Ravens' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2022

Ravens' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens narrowly missed the playoffs in 2021, falling to 8-9 after starting quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a serious ankle injury. Heading into December, Baltimore was 8-3.

    Injuries were a problem for the Ravens all season, as running backs Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill were lost before Week 1, along with starting corner Marcus Peters. Fellow corner Marlon Humphrey was lost to a torn Pectoral in December.

    But the season went south without Jackson. The Ravens lost in Week 13, lost Jackson in Week 14 and finished the year on a six-game losing streak. If healthy, the Ravens should be right back in the playoff mix in 2022.

    A healthy roster isn't the only thing Ravens fans have to look forward to this coming season. Baltimore has a chance to improve, perhaps significantly, in the draft, which gets underway Thursday. Armed with the 14th overall pick in Round 1, the Ravens have an opportunity to land at least one impact starter. With the postseason as the goal, that's exactly what they should be targeting.

    With this in mind, let's delve into the top three prospects Baltimore should be targeting in Round 1.

George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    If the Ravens can manage to land Purdue pass-rusher George Karlaftis in the middle of Round 1, they would be getting a tremendous value. He is the eight-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board and has the potential to be a high-end NFL power defender.

    "Aside from ideal length, George Karlaftis has just about every trait necessary to bloom into a star power-rusher," Derrik Klassen of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "... He often gets the jump on opposing offensive tackles, opening up the floor for him to show off his relentless bull-rushing or array of hand-fighting tactics."

    An early run on quarterbacks and/or receivers could push Karlaftis into Baltimore's range.

    Baltimore ranked dead last in passing yards allowed last season, but the return of Peters and Humphrey should help tremendously. So should the free-agent addition of safety Marcus Williams. The Ravens can further improve their pass defense by bolstering a pass rush that yielded only 34 sacks last season.

    This is where Karlaftis comes in. He is still developing his speed-rush repertoire but can bully opposing linemen out of the gate. He could rotate with the recently re-signed Calais Campbell and work as a complement to 2021 first-round edge-rusher Odafe Oweh.

    With a better pass rush, a healthy secondary and a run defense that ranked first in the NFL last season, Baltimore's defense could terrorize the conference in 2022.

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    If the Ravens don't go the defense route in Round 1, they should at least consider adding another wide receiver. They have 2019 first-round pick Marquise Brown and 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman on the roster, but neither is a consistently dependable perimeter target.

    To be fair, Bateman only has 12 games under his belt, but he was largely a non-factor when Jackson was under center.

    Ohio State's Chris Olave is a quick, savvy route-runner who could instantly add a touch of reliability to the Ravens passing attack.

    "Olave is a great route-runner with polish," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "He shows an understanding of not only the routes he runs but the concept that the offense is running and will tempo his routes accordingly."

    Of Baltimore's first-round receiver options—which include USC's Drake London and Arkansas' Treylon Burks—Olave is the perfect target. Bateman has the size (6'2", 210 lbs) to be a mismatch on the outside, while Brown has the speed to stretch the field. Olave is perfectly suited to exploit every inch of space those two create in the secondary.

    And let's not forget about All-Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. Having Andrews and Olave working the middle of the field would give Jackson an open target on just about every play.

Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    There might not be a more perfect first-round target for the Ravens than Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. The Ravens could use line help after allowing 57 sacks in 2021, and they need to replace 2021 starting center Bradley Bozeman.

    Bozeman departed for the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

    The question is whether Baltimore should target Linderbaum at No. 14 or try to trade back to get him later in the round or on Day 2. According to ESPN's Matt Miller, linemen like Linderbaum could tumble on draft day.

    "One source I spoke to this week expected notable names to be available 'into the teens' as quarterbacks and wide receivers dominate the top 15," Miller wrote. "Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum is the consensus top center in this class, but the same source told me that mock draft scenarios have been run in which Linderbaum is available in Round 2."

    If there is an early run at other positions, Baltimore could trade down from No. 14 or up from No. 45 to target Linderbaum.

    Regardless of where the Ravens can land Linderbaum, though,  they should think long and hard about making it happen. He projects as a Day 1 starter and a long-term fix for a hole in the middle of the line.