The Ravens Conundrum
The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly upon us. Roughly 250 collegiate players who have worked diligently to fulfill a dream, will receive a call from an NFL GM this week. And when it happens, lives can and do change.
Some athletes will be able to discover financial security that may have eluded them and their families since birth. And with that comes more responsibility, more pressure and greater competition. Success will not come so easily because now they’ll have to achieve it going up against the 1700 best players in the world.
As draft eligible players come off the draft board, theirs will not be the only emotions that are triggered. Draft enthusiasts and analysts will peg many of the picks as “steals” or “reaches” before they ever step onto an NFL field. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta once said, “we try to make the draft a science but it may be more like art.”
Teams evaluate players and try to project how they’ll fit their respective teams, from a schematic perspective. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t. But because the evaluations vary, because a player’s body of work has been somewhat skewed by the pandemic, and because some teams will elevate need so much that they lose patience and select a player prematurely, this particular draft board could fall all over the place.
And just maybe, that will push a player the Ravens really covet down to pick 14.
I must admit, that I am a bit concerned about that pick 14. There are a couple of edge guys and a couple of corners that are really good fits for defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense. But if they’re gone and the Ravens are left to choose from players like Trevor Penning or Tyler Linderbaum, color me concerned. Penning is raw and isn’t exactly fundamentally sound. He’s gotten by because he’s a superior athlete competing against schools in the Missouri Valley Conference – not exactly the SEC or Big Ten. Penning is a bit of a project and a project isn’t desirable at pick 14.
As for Linderbaum, he’s not a schematic fit. The Iowa Hawkeye is a player who works well in space but lacks the size the Ravens prefer in their gap blocking schemes. At pick 14, the player and the center position, feel like a reach.
If these two players are among the best on the board, the Ravens are likely to trade back and given the teams that are looking for wide receivers such as the Packers and Chiefs, maybe even the Cowboys, if Alabama’s Jameson Williams is still on the board, either of these teams could look to pick 14 as a desirable spot to jump up into, in front of the Eagles, who are also said to have interest in Williams.
The Ravens could add some more picks and get better value than to stay at 14 and pick Penning or Linderbaum. Keep in mind that the Ravens are unlikely to get any compensatory picks in 2023 so it would surprise no one to see DeCosta unload say a 2022 fourth round pick for a 2023 third.
Last season only 6 of the Ravens 8 draft picks, made the final 53-man squad.
A similar logjam could unfold in 2022 where quality should trump quantity.