Twelve Ravens thoughts entering 2022 NFL draft

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With the 2022 NFL draft set to kick off on Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Given where Baltimore stands with Lamar Jackson and its other top contracts, Eric DeCosta knows this draft is critical to ensuring 2021 was an injury-driven hiccup. That said, his 2019 draft was disappointing beyond Marquise Brown and 2020’s perception took a hit with J.K. Dobbins’ injury. This class feels pivotal.

2. The top of the first round aligns with the Ravens’ needs, which is why DeCosta has probably lost sleep worrying about the top edge rushers, cornerbacks, and offensive tackles being picked clean before 14th. You only hope a quarterback or two goes early and more teams covet the top receivers.

3. Acknowledging that reality, my official prediction — which isn’t worth much — is Baltimore selecting Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. He’s a 6-foot-6, 340-pound run-stopping monster with impressive athleticism, but the key question is whether that sparks the necessary pass-rushing development to turn him into the next Haloti Ngata. 

4. You’d rather not need to provide such a caveat with the 14th pick, but there have been sentiments about this draft class being much more about depth than dynamic needle movers. That might lead one to want to trade back for more swings, but will there be a dance partner?

5. With the Ravens scheduled to make five fourth-round picks, others have looked back at 2016 when they drafted Tavon Young, Chris Moore, Alex Lewis, Willie Henry, and Kenneth Dixon. Given the excitement — even hyperbole — then, let’s just be realistic about what to expect from this portion of the draft. 

6. I don’t question the validity of the NFL Network report saying Ronnie Stanley is “on pace to be ready for 2022” after a recent checkup, but that being leaked days before the draft makes one ponder motives. Optimism months before Week 1 shouldn’t alter draft plans to any meaningful degree.

7. With many projecting consensus top offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross to be gone before No. 14 overall, I’m not clamoring for the Ravens to take Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. Still, I’m amused by fan angst over him being picked. He’s raw, but I love the intensity.

8. I’m not convinced Kayvon Thibodeaux escapes even the top few picks, but it was interesting to see the report of him having dinner with the Ravens after his Pro Day at Oregon. He’s an edge rusher with the upside for which to trade up a few spots if he slides.

9. The 2019 draft marked the fifth straight year the Ravens used a fourth-round pick or better on a cornerback, but that year’s choice, Iman Marshall, has been a non-factor with injuries and they didn’t take one in 2020. You feel the effect of such developments a couple years later.

10. Speaking of health, it’s been interesting to watch Baltimore move on from so many free agents with injury histories — Young and Anthony Averett to name a couple — who didn’t sign for much elsewhere. I’m curious to see if the injury-plagued 2021 campaign impacts how DeCosta views this draft class.

11. Considering Baltimore isn’t projected to receive a compensatory pick in next year’s draft for the first time since 2010, DeCosta trading a pick from his Day 3 collection to improve his 2023 draft picture wouldn’t be remotely surprising. Weary reporters would applaud trading that sixth-round pick for a 2023 fifth.

12. The Ravens have made some trades to skew the data, but 2022 could mark just the fifth time in the last 22 drafts they’ve taken someone in the top half of the first round with the others being Terrell Suggs, Ngata, Stanley, and Marlon Humphrey. Don’t take consistency for granted.

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