When the clock is ticking, when the phone is ringing off the hook — so to speak, anyway — as it was Thursday night, there are few things more comforting than doing it by the book.

The Baltimore Ravens have rock-solid NFL craft principles. Either trade back and stockpile picks, or simply stay put and let the right guy come along.

General manager Eric DeCosta said he had eight trades he could have made to trade back and acquire more draft capital for his salary cap-strapped team. But it just so happened that Nate Wiggins, the Clemson defensive back the Ravens graded as the top cover corner, fell into their lap.

That seems to happen for the Ravens on nights when they have the discipline to wait. And that’s why DeCosta rarely ever sees the need to move up in the draft.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

”One team did call us about coming up — we just were kind of like, ‘No thank you,’” he said. “But that’s not really something that we do.”

If Wiggins pans out — if he becomes the man-to-man nightmare matchup on the outside of the defense he was for the Tigers — then everything is neatly tied up. It’s another draft success story for the Ravens, whose time-honored strategies have netted them plenty of great players.

The Ravens saw the qualities they like in future NFL players when Wiggins lined up for Clemson. (Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But if Wiggins is shaky out of the gate, or if he’s not the difference maker the Ravens (and a lot of smart draft analysts) think he is, then the 30th pick will be graded on a curve. It’s all about how No. 28 and No. 29 turn out.

The Ravens’ strategy and who they picked is a comfort zone for them. DeCosta doesn’t like to move up in the draft, calling it “risky business.”

He and coach John Harbaugh playfully bantered about the decision that DeCosta once voted against: trading up from 26 to 18 to pick Joe Flacco. “I was outvoted,” DeCosta snickered, a position that he later would be forced to admit was wrong when Flacco went on to win a Super Bowl.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But DeCosta is, generally, correct: Trading up for picks, especially in the first round, is fraught — and more importantly, aggressive moves for the wrong player exponentially amplify the accountability. Trade-ups for Tim Tebow and Josh Rosen, for example, have been franchise disasters, made all the worse by the capital sacrificed to get them. The Ravens experienced this themselves in 2003 when they moved up to take Kyle Boller, a blunder that has largely been scrubbed from our collective memory two decades (and two franchise quarterbacks) later.

There is no great reward, however, without risk. The Kansas City Chiefs took a gamble on draft night by trading with Buffalo to move up and take Xavier Worthy, the Texas receiver who ran the fastest 40-yard-dash ever at the combine. It took seconds for analysts to make the connection that the defending Super Bowl champions might have drafted the spiritual successor to Tyreek Hill as a speed demon in the well-oiled Andy Reid offense.

The Ravens — hell, the entire AFC — are looking to get over the Kansas City hump, which was difficult enough with Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Travis Kelce. Baltimore travels to Arrowhead Stadium during the 2024 season, and if Worthy lines up against Wiggins in coverage, that will be one of the buzziest battles of the game. It could be a matchup that goes on for years, helping define playoff battles that make or break this era of Ravens football.

The No. 29 pick also will reflect on whether the Ravens should have broken character to move up in the draft. The Cowboys took Oklahoma tackle Tyler Guyton, one of the players most widely projected to the Ravens and arguably the last of the first round-worthy offensive linemen.

There was a historic run on offensive players — “it was an offensive draft,” DeCosta said — so fairly quickly it became obvious that a defender was more likely to fall to the back of the first round. Georgia’s Amarius Mims going at No. 18 was the first big blow for prospects that were, at one time, expected to be in the Ravens’ range. Jordan Morgan and Graham Barton were soon snapped up, narrowing the limited options.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Guyton going moments before the Ravens got on the clock could really sting if Baltimore struggles to rebuild its line this year, a distinct possibility after losing three starters.

The Ravens typically draft for value over need with good results, and they know how to use and develop a great defensive back. But the glaring urgency at offensive line was not addressed by their most valuable pick.

DeCosta explained that, in their projections after round one, it would be a lot tougher to get a ready-to-play corner than a ready-to-play lineman.

“That’s something that, honestly, kept me up at night, just because there are a lot of offensive linemen in this draft, [and] there is a pretty good pool of receivers,” DeCosta said.

There will be other offensive linemen and other receivers in this draft that the Ravens wind up scooping up. But Xavier Worthy and Tyler Guyton could be the ones who make Baltimore lose the most sleep in the coming years. While the Ravens stayed in their comfort zone of holding tight and drafting the best defender available, two offensive players came off the board that could dramatically alter their future.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

With 4.28-40 speed himself, Wiggins has the potential to outpace his draft rivals and leave the “what-ifs” in his dust. If he’s a ballhawk, if he’s able to lock down top passing targets, all of this will be moot. “I know when I get to peak,” he said, “it’s going to be scary.”

It’s certainly possible Baltimore looks back on this draft wishing it had been bolder. But the Ravens hope that, a few years from now, Kansas City and Dallas will be the teams up late at night, wondering how a star slipped through their fingers.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

More From The Banner