With the Ravens holding their annual pre-draft press conference in Owings Mills on Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. If you’ve covered one “Liars Luncheon,” you’ve covered them all knowing there isn’t going to be very much to glean with the brass being particularly secretive in April. Still, you could sense more urgency than normal from Eric DeCosta, who’s coming off his first losing season as general manager.
2. DeCosta anticipates having somewhere between 170 and 195 “draftable” players by draft night, which is slightly lower than last year’s estimate. He also went out of his way to mention deals made over the last calendar year to accumulate extra fourth-round picks specifically for this draft class.
3. With some opining that veterans at non-premium positions have consumed too much cap space recently, this DeCosta quote resonated: “It’s hard for young players to play unless they have a strong opportunity, and I think our guys do right now.” Of course, it’s easier suggesting that in the spring.
4. DeCosta acknowledged having “a lot of work to do” on the defensive line and at outside linebacker. Speaking on edge rushers, he noted how “those guys go fast” and lamented the Achilles injury to David Ojabo. It’d be difficult to pass on Jermaine Johnson, Travon Walker, or George Karlaftis.
5. Though optimistic, DeCosta said, “The fact remains that we’re not sure how Ronnie [Stanley] is going to rebound.” This acknowledgment and mention of signing Morgan Moses to “protect” themselves with Ja’Wuan James make it tough envisioning the Ravens not drafting a left tackle. Joe Hortiz said it’s a deep class.
6. In the wake of an unsuccessful strong offer to Bobby Wagner, DeCosta said, “There will be some ‘Daryl Smiths’ on this team this year,” referencing the post-draft signing of a rock-solid veteran inside linebacker in 2013. Based on recent history, that’s a position where you’d anticipate a veteran addition.
7. Though running back isn’t unimportant to a rush-first offense, DeCosta downplayed any notion of taking one in the first round as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards return from ACL injuries. The Ravens haven’t drafted a running back earlier than 55th overall in 22 years. Wait until Day 3.
8. Unsurprisingly, the Ravens are “definitely concerned” with their cornerback depth behind Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, but DeCosta alluded to Marcus Williams’ arrival freeing up Brandon Stephens. The second-year defensive back could be part of the solution at the nickel, but probably not for 40 or 50 snaps every week.
9. With Pro Days and All-Star games returning, Hortiz mentioned being able to see bigger offensive linemen work out at center, which was the path for Ryan Jensen and Patrick Mekari. Perhaps Baltimore truly covets Tyler Linderbaum, but I’d be surprised to see a center before the third or fourth round.
10. In the wake of Lamar Jackson’s endorsement, Hortiz acknowledged Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo being undersized before saying, “He’s got speed, good mass to him, put together really well, and he offers some versatility. Especially how we are creative with our tight ends, he’d be able to do multiple things.”
11. While I certainly wouldn’t rule out taking a wide receiver at some point, this was the first pre-draft press conference I can remember that didn’t include a single question about the position, something Hortiz also noted. Of course, this roster has no shortage of concerns elsewhere.
12. Asked about his extension becoming official, John Harbaugh expressed gratitude before going on to say, “We need to win more games, we need to win more playoff games, we need to win more championships, [and] we need to win the whole thing.” This draft feels pivotal in doing so.