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Baltimore Ravens

‘Grand larceny’: Ravens earn sterling draft grades for first-round picks

The reviews are in. And they’re almost all glowing.

After a dizzying day of moves at Ravens headquarters, NFL reporters had near-unanimous praise for the team’s selections of Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 overall and of Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum at No. 25 overall.

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“You watch the tape, and they jump off the tape,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday’s first round. “It’s just been a great first round for us, and I’m fired up.”

It was hard to find anyone who disagreed. Here’s a look at the Ravens’ Day 1 report card, with player and team grades ranked from highest to lowest.

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Kyle Hamilton

Pro Football Focus: Elite

“The Ravens, as they are wont to do, sit back and capitalize on value with Hamilton sliding to No. 14 overall. Hamilton’s disappointing 40-yard dash time (4.59 seconds) doesn’t show up as a concern on his tape. He’s coming off three consecutive seasons with PFF grades above 75.0, and he has the size and length (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) to line up anywhere and affect the offense in coverage. Baltimore now has one of the better arguments in the league for the NFL’s best secondary with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Marcus Williams and Hamilton.”

Bleacher Report: A+

“General manager Eric DeCosta lets the board come to him and simply takes whichever top talent remains available. The Ravens invested in Marcus Williams during free agency. Hamilton is the perfect complementary piece. Alongside Chuck Clark, Baltimore can flex the rookie into multiple different positions and provide different looks in big nickel to confuse opposing quarterbacks. New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald now has a defensive chess piece. Hamilton could and should be employed in both safety roles, sub-package linebacker, nickel corner and blitzing off the edge. Constant movement will make Hamilton and the Ravens defense downright dangerous.”

SB Nation: A+

“I don’t care about position, Kyle Hamilton was one of the top-five players in this draft. With unnatural football IQ and leadership potential, Hamilton is destined to become the next great Ravens safety. I really think he could have gone anywhere from No. 3 onwards and it would have been justified, but this is an absolute steal. I love this selection.”

Sports Illustrated: A+

“The Ravens get a steal with my second-ranked player overall. Hamilton’s timed 40-yard dashes — 4.59 at the combine and in the 4.7 range at Notre Dame’s pro day — disappointed, but he has outstanding range. With a rare combination of size and length at the position, Hamilton’s athleticism, fluidity, smarts and instincts allow him to make plays all over the field against the run and pass.”

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Sporting News: A+

The Ravens have been searching for that special playmaking safety since the glory days of Hall of Famer Ed Reed after Earl Thomas didn’t pan out for long. They get that answer here in a top-five overall talent in this draft. Hamilton is a thumper against the run and a ballhawk in pass coverage. He just has a nose for impact plays. He’s an immediate strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year working next to solid free-agent addition Marcus Williams.”

Pro Football Network: A+

“The rich get richer. ... The Ravens played the board perfectly here, sitting and letting a top talent fall to them. Especially after losing DeShon Elliott to the Detroit Lions in free agency, the Ravens need another safety alongside Marcus Williams. Hamilton can be that — and more.”

Yahoo Sports: A

“Every year it seems the Ravens just let the draft come to them. How? We’re talking an annual draft pastime. Hamilton would have been a steal at 11; at 14, he’s grand larceny. He’ll be a Day 1 post safety who can move into the slot or box as needed. The Ravens didn’t make enough plays in the secondary last season. This pick will change that.”

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The Ringer: A

“The Ravens are annoyingly good at this, aren’t they? Hamilton is a rangy and highly instinctive defensive back who combines size, ball skills, and versatility. He fills a need for Baltimore and should pair well with newly signed Marcus Williams, giving new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald plenty of schematic options.”

The Athletic: A

“The best version of Hamilton would be a supersized Tyrann Mathieu who can line up all over the defense and use his smarts and instincts to create chaos. Hamilton ran a slow 40 time (4.7) at his pro day, but he timed in at 4.59 at the combine. He missed six games last year because of a knee injury. The Ravens were patient and landed a terrific prospect. I love the match between player and team here.”

Fox Sports: B+

“Year in and year out, the Ravens get extreme value on draft day. Baltimore was a big winner by landing Hamilton — a player some viewed as the best prospect in this class — at 14th overall. Hamilton’s size, physicality and range make him an ideal match in the rough-and-tumble AFC North.”

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CBS Sports: B-

“The Ravens will be getting a player who will help their back end right away. I like Hamilton, but I don’t love him like most. He will have some problems in coverage, but they need to use him in a variety of ways to take advantage of his talents. He isn’t Ed Reed. That’s for sure.”

Tyler Linderbaum

Bleacher Report: A+

“All the Baltimore Ravens do is draft great football players. OK, not everyone pans out in their favor. But it sure does seem like they handle this process as well or better than any other organization. ... Linderbaum’s fit with the Ravens may seem counterintuitive, because he’s light and short-armed and thrived in a heavy zone-blocking scheme. None of it matters. Linderbaum is a dominant force in the middle despite his supposed limitations. He’s also at his best when run blocking, which is exactly why he’ll thrive in the Ravens’ ground-and-pound attack. Baltimore significantly upgraded over the ball to impose its will on opponents.”

SB Nation: A+

“For a long time I had the Ravens taking Linderbaum at No. 14, so moving back, making trades and getting here is a huge steal as far as I’m concerned. Linderbaum is the most talented center to come along in a very long time, and I think he’s going to be a 10-plus-year Pro Bowl player. He’s incredible, and I love the value here.”

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Sporting News: A+

“No one should be surprised that the Ravens ended up with two first-rounders under Eric DeCosta and nailed them both. Linderbaum fills a big need to anchor the middle of the offensive line with his overall blocking and leadership and it didn’t hurt that his mentor was former Ravens all-everything guard Marshal Yanda, a fellow former Hawkeye. The Ravens didn’t really need Hollywood Brown, and the net of Hamilton and Linderbaum makes them a much stronger team on both sides.”

Sports Illustrated: A

“After getting a huge value with Hamilton at No. 14, the Ravens get another value with Linderbaum at No. 25. Not only is he my top-ranked center and arguably the best center prospect over the past several drafts, but he is also 14th-ranked prospect overall. While he has sub-32-inch arms and a frame that limits him to center, Linderbaum has elite lateral mobility and is an outstanding run blocker who will fit well with what the Ravens want to do on offense.”

Fox Sports: A

“Few clubs prioritize the offensive line like the Ravens, and that was proven yet again with the selection of Linderbaum, the clear-cut top center in this class. The Iowa standout offers terrific initial quickness, balance on the move and the tenacity to be a longtime starter.”

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The Ringer: A

“The Ravens were movers and shakers on the first night of the draft. After trading receiver Marquise Brown and the No. 100 pick to the Cardinals for No. 23 overall, they added No. 130 overall to drop back two spots in a trade with the Bills, landing here to grab my top-ranked center. Linderbaum lacks length but he makes up for it with just about everything else, boasting strength, flexibility, foot-quickness and intelligence. The Ravens got good value with their trades and while they’ll surely miss one of their most productive receivers, Linderbaum ultimately fills a bigger need for this team’s offense.”

The Athletic: A-

“Linderbaum (6-foot-2, 296) started 35 games at center for the Hawkeyes and won the Rimington Award (given to the nation’s top center) last year. He gave up just two sacks on more than 1,200 pass-blocking snaps in his career. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has called the draft a ‘luck-driven process’ and he’s undoubtedly aware that center historically has a strong hit rate in the first round. We can debate positional value with centers, but Linderbaum’s athleticism gives him a high ceiling, and this fills a need for the Ravens.”

PFN: A-

“There were rumblings ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft that Tyler Linderbaum might fall out of Round 1. The Baltimore Ravens ensured that didn’t happen. They ended up taking Linderbaum at 25th overall, making him the first prospect off the board at his position. That was always likely, as Linderbaum is one of the best offensive line prospects in the class.”

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Yahoo Sports: B

“GM Eric DeCosta didn’t even try to hide his love for Linderbaum at the scouting combine, comparing him to Marshal Yanda and calling him ‘the type of guy that can really be the centerpiece of your offensive line.’ So much for subterfuge. The Kirk Ferentz connection made this pick an easy one. The Ravens don’t care if you know their plans. They get good players one way or another.”

CBS Sports: B

“They needed to get a center, and they got the best one. I love the idea of him taking over in the middle of their line. He will play in front of Lamar Jackson for a long time. His athletic ability is outstanding.”

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PFF: Very good

“Linderbaum is the best center prospect PFF has ever evaluated. He may be undersized, but he’s an ultra-athlete who plays bigger than his size suggests. Linderbaum was a top-five-graded center in all three years starting at the position, including in 2021, when he broke the single-season grading record for a center. The Iowa product’s best landing spot was undoubtedly in a zone-heavy rushing offense, but that’s not here. That makes this pairing with Baltimore — who runs a system predicated on gap scheme — very interesting.”

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Overall

ESPN: Winner

“How about the Ravens doing Ravens things in this draft? They traded down twice, picking up some valuable draft capital. And they still were able to get my No. 4 overall prospect in Hamilton, who plays faster than his 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He can be a playmaker all over the Baltimore defense. It’s clear the Ravens front office wasn’t in love with veteran wideout Marquise Brown, so it was able to get a first-round pick from Arizona to move him. And they ended up with a starting center in Linderbaum, who could anchor their offensive line for years to come. Baltimore got great value on Day 1.”

NFL Media: A+

“The Ravens have to be thrilled with Hamilton falling to them. Forget his 40-yard dash time, which drew a lot of poor reviews this spring. Hamilton showed great instincts and intelligence in the Notre Dame secondary. His height and length make him a solid tackler in the open field and his range is excellent. I believe he will be a long-time playmaker in Baltimore.

“Trading Marquise Brown to the Cardinals made a lot of sense to me. Gaining the 23rd overall pick in that deal, the Ravens then traded back with the Bills to get another fourth-round pick and the opportunity to select a new center in Linderbaum. I projected the team would trade down in the first round and pick Linderbaum months ago. He’s not a big center, so he’ll need to make sure he anchors well against NFL nose tackles. But Linderbaum’s strong hands, quick feet and intelligence make him an excellent pick. The team has to hope he’s a similar find to former All-Pro offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, who also played at Iowa and was a Ravens third-round round pick in 2007.”


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