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Ravens Approach NFL Draft With Defined Needs, But Few Early Picks

April 3, 2019
After dealing away this year's second-round pick to grab quarterback Lamar Jackson last season, the Ravens have just one of the first 84 picks in this year's NFL Draft, which begins April 25.

Barring any trades -- and with the Ravens, that should never be ruled out -- the Ravens will pick at No. 22 in the first round, and then not again until the No. 85 pick in the third round. 

While that suggests the Ravens might miss out on top-tier talent, general manager Eric DeCosta said this is a deep draft class and having multiple picks in later rounds, as the Ravens do, is a good spot to be in. It also suggests the Ravens would be agreeable once again to moving back to stockpile more picks.

As of now, the Ravens have the No. 22 overall pick, two picks in the third round (Nos. 85 and No. 102), two in the fourth round (Nos. 113 and 123), one in the fifth round (No. 160) and two in the sixth round (Nos. 191 and 193). 

"Those third-round picks and those fourth-round picks, those are gold for us this year," DeCosta said at the team's pre-draft news conference April 2. "In this draft, having four picks in those two rounds, that's an ideal situation to be in."

In the wake of free agency and other roster moves, the Ravens have major needs at wide receiver, inside linebacker and edge rusher, and they have repeatedly stressed the desire to get bigger, stronger and more physical along the interior offensive line. 

And while DeCosta said that "if there's a great player there at 22, we'll make the pick," several of his comments suggested that the Ravens are open to trading back from that No. 22 spot and acquiring more picks in a draft that DeCosta said features about 180 draftable players.

For example, DeCosta said he expects the top inside linebackers such as Michigan's Devin Bush and LSU's Devin White to be off the board by the time the Ravens are on the clock at No. 22, but he noted that there are some "very, very good players in that second tier" of inside linebackers.

DeCosta also noted that he could see three or four centers being first- or second-round picks. North Carolina State's Garrett Bradbury is viewed by many as the top center in the draft, but the prospect of moving back and landing a highly rated center plus an additional pick will definitely intrigue DeCosta and company. 

The draft is also considered lacking in the elite wide receiver talent of some years but there is appreciable depth, and DeCosta sounded as if the Ravens want to secure at least a couple of wide receivers. Frankly, they need to. 

With Michael Crabtree released and John Brown gone as a free agent, Willie Snead and Chris Moore are the only Ravens receivers with any NFL receptions. 

Two receivers the Ravens drafted on Day Three last year -- fourth-rounder Jaleel Scott and fifth-rounder Jordan Lasley -- didn't play a down. Scott spent the year on injured reserve and Lasley was inactive in every game.

Asked about drafting wide receivers, DeCosta said, "I think one of the biggest things we have to do is just get some at-bats and swing. It's hard to be a .400 hitter if you're only going to bat twice. So we have to take some chances. We have to find some guys that we like."

And as DeCosta has said in the past, the more picks they have, the more likely they are to hit on the pick. 

It all points to the Ravens trading back at least once in this draft. The Ravens last year traded back twice in the first round before selecting tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25 overall, and they used some of that acquired capital to jump back into the first round to draft Jackson at No. 32. The Ravens made six trades during last year's draft, which netted them a total of 12 draft picks, tied for the most in franchise history. 

In 2010 and 2012, the Ravens traded out of the first round altogether. 

Now, the buck stops with DeCosta on all these trade calls, as this will be his first draft in the decision-maker's chair after succeeding his longtime boss Ozzie Newsome as general manager this year. But DeCosta has been deeply involved in the Ravens' draft process for years, and he insists the process won't change. 

And DeCosta clearly relishes the entire process -- the evaluations, the scenarios, the subterfuge and the smokescreens thrown up this time of year. He even quipped that the annual pre-draft news conference is known as "The Liars Luncheon."

"To me, this is a game," DeCosta said, "but it's not a game we can afford to lose." 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox