Ravens’ Strategy Once Again Ahead of the Curve
Since the Ravens’ inception, the organization has developed new concepts to gain an advantage on their longer-existing counterparts.
In the early years, according to General Manager Eric DeCosta, the Ravens couldn’t participate in free agency, so the team “became a very draft-centric team.” They utilized the middle rounds of the draft and the compensatory draft formula to their advantage.
But in the NFL—rightfully deemed a “copycat league,” the Ravens’ concepts were adopted by others, and Baltimore needed to gain a step once again on the pack. Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr believes the Ravens have done so.
“While some of you might have missed it, the Ravens seem to be fleecing the NFL again,” Orr wrote.
“As other teams caught on to their strategy, it looks as though the Ravens began searching for another roster building advantage: constructing a team around the best players at non-premium positions.”
In the most recent draft, the Ravens selected “undervalued position” players. They drafted safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. In the fourth round, they picked tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, and punter Jordan Stout. Orr sees the latest draft as a demonstration of the Ravens’ new theory.
“Here’s why this is a big deal: the Ravens are sitting out the NFL’s absurd and cutthroat bidding war for non-quarterback premium players,” Orr wrote. “The cornerback market is now $21 million per year after the Jaire Alexander deal. This offseason, the Ravens signed the best safety in free agency, Marcus Williams, for $14 million. They drafted Hamilton, believed to be one of the best coverage players in the draft, with the No. 14 overall pick. Hamilton dropped, principally, because he played safety and the position is viewed as unworthy of a top draft selection. In October, he was being discussed as a top-three pick before the senseless truisms of the old football guard took hold.”
When it comes to pass-catchers, Orr believes the Ravens have solved the absurd wide receiver market by simply spending capital elsewhere.
“So, Baltimore said (and has been saying): give me all the tight ends. What is the point of destroying your salary cap if Lamar Jackson is better at throwing to tight ends anyway, and the way you move the ball is more conductive to a tight end-centric passing game? Also, you guessed it, the top tight end salary in the NFL is half—half!—of the top wide receiver salary,” Orr wrote. “And, as Baltimore seemed to recognize a few years ago, they can still contribute to a wildly efficient offense. Who cares who you are throwing the ball to as long as they’re moving it forward…What, then, is the difference between a 10-yard catch from a receiver or a 10-yard catch from a third-string tight end?”
The utilization of tight ends, according to Orr and the metrics, have been successful in practice, too.
“Greg Roman, their offensive coordinator, has orchestrated a top-five offense in terms of rushing net yards per attempt every year since 2015,” Orr wrote. “His teams may never have featured a receiver your friends coveted on their fantasy football team, but the Ravens have made the playoffs in three of the past four years and, would have made it last year had they not been blown up by a wave of injuries. Since 2018, they are the third-most efficient total offense in football, behind only the Chiefs and the Packers.”