The Ravens’ draft had a high bar to clear this weekend. With quarterback Lamar Jackson agreeing to a historic extension Thursday afternoon, just hours before the first round started, the stakes in the team’s war room felt relatively low — unusually low. A quiet Day 2 and smaller-than-normal haul of picks didn’t lend the draft much juice, either.
Still, there was plenty to talk about after the Ravens wrapped up their weekend Saturday with six selections and plenty of weary smiles. As the team moves on to the next phase of the offseason, here are some draft superlatives.
Most questionable decision
Cornerback was the Ravens’ biggest roster need entering free agency. After wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. signed earlier this month, there might not have been a close second in Baltimore.
But in a draft rich with cornerback talent, the Ravens waited until the fifth round to address the position. On Thursday, they passed on Maryland’s Deonte Banks and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. in the first round to draft Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers. On Friday, they passed on Maryland’s Jakorian Bennett, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo and Utah’s Clark Phillips III to draft Clemson inside linebacker Trenton Simpson.
The Ravens are expected to add a veteran cornerback in May, but even that signing will likely be a one-year rental. Sooner or later, the Ravens will need to develop or draft another starting outside cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey. Nickelback Kyle Hamilton, who’s set to move to safety, could also be tough to replace inside.
“As we’ve said, the roster is never set,” DeCosta said Saturday. “I think what you’ll see is in the coming weeks, there are a lot of potential moves for us to make: free agents, guys that we’ve had, guys that we like who are available.
“The other point I think, which is a fair point to make as well, is, we drafted two young corners last year. And both guys kind of wrestled with injuries this past year, [Jalyn] Armour-Davis and [Damarion ‘Pepe’] Williams, both. We feel the same way: If those guys were in this year’s draft, we probably would have drafted them in the same spot, and they’re good, young players. That being said, would we like to potentially add a veteran corner? Yes, I’m sure we would. It’s an important position.”
Most endearing comparison
After over a decade of trying, the Ravens still haven’t found their next Anquan Boldin. But in Flowers, they might’ve found their next Steve Smith Sr. Smith’s certainly a fan. “You got a good one,” he tweeted after the Ravens drafted the dynamic wide receiver No. 22 overall on Thursday.
“If Steve Smith has that much respect for a receiver,” DeCosta said after the first round, “you better pay attention.”
The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Flowers has studied highlights of the five-time Pro Bowl selection and tried to incorporate aspects of Smith’s game into his own. He said he welcomes the comparisons.
“He was a smaller guy in the league that was playing bigger than his size,” Flowers said Friday. “And I’m going to be a smaller guy in the league, and I’m going to have to play bigger than my size.”
DeCosta said the Ravens wanted to address their defense on the final day of the draft. Maybe they figured their offensive coordinator already had more than enough help.
“Todd Monken had a good day,” coach John Harbaugh said Thursday, after the Ravens followed up their megadeal for Jackson by drafting Flowers, their top wide receiver prospect. “He’s pretty happy. He seemed pretty happy.” Then he joked: “He’d better be happy.”
Unlike defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Monken can feel pretty certain about what he’ll have entering training camp. The foundation is largely set. The Ravens’ offense will feature a former NFL Most Valuable Player at quarterback, two productive running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards), a talented offensive line returning four starters, a tight end-fullback room with two Pro Bowl players (Mark Andrews and Patrick Ricard), and a refurbished wide receiver corps headlined by three first-round picks (Flowers, Beckham and Rashod Bateman).
The unit could have some growing pains, as Macdonald’s did over the first half of last season. But with Jackson returning, the offense should have a high floor — and a very high ceiling.
Fourth-round pick Tavius Robinson, an Ontario native, started his college football career at the nearby University of Guelph in 2018. But after his 2020 season was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the edge rusher sent his film to programs across the United States, looking for a new opportunity. Robinson didn’t know how much interest there’d be, so, needing a job to help pay for college, he took a job with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a junk removal service.
“I didn’t know if anything was going to come from” reaching out to schools, Robinson said. “But then I got the Ole Miss offer. … I think I was scheduled to go in for work, and then I got the Ole Miss offer, like, two days before, and then I quit and then was on a plane to Ole Miss, like, the next day.”
Best side hustle
Fifth-round pick Kyu Blu Kelly doesn’t just play video games; he’s helping to create one. When a movie-making friend asked the Stanford cornerback whether he had any ideas for a new game, Kelly thought about it, then conceived of characters and a storyboard in just a few hours. The premise: “If you can think of a SEAL Team Six that travels back in time to stop people from trying to change historic events.”
The idea was such a hit that it’s already been optioned for a movie. As Kelly started to explain the story during a Zoom news conference Saturday, he looked over, off camera, and trailed off. “I’m saying too much,” he said, chuckling.
At first, Kelly’s parents had agreed to name him “Blu.” But not long after he was born, his mom decided that she wanted a name for her newborn that started with K. “My dad was like, ‘This was a process the whole time. ... We’re switching up?’” Kelly said. After looking for a name that “flowed” with Blu, they settled on Kyu Blu (pronounced KAI-you Blue).
The Ravens knew last year that Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo’s torn Achilles tendon could sideline him for all of his rookie season. They also knew that he was a first-round talent. So when he was still available at No. 45 overall, they took him. Ojabo recovered quickly enough to appear in three games, including the playoff loss, and record a sack.
There are no such expectations with seventh-round pick Andrew Vorhees. The USC guard, a five-year starter, tore the ACL in his right knee at the NFL scouting combine and will likely miss all of 2023 while rehabilitating. Before his injury, though, Vorhees was considered a top-150 prospect by several analysts. If he can recapture his All-American form, Vorhees could push for a starting role along the offensive line in 2024.
Flowers was asked Thursday what it was like to be drafted on the same day Jackson agreed to his extension. “When I saw him sign that, I was like, ‘Oh, if I go there, it’s going to be a lot of trouble on the field,’” he said. “But I was happy for him. I’m glad he got what he wanted, and we’re double-juiced up.”