The Baltimore Ravens have never had a true superstar at wide receiver, but general manager Eric DeCosta can solve the long-standing problem via a clever trade this offseason. A deal that would net the Ravens five-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins without reducing the team’s picks for the 2023 NFL draft.
The scenario is proposed by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. It involves the Ravens dealing their first-round selection, the 22nd pick overall, to the Arizona Cardinals for Hopkins and a second-round choice, the 34th pick. Having a selection in the second round would allow DeCosta to double down on improving the team’s receiving options by taking Josh Downs, a pass-catcher with first-round talent.
Both moves would surely sweeten the pot for quarterback Lamar Jackson, regardless of whether he signs a new long-term contract or agrees to play on the franchise tag.
Front-Loaded Trade Makes Sense for Ravens
McGuinness pointed out how the Ravens lack the trade ammunition they had last offseason when DeCosta was armed with five fourth-round picks. Having the same number of picks in total this year means those in the front office “need to get clever in an effort to keep their net number of picks intact, while still massively upgrading at wide receiver.”
Giving up a first-round pick for Hopkins might sting a little, considering he’s 30 and has missed 15 games the last two seasons through injury and suspension. It’s a front-loaded offer, but that needn’t bother the Ravens. Not when DeCosta can get an early second-rounder to make up for giving away the first.
The additional pick would have the Ravens involved early at the top of the second, a round where teams still expect to get day-one starters for the pros. Without this trade, the Ravens would be non-participants at this stage, having sent their original second to the Chicago Bears in the deal for Roquan Smith.
Foregoing an opening-round pick will also be easy to take if the Ravens get the version of Hopkins who’s been to five Pro Bowls. There were signs late last season D-Hop was getting back to his best, according to McGuinness: “Hopkins was eighth among all wide receivers with 11 contested catches from Week 7 through the end of the season.”
The veteran proved he hasn’t lost his knack for making the improbable look simple when he made this one-handed catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12:
A reliable wideout is something Jackson needs to complement his go-to target, All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. Ideally, the new man will also be able to stretch the field and turn short completions into long gains.
Plays like these haven’t prevented the Cards from wanting to trade, but there’s still enough left in Hopkins’ tank to justify paying first-round value for his services. DeCosta’s solid track record for finding hidden talent throughout a draft is another reason this deal makes sense.
Last year’s draft yielded nose tackle Travis Jones in Round 2, while roving tight end Isaiah Likely came off the board in the fourth. DeCosta also used a second-round pick to take running back J.K. Dobbins in 2020, the same year the Ravens found guard Ben Powers in Round 4.
DeCosta’s fallen short when trying to find gems at the wide receiver position, but putting Downs alongside Hopkins would surely reverse that trend.
Prospect Compared to Tyler Lockett Ideal for Jackson
There’s plenty to recommend Downs for the Ravens at the top of the second round. First, there’s the North Carolina star’s pro comparison to Seahawks’ receiver Tyler Lockett and Washington Commanders’ rookie Jahan Dotson, per The Draft Network.
Both Lockett and Dotson stand less than 6′, but showcase game-breaking speed from the slot and on the outside. Downs exhibited the same traits with the Tar Heels, catching 94 passes for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns.
His numbers were down from 2021’s tallies of 101 receptions and 1,335 yards, but Downs still proved a prolific target, particularly in the red zone, according to PFF College:
Those are qualities the Ravens have missed since trading Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Cardinals in 2022’s draft, giving up Jackson’s favorite perimeter receiver for an extra first-round pick. Having Hopkins on the outside, Downs in the slot and Andrews in-line on the other side of the formation would give Jackson an enviable set of options.
The trio would represent ample motivation for No. 8 to agree fresh terms. They would also give whoever replaces Greg Roman as offensive coordinator greater playmaking talent for a more versatile passing scheme.