The Baltimore Ravens held their annual pre-draft press conference on Tuesday and spoke for nearly an hour. In that time, they covered a range of topics about the upcoming draft class, where they see the roster now, and how they plan to improve.
Ravens Appear Comfortable With Their Wide Receivers
Throughout Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta’s tenure, this press conference largely involved answering questions about how to improve the receiving corps of the roster. However, this press conference received zero questions regarding wideouts. After using five draft picks, including two first-round draft picks on Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rashod Bateman, it appears the Ravens, or at least the media, is no longer focused on the position due to more glaring needs elsewhere. It doesn’t mean they’re done taking swings at the position, but it’s no longer at the forefront.
Offensive Tackle Is a Need
The Ravens continue to show concern for offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley’s return. He’s missed back-to-back seasons with an ankle injury that’s didn’t properly heal in 2021, forcing him back into surgery.
“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,” DeCosta said. “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.”
The Ravens showed confidence in the current players on the roster, including Ja’Wuan James, who is returning from an Achilles injury that sidelined him back in May of 2021. James is expected to play this season, but the Ravens’ apprehension regarding Stanley—and I’m speculating here, feels worrisome.
Don’t Expect a Center In Round 1
There’s been a lot of talk (and mocks) pairing Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum to the Ravens with their No. 14 pick in the first round. However, the Ravens don’t appear to be interested in such a prospect, and prefer to address the position later in the draft.
“And so it’s a tough position to fill via the draft at times,” DeCosta said. “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.”
The Ravens re-signed offensive lineman Patrick Mekari in December 2021 to a three-year contract and allowed center Bradley Bozeman to sign elsewhere. It looks like they’re committed to Mekari, along with center Trystan Colon. They may use one of their five fourth-round picks on a prospect but DeCosta sounded confident about the current roster to get it done.
Cornerback Will Be Addressed in the Draft
With cornerback Tavon Young released this offseason, many speculated the Ravens were looking to rebuild the unit. Since then, cornerback Anthony Averett signed with the Las Vegas Raiders and Chris Westry signed with the Carolina Panthers. The depth at the position is all but empty and the Ravens, who might know this better than most franchises, understand the need for talent at the position. Last season, the Ravens saw both their starters go down with injury and by seasons’ end they were digging through the scrap heap of free agents to defend against the likes of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Company.
“I think we’re definitely concerned [about the depth at cornerback.]” DeCosta said. “If you guys know us, we always want to have a strong secondary and have as many corners as possible. We’ve referred to those guys as racecars in the past. This year, we got decimated at that position across the board. We have outstanding players coming back, but again, until they come back, it’s question marks.”
Health and Ability of Returning Players are in Mind
After a season derailed from an overwhelming number of injuries, the Ravens aren’t solely relying on players to return and everything going back to normal. DeCosta spoke about Stanley, Humphrey, Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards returning. DeCosta was asked about how they approach players returning from such injuries and if they prep for ‘worst-case scenario,’ or how they approach the issue(s).
“But we have to protect ourselves, and so, we’ll continue to do that, and some of that will be through the Draft, some of that will be free agency, some of that will be undrafted free agents, some of that will be in May and June,” DeCosta said.
Ravens Coming Back With a Vengeance
Three times, DeCosta used the word “vengeance” during the press conference. They’re hungry for a great return and, as safety Chuck Clark said in the final post-game press conference, “watch how we bounce back.”
“We feel like Marlon [Humphrey] is going to come back with a vengeance and Marcus [Peters] is going to come back with a vengeance, but behind those two guys, the depth is thin,” DeCosta said.
“We are poised, and we are ready to rebound from this season with a vengeance – we will. We’re excited,” DeCosta said. “We can’t wait to get started. We have a great owner; we have, in my opinion, the best head coach in the league; we’ve got a lot of young talent; we have a good, veteran core, and this is a great opportunity for us. We’re in a tough division; I think we realize that, and we can’t wait to get started.”
After such a rough season which ended with six-straight losses, the Ravens have likely closed the book on the 2021 season, but the lessons learned have stuck. DeCosta appeared stern in his delivery of the press conference and I think they’re approaching this season with a seriousness to improve
The conference as a whole spiked in talent the past few weeks. Specifically, their fourth-place “easiest” schedule became far more difficult due to quarterback Russell Wilson joining the Denver Broncos, quarterback Deshaun Watson being traded to the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Tom Brady unretired and will be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The margin for error is slimmer than ever and the Ravens know it.