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After ‘long day of waiting,’ Ravens rewarded with edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson, receiver Miles Boykin

After ‘long day of waiting,’ Ravens rewarded with edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson, receiver Miles Boykin
South defensive end Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech (45) during the first half of the Senior Bowl college football game, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (Butch Dill / AP)

The Ravens waited and waited Friday night, because that was all they could really do. General manager Eric DeCosta walked around some, ate a lot, made a few calls. It was, he said later, a long day.

They’d entered the NFL draft with glaring needs at wide receiver and edge rusher. Just after 11 p.m. the night before, they’d addressed offense first, taking Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown at No. 25 overall. Sixty picks and nearly 24 hours separated them from their next selection Friday.

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They came close to trading up from the third round to get the prospect whom defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said gave “the best pass-rush interview I’ve ever had." But they did not budge from No. 85, and that perhaps made all the difference eight picks later. In a span of less than 30 minutes, the Ravens took edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson, who set the Football Bowl Subdivision career sacks record at at Louisiana Tech, and then traded up to No. 93 to select wide receiver Miles Boykin, an athletic specimen and still-developing wide receiver from Notre Dame.

“Not having a second-round pick is a challenge, and we knew this was going to happen, and we’ve had time to prepare for it, but it was frustrating,” DeCosta said at a post-Day 2 news conference. “So the third round fell nicely, and it was needed because, I’m telling you, I was ready to leave the building. Such a long day of waiting, and to have those guys fall to us was excellent.”

The 6-foot-5, 271-pound Ferguson’s talents are as obvious as the Ravens’ need for them: He hit 45 career sacks in his final college game, breaking the record Terrell Suggs had set at Arizona State and further legitimizing his own “Sack Daddy” nickname. After Suggs’ offseason departure, along with that of Za’Darius Smith, edge rusher had turned from a strength into a potential weakness in Baltimore this offseason.

Gone were Suggs and Smith’s combined 15½ sacks. Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon, entering his walk year, could also be in line for a big pay day with a strong 2019. Former second-day draft picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have been inconsistent and rarely relied upon throughout their careers, both playing fewer than 200 defensive snaps last season. DeCosta said recently that both have “flashed ability at our level,” but time is running out.

Ferguson gives the Ravens another top option. A starter since his redshirt sophomore year, Ferguson impressed team officials with his breakdown of pass-rush techniques during a visit two weeks ago. Coach John Harbaugh said he's versatile enough to handle a number of roles in the Ravens' various defensive formations.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ferguson said in a conference call with reporters. “At the same time, it’s a lot of pressure. Those are some big shoes to fill behind Terrell Suggs. So I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

Scouts say Ferguson is an instinctive and tough player who will need to continue develop physically. He was not invited to the scouting combine because of a conviction of simple battery his freshman year after a fight at McDonald's. DeCosta said the Ravens felt comfortable taking him after receiving “great feedback” about Ferguson from coaches, teachers and other sources.

Boykin was considered one of the more intriguing wide receivers in this year’s draft. Athletically, his NFL scouting combine performance compared favorably to Julio Jones': Boykin weighed in at nearly 6-4 and 220 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, posted a vertical leap of 43½ inches, and had the fastest time in the three-cone drill and third fastest in the 20-yard shuttle among wide receivers. He’s also a solid blocker.

After just one college season with over 253 yards (59 catches for 872 yards as a senior), the question is whether Boykin projects long term as a productive outside receiver. The Ravens’ offseason underlined a need at the position: Michael Crabtree was cut, John Brown left in free agency and Willie Snead IV works best in the slot.

DeCosta pledged to take more swings at drafting a wide receiver, and his investment has little recent precedent in Baltimore. From 2008 to 2018, the Ravens took just two wide receivers, Torrey Smith (Maryland) and Breshad Perriman, in the first three rounds of the draft. Brown and Boykin matched that total without being duplicates themselves.

“We had a conversation where [DeCosta] had asked the question, ‘Will we take two guys who are the same?’ ” Harbaugh said, referring to receivers with similar physical profiles. “And we said, ‘Yeah. If they're two really small, fast guys, we'll be thrilled to have them. If there's two bigger guys, we could work those two, too.’ But to have one of each probably was the ideal, and to have it fall that way is exciting. It's great.”

The Ravens drafted outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson in the third-round with the 85th pick. Ferguson broke the all-time NCAA record for career sacks with 45.0 over the course of his college career, passing Terrell Suggs. (Kevin Richardson)

DeCosta acknowledged before the draft resumed Friday that moving up into the second round would likely be cost prohibitive. The Ravens had traded what became the No. 53 overall pick this year, as well as a 2018 second-round selection and 2019 fourth-round pick, to the Philadelphia Eagles last season for the No. 32 pick. They used that to take quarterback Lamar Jackson, now the center of their offense. “I think it's safe to say we're probably not going to trade our second-round pick anytime soon,” DeCosta said, only half-joking.

He was more willing to part with picks to move up in the third round. The Ravens traded their second third-round selection (No. 102 overall) and two of their sixth-round picks to the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 93 slot. The team enters the draft’s final day with three fourth-round picks and one apiece in the fifth and sixth rounds.

DeCosta did not rule out moving up again, but they should have the means to address the holes they’ve so far ignored. The Ravens need more depth at inside linebacker, a position C.J. Mosley had helped oversee with little problem for five years. They could add another edge rusher or seek an overlooked cornerback. But interior offensive line figures to be a top priority on the final day of DeCosta’s first draft in charge.

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“I think historically, if you look at the draft and you look at how teams are built, you'll see some centers and guards” drafted in the later rounds, DeCosta said. “I mean, just look at our team, guys that we've added over the years to come in and play really good football for us. So the opportunity's there, and we'll try and do that. … There's still some really good players on the board.”

And with just 10 picks standing between the Ravens and their first chance to get another one Saturday, they won’t have to wait long.

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