John Harbaugh Shares Initial Impressions of Ravens’ 2023 Draft Class

Ravens HC John Harbaugh

Getty Ravens HC John Harbaugh has been pleased by what he has seen from this year's draft picks thus far.

The newest generation of Baltimore Ravens took the practice field as professionals for the first time this weekend at the team’s annual rookie minicamp. Their entire six-man 2023 draft class headlined the attendees and head coach John Harbaugh has liked what he has seen thus far.

“They’re just what we thought,” he said. “Guys that love football, they’re working hard, picking things up quickly. Practice has been pretty darn crisp for coming out here for the first time.”

While they were only in jerseys and shorts with the exception of seventh-rounder Andrew Vorhees who is recovering from a torn ACL, Harbaugh was impressed with the way they’ve conducted themselves. Whether it’s in drills or the meeting room, he says they are being receptive to coaching and tempering their excitement so they don’t overdo it on their collective first times out.

“They did a good job of not being overzealous in terms of banging into each other and all that stuff, understanding it’s an orientation period,” Harbaugh said. “[I’m] happy with how they’re doing.”

Since the incoming prospects each year spend more time training to improve their athletic testing skills,  some rookies arrive at their new team facilities for minicamp out of shape from a football sense.

Around this time last year in May of 2022, the Tennessee Titans made national headlines after their first-round wide receiver, Treylon Burks, couldn’t make it through his first minicamp practice because of his poor conditioning and issues with his asthma per multiple reports.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for the Ravens according to Harbaugh.

“We found out they’re all in good shape, so, our guys did a good job,” he said. “Our guys had no problem with the practice.”

In addition to taking the field for the first time as pros, third-round linebacker Trenton Simpson and fourth-round edge defender Tavius Robinson also signed their first professional contracts.

Since their last three selections have already been signed, this leaves first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers as the only member of the six-man class unsigned. The Ravens also officially have all 18 of their undrafted rookies under contract as well.

Flowers Looks “As Advertised” and Believes Offense Fits Him “Perfectly”

The team used their first-round pick to select the electrifying playmaker out of Boston College at No. 22 overall and he hasn’t disappointed in his first couple of days in a Ravens uniform.

” Zay looks just as advertised,” Harbaugh said. “Quick, good hands, very smart. [He is] picking things up really quickly, playing every position right now across the board with what we’ve installed.”

Flowers himself believes that he is adjusting well to the up-tempo speed of NFL practices and coaching compared to college where coaches are more patient and catering to the players.

“It’s more urgent. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to be able to take it from the classroom to the field,” he said. “In college, you just have more time to learn it, and they’ll take you through [it] more. In the NFL, you’ve just got to get it and go.”

At 5’9″ and 182 pounds, Flowers has had and will continue to have doubters and skeptics and while some draft pundits projected him as a ‘slot only’ receiver that is best suited lining up inside, he views himself as a “complete receiver” that is capable of lining up and making plays from anywhere.

“I can do it all,” Flowers said. “You name it, I’ll be able to do it.”

Count him among the growing number of offensive skill players that are excited to play in first-year coordinator Todd Monken’s offense. Flowers not only believes that he will thrive in the scheme but that it fits his style of play “perfectly”.

“I love it,” Flowers said. “I think it fits my style perfect…Running, getting open, being able to create space, deep balls, short, intermediate – do it all.”

Monken was the play-caller of the back-to-back national championship-winning University of Georgia Bulldogs and is regarded as a bright and innovative offensive mind. Although the Ravens intend to keep many of the successful run concepts from his predecessor’s playbook, they also intend to spread the defenses out to both utilize and attack space going forward.

Simpson’s Speed and Communication Already Standing Out

Harbaugh told reporters that he is just as impressed with how quickly the third-round off-ball linebacker is picking up the playbook and getting adjusted as he is with Flowers. He praised the former Clemson Tiger for both his blazing speed and ability to communicate.

“[He] looks fast, [is] picking things up, [he is a] very good communicator,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot for these guys on their plate; there’s a lot to learn, but he’s off to a good start.

Simpson said he’s “living the dream” and having fun playing his favorite brand of football, fast and physical.

While most highly drafted players that were multi-year starters in college don’t or hardly have any special teams experience nor a desire to play in the unheralded phase of the game, Simpson approaches it with a different mindset.

“The key is being relentless, giving it all you got, and taking that special teams rep like you would take the first team defensive rep,” he said. ‘That’s what I pride myself on. Just doing all the small things right and giving it all I got.”

He believes his drive to “empty the take” in every practice so that the games come easier will serve him well throughout but especially at the onset of his career.

The Ravens place a higher value on special teams contributions than most teams. Historically, the quickest way for young players who aren’t projected day-1 starters to get on the field on offense or defense is to shine and go all out on special teams.

Simpson was one of the most versatile defenders in college football over the past few years and he believes that his diverse skillset makes him a fit in any scheme at the next level.

“I was able to learn a lot of systems,” he said. I had two different coaches, so I learned two systems. Just the flexibility I bring to the table and just trusting my coaches and putting in the extra work, I feel like that will translate to the league easily as well.”

Simpson hopes to “live up to” the franchise’s longstanding high standard of defensive excellence and especially at the linebacker position. Luckily, he’ll have ample opportunity to learn from and eventually play alongside arguably the best inside linebacker in the league during his time in Baltimore with 2022 Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro Roquan Smith.

“I’m just excited to play with a guy like that,” Simpson said. “He’s a great linebacker, so it’s proof in the pudding. He showed it, and he’s been a top guy in the NFL. Just to be in the locker room with a veteran like that, I’m going to come in ready to learn and work.”

Tavis Robinson Shows Off High Energy and Motor

The rookie fourth-rounder out of Ole Miss could be in store for the largest role of the Ravens’ rookie defenders to start the season as a member of defensive coordinator Mike Mcdonald’s rotation. Harbaugh said “he looks good” and praised him for his high energy level.


“I think his skillset is going to really express itself with the pads on,” he said. “But he’s a tall, rangy guy with heavy hands and a lot of energy.”

While Robinson didn’t speak to the media on Saturday, in his introductory conference call after getting drafted the previous weekend, he talked about how he prides himself on having a “relentless motor”. One of his biggest role models in the league is Max Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders who he compares to well from a physical tools standpoint since their both 6’5″ or taller, weigh around 255 pounds with great length.

“That’s kind of what I try to model my game off of, is never giving up on plays, playing with a relentless motor,” said Robinson who is slightly bigger than Crosby at 6’6″ and 258 pounds. “On top of that, he has great pass rush moves, is a great run defender, but the motor part is one thing that I try to take from his game, 100%.”

Kyu Blu Kelly is “More Athletic” Than Expected

At the team’s post-draft press conference following making all of their original picks, Ravens’ Director of College Scouting David Blackburn talked about how if the fifth-round cornerback out of Stanford had come out of college last year, he likely would’ve been a Day 2 pick.

“I’m happy to get him in the fifth round right now,” Blackburn said. “I think he’s going to be a great Raven, great fit. [He is] one of those high-floor prospects.

On his first time on an NFL practice field, Harbaugh was pleasantly surprised by the first-year pro’s athleticism.

“I would say just for me personally, [he is] even a little more athletic than I thought from the Draft on the tape,” he said. “He looks really fluid.”

Kelly played exclusively on the outside for the Cardinal but when asked if he thinks the rookie could bump inside and play the slot, Harbaugh said he is “definitely” mentally capable of playing that role but they’ll “have to see how he fits” from a physical standpoint.

“He can do it – he has the skillset – it’s really more how do you process in there, having a feel for the routes and stuff like that,” he said. “He’s good enough to play outside anyways, so he’s fast enough, and he’s really smooth and fluid. [He] opens up his hips.”

In addition to looking more athletic than expected on top, Harbaugh also said he looks You’re a little taller and rangier than kind of how he looked on tape” and was impressed with his footwork as well.

Sala Aumavae-Laulu is Sticking to Right Side “For Now”

Even though it’s hard to gauge how well offensive linemen are doing until the pads come on, Harbaugh said the sixth-rounder has “good feet, just like we thought”, moves really well, and that he is also another rookie that appears to be “picking things up well”.

The former Oregon Duck played right guard and tackle in college and the Ravens plan to continue to have him develop on that side of the line to see where he fits best while preparing to be able to play both.

“Versatility is good,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a developmental player at this point – and I think he’ll develop quickly – but guard or tackle pretty much on the right side right now; we’ll let him focus on that side.”

Aumavae-Laulu takes pride in his positional versatility and is embracing “the grind” that comes with trying to learn two positions at the highest level.

“I would say I like to do both,” he said. “Being versatile is my thing, and I like to keep grinding, staying humble. [I will] just stay hungry and keep grinding day-by-day with my fellow teammates.”

He looks forward to continuing to learn from his coaches and eventually, the veterans when they arrive so that he can keep adding their lessons and knowledge to his “toolbox” so he can keep trying to “perfect his game”.

Harbaugh Confirms Medical Redshirt Plans for Vorhees

When the Ravens traded back into the seventh round to select the former USC interior offensive lineman, it was expected that he’d miss his entire rookie season as he recovers from the knee injury he sustained during the pre-draft process at the Combine.

Harbaugh confirmed that those are the team’s intentions with him this year but isn’t ruling out a possible late-season debut.

“I think the plan for him this year is to rehab,” he said. “Who knows what could happen, but let’s give him every opportunity to get as healthy as he can and he’ll be ready to go next offseason.”

Last year when the Ravens selected former standout Michigan outside linebacker David Ojabo in the second round despite having suffered a torn Achilles in late March, it was believed that he would miss most if not all of his rookie campaign. However, he was able to recover in enough time to appear in a couple of games late in the season and even recorded his first career sack.

Prior to his injury, Harbaugh said that Vorhees was on the team’s radar and they had him ranked as a “third-round-type pick guy”. When the end of the draft was nearing and he was still on the board, they “started talking about him compared to the other guys that were available”.

“It was like, ‘This is a real value. Let’s try to get back in and see if we can get him.’,” he said. ” [Executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] did a great job with that.”

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