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Mike Preston

Mike Preston: The NFL draft is prime time for the Ravens to beef up and get back to their roots | COMMENTARY

Nearly two months ago, one of the so-called experts predicted the Ravens top draft pick in 2022 would be a wide receiver, which drew laughter from those who are closer to the team.

Oh no, here they go again.

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As usual, other national pundits made similar prognostications in the following weeks, but those suggestions have since died out, and with good reason.

The Lamar Jackson mania has started to fade, and the Ravens have gotten back to common sense building their team from inside out, instead of outside in.

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In other words, if they really want to build up this team and take the next step, they’ll find some interior linemen on both sides of the ball instead of selecting another receiver with the No. 14 overall pick.

In fact, if the Ravens really want to make a big splash, trade down to get more picks in the second, third or fourth rounds, where there is a heavy concentration of talent.

Because of the extra year granted to college athletes due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is more depth, talent and experience in those rounds than in recent drafts. That’s where the Ravens should stack their roster with interior linemen, especially guards, centers and pass rushers on the inside and off the edge.

The Ravens might end up selecting a receiver or two later in the draft, but it won’t be based on need. Right now, they have enough quality guys on the roster to form a competitive group, even after they released Miles Boykin on Monday. The Ravens aren’t the Los Angeles Rams of a year ago, but they don’t have to be.

They have speed in Marquise Brown and Devin Duvernay. They have versatility in Rashod Bateman, who can play inside or outside and make big plays at either position. They have a possession type in James Proche II and one of the game’s top tight ends in Mark Andrews.

A year ago, the Ravens went from having the worst passing offense to No. 13. They would be better if they had a more proven coordinator in putting a passing game together than Greg Roman, but that’s another reason why they shouldn’t be concerned with taking a receiver with their top pick.

The Ravens have a run-first mentality. They’ve drafted six receivers in the last three years, including Brown and Bateman, who were both taken in the first round, and the Ravens have won one playoff game in that time.

Yes, just one.

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Plus, if you’ve spoken with general managers or agents from around the league, there is a consensus that a receiver might not even be taken with any of the top 10 picks, which is quite a contrast from a year ago when Cincinnati picked LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5, Miami selected Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle at No. 6 and Philadelphia took the Crimson Tide’s DeVonta Smith with the No. 10 selection.

So, will adding a receiver with the No. 14 selection make that much of a difference in this offense? No. Plus, the Ravens have a history of poor selections with receivers in the draft, and right now the star status of both Bateman and Brown are questionable.

But here are two facts. Last year, the Ravens allowed 57 sacks and produced only 34. Jackson didn’t have time to throw, and if he continues to get tossed around like last season, he won’t last long in the NFL. There are already indications that he might be slowing down.

A history of the draft will reveal that a team can find a quality offensive lineman in almost every round. And if by chance the Ravens move back to later in the first round, they could still end up with another Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Todd Heap if they are fortunate.

The 2022 draft is a good opportunity for the Ravens to stockpile talent. We’ve seen enough of the pretty boy stuff since 2018, when the Ravens chose Jackson, Andrews and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst.

They’ve added these so-called elite cornerbacks and overpaid, old safeties like Eric Weddle and Earl Thomas. But it’s time the Ravens got back to their roots and play old-school, blue-collar football.

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It’s time to stack up the beef and build up the foundation of this team.


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