Mike Preston: Strong rookie class, maybe Ravens GM Eric DeCosta’s greatest, is able to show itself | COMMENTARY


Based on early outcomes, Eric DeCosta may need put collectively his greatest draft since turning into Ravens normal supervisor 4 years in the past. The showcase begins Thursday night time within the group’s preseason opener in opposition to the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens had 11 choices in April’s annual NFL draft, and it’s conceivable that no less than 4 or 5 find yourself within the beginning lineup in some capability this yr, even with out accidents.

That’s a fairly good haul.

In equity, it takes about three to 4 years to find out the price of a draft class, however this one has been pretty spectacular up to now in coaching camp.

DeCosta didn’t set the bar too excessive in his first three seasons, particularly after his predecessor Ozzie Newsome had a robust walk-off efficiency in 2018 by buying and selling again into the primary spherical and deciding on quarterback Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 total decide. Offensive sort out Orlando Brown Jr. and tight finish Mark Andrews, two future Pro Bowl choices, had been picked within the third spherical that yr.

Looking again now, DeCosta’s firstclass in 2019 was a dud, with the Ravens taking Oklahoma vast receiver Marquise Brown within the first spherical after which Louisiana Tech exterior linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and Notre Dame vast receiver Miles Boykin within the third.

None of these picks are nonetheless with the Ravens. Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on the opening day of this yr’s draft for a first-round decide that grew to become Iowa heart Tyler Linderbaum, which made his choice considerably salvageable.

Since then, the Ravens have drafted some sturdy gamers similar to operating again J.Ok. Dobbins and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike in 2020 and vast receiver Rashod Bateman and outdoors linebacker Odafe Oweh in 2021.

If linebacker Patrick Queen and receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, all from that 2020 class, can have sturdy breakout seasons, then the Ravens may have a extremely sturdy younger nucleus.

This present crop of rookies, together with security Kyle Hamilton (first spherical, Notre Dame), Linderbaum (first spherical, Iowa), cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis (fourth spherical, Alabama) and punter Jordan Stout (fourth spherical, Penn State), is predicted to get ample taking part in time.

If exterior linebacker David Ojabo (second spherical, Michigan), recovers from a torn Achilles tendon, he’ll get on the sphere this season as nicely.

Hamilton has already been inserted into a number of packages. At 6 toes 4 and 220 kilos, he’s athletically and bodily proficient. He seems to be the half, and whereas he’s been beat a number of instances and had about two mediocre practices late final week, he’s rebounded nicely.

Linderbaum has missed the final couple of practices with a foot harm however had been regular till that time. Like most linemen, he wants a robust offseason within the weight room so as to add muscle as a result of there have been instances when nostril sort out Michael Pierce has tossed him round like a paper clip.

Armour-Davis is the prototype at cornerback. At 6-1 and 195 kilos, he’s lengthy, lean and has distinctive quickness and restoration velocity. He is flexible sufficient to play inside or exterior, so he’ll get on the sphere in sure substitution packages. Playing behind Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters is the best scenario for a rookie.

Stout is the punter and it’s his job to lose. Even if he falters, the Ravens have a fantastic fallback plan in former starter Sam Koch, now a particular groups marketing consultant.

Ojabo creates pleasure as a result of he’s every part that Oweh wasn’t a yr in the past. He seems to be massive and rugged, whereas Oweh got here to the Ravens final season counting on velocity to the skin, and little else.

Ojabo has an assortment of strikes, from the swim to the arm rips to the spin, which makes him probably the most intriguing of all of the draft picks.

Besides rookies who would possibly assist the Ravens immediately, there are different gamers who’ve potential. Like Linderbaum, tight finish Isaiah Likely (fourth spherical, Coastal Carolina) wants a yr within the weight room. It might be attention-grabbing to see who will get in taking part in form first, Pierce or rookie nostril sort out Travis Jones (third spherical, Connecticut), however Jones can change into a great participant.

Cornerback Damarion Williams (fourth spherical, Houston) has proven some playmaking potential, as has operating again Tyler Badie (sixth spherical, Missouri).

It is a brand new season for rookies. They made it by means of minicamps after the draft, the primary day of contact — an enormous second for these guys — and two weeks of coaching camp observe. Now it’s time for the preseason.

Coach John Harbaugh will hold out a lot of the Ravens’ starters, together with Jackson, Andrews and Dobbins. Most of them most likely received’t play till the regular-season opener in opposition to the New York Jets on Sept. 11.

So, these rookies will get an opportunity to play, and we’ll discover out if they’ll make the grade within the NFL. It’s early, however up to now this draft class seems to be like DeCosta’s most promising.



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