The Ravens’ eight-man class in the 2021 NFL draft addressed multiple positions of need, namely, wide receiver, edge rusher and interior offensive line. Missing among the newest Ravens: an offensive tackle, a hole created after the trade of Orlando Brown Jr. last week.
“Well, we have some guys that we think are going to compete right now at the right tackle spot, and we’re excited about that,” general manager Eric DeCosta said Saturday at the team’s post-draft news conference. “As I learned from my mentor [executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome, we don’t have to play games until September. We’re confident that we’ll have a right tackle. We’ll have a strong offensive line. The best guys are going to play. We have great competition, and we’ll be ready to play when the time comes.”
The Ravens were widely linked to Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, who would have filled the team’s need at right tackle or projected as an instant contributor at guard. But the team opted against picking Jenkins twice in the first round, selecting Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Penn State edge rusher Odafe Oweh at Nos. 27 and 31 overall, respectively. Jenkins went to the Chicago Bears at No. 39.
With the team’s second-round pick traded away to the Chiefs as part of the Brown trade, DeCosta watched Friday night as many of the top remaining tackle options flew off the board. DeCosta said multiple factors played a role in the team not selecting a tackle, including medical concerns for some prospects and scheme fits for others.
Coach John Harbaugh said second-year lineman Tyre Phillips, who spent time at both right guard and right tackle as a rookie, is a right tackle “as it stands” and “he’s going to make major strides really fast.” Veteran Andre Smith, who opted out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns, also remains on the roster.
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The Ravens have reportedly met with free-agent linemen Alejandro Villanueva and Dennis Kelly. If the team signs either, it is expected to happen after May 3, when free-agent signings do not count toward the compensatory pick formula.
“I think we’re really comfortable where we are right now as an offensive line and as an offense with personnel,” DeCosta said. “Certainly, if the opportunity presents itself over the next four months or three months to add additional players at any position, we’ll consider that very strongly and do what’s best for the club.”
Competition expected in crowded wide receiver room
Harbaugh said that there will be “a lot of competition” among the team’s wide receivers after the Ravens selected two wideouts in the draft — Bateman and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace — for the fourth consecutive season.
“I think we’ve done a lot of work on just evolving our scheme and building what we’re doing in there,” Harbaugh said. “It really is going to come down to execution and just how you play the game. That’s why I can’t wait to get to practice to do that. But adding these players is a big part of it and then developing our other guys. I think we have a really strong room. There is going to be a lot of competition. There are a lot of good people in there. They’re hard workers. They’re all very talented. They’re going to push each other [and] work with each other. Lamar [Jackson] and the quarterbacks are going to be excited, too, [and] the coaches. It’s a great situation.”
After facing constant questions this offseason about the organization’s history drafting receivers, DeCosta said he was “insulted” by the criticism of the team’s wideouts, a move that led many to believe wide receiver wasn’t an early-round priority. But the team selected Bateman with the first of its two first-rounders and then picked Wallace, who DeCosta said was “too good of a player for us not to take” in the fourth round.
“Sometimes what we say leading up to the draft, there’s different ways to interpret those types of things, and it’s a game,” DeCosta said. “The draft is a game. It never serves us any purpose to give away any inside information. We’re not going to talk about players that we love. We’re not going to talk about players that we want to pick, strategies, all those types of things.”
Bateman and Wallace will join returning receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin, both 2019 draft picks, along with Devin Duvernay and James Proche, who were selected in last year’s draft. The Ravens also signed Sammy Watkins, who at 27 is the elder statesman of the bunch.