The countdown to the NFL draft is underway.
The first round begins April 27 in Kansas City, but until then, the Ravens have plenty to figure out. Most notably, their contract stalemate with star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has requested a trade while under the $32.4 million nonexclusive franchise tag. If he gets his wish, the Ravens’ draft could look a lot different.
Baltimore owns five picks: Nos. 22 (first round), 86 (third round), 124 (fourth round), 157 (fifth round) and 199 (sixth round). A blockbuster deal for Jackson would significantly increase the size of that haul, but the Ravens are guaranteed at least one additional first-rounder this year if Jackson signs an offer with another team before the draft and Baltimore declines to match it.
As we get closer to the draft, The Baltimore Sun will examine which players at each position of need (quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, defensive line, edge rusher and offensive line) could be available in the early, middle and late rounds when the Ravens are on the clock.
With the return of Ronnie Stanley and the addition of Morgan Moses and Tyler Linderbaum last year, the Ravens’ offensive line once again became a strength. But with the departure of Ben Powers in free agency, there will be yet another competition at left guard. While there are promising candidates already on the roster, the Ravens could look to the draft to find not only a potential starter, but perhaps a young building block to eventually take over at tackle.
Here’s a look at some of the possibilities:
Early: Ohio State’s Dawand Jones
With respect to Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence, who is widely regarded as the top guard prospect in this draft, it would be a bit of a reach for the Ravens to select an interior lineman with the No. 22 overall pick. Taking an intriguing tackle prospect like Jones might be more prudent.
At 6 feet 8 and 374 pounds with 36 3/8-inch arms and a Senior Bowl-record 7-foot-6 wingspan, Jones would immediately be one of the most imposing players in the NFL as a rookie. A former Division I basketball recruit, the Indianapolis native became a two-year starter at right tackle for the Buckeyes, earning second-team All-America honors as a senior. A dominant run blocker, Jones has also shown the potential to be a top-notch pass protector, allowing only five pressures on 419 pass-blocking snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Of course, that size comes with its limitations. Analysts say Jones plays with slow feet and has difficulty maintaining his balance and redirecting his weight when blocking. He’s also been called for 16 penalties over the past two seasons, including five false starts in 2022. His quick sets have helped him gain a head start in pass protection, but he can occasionally jump too early. Speedy pass rushers and twisting stunts — in which defenders switch assignments or gaps after the snap to confuse the offensive line and create mismatches — might be able to take advantage of Jones’ athletic limitations.
The 21-year-old is considered a work in progress, but after the selection of the 6-9, 380-pound Daniel Faalele and 6-6, 357-pound Ben Cleveland in recent drafts, the Ravens are clearly interested in molding a player with rare size. Jones has also drawn comparisons to Orlando Brown Jr., who became a two-time Pro Bowl selection in Baltimore before being traded. With lingering questions about Stanley’s durability and Moses having turned 32 last month, it might be time to start planning for the future at tackle.
Middle: Utah’s Braeden Daniels
The Ravens likely won’t be asking their middle- or late-round draft picks to play immediately, barring an unforeseen injury to one of their starters. That should give them time to develop an emerging player like Daniels, who could become their right tackle of the future.
As a three-year starter at Utah, Daniels played 17 games at left guard, 14 at left tackle and 12 at right tackle, earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior protecting the blind side. He was remarkably consistent at all three spots, allowing just five sacks in nearly 1,400 pass-blocking snaps during his college career, according to PFF. Utah coaches told The Athletic’s Dane Brugler that Daniels has also snapped the ball at center in practice and was the vocal leader of the offensive line. He didn’t miss a game during his four college seasons.
While the 6-3 Daniels weighed in at a slight 294 pounds at the NFL scouting combine, he bulked up to 307 pounds for his pro day. He performed well in athletic testing, ranking in the 80th percentile or better among offensive linemen since 1999 in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, three-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump, but he could stand to add more mass and strength at the next level. His footwork and technique also need more refinement, analysts say, and his small hands (9 3/8 inches) are a drawback when it comes to punching and maintaining blocks.
With the proper coaching and strength training, Daniels could emerge as a reliable swing tackle with the versatility to play all five positions. If he reaches his development goals, he could take over a starting spot in the near future.
Late: Michigan’s Ryan Hayes
Baltimore Ravens Insider
It wouldn’t be a proper Ravens draft without a Michigan player, right?
The 6-6, 298-pound Hayes was a two-year starter at left tackle for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors for a unit that won consecutive Joe Moore Awards as the best offensive line in college football. The former high school tight end is noted for his spotless technique, having been called for only six career penalties over the past four seasons, including one as a senior.
What makes him a Day 3 pick is a lack of desired length and weight, especially for his height. He ranks in the fifth percentile in weight among offensive line prospects since 1999, according to MockDraftable, and in the sixth percentile in arm length (32 1/2 inches). While he performed above average in athletic testing — including an elite 7.39-second three-cone drill that ranked third among offensive linemen at the scouting combine — he’s been criticized for a lack of play strength. NFL-caliber pass rushers could overwhelm Hayes at the point of attack.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the 23-year-old Michigan native as a potential late-round flier. His experience at the offensive line’s premier position for one of the nation’s top programs is notable, and analysts praise his efficiency of movement and ability to get into the second level in the running game. Powers grew from a fourth-round afterthought into a highly sought-after free agent during his time in Baltimore. Maybe Hayes could follow a similar path.
Thursday, April 27, to Saturday, April 29
TV: ESPN, NFL Network