Ravens happy with ‘productive’ NFL Draft

By Cordell Woodland
Special to AFRO

The NFL draft has long been known as the “Super Bowl of the offseason.” 

The build-up for the event is sometimes exhausting but that doesn’t take away from its importance. The Baltimore Ravens use the draft as its primary source of team-building and this year proved no different. 

The Ravens entered the 2024 NFL Draft with nine picks and a need at offensive line, cornerback, running back, edge rusher, safety and wide receiver.

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta weighed in on the event.

“I think it was a productive three days. [We didn’t make any] trades – we had some opportunities, but in the end picking the best player available made the most sense for us.”

Let’s take a look at the Ravens 2024 draft class:

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) returns an interception for a touchdown against Florida Atlantic in an NCAA college football game Sept. 16, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. The Baltimore Ravens selected Wiggins in the NFL draft Thursday, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman, File)

CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson

The Ravens selected CB Nate Wiggins out of Clemson with the 30th pick in the first round. Wiggins was one of the fastest players in the class registering a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Wiggins gives the Ravens a guy who can run with the speedster receivers and has no problem playing the ball. 

“I was like ‘Man, I hope no one else picks him before it gets to us,’”  Ravens defensive coordinator Zach Orr said. “But, it was great. [I] just started getting excited because we knew he was our guy.” 

Orr echoed the sentiments of Ravens GM Eric DeCosta who said that they wanted Wiggins all along if he was available. 

Washington offensive lineman Roger Rosengarten runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

T Roger Rosengarten, Washington

It was no secret that the offensive line was the Ravens’ biggest need going into the draft. They traded RT Morgan Moses to the Jets and they lost guards John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler to free agency. The Ravens used their second-round pick of Roger Rosengarten to address that need. 

Rosengarten is a 6 -foot-5 mammoth of a man who weighs in at 308 pounds. He blocked for one of the best quarterbacks in the nation last season in Michael Penix Jr., and was one of the best tackles in the nation. He will now have the opportunity to block for the reigning two-time MVP and he couldn’t be more happier. “As soon as I heard [it was] Baltimore, that’s the first thing that came to my mind – blocking for Lamar [Jackson],” Rosengarten said. “[He’s] an elite-level quarterback, an MVP-level quarterback. It’s a dream come true.”

Penn State defensive lineman Adisa Isaac runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

OLB Adisa Isaac, Penn State

There’s no such thing as having too many pass rushers and in the case of the Ravens, they need as many as they can get. After losing last year’s sack leader Jadeveon Clowney to the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens drastically needed pass-rushing help. They selected Adisa Isaac from Penn State in the third round in hopes that he could give a boost to that group. 

“What I like about [Adisa Isaac] is [that] he’s got great length, which is a critical factor,” DeCosta said. “He’s got heavy hands, he’s got some different moves, he’s got speed and quickness, and I think he’s tenacious.” 

Isaac himself was asked if there’s a quarterback he’s most excited to bring down. “I need that [Patrick] Mahomes sack. I need that Josh Allen sack. I want to sack him just because I like his frame. He’s a bigger body, and he’s kind of athletic, so it would give me more of a challenge, and then Lamar Jackson.”

North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker participates in the team’s NFL football pro day in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, March 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

WR Devontez Walker, North Carolina

The wide receiver position has become a position that teams are constantly courting. It’s a passing league and receivers are more valuable today than ever before. The Ravens added WR Zay Flowers in the first round of last year’s draft and selected WR Devontez Walker from North Carolina in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

Walker is a speedster with raw route-running ability. He was third-team All-ACC despite only playing eight games due to eligibility issues. He has a shot to crack the Ravens’ rotation and potentially give them a much-needed deep threat. Walker talked about his ability to stretch the field being a strength for him.

“Definitely a vertical threat, but I feel like the speed, cuts at the top of the route and things like that, I feel like I’m very good in that aspect and running away from defenders,” he said. “Still need a little work at the top of the route, cleaning up steps and things like that, but I feel like releasing off the ball and being a vertical threat, those are the two strong points of my game.” 

T.J. Tampa, of Iowa State, participates in the Big 12 NCAA college NFL football pro day, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

CB T.J. Tampa ( Iowa State)

The Ravens selected CB Nate Wiggins in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft but as expected they weren’t done at the position. They came back in the fourth round to select T.J. Tampa from Iowa State as well. Tampa is a guy who was projected to go in the second or third round so the Ravens got great value with him. 

DeCosta was ecstatic to land Tampa saying, “T.J. [Tampa] is a guy that, quite honestly, we would’ve taken on the second day of the Draft. [He] is a press corner; [he’s] long [and] just a guy that we think really fits what we do very, very well.” The additions of Tampa and Wiggins will put a lot of pressure on some of the other young corners on the Ravens roster but should make for some fun camp battles. 

Marshall running back Rasheen Ali poses for a portrait at the NFL football Combine, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Doug Benc/AP Images for the NFL)

RB Rasheen Ali (Marshall)

The Ravens signed running back Derrick Henry this offseason, which to this point has been their biggest non-draft move. Despite signing Henry, the Ravens still needed more running back depth and more speed at the position. Losing Keaton Mitchell late in the season really hurt Baltimore’s offense so Rasheen Ali helps give them that speed element again.

Ali has home run capabilities with his one-cut, patient running style. The Ravens will see if Ali can be the lightning to Henry’s thunder. “Rasheen [Ali] is a running back that we’ve really liked since the fall; [I’m] excited about him.”, said DeCosta. “[We] had a chance to see him at the Senior Bowl before he got hurt, and [he] was very, very impressive to us as a guy that can run the ball, pass-protect and also catch the ball.”

Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

QB Devin Leary (Kentucky)

The Ravens currently have the reigning two-time MVP in Lamar Jackson at the quarterback position but they needed a young and cheap backup. The team re-signed veteran Josh Johnson to be the immediate backup and lost Tyler Huntley to free agency. That prompted them to select quarterback Devin Leary from Kentucky in the sixth round. 

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said, “Devin [Leary] is a quarterback that we see as a viable backup over time.” That would make sense as he’s a developmental player who at best could be an average backup. 

Leary seemed thrilled about the possibility of playing in Baltimore, saying, “[It’s] a blessing. Honestly, [I was] completely taken by surprise. I talked to Coach [Tee] Martin at the combine and had an awesome conversation. [I] got to talk ball with him, and I just remember telling him, ‘Coach, anything that I can do to help this team win is why I want to be a part of the Ravens.’ To get that call and kind of turn my whole world around was truly a dream come true.” 

Seventh round selections

The Ravens finished the seventh round by selecting center Nick Samac from Michigan State and safety Sanoussi Kane from Purdue. While it’ll be tough for both guys to make the roster, there is an opening. The offensive line has major depth concerns so if Samac can show himself to be a reliable backup center while also flashing the ability to play elsewhere on the offensive line he could crack the roster. 

Sanoussi Kane also has a golden opportunity to potentially show himself to be a guy that the Ravens can trust on the back end of the defense. The Ravens desperately want to be able to use safety Kyle Hamilton in the nickel spot so if Kane can be trusted deep, it opens the door for the Ravens to continue to play their big nickel packages.

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