The Baltimore Ravens are always one of the teams to watch on NFL draft day. General manager Eric DeCosta took the torch from longtime executive Ozzie Newsome, and he has done a masterful job evaluating talent over the past few seasons.
Baltimore entered the offseason with several needs to address. The front office has made a few solid moves in free agency, including signing safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Morgan Moses. DeCosta and company still have plenty of work to do, though. Continuing to bolster the offensive line and defense should be a high priority heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Here is how the Ravens could approach the first three rounds in April.
Round 1, No. 14 overall: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Strengthening the interior offensive line just skyrocketed to the top of the list of priorities for the Baltimore Ravens. Starting center Bradley Bozeman signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers in free agency. That leaves a massive void in the middle of the offensive line.
Inconsistency and injuries plagued Baltimore up front in 2021. Bozeman’s departure certainly doesn’t help. The Ravens have never drafted a center in the first round in draft history. However, there’s a first time for everything. Cornerback and defensive tackle are other directions Baltimore could go in, but those can wait until later.
Grabbing Tyler Linderbaum would be a huge get for the Ravens. Led by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are a run-centric offense. The Iowa product would be just what the doctor ordered. He’s the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL draft. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 95.4 for the 2021 season.
Linderbaum doesn’t possess ideal size for the position, but he makes up for it in footwork, core strength, and leverage. He’s hard to beat at the point of attack, and his skill set suits what Baltimore wants to do offensively. He could be a cornerstone in the trenches for years to come.
Round 2, No. 45 overall: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
While it would be fantastic to be able to land Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., or Trent McDuffie in the first round, the upcoming draft class has some promising prospects who could be available later. Roger McCreary is one of those guys.
McCreary enjoyed a product career at Auburn as a two-year starter. He recorded 135 tackles, 30 passes defended, and six interceptions during his tenure. Only three college football cornerbacks have earned PFF grades over 80.0 or above in each of the past two seasons — McDuffie, Houston’s Marcus Jones, and McCreary.
Injuries decimated the Ravens locker room in 2021, especially in the secondary. All-Pros Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey suffered season-ending injuries, testing the roster’s depth. McCreary has the tools to be a No. 2 or No. 3 corner in the NFL and would be an ideal third option in Baltimore.
The Tigers star plays a physical brand of football, which John Harbaugh’s squad has been known for over the years. He lacks arm length, which concerns some scouts. However, he’s excellent in press-man coverage, and his aggressiveness could cause problems for opposing receivers.
Round 3, No. 76 overall: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
Eric DeCosta has been open about his desire to get younger on the defensive line. Brandon Williams (33) is an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. Calais Campbell (35) announced he would play in 2022, but his future in Baltimore is also up in the air.
The Ravens recently signed Michael Pierce in free agency. The 29-year-old began his career in Baltimore but spent the 2021 season with the Minnesota Vikings. Getting him back was huge for Mike Macdonald’s defense, as he’s strong in stopping the run but can also provide interior pass rush. Even with his arrival, the Ravens could look to add more depth.
Phidarian Mathis is a player the front office could jump at if he’s still on the board at No. 76. The Ravens have a history of drafting SEC prospects, and Mathis had a breakout season at Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has the ability to anchor run-stopping efforts. While Pierce thrives as a nose tackle, Mathis is versatile.
Baltimore could line the Crimson Tide standout up in multiple techniques. Mathis finished with 53 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and nine sacks in 2021. He ranked third in the SEC in sacks from his interior defensive line position.
Round 3, No. 100 overall: Kellen Diesch, OT, Arizona State
The Ravens addressed their offensive line by selecting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. However, depth and inconsistency were issues for the unit in 2021. The front office must keep bolstering the front line to ensure 2022 has a different ending.
Kellen Diesch isn’t the perfect prospect by any means. He has short arms and needs to bulk up and get stronger to be a starter at the next level. However, he stands 6-foot-7, 301 pounds, and possesses solid athleticism for his size.
Diesch’s skill set fits best in a zone-blocking scheme, which makes him an intriguing selection for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson should be excited to get J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards back in the backfield, as the offense runs smoother with the top guys in the lineup. Diesch also thrived in pass protection, allowing just seven pressures in 2021.
The Ravens likely wouldn’t require Diesch to come in and start right away. They can develop him and hope that he can become a rotational piece along the offensive line.