that stand out with him [are] he’s huge, he’s got explosive power, knocks guys down on down-blocks. He runs really well for a big man. When you watch him pull or get out on leads on the frontside plays, he can really cover ground. He plays with a great temperament. So, [there’s] a lot to like about a big man who plays physical.”
Shortly after the Ravens drafted Clemson inside linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round, Patrick Queen tweeted, simply, “Sheesh.” That told him (and everyone else) all they needed to know about what the Ravens were going to do when it came to Queen’s fifth-year option.
On Monday, they officially declined it, meaning Queen will spend this season alongside Roquan Smith in the middle before becoming a free agent in 2024. The Ravens could trade Queen before or during the season, but they’d need a starter (or good draft capital) in return and they’re not likely to get it for the 23-year-old, who broke out last season to lead the Ravens in tackles with 117. With $100 million over five years already tied up in Smith, committing to keep Queen at the cost of $12.7 million next season was a nonstarter.
As for Simpson, he’s fast (4.43-second 40-yard dash time) and versatile, having played in coverage and on the edge at Clemson, so he’ll likely see the field in a variety of situations and join Malik Harrison as a backup on the inside, with Josh Ross, Del’Shawn Phillips and Kristian Welch behind them.
“He’s gonna help us a lot of different ways,” Harbaugh said of Simpson. “I see him as a four-down linebacker eventually.”
The Ravens have good depth here that would get even better if they bring back free agent Justin Houston, who led Baltimore in sacks last season with 9 1/2 and has expressed in returning. As it stands now, Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser will be the starters at the rush and strongside positions, respectively, with David Ojabo and most likely fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson backing them up. Daelin Hayes and Jeremiah Moon are behind them.
At 6 feet 6 and 257 pounds with long arms, Robinson is the kind of edge rusher who should fit right in with the Ravens. He led Ole Miss with seven sacks and forced five fumbles last season.
Robinson, a Canada native who twice made the dean’s honor roll at Ole Miss, said he has tried to model his game after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby and his “relentless motor.”
Another player came to mind for DeCosta, though, which might shed light on how the Ravens will use Robinson.
“I think we got a guy who plays very, very hard,” DeCosta said. “[He] runs well, very, very physical, long reach. From a comparison standpoint, [he is] probably more like a guy like Za’Darius Smith. [He] can kick inside, can play outside. [He is] physical.”
One of the biggest holes the Ravens had this offseason was at cornerback. They initially addressed the position in the fifth round Saturday, selecting Kyu Blu Kelly out of Stanford with the 157th overall pick, but the bigger news came Wednesday with the signing of free agent Rock Ya-Sin, who visited the team in March and gives Baltimore an immediate starter opposite All-Pro Marlon Humphrey.
“It’s an important position,” DeCosta said of cornerback. “What we’ve seen is you can never have enough good corners to start the season and throughout the season. That’s a fast way to get beat, is to not have enough corners on the field.”
Which is why the Ravens added Ya-Sin, a 2019 second-round pick who can step right in after spending his first three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and last year with the Raiders. When healthy, he’s been dependable. Other corners on the depth chart include, in order, Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion “Pepe” Williams, Daryl Worley, Kevon Seymour, Trayvon Mullen and Bopete Keyes.
As for the 6-foot, 191-pound Kellyhe figures to be behind Williams and will need to battle for playing time. Eventually, he could be a quality slot corner and a reliable starter at a position that needs one. But his selection, as was the case with about half the Ravens’ picks, was for the future.