With the Ravens decision-makers conducting their annual pre-draft press conference via video chat on Monday morning, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Reading the tea leaves is a popular exercise as we know there are half-truths and lies sprinkled throughout the generic “Liars Luncheon,” but the brass seemed particularly guarded about a draft with unprecedented volatility. Eric DeCosta estimated having 200 “draftable” players on the board, which is more than recent years.
2. Endorsing young options on the roster is perfectly understandable, but DeCosta suggesting he’s “insulted” by perceptions that Baltimore doesn’t have any wide receivers downplays a long history of that being a rare organizational blind spot, especially with the draft. I wouldn’t blame fans for being a little insulted by that.
3. DeCosta says he sees good options at outside linebacker “scattered throughout” their board, and history has shown the Ravens’ ability to hit on Day 3 picks at that position. Still, expecting someone outside the first couple rounds to make an immediate impact — something they need — would be quite ambitious.
4. John Harbaugh was diplomatic responding to Saturday’s statement from Ravens players revealing they wouldn’t attend voluntary in-person workouts, saying “guys make their choices” and revealing there were indeed “non-rehab” players in the building on Monday. Coaches always want players present, but this will be much ado about nothing.
5. Harbaugh confirmed only that Bradley Bozeman moving to center remains an option, but this is an instance where the draft may truly dictate that decision, especially if someone like Alabama’s Landon Dickerson or Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey falls into their lap. There’s favorable recent history with both schools.
6. DeCosta wouldn’t touch questions about the reported free-agent visit of offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva or the status of right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., but the timing of the former Pittsburgh Steeler talking with the Ravens is interesting at the very least. They need more tackle depth regardless.
7. Asked about extension talks with Lamar Jackson, DeCosta provided nothing new and described the star quarterback as “a very patient guy.” The short-term uncertainty with the salary cap certainly adds a challenging wrinkle to contract talks, something Buffalo is also experiencing with Josh Allen.
8. Safety remains a position of interest with the Ravens lacking depth and DeShon Elliott scheduled for free agency next offseason, but DeCosta describing Chuck Clark as being “in many ways the heart and soul of our defense” reiterates how they feel about him. He’s a bargain under contract through 2023.
9. Describing the draft as a “luck-driven process,” DeCosta expressed a desire to make 20 picks between this year and next. The draft uncertainty stemming from the pandemic and Jackson’s looming payday would almost make it an upset not to add a pick or two to their current seven 2021 selections.
10. That wish would seem to make it very unlikely that the Ravens will sign a notable unrestricted free agent before the May 3 deadline for the compensatory pick formula. Forfeiting one of the projected 2022 fourth-round picks for Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue would be painful for DeCosta.
11. With the increasing use of GPS tracking for player movement, Joe Hortiz said “you use it to marry it to what you’re seeing” on tape and in live-game action for the evaluation of players. The best organizations embrace new information as a means to both challenge and enhance their process.
12. Seeing the fully vaccinated and unmasked DeCosta, Harbaugh, and Hortiz sitting next to each other for the video call was a welcome reminder of our path back toward normalcy. The Ravens won’t have anyone in Cleveland for the draft, but they’ll have a “traditional” draft room similar to pre-pandemic years.