On Friday, the Ravens traded Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs for a haul of draft picks, including another first-round selection. Starting Thursday, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta will have to decide what to do with them.
With uncertainty about the team’s direction swirling ahead of the draft, The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker, Jonas Shaffer and Daniel Oyefusi address some of the Ravens’ biggest questions, including how to replace Brown, which prospect is too good to turn down, and whether the Ravens might actually trade up.
The Ravens now have one starting-level tackle on their roster. With another first-round pick in hand, and free-agent tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Dennis Kelly having visited, how should Friday’s trade change the Ravens’ draft approach?
Childs Walker: The Ravens needed to draft a potential long-term replacement for Brown, even if he had been on the team for 2021. The trade merely added urgency to the situation. Villanueva or Kelly would give them insurance if said draft pick isn’t ready to start in Week 1, but they need a young tackle to pair with Ronnie Stanley. This class is well stocked with candidates, whether the Ravens want to pick Teven Jenkins late in the first round or trade down into the second round. Regardless of which approach they take, they should aim to come out of the first two days with a future right tackle.
Jonas Shaffer: Villanueva, 32, has never started at right tackle. Kelly, 31, is a right tackle, but his play has dropped off the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. It would be asking a lot of almost any lineman over age 30 to come in and run-block with the athleticism that made Brown so critical to the Ravens rushing attack’s second-half surge last season.
So, yes, DeCosta needs to find Brown’s replacement in the draft. Before Friday’s trade, the Ravens could’ve gotten away with drafting a developmental prospect, whether it was a tackle who could play guard as a rookie, or a pure tackle who needed a season or two to find his NFL footing. Now they have to spend an early pick on someone who could have a chance of slowing Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt as a rookie.
Daniel Oyefusi: Days before the Ravens traded Brown to the Chiefs, DeCosta said that a move wouldn’t affect the team’s approach at tackle. But there’s no question that the trade makes the position more of a priority in the draft. Whether the team signs Villanueva or Kelly, both are over 30 years old and a free-agent signing should only be viewed as a stopgap solution. With an extra first-round pick, the Ravens should have options and the draft capital to target a tackle they value, whether they trade up, trade back to recoup the second-rounder they traded away, or stay where they’re slotted.
The Ravens have most often been linked to Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., Alabama center Landon Dickerson, Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh and Texas Christian safety Trevon Moehrig. Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins could also now be in play. Of those six, who should be the top option at No. 27?
Childs Walker: Moehrig might be the best value, but the pick here would be Oweh. The Ravens have lost more talent at outside linebacker than any other position over the past three years, and they need to take advantage of a deep class to reload. Oweh does not seem like a Ravens pick based on his college production, but his rare speed and high-energy style would make him an exciting fit for defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s creative blitzes and deceptions.
Jonas Shaffer: If Jenkins is still on the board, you don’t worry about who else is available. Don’t let the glasses fool you; he’s a mean dude and a high-impact run blocker. Jenkins might not have the highest ceiling as a pass blocker, but he’s been good enough, with no sacks allowed as a junior or senior, according to PFF. And most of those snaps came as a right tackle, a rarity among this class’ top tackle prospects. Jenkins also has experience at left guard, in case the Ravens need to move him around.
Daniel Oyefusi: Given the Ravens’ style of play, offseason comments from DeCosta and now the Brown trade, Jenkins certainly has to be considered the top option. He’d bring position versatility to an offensive line that will surely be tinkered with during training camp and would project as a long-term option at right tackle. It could be argued that the Ravens have a more dire need for a wide receiver or edge rusher, but all the options likely available at No. 27 are more flawed prospects and the team might be better off finding similar value on Day 2.
Under Eric DeCosta, the Ravens have never traded out of the first round. Is there more value in keeping both first-round picks, trading down with both first-round picks, or keeping one and trading the other?
Childs Walker: This question will be answered in part by what happens in front of the Ravens. It’s hard to imagine DeCosta using both picks to trade down; there will likely be good value available at several positions the Ravens need to fill. Keep in mind also that DeCosta said the Ravens aren’t looking to draft 12 or 13 players this year, so it’s not clear they need to load up on more picks after they added two in the Chiefs trade. Given the depth at offensive line and wide receiver, it’s not hard to see the Ravens trading down into the second round, but the guess here is that they’ll make their two first-round picks.
Jonas Shaffer: DeCosta doesn’t like sitting on the sideline for any of the draft’s early rounds, but would the return on a late-first-round pick be all that appetizing? According to the oft-cited Jimmy Johnson trade value charts, the Ravens could get something approaching the value of the New York Giants’ second- and third-round picks (Nos. 42 and 76) if they traded No. 27. If they dealt No. 31, the Miami Dolphins’ second- and third-round picks (Nos. 50 and 81) would be fair value. One potential swing DeCosta could take: swapping No. 27 overall for a first-round pick in next year’s draft.
Daniel Oyefusi: This all depends on the Ravens’ draft board and which prospects may fall to them at the back end of the first round. The team is sitting on nine draft picks and doesn’t have a second-rounder, but DeCosta will have the flexibility to move around if he desires to do so. After the No. 31 overall pick, the Ravens select No. 94 overall in the third round. Waiting for 63 picks between selections isn’t optimal, but there is something to be said for the value of the fifth-year option that comes with first-round picks. If the Ravens have the chance to nab two impact rookies toward the end of the first round and get five seasons of (fairly) cheap production out of them, it’s worth potentially sitting out the second round.
The Ravens need upgrades at wide receiver, offensive tackle, interior offensive line and edge rusher. Which position, if any, could the Ravens reasonably avoid addressing until Day 3 of the draft?
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Childs Walker: Interior offensive line. The Ravens signed Kevin Zeitler to start at right guard, and they seem confident Bradley Bozeman can handle the switch to center. They would have enough decent options to compete for the left guard job even if they don’t draft a potential Week 1 starter. They could add a developmental lineman or two on Day 3 and get by in 2021.
Jonas Shaffer: This was a more interesting question before the trade of Brown. Now the Ravens have to go get a tackle before Day 3; with their youth along the interior and Bozeman’s versatility, the Ravens have a few paths to at least solid play at guard or center without investing significant draft capital. The wrinkle here is that several of the Ravens’ potential first-round targets at tackle might actually be better off at guard. Depending on your general life outlook, that’s either good news or bad news.
Daniel Oyefusi: Interior offensive line. The Ravens are already situated better at the position after signing Zeitler and with Bozeman set to start somewhere on the inside, whether it’s at guard or center. And don’t discount young returning players such as Ben Powers and Trystan Colon-Castillo, who looked capable when given opportunities and could further develop under a more normal offseason program.
Finally, the big one: Is there any chance the Ravens might actually trade up in the first round?
Childs Walker: This seems far-fetched given that they need potential starters at edge rusher and right tackle. If they keep their picks, they could come away with very good players at both spots. If one of the top wide receivers drops to the middle of the first round, they might be tempted, but they’ve never seemed inclined to make a big splash at that position at the expense of their overall roster. Given the money crunch they’re about to face, they’d benefit from adding two first-round picks who could be under team control for five years. The Brown trade was about building depth beyond 2021, so they might as well follow through on that mission.
Jonas Shaffer: As wild as it would be to see the Ravens — the run-first Ravens, the currently-lacking-a-right-tackle Ravens, the we-want-10-draft-pick Ravens — trade up and draft Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, common sense suggests otherwise. If Brown’s trade proved anything, it’s that DeCosta is more interested in building for the future than in fortifying a Super Bowl roster for 2021. Not to mention, the Ravens’ class of free agents for 2022 is huge, and the best way to build (or rebuild) a deep roster on the cheap is with draft picks.
Daniel Oyefusi: The acquisition of the second first-round pick makes trading up seem much more feasible than it was a week ago. The Ravens covet draft picks and having a healthy number of them, so any trade to move up wouldn’t be a blockbuster deal but a small jump to land a player they’ve been eying. Again, this is all dependent on the team’s board and where they have prospects slotted. DeCosta has shown the ability to exercise patience and let players fall to him (see Patrick Queen in 2020). He’s also displayed the boldness to be aggressive if the opportunity presents itself to make a deal that would benefit the team at the right price. All options will be on the table Thursday, and that’s what makes the draft so fun.