The Ravens addressed two of their top roster needs in the first round of the NFL Draft April 29, selecting Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman with the No. 27 overall pick, and then picking Penn State edge rusher Odafe Jayson Oweh four picks later.
The Ravens opted not to package their two first-round picks for a move higher up in the first round, or to deal one of them away to acquire additional Day 2 draft capital, instead picking on turn, using their original No. 27 pick as well as the No. 31 pick they received from the Kansas City Chiefs in the trade for Orlando Brown Jr.
“We had some players that we really wanted to go after,” general manager Eric DeCosta said, “and this was a year that things kind of fell the way we wanted them to fall.”
“We felt like we got the very best players at the time when we picked,” he added.
In his last full season in 2019, Bateman (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) had 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He played just five games in an abbreviated 2020 season, as he initially opted out of the season after dealing with COVID last summer, then changed his mind and played five games before opting out again to prepare for the draft. He finished this past season with 36 catches for 472 yards and two touchdowns.
DeCosta said Bateman “really checked off all the boxes” and was “a very easy pick to make.”
“Lamar is going to love him,” head coach John Harbaugh said.
Bateman should provide an instant spark for a Ravens passing game that ranked last in the league last season, averaging 171.2 yards a game. Harbaugh noted that the Ravens’ passing ranking was linked to their run-first attack, as they threw the ball less often than any team in the league. The Ravens threw 406 passes last season, 34 fewer than the next-lowest team (New England) and roughly 150 below the league average.
Marquise Brown led the Ravens with 769 receiving yards last year, and his 58 catches tied tight end Mark Andrews for the team lead. With Willie Snead leaving as a free agent, Brown is the only receiver on the roster with more than 20 catches for the Ravens last season.
DeCosta bristled at criticism of the Ravens’ current receiving corps, saying at his predraft news conference that, “We have some really good young receivers. It’s insulting to these guys when they hear that we don’t have any receivers. It’s quite insulting. I’m insulted by it, too, to be honest.”
After taking Bateman, DeCosta said, “We feel really strongly about our receivers, and competition is great. We’re trying to build the best team.”
In selecting Bateman, the Ravens also hope to run past their tortured history of drafting wide receivers. Of the 31 wide receivers ever drafted by the Ravens, only one has had a 1,000-yard season with the team — Torrey Smith in 2013.
Bateman is the fifth wide receiver taken by the Ravens with a first-round pick, and the third in the past seven years (Breshad Perriman 2015, Marquise Brown 2019).
Four picks after selecting Bateman, the Ravens drafted Oweh, addressing another major position of need. Oweh (6-foot-5, 251 pounds) is the first edge rusher the Ravens have selected in the first round since Terrell Suggs in 2003.
Oweh recorded no sacks in seven games this past season, but off-the-charts athleticism and speed were hard to ignore. He wowed scouts by running the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds at Penn State’s pro day. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Oweh had 21 tackles and five sacks.
“We watch the tape, and you look at his athletic ability, and … we feel like he’s a great fit,” Harbaugh said. “He’s an aggressive player, he runs to the ball very fast, he’s in the backfield constantly, he’s knocking people backward … he runs things down from behind. I think he’s a perfect fit for our defense.”
Matthew Judon had a team-high six sacks a year ago, and his free-agent departure to New England leaves the Ravens with no returning edge rushers who recorded more than three sacks last season. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell tops all returning Ravens with four, three of which came in one game, at Philadelphia.
Overall, the Ravens ranked 14th in the league with 39 sacks, with returning edge rushers accounting for just seven of those. Veteran Pernell McPhee, 32, who was re-signed to a second straight one-year deal, totaled three sacks, while Tyus Bowser and Jaylen Ferguson recorded two each.
Oweh, Harbaugh said “is going to make a difference for us.”
Having stood pat and made their two first-round picks, the Ravens do not have any second-round picks when the draft resumes April 30. Their original second-round pick went to the Chiefs in the Brown trade. They are scheduled to pick twice in the third round, at No. 94 and No. 104.
DeCosta said a trade back up into the second round is unlikely, given the draft capital such a move would cost, but added, “We do think we’re going to get two really good players … in the third round. We’ve had a lot of success in the third round over the years.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of the University of Minnesota and Penn State Athletics