With the No. 22 pick in the NFL draft, the Ravens will probably have to wait a few hours Thursday night for the move that will shape the rest of their weekend.
A selection would theoretically sideline the Ravens until late in the third round. A trade down could cost them a chance at a higher-rated prospect. And the position they address first — wide receiver, edge rusher, interior line? — will ripple through the next few days of the draft.
The Ravens have only so many bites at the apple. Here’s whom they could pick with their eight total picks — assuming they keep them all, anyway.
No. 22: Mississippi wide receiver D.K. Metcalf
Metcalf was one of the more popular players linked to the Ravens’ first-round pick before he set the NFL scouting combine ablaze with his eye-popping speed and strength. Now his stock might have come full circle. The polarizing prospect has fallen down draft boards in recent weeks, and he could be there for the taking at No. 22 — or maybe even near the start of the second round. The Ravens have targets for quarterback Lamar Jackson in their short- and intermediate-passing game. What they need is a game-breaking wide receiver, and the fully realized version of Metcalf is the closest thing to that in the draft. If team officials believe his two season-ending injuries in college are not predictive of any future troubles, it will be hard to pass on the 6-foot-3, 228-pound speedster.
No. 85: Georgia edge rusher D’Andre Walker
With the departures of Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs this offseason, and with Matthew Judon likely to earn a big-dollar contract after next season, the Ravens need to embrace a new generation of pass rushers. Offseason surgery for a sports hernia has kept Walker’s stock from jumping, but he has a track record of success, if not starting, in the Southeastern Conference. As a reserve in 2017, he had 13½ tackles for loss and 5½ sacks in 15 games. Last season, he started and had 11 tackles for loss and 7½ sacks in 13 games, including a dominant performance against Alabama. At 6-2, 251 pounds, he has burst off the edge and a relentless motor, but scouts say his technique needs work, and he could struggle against more powerful tackles.
No. 102: Florida inside linebacker Vosean Joseph
Joseph is, in many ways, a photonegative of C.J. Mosley, the All-Pro inside linebacker the Ravens must replace. Mosley handled many of the defense’s presnap responsibilities and rarely found himself out of position; Joseph has below-average instincts and awareness. Mosley was a lead-by-example role model in the Ravens’ locker room, even as a rookie; Joseph sat out part of the Gators’ season opener last fall for failing to meet team standards. But where Mosley often fell short is where the explosive, rangy Joseph stands out. In 11 starts last season, the 6-1, 230-pound Joseph had 93 tackles, including nine for loss and four sacks. With proper coaching and a role in the right system, Joseph could develop into a versatile defender capable of covering running backs and dipping past tackles.
No. 113: Ohio State guard-center Michael Jordan
There are certainly more refined interior offensive line prospects in the draft, but Jordan would be a nice backup plan if North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury or Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy doesn’t land in Baltimore. The 6-6, 312-pound Jordan was the first Buckeyes true freshman to start on the offensive line since Orlando Pace, and as a left guard in 2017 was named first-team All-Big Ten. Last season, Jordan moved to center and garnered second-team all-conference honors. Scouts say he can be sluggish and imprecise with his movements, but he’s still growing into his body, having turned 21 in January. Whichever team drafts him will have to figure out whether his impressive flexibility and wide frame make him better suited for center or guard.
No. 123: Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson
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If the Ravens indeed have no interest in re-signing free agent Brent Urban, here’s a potential replacement for their starting five-technique defensive end. The physical similarities are uncanny. Urban measured in before the 2014 draft at 6-7 and 295 pounds, with 34¼-inch arms and 9¾-inch hands. Nelson’s combine measurements: 6-7, 271 pounds (with what he says is room for another 10 pounds), 34 7/8-inch arms and 9 7/8-inch hands. Nelson is not yet as adept at setting the edge, a job Urban did admirably, but he projects as a more disruptive pass rusher. He had 17 sacks over his final two seasons with the Hawkeyes, most often beating linemen with his bull rush.
No. 160: West Virginia wide receiver Gary Jennings
It’s easy to see why a team would go for a receiver like Jennings as early as the fourth round. It’s hard to see him falling out of the fifth altogether. At 6-1, 214 pounds, Jennings has the size and speed (4.42-second 40-yard dash) to be an effective outside wide receiver, but he might be best deployed in the slot, where he starred for the Mountaineers. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads all draft-eligible wide receivers in contested catch percentage (54.0), ahead of possible first-round picks N'Keal Harry, A.J. Brown and Hakeem Butler. He's not a great route runner, though, and scouts have concerns about how many of his 151 catches for 2,013 yards in 2017 and 2018 were a byproduct of scheme.
No. 191: Oregon edge rusher Justin Hollins
Hollins’ most promising asset goes hand in hand with maybe his biggest red flag. His 4.5-second 40-yard dash is in the 98th percentile among edge rushers, an impressive engine that propelled him to nearly 12 tackles for loss per game over the past three seasons and five forced fumbles last season. But at 248 pounds, the 6-5 Hollins is also in the eighth percentile for weight at his position. Scouts say he’s passive in the run game, has only rudimentary skills as a pass rusher and needs to play with lower pad level. Still, with his athletic gifts, Hollins could be a special teams contributor until he finds a niche on defense.
No. 193: Boston College cornerback Hamp Cheevers
The Ravens showed their commitment to slot cornerback Tavon Young this offseason with a record contract extension. Here they can find a possible backup and dimeback. Cheevers' takeaway skills last season — his seven interceptions tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision — would have been a welcome addition to a defense that did everything but force turnovers. As with Young, there are limitations due to his size (5-9, 169 pounds) and strength (eight repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press). But his light feet and solid instincts make up for some of his athletic deficiencies.