Baltimore Ravens

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 2022 draft

The Ravens looked past 2022 with their latest draft, trading current value for future potential and ignoring immediate needs at edge rusher and wide receiver. Never have they steered harder into their “best player available” philosophy.

Here are five things we learned from the annual three-day event:


The Ravens looked to the big picture rather than obsessing over 2022 concerns.

We hear the phrase “best player available” so often around the Ravens’ facility that it’s easy to treat it as white noise.

But it’s a credo for general manager Eric DeCosta and his staff, even when they go into a draft with a list of obvious needs for the coming season. If anyone doubted this, DeCosta answered by drafting the best safety on the board, Kyle Hamilton, with the No. 14 overall pick. He followed by flipping the top player from his wide receiver room for another first-round pick, creating a fresh need in the process. The next day, he tripled down on looking long-term when he picked David Ojabo, who might not play in 2022 after he tore his Achilles tendon at his pro day workout.


Each of these moves made sense as a value play.

Many analysts considered Hamilton one of the five best all-around talents in the draft, a rare blend of size and mobility with immediate big-play potential at all levels of the field. DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh said they never dreamed they would have a chance to snare him at pick No. 14. He was so good that they apparently did not think twice about passing on Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II or Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie.

DeCosta added another first-round pick in exchange for wide receiver Marquise Brown, who wanted out and was an unlikely candidate for a contract extension. He used it on Tyler Linderbaum, regarded by many evaluators as the best center prospect in years.

In Ojabo, the Ravens landed a top-15 talent at a position, edge rusher, where they need star power.

These moves left national analysts gushing over how the Ravens crush the draft every year but inspired more conflicted feelings in Baltimore, where fans wondered why DeCosta did not do more to patch holes in a roster that’s expected to compete for the AFC North title.

Those questions might not hold water come September. Hamilton and Linderbaum are expected to help right away, and if they’re as good as advertised, the offensive line and secondary — the team’s weakest units in 2021 — will improve. Not to mention the Ravens went after positions of need from the third round on, adding a quick, nasty interior defender, a giant offensive tackle, a pair of cornerbacks and a pair of tight ends to complement Mark Andrews.

Taken as a whole, however, the three days were a testament to the franchise’s long-standing draft philosophy, not a bandage on the team that will take the field in September.

The Ravens added terrific value with a pair of massive men in rounds 3 and 4.

We knew they needed new blood on the interior, and they found it with Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones and Minnesota offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, both of whom were projected to go about a round higher than they did.


The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Jones blew DeCosta away at the Senior Bowl, where no one could block him. He performed equally well at the NFL scouting combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and showing off some of the longest arms of any defensive lineman in the class. The Ravens have been short on interior pass rushers for years, and Jones has the potential to change that, even if he’ll start off as a “block of granite at nose tackle,” as Pro Football Focus put it.

At 6-8, 384 pounds, Faalele is one of the largest prospects in league history, with 35-inch arms and a power base that makes him almost impossible to move. He grew up in Australia and did not begin playing football until 2016, but he started for three years in the Big Ten Conference, so it’s not as if he’s a novice. The Ravens needed a tackle prospect to develop behind veterans Morgan Moses and Ronnie Stanley. Faalele fits the bill, though he won’t be the man to step in for Stanley if the former All-Pro’s ankle injury troubles him again in 2022.

In their best years, the Ravens have overpowered opponents on both sides of the ball. Jones and Faalele will help them get back to that ideal.

Fourth-round pick Jordan Stout was another future-over-present pick.

For so many years, we treated the “Wolfpack” of Justin Tucker, Sam Koch and Morgan Cox as the one part of the Ravens’ roster that would not change.

Cox, the long snapper, was the first to fall, losing his spot to Nick Moore last season. But the Ravens made a more seismic move Saturday when they drafted Stout, one of the top punters in the class. This could signal the end for Koch, the team’s punter since 2006 and its all-time leader in games played with 256. He expanded his game with a remarkable array of punts over the years and was the best holder in the league, by the reckoning of former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, has always credited Koch as a major factor in his success. But Koch will turn 40 in August, and the Ravens could save $2.1 million on their salary cap if they cut him.

Some teams change punters multiple times in a season; Koch is an institution for a franchise that lives and breathes special teams under Harbaugh. If Stout is his successor, that would be a big deal, and it will be fascinating to see how Tucker, one of the best and most popular players on the team, reacts.


DeCosta said he spoke to Koch multiple times ahead of the draft, alerting him that the Ravens might draft a punter. “We’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen,” he said of the veteran’s status going forward.

Stout oozed confidence on a conference call with Baltimore reporters, saying he was not surprised to become a Raven and adding that holding is “one of the best parts of my game, if not the best.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens worked out Stout and studied his holding technique. “You watch Jordan, he reminds you a lot of Sam,” he said.

The Ravens are acting as if it’s 2019 all over again on offense.

So you thought the Ravens would use a pick to replace Brown at wide receiver, a position that has troubled them throughout the history of the franchise? No, thank you. Instead, they drafted two tight ends, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar and Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely, in the fourth round.

When was the last time they made great hay with a trio of pass-catching tight ends? It was 2019, when they went 14-2 and finished second in total yardage, with no wide receiver surpassing 584 yards on offense. Mark Andrews led them in receiving, with Hayden Hurst third and Nick Boyle fifth.

Kolar is a 6-7 red-zone target and Likely a bulked-up wide receiver who will stretch defenses. They’re pass catchers first. As he watched tape of Likely, Harbaugh thought, “Man, this guy’s making plays all the time.” Meanwhile, the Ravens have four viable wide receivers: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace. The balance of Lamar Jackson’s targets has shifted toward tight end.


This is not to say the Ravens won’t sign a veteran wide receiver. They probably will. But we saw how that went with Sammy Watkins last year and Willie Snead IV before that. They were good citizens and made a few big catches, but they did not thrive in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s attack.

DeCosta said it “wasn’t really by design” that the Ravens did not draft a wide receiver. He did not love the depth of this receiver class and felt several players at the position went a round or more earlier than expected. So they looked elsewhere for the pass catchers.

For the Ravens, every story will circle back to Lamar Jackson’s contract.

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We descended into bizarro world Friday when ESPN analysts spent a five-minute chunk of their predraft coverage trying to discern the meaning of Jackson’s tweets from the previous night.

Jackson retweeted a fan expressing shock and anguish over the trade of Brown, then wrote, “Wtf” around the time the Ravens drafted Linderbaum with the first-round pick they received in exchange. Jackson hastened to add, “It’s not about my new center,” but by then, the speculation machine had entered hyper-drive.

Was Jackson angry about a trade that had apparently been in the works for some time, one prompted by Brown’s request? Was he hinting at some broader dissatisfaction with the Ravens? Would this further complicate negotiations for a long-term extension?

Jackson’s sadness at losing Brown, his compadre and top wide receiver target, is understandable. The Ravens would probably have preferred that he not share his feelings with the world in real time, but that’s the reality of modern athletes who have grown up on Twitter and Instagram.


Jackson has lamented fans’ and commentators’ attempts to read his mind based on social media utterances. But he would be naive to expect anything else. He’s not a random guy from Pompano Beach, Florida; he’s the most important athlete in Baltimore and one of the most important in the NFL. Whole corners of the sports media world are fueled by speculation over the mental and emotional state of star quarterbacks: see Rodgers, Aaron.

We can debate whether Jackson is wise to risk financial security by playing this season without a long-term deal. Maybe the leverage he’s holding over the Ravens will pay off in a big way. Maybe he really doesn’t have any interest in talking money until he takes another shot at the Super Bowl this season. But until he makes a clearer statement regarding his intentions, the obsession with his tweets will continue.

Harbaugh and DeCosta have played this public game as well as they can, reiterating their belief in Jackson as a leader and the centerpiece of the team’s future and saying they will be ready to talk contract whenever he is. But Jackson is steering this situation, and the Ravens could be in for years of this limbo.