Welcome back to The 14, a series centered around the Baltimore Ravens’ 14th overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s finally Draft Day, which means it’s time to put together my final recommendations and predictions for the Ravens’ first-round pick.
We’re finally here: Draft Day. After a brutal 2021 season and a successful but somewhat disappointing showing in free agency, the Ravens have a chance to build for the 2022 season and beyond with their 10 draft picks, including nine in the first four rounds.
The centerpiece of that draft haul is the 14th overall pick, a rare opportunity for a Baltimore front office that normally picks deep into the 20s. Without further ado, here are my final recommendations and predictions for the pick.
Sticking at 14
The first, and most obvious option, is for the Ravens to ‘stick-and-pick’ with the 14th overall selection. As I wrote when I introduced the series:
It stands to reason that the Ravens want to pick at least the 14th-best player in the draft with the 14th pick in the draft. Therefore, there must be 14 players worthy of being selected with that pick.
I put together an initial list of 14 players back in March, so here’s the updated version, in order of my preference for the Ravens. I’ll add a few words for each prospect, with a few more for any I haven’t covered in detail up to this point.
If the Ravens are looking for another signature, face-of-the-franchise type player, this is their guy. Thibodeaux is an elite player at a premium position who loves Ray Lewis and the Ravens.
Ekwonu would be an excellent scheme fit at tackle or guard in Baltimore but has virtually no chance of falling far enough to get to the Ravens. He could step in right away for Ronnie Stanley, compete for the right tackle position or settle at guard where I think he’s at his best. In fact, if he entered the draft 20 years ago, I think he could be the no. 1 overall pick as a potential Hall of Fame guard. Teams will likely try him at tackle first, but I hope he moves to guard eventually. Even in the modern NFL, where guards will have to get better at blocking interior rushers like Aaron Donald, Ekwonu has immense value and upside.
Hutchinson is another player who won’t end up in Baltimore, but could thrive under the tutelage of his former coach, Mike Macdonald. There’s not much more to say about Hutch; he’s an elite edge rusher who plays with passion and intelligence
6-foot-7, 350-pound ballerinas like Neal don’t come along often. He’s not perfect, but I’m more than happy to bet on an ex-Alabama player with insane physical gifts and quality experience at left and right tackle. I’ve seen rumors about medical concerns – though those have been soundly refuted by reputable sources – so Neal could fall tonight.
Stingley is my CB1, and the best CB prospect since Patrick Peterson. His Pro Day should have put any doubts about his Lisfranc recovery to rest, but he could still fall into the Ravens’ range.
While Stingley is a better overall corner, Gardner might be a better scheme fit for the physical, bully-ball press the Ravens love to play. I can’t see him being available to Baltimore, though, even in a trade-up.
Walker seems to be destined to go no. 1 overall to the Jaguars for his otherworldly physical profile, versatility and upside. He’d be fun on the Ravens, but won’t get to Baltimore.
Johnson’s draft position is maybe the most unpredictable of the class. He’s gotten top five buzz, but also seems to be EDGE4 on most boards. He’d be great in Baltimore if he can get to 14.
Cross is the odd man out as an elite but one-dimensional tackle prospect. As with Johnson, his place as OT3 could see him fall down to the Ravens.
No other human has the size, moves or plays football like Davis. He needs to develop as a pass rusher but you can’t teach what he’s got.
McDuffie is perhaps the safest pick in this draft. He’ll play slot corner at a high level right away, but I think his intelligence and toughness can overcome his lack of length on the outside as well.
I was very high on Hamilton early in the draft process, but safety is no longer a need for Baltimore. As a result, this would be a luxury pick if no elite prospects at more important positions fall.
Adding London to the Ravens’ stable of offensive weapons would make it almost unguardable. He’s my top WR, but again, lack of need pushes him down this list.
Lloyd could be the future of the linebacker position in the NFL with edge rushing and pass coverage upside on top of his elite read-and-react skills. He’s another safe, long-term contributor at 14.
Of these, I think Davis and McDuffie are the most likely to be available and be the pick at 14. Cross or Johnson could fall, in which case I’m very happy landing one of them, while a nightmare could see the first 12 players go before the Ravens get a chance to pick. In that case, I’d go with London or Lloyd, but I could see the Ravens going with Trevor Penning if they truly believe in his ability to develop in the NFL.
The unpredictability of this draft class, plus the Ravens’ excess draft capital, presents the opportunity to trade up to land an elite prospect or back to land an underrated one.
I’ve already argued for trades up to acquire Thibodeaux, Stingley and Johnson, and I’m still on board with all of those deals.
But my estimation of Thibodeaux’s talent and potential in Baltimore specifically has me pounding the table to go up and get him if he falls out of the top 5. The Ravens should be looking to draft a player who will give them his best football, and I think that’s Thibodeaux. He should be a top five player, but for reasons passing understanding, including some imaginary character concerns, he could be available late in the top 10. I’d even be willing to overpay to trade up and bring him home to Baltimore.
Stingley and Johnson have gotten top five hype leading up to the draft, so I’m not sure if they’ll even be within range for a trade up. I like Stingley enough to give a little more value as well, but this EDGE class is so deep on Day 2 that I’m not overpaying for Johnson.
I think the Ravens would only trade up for Thibodeaux, since they seem to like multiple players who will be available at 14.
Trading back is another great option to take advantage of the depth of this draft class between picks 20 and 60.
I’ll admit, I’d be a little disappointed to not land an elite prospect, so I’d want the Ravens to have three picks in the top 50 if they trade back from 14.
I’d swing for a splashy trade back with the Chiefs or Lions to net multiple early picks, but a more traditional trade back would give the Ravens plenty of ammo to move up from their second- or third-round selections as well.
I think the Ravens will explore some trades back, but the quality of deal they’re getting will depend on how the first 10 picks go.
And Now, We Wait
At this point, there’s not much left to do but wait.
The 2022 NFL Draft is set to kick off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, with 32 first-round picks on the clock tonight. With 10 minutes allotted per selection, we should know what the Ravens are doing with the 14th overall pick by 10:30 p.m., if not sooner. I’ll be watching intently, with my initial analysis of the Ravens’ first-round decision coming tomorrow!