Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, General Manager Eric DeCosta and Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz completed their annual Pre-Draft Press Conference on Wednesday. In Ravens fashion, not much was shared, as the team values secrecy and it’s been a “challenging” offseason. But, here are my takeaways from the afternoon.
The Lamar Jackson Stuff
We all knew the press conference was going to begin with questions pertaining to quarterback Lamar Jackson, who announced his trade request moments before Harbaugh took to the media circle during the NFL Owners meetings weeks prior. This was the first time the media’s had an opportunity to ask DeCosta about Jackson’s trade request.
“I understand the need to ask those types of questions,” DeCosta said. “I think, out of respect for the process, this is a draft luncheon. We’re going to try to keep as much of this discussion as we can to the draft. To the coming weeks, building the best football team we can build. So, I understand those questions. I think we’ve spoken about five different times this Spring in various different press conferences and such so we’re just trying to kind of defer to those questions and move forward to the draft.”
Overall, nothing was shared regarding the situation and tensions were high surrounding the press conference in the beginning, pertaining to Jackson-related questions.
Patrick Queen’s Fifth-Year Option
The deadline for NFL teams to pick up the fifth-year option on their 2020 first-round picks is less than a month away (May 2). Last year, DeCosta said with confidence the Ravens would be picking up wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown’s option before trading him on draft night. It doesn’t sound as certain regarding inside linebacker Patrick Queen’s fifth-year option.
“That’ll be a discussion we’ll have with Patrick,” DeCosta said. “[We] wouldn’t want to announce anything too premature with all of you guys.”
The Ravens have been high on Queen, what with his development over the past couple seasons and after the pairing of him with All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith, who they traded for prior to the 2022 NFL trade deadline. However, the cap space is getting tight for the club. They’re paying Smith $20 million AAV for the next five years, and Queen’s fifth-year option is projected at $12.722 million according to overthecap.com.
This would put their spending at linebacker at $27.1 million, placing them at the fifth-most for the position in 2024 as of now, per overthecap.com. Not unreasonable, as the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets would be above them, but it’s an area the Ravens brass must be considering a better value.
First-Round Quarterback Is A Possibility...By Default
The buzz for the news cycle will likely be pertaining to the comments made about drafting a quarterback in the first round.
“It depends on the board, it really does,” DeCosta said. “I mean, I’d have to say yes because we have quarterbacks in out top 31. So, just based on that alone, simple math, I would have to say yes.”
Though the yes will spark debate and conversation, earlier in the press conference DeCosta was asked if they’ve spent more time scouting quarterbacks this year.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily done that,” DeCosta said.
He was also asked if they were evaluating quarterbacks differently.
“I don’t think we really are,” DeCosta said. “We go into every draft tyring to take any kind of bias out, any kind of need-based situation out of the draft equation. We really try to build a board that’s really best player available.”
Wide Receiver Super Powers
The Ravens haven’t shied away from drafting ‘undersized’ wide receivers in the past, notably selecting Brown in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. Harbaugh was asked how he evaluates these players, such as Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers, and if they believe the player(s) can translate to the NFL. Harbaugh responded with mention of super powers.
“What’s their trait? What’s their super power,” Harbaugh said. “If your superpower’s not size, there’s got to be one or two other superpowers that are going to help you be successful in this league and you try to look at that individual and say, ‘Okay, what’s going to be the key for him? What’s going to be the trait? What’s going to make the difference?’ I don’t think Zay is an undersized guy or off our board. I don’t think [USC wide receiver Jordan] Addison’s off our board. They’ve got superpowers that are going to make them successful. It’s just what’s the best fit in our offense and are they there?”
It sounds like Harbaugh has given a measured look at the wide receivers in this class (as has probably everybody at that table and more), but it’s about as in-depth an answer as you’ll hear from Harbaugh on players and prospects pre-draft.
Depth In the Draft
Hortiz fielded numerous questions on Wednesday, talking about specific players, positions and the draft at large. According to the Director of Player Personnel, wide receiver is one of the biggest areas of value in the 2023 NFL draft.
“I think Eric mentioned wide receiver being a deep position and it is,” Hortiz said. “If you look at our board it’s all the way throughout. There’s targets in multiple rounds.”
Hortiz mentioned two more positions that have depth in this draft they could consider targeting.
“Pass rusher is another one. Outside backer. Us playing the rush SAM aspect, I think there is just different variations of players but there’s guys that can play in space and do more of the dropping and edge setters and the pass rushers. Those are two deep ones. And then corners another one. It’s a good deep class of corners so I think we’ll be able to find some Day 3 prospects at those positions.”
Two areas the Ravens have significant need in are among the deeper positions in the 2023 NFL draft, which is a good sign as they boast only one pick in the first two rounds (for now).
Only Five Picks
Multiple times, DeCosta mentioned the team holding only five draft picks. However, DeCosta said he would like more picks if possible, and that he feels comfortable with that fact on account of considering Roquan Smith as their second-round selection and that they’ve had so many picks the past four years.