Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2021 NFL draft

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With the Ravens having selected eight players in the 2021 NFL draft, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Despite the perceived depth of this offensive tackle class, Eric DeCosta didn’t draft a replacement for Orlando Brown Jr., insisting he’s “not going to reach on guys.” A veteran addition such as Alejandro Villanueva appears very likely, but it was still a good weekend for right tackle Tyre Phillips’ stock.

2. With the Ben Cleveland selection, DeCosta drafted a guard in the third or fourth round for the third straight year. Given the obsession with those types of mid-round selections in the compensatory pick process, not finding a starting-caliber left guard among Cleveland, Ben Powers, and Ben Bredeson would be disappointing.    

3. In regards to Odafe Oweh, can we find middle ground between arguing the Penn State edge defender collecting zero quarterback takedowns in 2020 makes him a bad pick and dismissing sacks like they’re some meaningless fantasy football stat? Oweh has tantalizing potential, but the lack of production can’t be dismissed.

4. The presence of Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson should alleviate pressure on Oweh to become an immediate three-down starter, but his improvement playing the run in 2020 is being overlooked. The Ravens are expecting more than that, of course, but it gives Oweh a higher floor than the current perceptions.

5. Asked what is the most prominent thing he’s going to bring to Lamar Jackson and this offense, Rashod Bateman immediately answered, “Everything he needs.” You love that kind of confidence, and the production he showed outside and inside in the Big Ten bodes well for this offense.

6. Greg Roman saying Friday that opponents “are going to have to defend all 53 yards” of the field’s width was nothing new. However, drafting Bateman and Tylan Wallace and signing Sammy Watkins should make that goal more attainable. How Jackson takes to his new weapons will be fun to watch.

7. DeCosta referenced “a couple new sets of eyes” on the coaching staff being “very beneficial” evaluating this wide receiver class, alluding to wide receivers coach Tee Martin and pass game specialist Keith Williams. Those two having recent college coaching experience should be valuable in growing this passing attack.

8. This defensive tackle class wasn’t highly regarded, so Baltimore not drafting one was hardly a surprise. Still, the overall age and post-2021 contract status of the defensive line will weigh on DeCosta’s mind. The Ravens finding another Michael Pierce — an undrafted diamond in the rough — would be very helpful.

9. Will Brandon Stephens prove to be a “reach” as many pundits have indicated or a pleasant surprise coming out of a most unusual evaluation process that produced less groupthink? The Ravens like his versatility and indicated he’ll focus more on safety, a position that needed more depth.

10. Between DeShon Elliott entering a contract year and Tavon Young having missed essentially three full seasons in the last four years, the Ravens drafting possible long-term replacements in Stephens and Shaun Wade shouldn’t have been surprising. The secondary remains the most important part of this defense.

11. DeCosta acknowledged greater focus on prospects from big schools to account for the challenges created by the pandemic. However, it’s interesting to note that Baltimore has drafted just three players from non-Power 5 schools since Ferris State’s Zach Sieler in the 2018 seventh round. That old small-school narrative is waning.

12. The Ravens didn’t make a pick after the fifth round for the first time in franchise history. More than a couple beat reporters appreciated an early finish to the draft, but it also speaks to their confidence in the evaluation process for both draft targets and priority rookie free agents.