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Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Reading between the lines on Ravens' 2020 NFL Draft approach

Just over two weeks before the NFL draft, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel Joe Hortiz and coach John Harbaugh took part in a video conference with reporters on Monday. 

The trio discussed the Ravens’ offseason plans and roster holes headed into the NFL Draft on April 23. 

The key to navigating “lying season,” though, is to decipher what is and isn’t truthful.

Notably, DeCosta gave a lot of information about the wide receivers on Monday that could give some insight into the Ravens’ draft plans.

“We think there's a lot of really good players,” DeCosta said. “Obviously, the receiver class is prolific by many people's standards, and so there's probably 25 draftable wideouts in this draft.”

While that doesn’t necessarily mean the Ravens will pick a receiver - especially early on - DeCosta said there will be about 185 players on the team’s draft board. That’s certainly a deep pool of wideouts for the Ravens to select throughout the draft. 

If the right opportunity presents itself, the Ravens can jump on a potential trade to make it happen. Or, they can be patient and wait for the wide receivers to come to them. They’ll be guaranteed to have a handful of pass-catchers they like in the middle and later rounds.

“We like our receivers, first and foremost,” DeCosta said. “I think Miles (Boykin) and Marquise (Brown) and Willie (Snead IV) and we brought Chris Moore back, Jaleel (Scott) — we have some guys that we think are going to make another jump. We really like that room. So, do we feel the urgency? We probably feel that with every position.”

Should they feel that urgency to move up and select a first round wide receiver, though, they’ll have the ammunition to do so. They currently have four picks on the second day of the draft, which they could use to go get their desired target.

“This year, we do have a lot of (picks),” DeCosta said. “We have the opportunity to maybe go up and get a guy. Normally, when a guy starts to fall, what you find is other teams are trying to trade for him, too, and they're usually willing to give up more than you're willing to give up.”

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They could also sit back and wait to select one of the top wideouts with one of those four picks in the mid-rounds. 

Should the Ravens stay away from a wide receiver in the first round, there are plenty of directions they could go. One option is offensive line. 

The Ravens’ offensive line is a question mark, as they could be without Matt Skura for the start of the season — which would leave no interior offensive line depth and two starters with a combined seven games of experience at center and right guard. 

That certainly will be a priority for the Ravens in the draft in two weeks.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges, it’s probably job one or two,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to make sure that we do a great job of making sure the interior offensive line is all set. How you do it, you do it the old way. I don’t think we necessarily have to concern ourselves with what the rest of the league is looking for in the offensive line, or any other position really, but just what we’re looking for and the type of player we want.”

If the Ravens are looking for the type of player they want, a bruising offensive lineman who can run block well is likely in the cards. Additionally, they’ll likely look for a player who can be versatile. The team released James Hurst at the outset of free agency, a versatile offensive lineman who could have filled in at tackle or guard. 

Baltimore will certainly try and find his replacement at some point in the draft.

“There are some tackles that we think can play inside, play guard,” DeCosta said. “There are some really good guards, some centers in this draft. I think we’ve shown in the past that we can find guys in the second, third, fourth, fifth rounds, offensive linemen who can come in and play.”

Aside from the offensive line and wide receiver positions, the biggest position of need for the Ravens is linebacker. But while there are a few three-down linebackers available in the first round — namely Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma) and Patrick Queen (LSU) — the Ravens are versatile enough defensively to afford to look for more specialized defenders.

“I think when we look at the board, there's obviously guys who can do all three things — play the run, cover and blitz — but I think when we look at the guys throughout the draft, there are players that can help us in specific roles,” Hortiz said. “There are guys in the mid-rounds that can come in and cover, maybe play the run.”

The Ravens certainly could still add Murray or Queen if either is available, or - if they would like to trade up - make a move to get one of them as well. But the Ravens have options.

“But I think with our versatility and the way [defensive coordinator] ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] and those guys use guys in their specific roles, it helps us evaluate players that maybe can't do all the things but can do one thing well,” Hortiz continued.

All of this is to say that the Ravens have done a good job through free agency and roster-building already — they haven’t hemmed themselves into a corner. 

But through various non-committal answers, the Ravens gave a brief glimpse into their draft process: the offensive line will be a key priority, they don’t need to select a receiver in the first round unless one falls, they have the ammunition for a trade and, most importantly, they have options. 

“We try to look at each draft and just stay true to the mindset, ‘What can we do to build our best team moving forward?’ Every roster is different," DeCosta explained. "You lose players in free agency, you gain players, guys retire, be that as it may, and you’re just trying to adjust. We’re trying to find the best guys and kind of assess what our strengths and weaknesses might be.”

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'No words will repair the damage that has been done': Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti donates $1 million to fund Baltimore-area social justice reform

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'No words will repair the damage that has been done': Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti donates $1 million to fund Baltimore-area social justice reform

Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti and the team announced a commitment of $1 million to Baltimore-area programs. 

Bisciotti, through The Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation and the Ravens, combined to donate the money after a group of former and current Ravens decide which local organizations should receive the money.

“There is nothing I can say to ease the pain felt by African-American communities across our country,” Bisciotti said in a statement from the organization. “No words will repair the damage that has been done.”

The decision came on the heels of another murder of an African-American man, George Floyd, by police in Minnesota. 

“Like many people, I am sickened, disheartened and shaken by the acts of racism that continue to overwhelm our society,” Bisciotti continued. “The most recent killing, involving George Floyd, is yet another tragic example of the discrimination that African-Americans face each day.”

The team did not announce who is on the committee of players to determine where the funds should be allocated. 

“Now, more than ever, we must all strengthen our pursuit of positive change, as we stand with peaceful protestors around the country,” Bisciotti said. “We must all seek to understand by listening better and learning more. We must all discover new ways to unite. We must all work to break the cycle of systematic racial injustice.”

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Ravens will be right there with the Chiefs in 2020, according to Peter King

Ravens will be right there with the Chiefs in 2020, according to Peter King

Everybody wants to be number one, but sometimes being number two is still a compliment; especially for the Baltimore Ravens.

With the release of NBC Sports Peter King’s 2020 NFL Power Rankings, the Ravens find themselves sitting behind only one team in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs. It makes sense, right? The Chiefs are the defending NFL Super Bowl champs.

Like the Chiefs, the Ravens are one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch, and they won their division with their own MVP quarterback, Lamar Jackson. But unlike them, the Ravens finished the 2019 regular season at 14-2, good for two more wins than the Chiefs. So how do the Chiefs manage to sit atop King’s Power Rankings? It’s simple…the Super Bowl!

Had it not been for the streaking Tennessee Titans, led by the Bo Jackson reincarnate Derrick Henry, who laid the Ravens season to rest with a 28-12 drubbing in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, we might have caught lightning in a bottle for the conference championship game. Fate had something different in mind. 

The Titans would go on to face the Chiefs in the AFC Conference Championship with a Super Bowl victory for the Chiefs, soon thereafter. The Ravens season would come to an end. They now find themselves searching for a new approach in order to unseat the Chiefs for the Lombardi Trophy. 

According to King’s report, the Ravens must first hope that quarterback Lamar Jackson improves; if that’s even possible given his MVP performance from last season. In addition, replacing newly-retired guard Marshall Yanda with comparable talent must remain a high priority. Either of the Ravens fourth-round picks, guards Ben Powers or Ben Bredeson, should address that. However, in-home improvements might not be sufficient enough to maintain the gap between the Ravens and the rest of the AFC North division.

The return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers and the addition of first-overall pick Joe Burrow to the Bengals should result in a more competitive division. In response, the Ravens have continued bolstering their defense with the addition of defensive end Calais Campbell who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And yet the gifts keep coming. The Ravens' 2020 NFL schedule is favorable, particularly down the stretch with their final five games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season. Talk about finishing in stride!

All things considered, King predicts the Ravens finishing the 2020 regular season at 13-3, and that is good enough to land them at number two on his 2020 Power Rankings.

We are now only two months and a handful of days from the Baltimore Ravens pre-season home-opener on August 14th against the Buffalo Bills.

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