Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Ravens can get 5x All-Pro WR in a “clever” trading scenario

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The Baltimore Ravens have never had a true superstar at wide receiver, but general manager Eric DeCosta can solve the longstanding problem with a clever trade this offseason. A deal that would win five-time Ravens All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins without reducing the team’s picks for the 2023 NFL draft.

The scenario is proposed by Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness. The point is that the Ravens deal their first-round pick, 22nd pick overall, to the Arizona Cardinals for Hopkins and a second-round pick, 34th pick. A second-round pick would allow DeCosta to increase the team’s reception options by taking Josh Downs, a pass catcher with first-round talent.

Either move would certainly sweeten the pot for quarterback Lamar Jackson, whether he signs a new long-term contract or agrees to play on the franchise tag.

McGuinness pointed out that 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 this year means those in the front office “have to be smart about keeping their net pick count intact while still making massive builds at wide receiver.”

Giving up a first-round pick for Hopkins might sting a little considering he’s 30 and has missed 15 games in the last two seasons through injuries and suspensions. It’s a front-loaded offering, 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 hook the Ravens early at the top of Round 2, a round where teams still expect to get starters for the Day 1 Pros. Without that trade, the Ravens would not be participants at this point, as they sent their original second-place deal to the Chicago Bears for Roquan Smith.

Forgoing an opening-round pick will also be easy to come by if the Ravens get the version of Hopkins, who has played in five Pro Bowls. According to McGuinness, there were signs late last season that D-Hop was returning to his best form: “Hopkins was 8th overall for wide receivers with 11 disputed catches from Week 7 through the end of the season.”

The veteran proved he didn’t lose his knack for making the improbable look easy when he did this one-handed catch vs. Los Angeles Chargers in week 12:

A reliable wideout is something Jackson needs to complement his target All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. Ideally, the new man will also be able to expand the field and turn short deals into long profits.

Hopkins did the latter in style to score 22 meters vs. Seattle Seahawks in Week 9:

Games like this haven’t stopped the cards 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 of finding hidden talent during a draft is another reason this deal makes sense.

Last year’s draft featured nose tackle Travis Jones in round 2 while roving tight end Isaiah Likely came off the board in round four. DeCosta also used a second-round pick to take on running back JK Dobbins in 2020, the same year the Ravens found guard Ben Powers in Round 4.

DeCosta has fallen short trying to find gems in the wide receiver position, but putting Downs alongside Hopkins would certainly reverse that trend.

There are plenty of recommended downs for the Ravens at the top of round two. First, there’s the North Carolina star’s pro comparison to Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Washington Commanders rookie Jahan Dotson, according to The Draft Network.

Both Lockett and Dotson stand under 6′ but show game-changing speed from the slot and outside. Downs displayed the same characteristics as the Tar Heels, catching 94 passes for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns.

His numbers were down from 2021’s 101 receptions and 1,335 yards, but Downs still proved to be a productive target, particularly in the red zone, according to reports PFF College:

Those are qualities the Ravens have been missing since selling Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Cardinals in the 2022 draft and 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 provide ample motivation for No. 8 to agree new terms. They would also give anyone replacing Greg Roman as offensive coordinator greater playmaking talent for a more versatile passing scheme.

Last year’s draft featured nose tackle Travis Jones in round 2 while roving tight end Isaiah Likely came off the board in round four. DeCosta also used a second-round pick to take on running back JK Dobbins in 2020, the same year the Ravens found guard Ben Powers in Round 4.



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