Ravens GM Eric DeCosta sees ‘more than four guys’ in draft who can be ‘significant’ NFL quarterbacks

By Nick Shook, Around The NFL Writer

Baltimore’s leadership group met with media members to discuss the upcoming NFL draft on Wednesday, and even though they declined to discuss the ongoing Lamar Jackson situation, they couldn’t avoid talking about quarterbacks entirely.

In fact, because Jackson’s contractual status remains unresolved, general manager Eric DeCosta and director of player personnel Joe Hortiz fielded plenty of questions regarding the position, which DeCosta sees as a group that offers plenty of potential.

“I don’t want to insult anybody in the draft, but I would say there’s probably more than four guys that can be significant quarterbacks in this league in this draft class,” DeCosta said.

“The fact is that we think that you can get a quarterback in the first round, or the third round or the fourth round who have a chance to develop. Go back to Tyrod Taylor, when we drafted him in the fifth round or sixth round. Years and years and years ago, Derek Anderson, we took him in the sixth or seventh. So you can get good quarterbacks. You saw what the Niners did last year with Brock Purdy. It’s quite possible to get a good quarterback at any point in the draft. Obviously, the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady was a sixth round pick. They’re all over the place in the draft. You have to have good scouts, you have to have conviction and in some cases you’ve got to get lucky, too.”

DeCosta made sure to state that Baltimore isn’t necessarily taking a different approach with the position because of Jackson’s current status, which includes an unresolved trade request submitted in early March. DeCosta declined to say if he has spoken with Jackson since the quarterback’s trade request on March 2.

DeCosta also said the Ravens remove “any kind of need-based situation out of the draft equation,” building their draft board by best overall talent from top to bottom. That board includes quarterbacks, including those Baltimore might consider selecting if available when they’re on the clock, either at pick No. 22 or beyond.

“Depends on the board, really does,” DeCosta said. “I would have to say yes because we have quarterbacks in our top 31. So just based on that alone — simple math — I would have to say yes.”

At this time of year, it’s easier for personnel executives to speak generally about their approach to the draft, emphasizing value and talent over positional need. But one would be remiss to dismiss the situation Baltimore could find itself in if the Ravens don’t find a way to repair the bridge between them and Jackson and retain the star quarterback.

Plan B includes Tyler Huntley, whom the Ravens used a low tender on last month, on the cover page. It’s a reality Baltimore has been forced to confront in each of the last two seasons due to Jackson’s lower-body injuries, but it’s not a permanent course of action, at least not at this point.

Part of Baltimore’s due diligence includes completing all of the necessary scouting and research on each player on their board, including quarterback. And if Jackson isn’t in Baltimore in 2023 — either via blockbuster trade or his refusal to sign his franchise tag — the position becomes exponentially more important.

At this point, the Ravens don’t have to discuss such a scenario. They can continue to ride the same optimistic, vague company line in which they profess their appreciation for Jackson and maintain hope they’ll get a deal done with him.

But if progress isn’t made, it isn’t outrageous to envision a scenario in which Baltimore agrees to a deal to trade Jackson elsewhere, recoups a massive haul of draft capital, and uses that buying power to move up and select a quarterback.

There are certainly a few that many evaluators regard rather highly in this group.

“I’d say, obviously, it’s pretty strong up top,” Hortiz said of the incoming quarterbacks. “Those four guys that are being listed in the mocks as going high, they’re all talented and good in their own right. If you break them down, Bryce (Young) is extremely accurate, cerebral, intelligent, winner. They’re all winners, actually, every one of them, which is what you love. And then, (Anthony) Richardson‘s got just raw, physical talent, strong arm, athletic, big, physical, tough. Probably the least experienced of the four of them, but has a chance to really blossom and develop.

Will (Levis) is, again, a physical, strong guy with an elite arm and has gone through two different offenses the past two years. So, he’s adjusted to players changing around him. His whole offensive line was revamped. And then C.J. (Stroud), he’s just matured and grown and gotten better and better. Played his best game his last game of his career, I thought. Really accurate. Has a great feel for the field and showed off his athleticism, certainly in that Georgia game.”

Unlike past years, with five picks in total, Baltimore isn’t currently equipped with the ammunition required to move up and take one of the aforementioned quarterbacks. A Jackson trade would change that fact, and create a need which the Ravens could instantly address via the draft.

A Jackson trade isn’t the only course the Ravens could take to add picks, either.

“Our goal would be to add picks if we can at some point,” DeCosta said. “In saying that, I think it’s important to note that we’ve had a lot of picks over the last four, five years. You get to a point where maybe having too many picks isn’t necessarily the right thing in any given year. You almost have to have a purge at some point. Because you have all these young players on the team, and they can’t all make the team if you just keep stacking these huge, massive draft classes.

“So, I wouldn’t say that was intentional this year, but for us, to say that our second-round pick was Roquan Smith, pretty happy with that. If we only have five picks this year, I’d like to get back to nine or 10 picks next year, for sure. But having a smaller amount of picks this year based on what we’ve done in ’18, ’19, ’20, ’21, ’22, that’s not necessarily the worst thing.”

For now, this is all just speculation. But Baltimore made clear Wednesday it is prepared for any scenario, even if their personnel leaders didn’t want to discuss Jackson directly.

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