Here’s what Baltimore Sun staff members think of the Ravens’ wild first round of the 2022 NFL draft Thursday night, including the selections of Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, as well as the trade of wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals:
No. 14 overall: Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: Eric DeCosta sticks to his guns. You can certainly say that much. Handed the opportunity to take a talented cornerback (Washington’s Trent McDuffie) or a high-upside offensive tackle (Northern Iowa’s Trent Penning) at No. 14 overall, DeCosta instead went with the highest-rated player on his board: Hamilton. Now the Ravens just have to figure out how to use all their safeties. Marcus Williams is a ball hawk. Chuck Clark is the on-field leader. Brandon Stephens, more of a hybrid than true safety, can line up anywhere. And now here comes Hamilton, considered a generational safety prospect until a disappointing NFL scouting combine performance.
Childs Walker, reporter: After a rough start, the draft began tilting toward the Ravens with a run on wide receivers that began at pick No. 8. The Philadelphia Eagles took one of their options off the board when they traded up for mammoth defensive tackle Jordan Davis at No. 13. But the Ravens still had their choice of excellent defenders and they went with a classic “best player available” pick in safety Kyle Hamilton. The Ravens did not need a safety, but plenty of analysts regarded Hamilton as one of the five best all-around players in the draft. He combines length, range, versatility and excellent football instincts, and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will have a blast figuring out how to use him. Hamilton’s relatively slow time in the 40-yard dash scared away some teams, but he did nothing but produce at Notre Dame, and it’s hard to argue with the value at No. 14.
Mike Preston, columnist: New Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald must be scheming up a formation with four safeties. Surprising. The Ravens had an opportunity to select Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II, which could have bolstered their pass rush, but general manager Eric DeCosta appears to have a fascination with safeties. But it would have been nice to have Johnson on one end and Odafe Oweh on the other. Hamilton has good size and is a long strider. He’ll give the Ravens a presence over the middle, but they still need a pass rusher. Maybe they will find one, which is why they traded wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for pick No. 23. DeCosta’s first draft in 2019 that included Brown, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and wide receiver Miles Boykin, who was cut earlier this month, is a clear disappointment.
Ryan McFadden, reporter: In a shocking move, the Ravens decided to go with the best player available and pick Hamilton. The Notre Dame star is perhaps one of the best versatile defenders in the country and will improve the Ravens secondary, which struggled mightily this past season. Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson seemed like the logical move, but pairing Hamilton with newly acquired free agent Marcus Williams and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey is hard to turn down.
C.J. Doon, editor: This is a shocker. After signing free-agent star Marcus Williams this offseason, safety wasn’t high on the Ravens’ list of needs. But after the Eagles traded up for Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a popular Ravens target, the options were limited. This is truly an example of their “best player available” philosophy — Hamilton is the fourth-ranked overall player on The Athletic’s consensus big board consisting of input from more than 80 draft analysts. It’ll be fun to see how new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald takes advantage of Hamilton’s versatile skill set. With Williams, they might have the best young safety tandem in the league.
Tim Schwartz, editor: This was, simply put, not the Ravens’ most pressing need. They signed Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million contract in the offseason, and their best defensive players are littered throughout the secondary. But Baltimore has never shied away from taking the best available player, and it’s hard to argue that Hamilton was not the best player remaining by the 14th pick. Opposing offenses will be up at night with the duo of Hamilton and Williams pairing alongside cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey — assuming the latter two are healthy in 2022. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher with Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II still available, but if Hamilton performs as expected, that’s a scary secondary.
No. 25 overall: Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum
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Jonas Shaffer, reporter: Nobody expected a safety at No. 14. Nobody expected a center 11 picks later, either, certainly not after the Ravens traded away their leading receiver. But Linderbaum, like Hamilton, was one of the country’s most outstanding players last season. And Linderbaum, like Hamilton, would’ve been much more highly coveted if not for his disappointing measurables. On a schematic level, his arrival suggests that the Ravens will lean more on zone-running schemes next season, which Linderbaum excelled at, rather than gap schemes, which offensive coordinator Greg Roman favors. Linderbaum could be an excellent player from Day 1, but the Ravens will likely enter Day 2 with serious needs unaddressed.
Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens stunned everyone by trading Marquise Brown, their projected No. 1 wide receiver and quarterback Lamar Jackson’s closest friend on the team. But the fact is they received good value for a player they probably did not expect to sign to a long-term extension. With that capital, they added a polished prospect at a position of need in center Tyler Linderbaum. On the surface, Linderbaum does not look like a Ravens lineman. He’s 296 pounds and thought to fit best in a zone blocking scheme. But evaluators raved about his quickness off the snap, mobility, consistency and tenacity as a run blocker. He’s expected to be a Week 1 starter, which would allow the Ravens to use Patrick Mekari in his ideal role as a utility lineman. This is not a move that’s going to thrill fans staring at a sudden void at wide receiver. It is a move that could look like smart business in a year or two.
Ryan McFadden, reporter: I’m still trying to get my mind wrapped around the Ravens trading away receiver Marquise Brown and selecting Linderbaum. Yes, Linderbaum is a talented center who will be a great addition to the offensive line. However, they still need to address their need at receiver, which I’m expecting they will try to do in the second and third round.
C.J. Doon, editor: When the Ravens traded back to No. 25, and Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II was still sitting there, that seemed like the pick. But they pulled another surprise with Linderbaum, who had dropped out of several first-round mock drafts over the past few weeks. Like Hamilton, Linderbaum is one of the highest ranked players in this class, coming in at No. 14 on the media consensus big board. This pick might not be a fan favorite, but the Ravens had a big hole at center and Linderbaum has the athletic traits to be a dominant run blocker. Time will tell whether they reached to fill a position of need.
Tim Schwartz, editor: Whoa. Safe to say nobody saw that coming. Perhaps even more surprising is that the Ravens didn’t use that second first-round pick on a wide receiver, instead opting to take a center — also a need that helps solidify what was a bad offensive line last year.
With the rising price tag this offseason on wide receivers and Brown having been up and down during his time in Baltimore, this can be seen as a cost-saving move for a team that needs to find a way to pay Lamar Jackson. Trading away one of his best friends, though, might make that a little harder.
Tyler Linderbaum is much better value at No. 25 than No. 14 or 23, at least, and he’ll slide in Day 1 and start. Hard to argue with that. But keeping Lamar Jackson upright helps if he has someone to throw to. In what is a great wide receiver draft class, let’s see how much Baltimore invests out wide on Friday and early Saturday.