Top Takeaways From Ravens’ 2024 Draft

April 28, 2024

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) breaks up a pass intended for Miami wide receiver Isaiah Horton (16) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) breaks up a pass intended for Miami wide receiver Isaiah Horton (16) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

While Baltimore has long lived by the best-player-available mantra, General Manager Eric DeCosta came into the 2024 draft, like any other, with a proverbial checklist of the Ravens’ needs.

The chief needs were offensive tackle, cornerback, edge rusher, and wide receiver. The secondary needs were guard, running back, safety, and quarterback.

Call it luck, as DeCosta did after Day 2 of the draft. Call it a deft feel for when positional runs were going to happen. Call it whatever you want.

Any way it’s explained, DeCosta said the Ravens’ needs married the best player available with almost every pick Baltimore made this year.

“We were basically able to just cross them off, cross them off, cross them off with a really good player,” DeCosta said at the conclusion of the draft Saturday night. “So, from that standpoint, I think it was good. It was really good.”

Here are my other takeaways from the Ravens’ 2024 draft:

DeCosta deftly played the ‘Draft of the Run.’

The 2024 NFL Draft started with a record six quarterbacks taken in the first 12 picks and it didn’t stop there. Players at certain positions came off the board in waves and it seemed DeCosta saw them coming on the horizon.

“It seems like if you’re going to define this draft, it’s the draft of the run,” DeCosta said. “I study that list, the damn list. I have it, and I study it, and if you look at it long enough, you start to see patterns.”

Among the Ravens’ needs, offensive tackle was clearly at the top. It was a nerve-wracking 12 or so hours before Baltimore picked one in the second round with Washington’s Roger Rosengarten, but cornerback-tackle was the way to go.

“There was a trap,” DeCosta said. “If you didn’t get a corner in the first round and you weren’t picking high in the second, you were going to be in trouble. I did see that, and I think that was the case.”

The way the tackles popped off in the first round made the decision to go with a cornerback easier for DeCosta. All nine “top tier” tackles came off the board before pick No. 30, with the Cowboys taking Tyler Guyton at No. 29. My hunch is the Ravens wanted Wiggins over Guyton either way, but cornerback first was smart either way.

After the Ravens took Wiggins, cornerbacks flew off the board early in the second round. Four straight were picked from Nos. 40-43 and another two came off the board by the time the Ravens were back on the clock.

DeCosta and the Ravens also got their tackle, Rosengarten, before an offensive lineman run at the end of the second round and into the third. After Rosengarten at No. 62, and offensive lineman was taken with nine of the next 18 picks.

A whopping 10 offensive linemen were drafted in the third round. If the Ravens didn’t take Rosengarten, they would’ve struck out trying to find a potential immediate offensive line starter at any of their three open positions because it wasn’t happening in the third.

When running backs started flying off the board in the third round, Baltimore grabbed the value with cornerback T.J. Tampa instead, then came back to take running back Rasheen Ali first to kick off a stretch of three straight running back picks in the fifth round.

DeCosta didn’t have to maneuver his way around positional runs with draft day trades. He didn’t make any, which was one of the biggest surprises of the weekend. But part of that is because he could see the waves coming ahead of time.

Always a value hunter, DeCosta got a lot of it this year.

DeCosta is probably an excellent bargain shopper because the man is always looking for value. This year, he got it in a variety of ways.

Arguably the top cornerback in the class, Wiggins dropped to 30 because there was a historic run of 14 straight offensive players taken to start the draft. That pushed premier defenders down the line, where the Ravens capitalized.

In any other draft class that wasn’t as loaded at offensive tackle, Rosengarten could have easily been a first-round pick. But the sheer numbers of tackles pushed him to the late second.

Third-round pass rusher Adisa Isaac had more college sack production than Penn State teammate and Dolphins first-round pick Chop Robinson, but Robinson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds compared to Isaac’s 4.74. By the way, Isaac’s 20-yard split of 2.73 seconds was just .03 seconds slower than the time posted by Laiatu Latu, the first defensive player off the board.

Fourth-round receiver Devontez Walker’s NCAA eligibility kerfuffle damaged his production and probably his draft stock but is now in the rear-view mirror. Tampa was another case of great tape, slow 40 time.

Ali probably would’ve gone higher if he didn’t injure his biceps at the Senior Bowl, but that’ll be healed before training camp. Seventh-round center Nick Samac would’ve gone much higher had he not suffered a late-season leg injury. He’ll be good by May.

Baltimore isn’t sweating its guard situation.

One of the biggest surprises of draft weekend, besides no trades, was that Baltimore didn’t draft anyone who started a game at guard in college and only grabbed one offensive lineman in the first six rounds.

It sounds like Samac will get snaps and compete at guard, as well as back up Pro Bowl center Tyler Linderbaum. Head Coach John Harbaugh also said Rosengarten could get some practice time at guard, but he’s a tackle.

That means the in-house guys – Ben Cleveland, Andrew Vorhees, and Sala Aumavae-Laulu – remain as the top contenders for the two open starting guard jobs.

Perhaps the board just didn’t fall that way, but DeCosta could’ve reached for a guard at some point earlier in the draft. That fact means he has faith in the potential of two of those guys to emerge this summer as the starters.

Nobody thought this time last year that John Simpson would be a very solid 17-game starter. Nobody thought the year before that Ben Powers would get a huge free-agent contract elsewhere.

Those young players deserve a chance to develop and with the job. At the same time, I anticipate that DeCosta and his staff will keep an eye on which veteran guards inevitably are released at some point following the draft.

The Ravens got some premier athletes.

The back-to-back defending champions have long been a team that places high value on speed and athleticism and it shows on the field.

That’s why it was no surprise that Kansas City chose the fastest man ever at the Combine, wide receiver Xavier Worthy, with their first-round pick.

The Ravens probably would’ve drafted Wiggins either way, but they certainly returned the serve with Wiggins, who ran the second-fastest time at this year’s Combine.

It didn’t stop there for DeCosta, who assembled the sixth-most athletically gifted draft class in the NFL, per the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) metrics.

Wiggins can fly. Rosengarten is the most fleet-footed offensive lineman in the draft. Walker got the highest RAS score of any of the Ravens’ picks as a 6-foot-1 speedster who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.

If the Ravens are playing catchup to the Chiefs, they’ve got the legs to do it. The Chiefs, by the way, had the fourth-highest collective RAS score of any draft class.


Quick Hits

  • Wiggins oozed star on his first day at the Under Armour Performance Center. He has that swagger that I love in a cornerback.
  • Wiggins gave up just one pass of 20+ yards this past season and it was to Walker. Walker said Wiggins was one of the very few cornerbacks who could run hip to hip with him. Those two are going to sharpen each other in practice this summer and I cannot wait to watch.
  • Not saying Rosengarten is better than Troy Fautanu, but the fact that Washington trusted Rosengarten to protect left-handed quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s blindside says something.
  • Ali comes into a great spot where he doesn’t have instant pressure to perform with Derrick Henry and Justice Hill ahead of him. Yet with Keaton Mitchell rehabbing his knee, Ali should get plenty of valuable practice time to take his game to the NFL level. He was late to football and is coming out of Marshall. Some time to adjust and grow, combined with his exceptional burst and athleticism, could make him a gem.
  • The Ravens didn’t have to use a pick on a quarterback, as they did in the sixth round on Devin Leary, but add a year of NFL seasoning to his unreal arm talent and the Ravens may have a top-tier backup for years to come without having to devote much cap space to it. That’s valuable.
  • A year after the Ravens led the league in sacks, it’s no surprise that their AFC North foes bulked up in the trenches. The Steelers used their first two picks on maulers and have turned around their offensive line.