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2021 Mock Draft: The Ravens Way

Extra bites where the fruit is sweetest

Patrick Semansky, AP

The Baltimore Ravens are a first class organization. Their .564 regular season win percentage and .593 postseason win percentage are both fourth best in the history of the NFL.

Their institutional philosophy - instilled by former general manager Ozzie Newsome, affirmed by owner Steve Bisciotti, sharpened by head coach John Harbaugh and maintained by current general manager Eric DeCosta - has produced tremendous success during the club’s 25 year history.

Forged through battles against rugged adversaries, the Ravens commitment to their core principles is unwavering. They do not believe in chasing Super Bowl windows. They are unwilling to sacrifice depth in order to make splashy acquisitions. They will not succumb to outside pressures or attempt to replicate their competitors.

The Ravens are who they are, who they have always been. They pride themselves on defense and special teams. They value locker room leadership, effort and loyalty. They are unafraid to buck league-wide trends or combat media driven narratives. They are a relentless franchise, on and off of the field.

Following the blockbuster trade of Orlando Brown Jr., the contrast between Baltimore and Kansas City’s ideology is apparent. The Chiefs, with their high octane passing offense, make win-now moves, spend the vast majority of their cap space on star players, devalue draft picks and deemphasize run defense. They Ravens build their roster in a much different fashion by aiming for perpetual sustainability, prioritizing the run game on both sides of the ball, fostering a solid veteran middle of the roster and constantly seeking to accumulate draft picks.

With the draft capital acquired in the Brown trade, DeCosta has a prime opportunity to maneuver around the board throughout the 2021 NFL draft. The Ravens currently feature a depth chart that is relatively robust but has suffered significant attrition this offseason. Since Kansas City relies on their elite players to overcome the weaknesses a top-heavy roster create, Baltimore must counter by assembling an extraordinarily well-rounded and deep team capable of exploiting every deficiency.

Naturally, the way to achieve this goal is to trade down in the draft. In most draft cycles, the caliber of prospect available at pick #25 is similar to the prospect selected at #50 overall. That should certainly be the case in a draft class with unprecedented uncertainty following the global pandemic. Furthermore, the right to exercise a 5th-year salary option on first round selections offers considerably less salary cap savings under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In order to maximize the return from the incoming draft class, DeCosta should probably trade out of the first round entirely. It is completely possible that coveted prospects, including Teven Jenkins, Azeez Ojulari, Trevon Moehrig and Rashod Bateman, will be unavailable at the bottom of the first round. Other clubs routinely reach for highly regarded premium position prospects.

The goal should probably be to accumulate as many Day 2 selections as possible, marrying instant impact with expected value by increasing the likelihood of success in this luck-driven process. A concerted effort to construct a roster with the versatility necessary to dethrone Kansas City can be accomplished by trading down.

The Trades

Baltimore sends picks #27 and #136 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for picks #45, #65 and #249

Baltimore sends picks #31 and #171 to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for picks #35 and #108

Both of these trades are exceedingly fair according to the draft pick value chart commonly used by NFL teams every offseason. In combination, Baltimore would turn two late first rounders, one late fourth rounder and one late fifth rounder into two early second rounders, the first selection of the third round, the third selection of the fourth round and an additional seventh round pick. Essentially, extra bites at the apple where the fruit is the sweetest.

The Picks

#35: Joe Tryon, OLB, Washington

A physical specimen with all the tools to thrive as a three-down outside linebacker. Tryon has the stature and strength to set the edge, a desirable pass rush repertoire with closing burst to bring down quarterbacks and is comfortable dropping in zone coverage. He also excels on stunts, plays with an impressive motor and may have been a top-15 pick if he had not opted-out.

#45: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

A former team captain and All-American, Leatherwood has the size, arm length and raw power to succeed at right tackle in the Ravens blocker boosting system. He was very durable as a three-year starter for Alabama, is a steady pass protector and mauling run blocker with decent athleticism. Overall, Leatherwood would bring a proven pedigree and high floor to Baltimore.

#65: Payton Turner, Edge, Houston

Turner is a high ceiling pass rusher with a quick first step and potent bull rush. He displays heavy hands with extremely long arms and a massive tackle radius due to his 6’5 270 frame. An ascending player who was ultra productive last season, Turner possesses inside-outside versatility and plays with the high effort required on Baltimore’s front.

#94: Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson

After starting 27 games on Trevor Lawrence’s blind side, Carman projects as a starting left guard with backup swing tackle versatility. He is a physical drive blocker with above average power and a stout anchor. Despite shorter arms and inconsistent mirroring ability, he has good size at 6’5 317 and packs excellent mobility to reach second level defenders.

#104: Jamar Johnson, DB, Indiana

A true slot corner/free safety hybrid, Johnson’s lack of tackling consistency could make him a mid round steal. He is instinctual in coverage with excellent range in the deep third and plus ball skills. His cerebral playing style coupled with his versatility would make the former Hoosier a terrific fit for the Ravens nickel and dime packages.

#108: Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee

Baltimore’s new receivers coach Tee Martin should be quite familiar with his former pupil. Palmer was a 4-year starter for the Volunteers, and provides an intriguing blend of size and speed. His body control, ball tracking ability and reliable hands should allow him to serve as a vertical playmaker. And his willingness as a blocker would mesh well with the personality of Baltimore’s offense.

#131: Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M

This talented former Aggie checks all the boxes in terms of measurables and was quite disruptive last season during his true junior All-SEC campaign. Perhaps the best pure two-gapping nose tackle in the draft class, Brown boasts violent hands, tremendous power and pocket collapsing bull rush prowess. After a rookie year spent improving his technique, he could become a worthy successor to Brandon Williams.

#184: Austin Watkins Jr., WR, UAB

The cousin of Sammy Watkins, Austin profiles as a rugged ‘X’ receiver who plays with physicality and uses outstanding hands to reel in contested catches. There is room for improvement in his routes, but Watkins has a knack for uncovering against zone coverage and moves the chains as a possession receiver. He would be a natural fit for Baltimore due to his interest in blocking and leadership characteristics.

#210: Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia

McKitty is an upside receiving tight end who has the athleticism and large catch radius to stretch the seams. His elusiveness and speed in the open field enable a run after the catch element the Ravens have recently lacked. While more of a traits-based than well rounded prospect, McKitty’s soft hands and flashes as a blocker make him a project worth developing.

#249: Darrick Forrest, S, Cincinnati

Another former team captain and special teams standout, Forrest suits the Ravens culture perfectly. A competitive, hard hitter with adequate coverage skills and linear speed, he would follow a long line of high character box safeties that contribute valuable intangibles to Harbaugh’s locker room.