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While general manager Eric DeCosta indicated that the Ravens would enter free agency with more than their current amount of cap space – $8.5 million – there’s only so much money the front office can free up with multiple positions of need. While the team could pursue one big-ticket free agent – either reuniting with center Ryan Jensen or convincing defensive end Calais Campbell to put off retirement could be in the cards – it’s unlikely they’ll have the cap room to sign multiple quality players.
Instead, the Ravens will need to draft impact players with their 10 picks at the 2022 NFL Draft, especially with their first two picks at no. 14 and no. 45.
After some of the country’s best prospects faced off at the Senior Bowl on February 5, ESPN’s Jordan Reid put together a two-round mock draft, with the Ravens grabbing a Senior Bowl riser in the first round and a 2022 NCAA champion in the second.
Ravens Snag Senior Bowl Riser
Reid predicted that the Ravens would take Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning with the 14th overall pick, a projection that has been made by multiple analysts already this season despite his small-school background.
Reid even endorsed Penning as a potential Day 1 starter for the Ravens in his mock draft:
Penning is an ideal fit in Baltimore because of his ability to control the line of
scrimmage, which is necessary for the Ravens’ downhill running scheme. He
plays with violence and physicality and could be an early starter at right tackle
opposite Ronnie Stanley.
But after flashing his physicality in drills and scrimmages at the Senior Bowl, Penning’s stock is rising, and he might be a fit for the Ravens in the first round.
His Senior Bowl performance even earned a compilation set to the 1997 song, “Tubthumping,” by Chumbawumba.
Sure, it’s fun to watch Penning toss around opposing linemen with the ’90s pop hit in the background, but the song’s central lyrics, “I get knocked down/but I get up again,” are quite descriptive of Penning’s draft profile.
Coming from a small school like Northern Iowa, Penning came to the Senior Bowl needing to prove himself against top competition, so he couldn’t afford to let bad reps turn into bad days.
Penning makes plenty of mistakes – he frequently sets too high in pass protection, leaving him vulnerable to bull rushes – but he has physicality that can’t be taught, though it may need to be reigned in. Penning struggling with penalties in college and accidentally threw a pass rusher into his quarterback during Senior Bowl practices.
The 14th pick might be a tad early to take Penning – he’s the 21st-ranked prospect by The Draft Network and the 31st-ranked prospect by Pro Football Focus – so the Ravens could be looking to trade back in the first round to maximize their value
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta even hinted at such a move in his end-of-season press conference.
“If we’re in the Draft and there’s a guy there at 14 and we like him, we’ll take him,” said DeCosta on February 4, “If we’re comfortable trading back to 20 thinking a guy might be there and he’s an offensive lineman, then we’ll take him.”
National Champion DTHeads to Baltimore
Reid then projected the Ravens to take Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt with their second round pick, the 45th overall selection.
Reid thinks that Wyatt’s championship experience at Georgia could make him another early contributor to the 2022 Ravens:
The Ravens want to get back to controlling the line of scrimmage, and Wyatt is a great fit. A true penetrating 3-technique tackle at 6-foot-3, 307 pounds, he was arguably the most consistent player on Georgia’s loaded defensive line. His stock has risen a lot over the past couple of months, riding a stellar end to the season and standout performance at the Senior Bowl. Wyatt could climb to the backend of the first round by the time we get to April.
While Baltimore still believes in the potential of 2020 third-rounder Justin Madubuike, the return of Derek Wolfe from injury is questionable and 2020 fifth-round pick Broderick Washington remains unproven.
Enter Wyatt, who was a reliable run-stopper at Georgia and honed his pass-rushing skills over the course of the 2021 season. By the time the Senior Bowl rolled around, Wyatt was flying by opposing blockers with a lightning-quick first step that could help the Ravens generate an interior pass rush they haven’t had since Haloti Ngata left the team in 2015.
Wyatt would be a dream prospect for the Ravens in the second round, but it’s unclear if he’ll even be available when the 45th pick is due.
The 307-pound defensive tackle was mocked to the Buffalo Bills with the 25th pick by PFF’s Seth Galina on February 7 as a “could be steal.”
If the Ravens are convinced of Wyatt’s potential, they may need to trade up in the second round in order to secure him.