General Manager Eric DeCosta and the Baltimore Ravens are entering one of their most important drafts in recent history. The Ravens selected quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick in the 2018 draft. Since that selection, Baltimore has become one of the deepest and most dynamic teams in the NFL. However, Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is set for free agency next season. While there is a very small chance he leaves Baltimore, the team wants to capitalize on his present cap hit. The Ravens quarterback has been nothing short of spectacular since unanimously winning the NFL MVP in 2019 but will likely be taking up far more cap space in the near future.
Head coach John Harbaugh’s team was decimated by injuries in 2021, leading to an 8-9 record. Not only it was their worst record since 2015, but over 20 players finished the season on injured reserve. Now in 2022, they are likely looking to bounce back in a big way. The next step to becoming a Super Bowl contender – a strong draft. The Ravens currently hold the 14th-overall pick. This is a list of players who the Ravens, DeCosta, and Harbaugh should be targeting when they make their first selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Baltimore Ravens First Round 2022 NFL Draft Targets
Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson) – Cornerback
The Ravens top priority going into the 2022 draft should without a question be cornerback. It is a premium position that DeCosta has actively talked about reinforcing. While the Ravens would ideally like to land one of the top-two options in Derek Stingley or Ahmad Gardner, DeCosta would likely have to trade up to the Washington Commanders 11th-overall pick to even have a shot at either player. While trading up is not out of the question, Baltimore has not traded up to select a player in the first round since Jackson in 2018 and has not traded up to take a defensive player since Haloti Ngata in 2006.
Even if the Ravens cannot find their way into selecting one of the top-two corners, Andrew Booth Jr. is a fine consolation. New defensive coordinator Mike McDonald is expected to play a ton of man-defense (similar to his predecessor Don Martindale) and Booth has the exact skill set to excel in Baltimore. Booth possesses incredibly agile feet, great ball skills, and the length to remain on the outside. Booth addresses the need at cornerback, has top-20 talent in the draft, and plays a premium position. If he is available at #14, he should be a slam dunk to be taken by the Ravens.
Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) – EDGE
At this point in the draft process, it looks like the field is catching up t0 Jermaine Johnson. Johnson may not be the most talked-about edge defender, but he is a top prospect in his own right. He bounced around between schools and even divisions as a collegiate player but his only and final season at Florida State was amongst the best of any edge defender in the country. In 2021, Johnson won ACC Defensive Player of the Year by recording 17 tackles for loss and 12 sacks while becoming the first player in ACC history to win Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year in their first season with a program.
The Ravens selected a pass rusher with one of their two first-round picks in 2021 when they took Odafe Oweh out of Penn State with the 31st-overall pick. However, it would be surprising if that kept them away from a talent like Johnson. Both Oweh and Tyus Bowser enjoyed successful 2021’s but the Ravens have historically been at their best when they have a stable of three or more good outside linebackers. This was best exemplified when the Ravens had the NFL’s number-one total defense in 2018 and had three outside linebackers each register 7.0 or more sacks. If Johnson slides to 14, a trio of Oweh and Bowser for the long haul could become game-changing.
Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa) – Center
Don’t take this next paragraph as a knock on Tyler Linderbaum, but the Ravens may be in a bit of trouble if they end up selecting the Center out of Iowa. Make no mistake, Linderbaum is a phenomenal player. He offers supreme athleticism, excellent run blocking skill, and plays with the ‘Ravens mentality’ of wanting to attack and finish every rep. However, the big issue with selecting Linderbaum is not the player himself but the positional value they are passing on with their highest-overall selection in six years. It is also important to note how the Ravens have had success finding quality centers like Bradley Bozeman and Ryan Jensen later in the draft.
There is no question that if Linderbaum landed in Baltimore, he would be a phenomenal fit. His play strength mixed with his incredible technique at both a run and pass blocking are exactly what the Ravens demand of their centers. Even if Linderbaum is a five-year starter and potential All-pro, the risk of passing on a number-one corner or dominant edge rusher is just too great if they elect to take an interior lineman. No one can rule out taking Linderbaum considering he is a great player at a position of need but the positional value would only line up if DeCosta elects to trade back in the first round.
Jordan Davis (Georgia) – Defensive Tackle
Baltimore’s biggest concern going into 2022 may be their interior defensive line. While DeCosta has added to the hurting unit with the re-signings of Michael Pierce and Calais Campbell, Baltimore has not particularly improved the position group since the conclusion of the 2021 season. A healthy Derek Wolfe will add depth, although, his injury history makes him unreliable. Pierce will also turn 30 in the middle of the 2022 season. The question then becomes, is there a defensive tackle worth taking with the 14th-overall pick?
Interior defensive linemen that do not rush the passer may not be the most impactful players in the pass-heavy modern-day NFL but Jordan Davis is a special athlete. Davis stands at 6’6″ and 340-pounds, and his 4.78 40-time is jaw-dropping. Not to mention, Davis has the longest broad jump for a player over 320-pounds at the 2022 NFL Combine. Mainly utilized as a run stopper at Georgia, his athletic traits are simply unteachable. Potentially a great fit in Baltimore’s defense, Davis is well worth the first-round pick. Then again, the Ravens may be able to explore a trade back in round one and still land the Bulldog.
Drafting for positional value
The theme of the 2022 draft is going to be positional value. DeCosta and Harbaugh have multiple needs and cannot afford to be sloppy when drafting for positional value. A historically smart drafting franchise, Baltimore needs to keep that course in 2022. When Jackson earns his extension, payroll will shrink. Thus, emphasizing the need for team-friendly contracts. Landing talented cornerbacks and edge defenders is a must in the draft, after missing out in free agency.
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