INDIANAPOLIS — The Ravens have a lot to figure out at the NFL scouting combine, with no matter more urgent than the franchise’s most important question: What’s next with quarterback Lamar Jackson?
But whether Jackson is on the team’s 2023 roster or not, general manager Eric DeCosta still has a roster to fill out and draft picks to spend. At the combine, the Ravens will get a better sense of who might fit. Last March, DeCosta raved in Indianapolis about Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum. Less than two months later, the center was headed to Baltimore.
With combine drills set to start Thursday, here’s a look at a key question for eight prospects linked to the Ravens in the first round.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson
2022 stats: 258 carries for 1,580 yards (6.1 per carry) and 18 touchdowns; 19 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns (12 games)
Combine question: How many teams will consider drafting him in the first round? Robinson’s talent is undeniable. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former Ravens scout, said on a conference call Friday that Robinson is considered not only the best running back in the class, but also “one of the five best players in this draft.” Still, with the pounding that running backs take early in their career, some teams are reluctant to invest a top pick at the position. The Ravens have greater needs on offense than running back, especially with J.K. Dobbins set to build on his promising 2022. But Dobbins, a former second-round pick, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and the 6-foot Robinson has the kind of receiving ability that offensive coordinator Todd Monken covets out of the backfield.
Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers
2022 stats: 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns (12 games)
Combine question: How big is he? The last time DeCosta used a first-round pick on an undersized receiver, he ended up with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who dealt with nagging injuries over his three years in Baltimore and rarely flashed the game-changing speed he showed at Oklahoma. If the dynamic Flowers measures in at 180-plus pounds and 5 feet, 10 inches or taller, he could be a first-round lock. Ravens coaches reportedly watched him with great interest during Shrine Bowl practice in late January.
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba
2022 stats: Five catches for 43 yards (three games)
Combine question: How’s his hamstring? After injuries decimated the Ravens’ receiving corps last year, availability will have to be a priority in their evaluations of this year’s draft class. The 6-foot-1-inch Smith-Njigba missed most of last year with a nagging hamstring injury, although he never needed surgery. If the Ravens feel good about his prognosis, it would be hard to ignore his production. Smith-Njigba finished third in the country in receiving yards (1,606) in 2021, a breakout sophomore season capped by his 347-yard performance in the Rose Bowl.
TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston
2022 stats: 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns (14 games)
Combine question: How high could his stock go? Johnston doesn’t have the route-running talent or steady production of other first-round prospects at his position, but his potential is tantalizing. With a strong combine, he could move up and out of the Ravens’ range in the back half of the first round. Johnston, a track star in high school, entered last season having posted a vertical jump of 42 inches, a broad jump of 11 feet and a 40-yard-dash time of 4.4 seconds, according to The Athletic, elite numbers for a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound receiver.
USC wide receiver Jordan Addison
2022 stats: 59 catches for 875 yards and eight touchdowns (11 games)
Combine question: How worrisome are his hands? Addison, a Frederick native, dropped 10 passes as a true freshman at Pittsburgh (14.3% drop rate), according to Pro Football Focus. He dropped another 11 during his breakout sophomore year (9.9% rate), when he finished with 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. But Addison seemed to leave the inconsistency behind after transferring to USC, where he had just two drops (3.3% rate). Ravens wide receivers struggled with ball security last season, and team officials figure to be watching the 6-foot Addison closely as he goes through catching drills at the combine.
Alabama cornerback Brian Branch
2022 stats: 90 tackles, two interceptions and a 69.3 passer rating allowed in coverage, according to PFF (13 games)
Combine question: Where does he fit in the NFL? The 6-foot Branch spent most of his career in the slot, rarely lining up as an outside cornerback or deep safety for the Crimson Tide. He also graded out as a strong tackler last season, finishing with 14 tackles for loss and PFF’s highest tackling grade in the country. But his smaller frame — Alabama listed Branch’s playing weight at 193 pounds — could scare away some teams whose defensive schemes lean on bigger nickelbacks, especially against the run. If the Ravens draft Branch a year after taking Kyle Hamilton, they’d have two young, talented defensive backs capable of contributing from the slot or as a deep-lying safety.
Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks
2022 stats: 38 tackles, one interception and a 71.4 passer rating allowed in coverage (12 games)
Combine question: How fast will he run? The Edgewood graduate and Baltimore native has clocked a 4.32-second 40 in his preparation for the combine, according to Pro Football Network. Since 2000, only one cornerback at least as tall as the 6-foot-2-inch Banks has run that fast in Indianapolis: the Seattle Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen, a fifth-round pick last year who went on to make the Pro Bowl after tying for the league lead in interceptions. In a draft class loaded with big, fast cornerbacks — Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo are fellow 6-foot-2-inch speedsters with first-round potential — Banks has the chance to stand out and lock down a Day 1 grade.
Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.
2022 stats: 27 tackles, no interceptions and a 63.6 passer rating allowed in coverage, according to PFF (10 games)
Combine question: How does he feel about the Ravens? Porter is the son of the former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker, who once got into a pregame altercation with former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis that left the elder Porter so heated, he sought out Lewis near the team’s bus area afterward. The Ravens can’t hold any grudges against the younger Porter, who has the kind of size (6 feet, 2 inches, and 194 pounds) the team wants at cornerback. But an interview with Ravens brass would be interesting.