The Ravens will enter the start of free agency next week with one franchise quarterback under team control and one first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. By late April, they could have lost their franchise quarterbacks and added two first-round picks — one in 2023, another in 2024.
As speculation swirls around Lamar Jackson’s future in Baltimore, premature projections of the Ravens’ draft class have only limited value. But with the NFL scouting combine over and the league year set to begin Wednesday, it’s worthwhile to evaluate who could be available and how they could help.
With the help of Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator, here’s whom Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta could take with the team’s five picks.
Round 1 (No. 22 overall): Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers
Surprise, surprise: The Ravens need wide receivers. And if Devin Duvernay becomes a cap casualty — he’s owed $4.3 million in salary next season — that need becomes all the more urgent. With Rashod Bateman returning from a significant Lisfranc (foot) injury, Demarcus Robinson bound for free agency, and Tylan Wallace and James Proche II yet to contribute much, the Ravens’ wide receiver group is again poised to enter 2023 as one of the NFL’s least formidable.
Flowers would be the third receiver the Ravens have taken in the first round since 2019. He’d probably also be their most dynamic in the open field. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Flowers native had 2,715 receiving yards over the past three seasons at Boston College, including a career-high 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and was a threat on designed runs. Flower’s size and drop rate are concerning, as they were for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. But his speed (4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and schematic versatility would fit well in the Ravens’ offense. The comparisons to Steve Smith Sr. shouldn’t hurt, either.
Round 3 (No. 86 overall): Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison
The Ravens’ trade for inside linebacker Roquan Smith cost them a second-round pick. Depending on how they approach Day 1, the trade could also cost them a shot at most of the top-tier cornerbacks in a deep class. But the Ravens’ defense is short on pass rushers, too. Justin Houston, who led the team in sacks last season, is a pending free agent. So is Jason Pierre-Paul, a reliable early-down run defender. The only Ravens outside linebackers who could be considered locks for the 2023 roster are Odafe Oweh (three sacks in 2022), Tyus Bowser (two sacks) and David Ojabo (one sack).
Harrison, hampered by a slow get-off and some stiffness, didn’t have headline-grabbing sack numbers for the Buckeyes. But he led Ohio State with 33 quarterback pressures last season (six sacks, three hits and 24 hurries), according to PFF, and graded out as a strong run defender. The 6-foot-5, 274-pound Harrison has an elite wingspan (97th percentile among edge rushers) and was expected to excel in athletic testing at the combine until a hamstring injury sidelined him.
Round 4 (No. 125 overall): Texas Christian cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
With Kyle Hamilton expected to move to safety in 2023, the Ravens need to find their next nickelback. Marlon Humphrey has excelled there but could be needed more on the outside. Brandon Stephens’ playing time in the slot dwindled after the season’s opening weeks. Ar’Darius Washington has appeared in just six games over his first two years in Baltimore.
Hodges-Tomlinson played mainly on the outside in college, but his size (5 feet, 8 inches, and 178 pounds) and mentality as a run defender could make him a better fit as a slot defender. The nephew of Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, he forced 21 incompletions last season, according to PFF, more than any other defender in the country, and allowed a 34.6% completion rate in coverage. Penalties were a problem, but Hodges-Tomlinson’s stock should rise after an impressive combine, where he posted a 4.41-second 40 and 39-inch vertical jump.
Round 5 (No. 159 overall): UAB running back DeWayne McBride
The Ravens entered last season with an abundance of running backs, even if their availabilities rarely overlapped: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Kenyan Drake, Mike Davis, Tyler Badie. By Wednesday, only one could still be under contract in Baltimore. The Denver Broncos signed Badie off the Ravens’ practice squad last season. Davis was released. Drake and Hill are pending free agents. And Edwards, with his $5.6 million cap hit, could be a cap casualty.
A rebuilt running back room shouldn’t prove too costly, but the Ravens need youth at the position, especially with Dobbins entering the final year of his rookie contract. The 5-foot-10, 209-pound McBride led the country in rushing yards last season (1,713) and averaged 7.3 yards per carry over his three seasons with the Blazers. According to PFF, his career rate of forced missed tackles per attempt (36%) is third among running backs since 2014, behind only Texas’ Bijan Robinson and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams, now with the Broncos. McBride lacks top-end speed and receiving production, but he should contribute early as a runner.
Round 6 (No. 200 overall): UCLA guard Atonio Mafi
After two years of uneven development, Ben Cleveland might not be ready to take over at left guard for Ben Powers, who’s expected to leave in free agency. The Ravens probably won’t draft a ready-made replacement, either. Considering the looming uncertainty at right guard — Kevin Zeitler’s entering the final year of his deal — DeCosta will likely look to draft at least one offensive lineman, as he has every year since taking over.
The 6-foot-4, 339-pound Mafi started his Bruins career on defense but didn’t emerge until his redshirt senior season, when he started all 13 games at left guard. Mafi was decent as a pass blocker in 2022, allowing three sacks, two hits and 13 pressures, according to PFF, but graded out well as a run blocker in both gap and zone schemes. He’s raw and not especially mobile, but given his limited experience as an offensive lineman, Mafi has high upside for a late-round prospect.