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3 bold predictions for the Ravens’ 2022 draft

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft is officially upon us with Round 1 kicking off tomorrow night. It’s been a long wait leading up to this weekend and one of great speculation and hype for the Baltimore Ravens.

Here are three bold predictions for how the draft will unfold for the Ravens.

Eric DeCosta makes 3+ trades

There’s already been speculation that the Ravens could be a team to either trade up or potentially trade down from their No. 14 spot in the first round. There’s merit to both scenarios as well as just standing pat — it all depends on how the board plays out.

Either way, everything is set up for the Eric DeCosta and the Ravens’ brain trust to be very active and aggressive this weekend. Whether this means a trade in the first round or not, the Ravens are well-positioned to make noise. With 10 total picks, nine of which are in the first four rounds, the Ravens have unprecedented capital and flexibility to work with.

Given they’ve generally coveted mid-round selections in the past, it’s very plausible the Ravens more or less hold on to their picks at their respective spots and let players they like fall to to them. However, with such a high degree of assets to work with, it might be a wasted opportunity for DeCosta not to trade.

The Ravens have either traded up or back multiple times, and this could be one of them. Three or more trades is a high mark, but why not? This draft has huge implications for the Ravens’ success in 2022 and beyond, and it’s important they come away with multiple impact playmakers.

Let’s say “EDC” maneuvers and works the phones as much as possible to make that happen.

The Ravens double-dip with small-school prospects

In the haydays of Ozzie Newsome’s tenure as the Ravens’ General Manager, the Ravens developed a reputation for targeting small-school prospects in the draft. And, to that point, having a knack for finding good ones and developing them well. Players like Lardarius Webb (Nicholls St.), Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern St.), and Matthew Judon (Grand Valley St.) are a few examples.

Even if they didn’t always hit, the Ravens have been a good bet to not shy away from taking a FCS prospect in the middle or later rounds. However, since DeCosta began drafting in 2019, the Ravens have been much more keen on bigger-name, traditional powerhouse universities and programs.

This year, again with 10 total picks, we could see DeCosta and company dust off the organization’s small-school scouting chops. There are a number of projected middle-round prospects that could be in the Ravens’ range and fill positions of need. OL Cole Strange (Chattanooga), CB Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston St.), OT Braxton Jones (Southern Utah) and RB Pierre Strong Jr. (South Dakota St.) stand out as some.

Of course, there’s also Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, one of the top-rated offensive tackle prospects who the Ravens have been linked to as a first-round option.

More than half of the draft class is defense

Over the past several years, the Ravens’ offseason strategy has generally been to “buy the defense, draft the offense.” The majority of their larger investments in free agency and through trades have been in acquiring defensive players. Meanwhile, since 2018, the Ravens have drafted 22 offensive players compared to 16 defensive players.

The past two Ravens’ draft classes, 2020 and 2021, have seen a 50-50 split between offense and defense. However, not since 2017 have they drafted more defensive players than offensive. That year, the Ravens drafted two defensive backs, two outside linebackers and a defensive lineman. Their remaining two picks were used on two offensive lineman.

Look for this weekend to possibly play out in a similar way. The Ravens’ offense is still very young and core players like Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Ronnie Stanley are now entering their respective prime years. Compared to the offense, the defensive side of the ball is much older. Position groups like defensive line and cornerback could use an infusion of youthful talent.

Yes, the Ravens will and should add an offensive lineman or two, possibly very early, this weekend. They also may add an additional depth player or two at running back, wide receiver, and/or tight end. However, expect the Ravens’ to use most of their 10 slotted draft picks (maybe less, maybe more) to add much-needed depth and youth on defense.