The Baltimore Ravens can count one of the marquee names in the 2022 NFL draft class among their many fans. This premium edge-rusher, who is widely expected to be a top-five pick on Thursday, April 28, recently visited with the team.
He’s also already on record declaring his support for the Ravens during his youth, as well as his admiration for a franchise icon. Since the Ravens hold the 14th-overall pick in the first round, it seems unlikely they will be in a position to select their talented admirer before another team takes him off the board.
There may be a ray of hope, though, thanks to words from general manager Eric DeCosta. He’s indicated a willingness to trade up, something that could position the pick-rich Ravens to take a stud edge defender who would instantly fix a weak pass rush.
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Top-Rated Edge-Rusher Met With Team He Admires
Most draft experts expect Kayvon Thibodeaux to hear his name called long before the Ravens make their first selection. He goes to the New York Jets fourth overall in the latest mock from CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco.
Yet, if Thibodeaux’s still available, there’s little doubt about which team he’d want to join. Thibodeaux revealed his admiration for the Ravens and Ray Lewis to the CBS Sports HQ crew ahead of Super Bowl LVI back in February:
One of the key phrases Thibodeaux used was to say the first “NFL team that I had was the Baltimore Ravens.” Thibodeaux had bought the team’s shirt ahead of Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 season.
That campaign ended with Lewis enjoying the perfect swan-song to a Hall of Fame career. He helped the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 and earn the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Lewis retired after the game, and it’s fair to say the Ravens have struggled to replace him since. He wasn’t the force he’d been earlier in his career during his final few seasons, but Lewis still exuded enough savvy and confidence to be the natural leader of the defense, as well as the team as a whole.
Thibodeaux spoke of inadvertently meeting and speaking with Lewis in a restaurant ahead of their televised appearance for CBS Sports. He used words like “wisdom” and “passion” to describe his admiration for Lewis.
The Ravens no doubt hoped to show Thibodeaux similar qualities when he visited the team at the start of April. Details of the meeting were provided by Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline:
Pauline’s mention of the Jets and Detroit Lions underlines the hefty queue of suitors keen on Thibodeaux. Both of those teams pick in the top five, the Lions second overall, two picks ahead of the Jets.
It makes sense for teams with the prime picks to be showing interest in Thibodeaux. He recorded seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss during his final season at Oregon, per Sports Reference. At 6’2″ and 250 pounds, Thibodeaux has the ideal dimensions of a pro-level edge-rusher.
His skills at that vital position were proved by his unequaled grades from PFF Draft:
The Ravens need a pass-rusher able to win matchups as consistently as Thibodeaux. A player with those skills was missing from last season’s unit, the main reason Baltimore logged a paltry 34 sacks.
Pass rush isn’t usually a weakness for this franchise, but it’s one worth trading up to fix.
Ravens GM Hints at Trade
Speaking at his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, April 5, DeCosta left the door open for a possible trade. At least sort of, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun:
Okay, so DeCosta is hedging his bets and having a little fun with the media at the same time. Even so, he’s armed with enough picks to make a move on draft day if the mood strikes.
The Ravens have a pair of selections in the third round, to go with five picks in the fourth. Packaging some of those picks with a swap of first-rounders could position the Ravens to select Thibodeaux.
It would be out of character, since the Ravens usually deal in volume during the draft. Yet, jumping into the top-10 this year is an idea recommended by CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin: “They could just as easily sit tight and roll with the best pass rusher or corner, but with two third-rounders and a whopping five fourth-rounders, they shouldn’t hesitate to make a play for a top-10 talent like Sauce Gardner or Jermaine Johnson II.”
If they could put together a trade package valuable enough to acquire Thibodeaux, the Ravens would get a prospect perfect for a rebuilding defense that still lacks blue-chip talent on the edges.