The Ravens search far and wide for high-value players in every draft. This year, apparently, they saw value in experience. Of their six draft picks, only inside linebacker Trenton Simpson spent fewer than four years in college. Three Day 3 selections, meanwhile — offensive linemen Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees and outside linebacker Tavius Robinson — played in college for at least five years.
“You’re just getting a more mature player,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout, said in an interview. “And how does that translate? It should get them on the field earlier. They should be mature enough to come in and hit the ground running and get in their playbooks and learn and get squared away with the life part of it. ... And then physically, another year of development at the college level. They’re feeding these guys better than they’ve ever been able to feed them, and they’re training them better than they’ve ever been able to train them. So, yeah, certainly, you’re ahead of the curve.”
With Ravens rookies returning to Baltimore this week for the team’s football development program, they’ll have another chance to show just where they stand. Nagy and Eric Galko, the East-West Shrine Bowl’s director of football operations and player personnel, have a pretty good idea of how at least a few will fit in.
Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly and Robinson participated in the Senior Bowl, while Vorhees was set to attend until an injury sidelined him. Flowers, Aumavae-Laulu and tight end Travis Vokolek, one of the Ravens’ more highly touted undrafted signings, competed at the Shrine Bowl. Here’s how Nagy and Galko see them transitioning to the NFL.
Wide receiver Zay Flowers (first round, No. 22 overall)
Galko: “He’s got the off-field mindset, mentality and leadership ability ... to adapt and work with other guys, to be a big personality when you have to be and to be a quiet, coachable guy when he needs to be as well. That’s what’s going to take him from a really good receiver to, I think, a superstar in the NFL, on and off the field.
“And then on the field, I think he’s a player that, if he was just a slot guy, and just really won there, he’d still have been a top-100 pick. But I think he showed in his craft, like, hey, he knows that he’s got to get off releases quicker and with subtle hand movements. He’s not going to win in some areas because he’s not a 6-4 guy. ...
“He’s a guy who wins off of press [coverage] and in a short area with footwork and balance, because he’s not going to win by just powering guys over. He knows that. But with his feet and timing and ability to play with great balance, he gets corners enough off-balance where he can win against press, win against vertical coverage. i think he’s really refined that area of his game. ...
“I think his ability to play outside receiver is beyond, like, a projection. I think that’s where he’s going to play in Baltimore over his career. And maybe early on, they try to get him into the slot and just get him the ball more. That’s one of the benefits of playing in the slot, is, it’s easier to get the ball from the quarterback to receiver on RPOs [run-pass options] and stuff, quick slants, because it’s just closer and less can go wrong. But his long-term future is going to be at that ‘Z’ or ‘X’ receiver spot, wherever they play him situationally — getting downfield and winning as a deep-comeback, deep-dig, deep-post kind of receiver. Because he’s just too impressive and too dynamic. ...
“Very, very few receivers can track the ball, hide their hands and not show where the ball is coming and then make the catch in traffic, especially at that size. That’s why I think he’s not quite DeSean [Jackson], in terms of build. He’s bigger than DeSean, so he’s somewhere between DeSean Jackson and Antonio Brown, which is a hilariously good comparison.”
Outside linebacker Tavius Robinson (fourth round, No. 124)
Nagy: “You’re banking on the frame [6 feet 6, 257 pounds]. He’s long. He’s really stout, too. Some guys struggle to play with leverage when they’re that big and long. But Tavius can jack people up at the point of attack. I do think he’s a mismatch inside. It’s going to be hard for guards to get their hands on him if they line him up over a guard. Now, he needs to continue to learn how to rush in there.
“And I think Tavius’ best football is ahead of him, if you just look at his track record, coming from Canada and only being in the SEC for a couple of years. I mean, this guy’s best football is probably Year 3, Year 4 [in the NFL]. So there’s some developmental aspects to him, and that’s why he was still there in the fourth round. But we always go back as scouts: Guys like Tavius don’t grow on trees.
“I went to go see them play — middle of the year, Ole Miss played on the road at LSU. I was down on the field during pregame. You get up on Tavius — wait till you see him in rookie minicamp. I mean, this guy sticks out on an SEC football field. LSU and Ole Miss, they’ve got guys that look the part, and you get down there, and Tavius sticks out among that group. So he’ll look good in his Ravens purple, for sure.”
Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly (fifth round, No. 157)
Nagy: “I did not see him lasting until [Round] 5. Just didn’t see that happening. But he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s got good movement skills for a longer guy. He showed up good in the one-on-one stuff. And he didn’t time great [4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash]. I think that’s probably what hurt him. Those perimeter players, receivers and corner, I say it all the time: Those guys probably are most affected by what happens at the combine [in the 40-yard dash]. ...
“I didn’t see a speed deficiency. I didn’t see a speed deficiency down here. Some guys just run better in pads and on the clock. So I think the Ravens are going to benefit from that. You can get quote-unquote steals in the draft when guys play faster than they time, and some teams shy away from that timed speed. He had a really good week down here, and I was surprised he was still there in the fifth.”
Guard-tackle Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu (sixth round, No. 199)
Galko: “Experienced starter. Played guard a lot at the Shrine Bowl week. ... Quiet kid, but very focused on getting better as a player. Certainly a massive person. He’s a guy that, as a run blocker, especially at guard, is just going to be hard to kind of get around. I think that’s where he kind of projects right away, is to be a really efficient run blocker and then get better as a pass blocker as time goes on.
“He’s a really efficient, effective offensive lineman that I think can play multiple spots. I think that’s how he makes the roster and plays for a while. He’s going to be able to play left guard, right guard, right tackle in a pinch, and [you can] save yourself a roster spot there, for sure, too. Efficient, smart, massive guy who’s still getting better as a guard, especially.”
Guard Andrew Vorhees (seventh round, No. 229)
Nagy: “I thought that was a great move. You’re going to have to redshirt him for a year [after Vorhees tore his ACL this offseason], but you basically got a starting-level player for 2024. So I think Vorhees, we had him in the third round. That’s where we had him graded. I think he probably would’ve been, like, a late Day 2, early Day 3 pick, and that’s where you get a lot of starting interior offensive lineman.
“So a strong kid — more of a guard than a tackle, but I think he could probably go out there and help them in a pinch if you had to get through a game with him out there. I don’t really see a lot of center, but I do see a guy that’s got a chance to start at guard. So where you got him in the seventh round, that could be a huge hit for them a couple of years down the round.”
Tight end Travis Vokolek (undrafted)
Galko: “I think he’s a guy that’s going to win right away in the NFL inside the tackle box, both as a blocker — run blocker and pass blocker — and then winning in the seam downfield. And he’s a big, tall target. He’s got really soft hands. He made plays away from his frame in college this past season on film. You can see him working linebackers.
“So, again, a guy whose lateral burst, twitch is not going to be his strong suit. Deep speed is not going to be his strong suit. I think he still could add even a little more weight if he wants to be a true blocking tight end, but I think he’s a guy that teams want now, more and more. I was surprised he didn’t get picked in the draft, just because there’s not many tight ends who are more real blockers. And we see a lot of receiving tight ends. ...
“I think that’s kind of where Travis is going to benefit in the league. I think he’ll play in the league for a while, just because he’s a willing blocker, he’s able to do it, and again, he’s not a guy that is just a liability as a pass catcher. He’s much more than that. He’s a guy that can hold for a block and then get downfield, make a play over a linebacker. He’ll do that play five, six times a season, minimum, along with doing other stuff as a tight end. So I think he’s a got a real role in the NFL. I think he’s a tight end two, tight end three, depending on what your team wants to do.”